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Going To Tackle An Old Style Accordeon Parfait


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Fixing up an old concertina wasn't enough...I found an old style pearl keyed "accordeon parfait" or semi-tone accordeon and I'm going to restore it next, and learn to play it.

 

Here's the ebay item: 160134210542

 

Accordeon Parfait/Semitone accordion

 

I've seen several old threads with very helpful information including how to open the case without destroying it...slides like a pencil box, and I'm told the reeds and reed chambers are similar to concertina design...I guess I'll find out when it gets here.

 

As with early concertinas the pads are all pearl...I assume there's something like a layer of felt and a layer of leather on each to seal the openings?

 

I also gather the two brass bars adjacent to the keyboard each work a chord. Who has played with these before?

 

Doug

Edited by paperpunchr
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Fixing up an old concertina wasn't enough...I found an old style pearl keyed "accordeon parfait" or semi-tone accordeon and I'm going to restore it next, and learn to play it.

 

Here's the ebay item: 160134210542

 

Accordeon Parfait/Semitone accordion

 

I've seen several old threads with very helpful information including how to open the case without destroying it...slides like a pencil box, and I'm told the reeds and reed chambers are similar to concertina design...I guess I'll find out when it gets here.

 

As with early concertinas the pads are all pearl...I assume there's something like a layer of felt and a layer of leather on each to seal the openings?

 

I also gather the two brass bars adjacent to the keyboard each work a chord. Who has played with these before?

 

Doug

 

From what I remember two brass bars each contain a drone.

The chord is on the other side.

It is, I think, supposed to be played in horizontal position, on your laps, with the "bass" section facing down. There is some brass bar in the trebble side, used for hooking up with the thumb underneath the keyboard.

It's supposed to be very mellow.

There was a good reason today's accordions, with leather straps and vertically played, replaced them. They're very inconvenient to play and slow. Perhabs good for some novelty act on stage, together with hurdy-gurdy.

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Can't argue with the price, considering it looks in much better condition than most of them seem to be. Be interesting to see what you get out of it (that's musically, rather than loose bits of mechanism)

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Can't argue with the price, considering it looks in much better condition than most of them seem to be. Be interesting to see what you get out of it (that's musically, rather than loose bits of mechanism)

 

Thanks! I'll let you know. I don't expect it for another week or so.

 

Doug

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From what I remember two brass bars each contain a drone.

The chord is on the other side.

It is, I think, supposed to be played in horizontal position, on your laps, with the "bass" section facing down. There is some brass bar in the trebble side, used for hooking up with the thumb underneath the keyboard.

It's supposed to be very mellow.

There was a good reason today's accordions, with leather straps and vertically played, replaced them. They're very inconvenient to play and slow. Perhabs good for some novelty act on stage, together with hurdy-gurdy.

 

Right...some I've seen on the web have a small leather thumbstrap or possibly even a wrist strap...with a smaller loop that slides along on that brass rod so you can pull the keyboard side while you finger the keys.

 

There's a "preceptor" book on the web that indicates it can be played resting on the lap when seated, upright somewhat like a modern accordeon, but unless I"m turned around the fingerings with the right hand run with the bass at the top and the treble at the bottom, and push/pull is the opposite of concertina...you pull to get the dominant notes of the scale and the scheme runs just opposite the concertina.

 

Thanks!

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I've been having a lot of fun getting my flutina going, I managed to pick up a second in worse condition which gave me a replacement reed. Lots of work and gentle cleaning and sealing and now the good one is playable. I took a lot of photos which ended up on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23765997@N00/...57600700875760/

 

Happy to share experiences, research, tips etc. Mine had a strap each end and thumb loop, none of which appear to be original, and one of which I've had to replace. I've found the diagram at : http://www.abdn.ac.uk/scottskinner/display.php?ID=JSS0503 useful.

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Thanks, Simon,

 

The flickr pages are great...hope when I open mine it's not mildewed as yours was (the dreaded stinky white fuzz) but mine has been in Florida for some time so it may have the same kind of problem.

 

I've been warned when doing other kinds of pearl inlay that you should keep the cutting dust out of your nose and mouth with a tight fitting mask as it can cause lung problems...a good dust mask is supposed to be required...I know this warning is too late for you, but maybe someone else will benefit. I'm missing one finger key, and it's one of the odd small pair on this particular "semitone accordeon" layout.

 

Did you have to replace any of the pads where they seal on the face of the right end? If so what did you use in the way of leather? Same question for the valves inside...any special leather or were you able to uncurl the originals?

 

I thought the antifungal foot spray was a great idea...hope it works...it probably was the best idea since it would distribute a mild antifungal agent without getting water on old water based glues and other things that don't take well to moisture. Couldn't use lysol or anything much stronger without a good chance of damage.

