Making a Bastari/Stagi Playable
notes by George (Geo) Salley
[Note: Throughout 2003 I received various notes and ideas from Geo Salley about how to make an old or worn Italian concertina playable. I have gathered these together here, while keeping the informality of Geo's salutations. Geo was fixing these boxes before many of us had even heard of concertina - or, in some cases, been heard of ourselves - so this may be helpful. I should add that we are talking about Stagi and Bastari repairs here. I know some folks would have apoplexy if we suggested fixing heirloom concertina bellows with liquid tape! -- Ken Coles]
After reading about the aspirations & woes of "newbies", I have come to
the conclusion that I would recommend a 30b Bastari/Stagi for a beginner.
That, even if I myself did start with a 20b. A used one just went for
$162.50 on eBay, so I would recon they could be had for $150 - $200.
I noted that a recommendation for such to someone was nixed because the
instrument "probably needed repair of the button sleeves" (my coment).
However, unless one is a complete klutz, replacing the rubber sleeves
holding the button to the lever is easy....
Opening the Box
There appears to be some current interest in concertina repair, re: Dave
Elliott's revised manual. Which brings to mind the issue of the matter of
taking a box apart. I was looking at Bob Tedrow's various boxes and noted
that he has been experimenting with different end fasteners. To wit: round
head slotted screws, acorn nuts, and (what appears to be the latest) Allen
hex head. I asked Bob about that and he responded that if a person could
not get hold of an Allen wrench, he had no business taking the box apart!
I could not determine if he ever used the traditional flat head slotted
Anyhow, he does caution the potential dismantler to use a proper fitting
screwdriver, but goes no further into the description of such.
In a previous life I was a machinist & gunsmith and always used "hollow
ground" screwdrivers. I had a complete set of commercial ones, but from
time to time I would come across a screw head with a "non-standard" sized
slot. Therefore I always had a supply of decent (Craftsman (TM))
screwdrivers of various sizes from which to make one with a custom end. A
standard flat slotted screwdriver has tapered sides, and often the end is
not absolutely flat and square either, even when new. The optimum way to
make one is with a grinding wheel, hence the name hollow ground. However
one can make one with a fine toothed file. The trick is to draw the end of
the screwdriver along and over the file (which should be securely mounted
in a vise) rather than moving the file against the screwdriver. I also
found that if I clamped the shaft of the screwdriver in visegrip pliers and
moved the screwdriver against the file by means of the visegrips hanging
below and against the file I was able to get the best results.
Further, I hardened the tips, since nothing is more damaging to a slotted
screw head than a screwdriver with a soft tip. There are commercial
chemicals for hardening, but heating the tip cherry red and dousing in oil
Replacing the Button Sleeves
Robert Booth's post re: sticky buttons, and my response gives impetous to
write up the following:
There are a lot of these [Italian] instruments in circulation and tho' I am amazed at
the current prices compared to what I paid, they are OK for a begining or
The 30 button Bastari/Stagis will eventually have a problem with the rubber
bushings, or sleeves, holding the buttons to the pad levers. The rubber
will eventually get hard and the pad lever will wear a groove in the rubber
where it bears on the lever. Thus the buttons will cock in their movement
and tend to stick in their holes of the endplste. The first thing to do is
to use model airplane fuel tubing rather than surgical tubing for the
replacement. I use Aerotrend "Blue Line" silicone (www.aerotrend.com). I
have experimented with two sizes of tubing; 3/32" ID (part # 1003,) and 1/8" ID (part # 1005). The 3/32 has an OD of 7/32", while the 1/8 ID's is 1/4". Either size will work, but I have found that the smaller seems to be best. There are some places where there can be a clearance problem with adjacent levers, so the smaller OD has an advantage. [Click on the image for a larger version.]
In order to get the best performance from the buttons one must understand
the mechanics of the action. When pressing the button it should travel
perpendicular to the end plate; however the valve lever moves in an arc, so
the affixment of the button to the pad lever must act not only as a hinge,
but the attachment to the button shaft must have some flexibility to move
slightly along the axis of the lever as well. Otherwise the button would
also move in an arc and bind in the endplate. With this in mind the length
of the sleeve should be just long enough to hold the button on the lever.
Too long a length will hold the button too tightly to the lever and not
allow any motion along the lever. It should not be [short] enough to let the
button slide on the lever, but shift a little using the flexibility of the
tubing. Too long a length will compress the tubing limiting that
The picture is a little fuzzy, but the top button has the sleeve the
...[B]ellows leaks are generally not that big an issue. By using
electrician's liquid tape, repairs can be readily effected, with a light
coating on the inside of the bellows. If there is a large crack or tear,
the trick is to lightly saturate a piece of handkerchief cloth with the
liquid tape, then apply to the inside, after taping a piece of plastic wrap
to the outside in order to keep the goo on the inside.
A simple jig is in order to keep the bellows extended during this
operation. [Click on the image for a larger version.]
Finding a Box
In regard to the Stagi/Bastari repair: I decided to do some checking. I
found that [several retailers have] stopped importing the W-15 due to terrible
quality control. Evidently the repairs necessary to make the instruments
acceptable are no longer cost-effective. It is a strange pass that the "older" instruments seem to be
"worth more" than the "newer" ones! How long will it be before they will
be sought after?