 

Did you clean the reeds in place or remove them? I was under the impression they could be slid out something like concertina reeds, but will have to wait til mine arrives to see for sure. Mine is somewhat different, not as ornately decorated, but has the extra keys as shown on the "perfect accordeon" portion of the chart at Squeezyboy's site

 

It's a good site for flutina/early accordeon info... Here's the main page.

 

Lots of helpful and interesting pictures there. On the old ones I've seen, my impression is that only the thumbstrap sliding on the bar is the original scheme though it seems I've seen at least one with a kind of bracelet that buckles around the wrist attached to a smaller loop that slides on the brass bar, leaving all the fingers and the thumb free for fingering notes and all pulling is done with the wrist strap. Not sure if that's authentic or someone's later inspiration.

 

Anyway, thanks for the help, I'll probably be in touch for more details once mine arrives.

 

Doug

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The reeds do slide out, but are quite a tight fit in mine so I took a lot of care easing out from the inboard end with a rounded blunt butter knife. So far the pads are fine though I might consider replacing the felts and pads later on, the red felt is so faded, it would look nicer with new. As for the valves, I've managed to improve matters a little following some tips I'd read on these forums, I've got our local accordian repair man looking for matching quality leather. He thinks he's got some suitable at home, so after a rummage.....

 

The handstrap waas clearly not an original. but I've replaced it as its helping me a lot at this stage of learning to play it.

 

Thanks for the links.

 

There is definitely something special about these old instuments. I can't leave mine alone.

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The reeds do slide out, but are quite a tight fit in mine so I took a lot of care easing out from the inboard end with a rounded blunt butter knife. So far the pads are fine though I might consider replacing the felts and pads later on, the red felt is so faded, it would look nicer with new. As for the valves, I've managed to improve matters a little following some tips I'd read on these forums, I've got our local accordian repair man looking for matching quality leather. He thinks he's got some suitable at home, so after a rummage.....

 

The handstrap waas clearly not an original. but I've replaced it as its helping me a lot at this stage of learning to play it.

 

Thanks for the links.

 

There is definitely something special about these old instuments. I can't leave mine alone.

 

Were your reeds fairly well in tune after all these years?

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I think the old naming system of calling the semitone accordion as the "perfect accordion" is really a bit deceptive...obviously the Perfect Accordion is the one with all the reeds tuned below the threshold of human hearing... ;)

Edited by paperpunchr
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I think the old naming system of calling the semitone accordion as the "perfect accordion" is really bit deceptive...obviously the Perfect Accordion is the one with all the reeds tuned below the threshold of human hearing... ;)

 

Ah! you've got it then ??? !!!! :lol:

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Here's a source or two for pearl blanks to cut up for key covers, and they have round ones as well. Some also sell veneers for marquetry which could be useful for repairs. I've not used any of these sources yet, so caveat emptor.

 

Pearl blanks

 

And another shell blank source...

 

Here's a source on cutting inlays, which would be similar to cutting key covers.

 

A MOP source in New Zealand on ebay...

 

And one in Florida.

 

Doug

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It's here!

 

I’m delighted with the accordion, it’s in very sound condition, and certainly easily restorable within my skill and experience level…it’s amazingly complete…even the tiny mother of pearl key that was missing from the keyboard? It was inside the reed box, either having fallen in through one of the ports (possible but not likely) or having been put inside by a former owner who didn’t have time or inclination to fix it but didn’t want it lost.

 

There’s a few small bellows leaks, which I fully expected, and which could not be seen unless you open the instrument and hold the bellows up to sunlight, or put a bright bulb inside the bellows and dim the room…again, nothing I can’t fix… Thankfully no one ever tried to patch it up with cellophane tape or electrician’s tape, and it will be easy to overlay the hinge leather without having to remove and cleanup after botched patchwork repairs.

 

The pearl is in excellent shape throughout, not a crack or chip that I can see…hardly looks played.

 

The reeds are all brass, which tells me it wasn’t reworked in England and converted to steel reeds as a lot of them were. They’re barely even tarnished, just enough to show they’ve never been touched since new. All but one reed on the keyboard sound, and that’s no worry, a tiny splinter is enough to jam a reed, and it’s easily removed.

 

The paper covering on the bellows looked strange in the ebay photos…silvery...and it looks even stranger in person…like leftover Christmas wrap, though I suppose it would have been very flashy, unusual and perhaps expensive, back in the day…

 

...hey, cellophane wrapping was once a top-end luxury prestige giftwrap used at stores like Tiffany’s in New York…when it first came out! Kept bugs and dust out, showed if it was tampered with, and let you see that the goods inside were undamaged…nothing else would do that back in the pre-plastic days!

 

What may look cheap or tacky to our modern sensibilities might have been the height of fashion back then…still, the bellows look like...dunno...maybe it was made for a whorehouse in New Orleans? I guess I have the same reaction to the MOTS (Mother Of Toilet Seat) hideous pearlesecent plastic finishes they still put on cheap accordions and toy concertinas. :P

 

I'm torn between keeping the original authentic if ugly papers, and covering them with something more attractive when I overlay the leaking hinges...

 

The stickiness in the keys is most likely due to the wood keyboard slightly shrinking over the past 120 or more years, and/or old wire springs oxidizing or rusting away to nothing…again, nothing I can’t fix.

 

Has anyone removed the keyboard from the faceplate and exposed the pivots and springs? I'll probably have to get in there if it's not too complicated...it unscrews from inside the back of the right faceplate, I just don't want little bits shooting off into the corners of the room when I open it. The right hand bar drones are workable but very stiff, but the left hand bass keys work like a champ....it's comical the way they translate from the direction of button push to the pivot of the brass valve flapper with a Rube Goldberg mechanism in brass.

 

I’ve seen the interior photos of Simon's similar instrument with fuzzy white mold growing inside, and I was delighted to see that’s not the case with this one. In fact, since most homes and businesses were heated with coal or oil and lit with kerosene, oil or gas back when this was new, and smoking was also more common, I’d say it was very seldom played…usually soot accumulates in the chamois that’s used to seal the reed boxes, and the chamois on this was cleaner than my well-used 1886 concertina…In fact there was no visible soot at all inside.

 

A couple of times in my life I’ve been fortunate enough to come into possession of old instruments that were either very little used or very well cared for, to the point of there being almost no wear and tear on the moving parts. This one is certainly in that category. Aside from the bellows hinge leather and the leather on pads/valves, it needs almost nothing but adjustment and cleaning to be fully restored, and I’m looking forward to starting the initial clean-up tonight. I'll take photos as I go.

 

I'll tackle the breather valve first, since the glued pad popped off the brass and it leaks like a sieve, then put some Zephyr leather over the worst bellows leaks inside and out so I can make it play well enough to better see what's up with the reeds, and then the keyboard pads/pallets/ and leather flap vlaves that are visibly leaking. At that point I'll be able to tell if I have any tuning problems with the reeds.

 

 

I was expecting the worst...cracked wood, popped joints, rot, mouse droppings, woodworm, etc.

 

I guess if I keep buying things on ebay long enough I'm sure to get a bad one... eventually! ;)

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Details and the issue of dating:

 

It appears to be tuned in the key of G (and there's a capital G deeply stamped into the wood of the reedpan as well as several pencil-written small "g's" around the interior), and the A standard pitch is about 450hz according to my tuning meters. I've seen others advertised that were keyed in A.

 

There are small felt or cork pads on the underside of the MOP key fingerpads so they don't scratch the wood...there are two under each large key and one under each small key.

 

I've found no makers marks, stamps, etc., other than a few pencil-written letters and scattered one- to three-digit numbers inside that appear to be intended to help keep matching parts together on the workbench.

 

The keyboard end drone bars have some type of decorative head on them...dragon, bird, or snake head, not quite sure which, and what could be considered a stylized rattlesnake tail (maybe I've been in Colorado too long!) on the opposite end. I'll try to post a clear photo tonight. All the metal appears to be either nickel plated or silver plated brass...I took it for plain brass on the ebay photos. The breather valve handle is kind of an abstract assemblage of circles and part-circles, and the rest of the left hand metal fittings are very plain and simple

 

It came in a roughly contemporary (the wood shows a lot of age) plain fitted wooden case with a hinged lid, lined with green woven fabric that reminds me of a billiard table covering (except for a hundred years worth of small moth-holes), and instead of the usual keyed lock or hook and eye, this one has a latch like a scaled down shipboard-type cabinet latch made of brass, inset flush with the top of the lid...lift the flush-mounted ring and the bolt withdraws to let the lid open. The concealed hinges were installed in the backboard before the case was finally glued together, and the back edge of the lid was rounded and pivots in a corresponding recessed rounded top edge of the back, with the concealed hinges at either end...not a cheap way to build a case. I'll try and post a few photos, tonight but the ebay photos are still available for a while longer, at the link in the first posting.

 

Anyone out there have any idea of the maker's name or approximate timeframe based on this info?

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Interesting stuff for bellows papers? handmade specialty patterns. I've got no business relationships with these folks, caveat emptor, but they look interesting.

 

decorative papers

 

These look like book binders decorative skins for the inside of a hard cover.

 

Post an mp3 when you get it playable...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting stuff for bellows papers? handmade specialty patterns. I've got no business relationships with these folks, caveat emptor, but they look interesting.

 

decorative papers

 

These look like book binders decorative skins for the inside of a hard cover.

 

Post an mp3 when you get it playable...

 

Got it playable, but the reversed bellows system was driving me crazy...it's the opposite of a concertina and was throwing me off, so it's now up on ebay...very educational, and it's an amazingly solid instrument for someone who can wrap their head around a reverse thrust system...I could not, and I'd rather it be available for someone who can. I have had a college level education in old french accordions now. ;)

 

Doug

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