Concertina Maintenance Guide

 Concertina Maintenance Guide

Finding Faults

Without Pressing a Key

Air Leakage With No Keys Pressed
How to Correct This Fault

  • Can be through pads.
  • Other holes in sound board.
  • Between bellows and end, due to missing or loose screws.
  • Through holes in bellows.
  • Weak springs.
  • Lever catching on end plate.

Continuous Notes With No Keys Pressed
How to Correct This Fault

  • Pad(s) missing.
  • Broken springs look for keys lower than usual.
  • Lever catching on end plate.

When a Key is Pressed

No Sound
How to Correct This Fault
A) If there is good pressure

  • Stuck reed.
  • Or stuck valve.
  • Reed set too low in frame.

B) If there is bad pressure.

  • Broken reed.
  • No reed at all.

Two Notes Sound
How to Correct This Fault

Air is leaking from one reed chamber to the next due to-

  • Warped reed pan.
  • Loose support blocks for reed pan.
  • Loose ends.

Reed Sounds Very Flat
How to Correct This Fault

  • Cracked reed.
  • Out of tune rusty.
  • Wrong reed.

Buzzing Sound or Squeak
How to Correct This Fault

  • Reed is catching on frame due to burr.
  • Bad fitting.
  • Reed frame tight in slot.
  • Dirt.

Rattling Sound or Warble
How to Correct This Fault

  • Reed frame loose in slot.

Flap is Heard Before Reed Sounds
How to Correct This Fault

  • Worn valves.

Airy Sound
How to Correct This Fault

  • Reed set too high in frame.

Key Sticks Down
How to Correct This Fault

  • Key is too tight in hole.
  • Bush on the lever is too tight - key can't rotate.
  • Key sticking into base plate.

Correcting Faults

Replace missing external parts as necessary - finger plates, straps, end bolts, strap screws. End bolts vary a great deal, try several - one usually fits, same goes for strap screws, generally a small head goes with a hand strap - large head for a thumb strap.
General Faults.

  1. Damaged fretwork - reinforce and repair if it's a good instrument.
  2. Missing edge veneer - repair if it seems worthwhile.
  3. Dried out glue - often when a concertina has got damp it will literally fall to pieces, then the ends are taken off, clean joints and re-glue. Be careful to get edges back where they came from, or it will never go together properly.
  4. Bellow papers dirty or missing - replace if a good instrument, otherwise clean up as much as is reasonable.
  5. Weak structure of bellows - if the bellows folds into itself when opened it is necessary to replace the card strengthening from inside.

Specific Faults

Air Leakage

  1. a) Pads maybe moth eaten - clean out with brush and replace all pads that end. Fix pads with a rubbery glue e.g. Copydex, for easy removal, take old pads out and replace one at a time, to avoid trouble with keys, but leave all gluing until the end, this saves time. Hold the end unit up to the light to check for obvious leaks. Place pad centrally over hole, put glue on the lever and lower it onto the pad. There must be a cork ring on the lever, or it will not fix correctly.
    b) Lever maybe bent - straighten out - carefully!!! they can break.
    c) Pads maybe dried out or badly fitted - replace.
  2. After pads have been checked if it still leaks check for screw holes and other holes which are visible, also cracks around surrounds of sound board. Fill with plastic wood and or re-glue if necessary in the case of cracks in the sound board itself.
  3. Replace end bolts where possible. It is often found that the bolt has lost it's thread at one point only, so that it screws in, but does not tighten. If the bolt is broken off and can not be extracted, it is necessary to peel off the chamois from the end of the inside of the bellows to reach the retaining plate. This is usually removed by two screws, either replace if spares available, or remove the broken stub - replace the leather with care.
  4. If bellows is leaking, patch with thin leather, shaved down to almost nothing at the edge, use impact adhesive e.g. Evostik. Always replace a whole gusset, never patch, don't make corner patches too small, it is often possible to tuck a patch under paper, and glue the paper back over it. Very small holes can sometimes be cured by using rubber solution, from the inside - leave it to ooze through - and dry out.
  5. Replace spring if air is leaking past pad, and the spring on that lever is obviously softer than the others (it may be cracked). In dire cases use second spring, but the aim is to get the same "feel" or "action" on all keys. Fit the spring by using old hole or making new one with compass point, and pushing the point of the spring in with the sharp end of a screwdriver. The nearer the pivot, the lighter the action, the nearer the key, the heavier - if the spring actually touches the key it may foul the movement of the key.
  6. It is possible for the end of the lever beyond the key to catch on the end plate, and lift the pad, first check that the end plate is properly supported, if it is, then carefully bend down the end of the lever.

Continuous Sound

  1. Pads Missing - see Air Leakage 1 above
  2. Broken Springs - see Air Leakage 5 above.
  3. Lever Catching - see Air Leakage 6 above

No Sound

  1. Attempt to free reed with a flick with a fingernail or screwdriver. This will succeed if it is only a speck of dust, if it doesn't, look for burr on reed, or frame, and remove it - to see these hold up to light. Look for displacement of reed to one side in frame, - loosen clamp screws and re-set. This is drastic - use only in emergency. It can mean a half-hour of fiddling and returning. If the reed is obviously rusty, clean gently with a scraping motion using a knife blade, or thin edge of metal. Use a file very carefully.
  2. If the valve has been sucked into the slot it is necessary to replace that valve - a temporary repair can sometimes be effected by removing the old one and scraping it with a screwdriver to straighten it. Check this before messing with the reed.
  3. The ideal setting for a reed is when the tip is its own thickness above the frame. If it is wrong, gently bend the reed to position, brass and nickel reeds sometimes snap - watch out.
  4. Replace reed and frame with one of the same material, brass, steel or nickel silver. Brass and nickel are reasonably interchangeable, preferably use a reed of the same make for a better fit.

Two Notes Sound

  1. If the reed pan is warped it will be higher at the centre than the edges, it will not make a good seal with the sound board. Ideally it should be planed flat, but it is easier to build up the leather gasket as necessary. A slight warp will be flattened out when the end is screwed down. If it is too great, the reed pan support blocks may be forced off.
  2. Replace blocks as necessary, take care to use the original position, as elsewhere it will probably foul one of the reed clamp screws. In emergencies a panel pin can do the trick. The leather gasket on the reed pan should be exactly flush with the edge of the bellows.
  3. Tighten the end bolts - See Air Leakage 3.

Reed Sounds Very Flat

  1. In a concertina with soft metal reeds, brass or nickel silver, a flat note usually means there is a crack in the reed, test by twanging the reed - it will break quite easily if it is already cracked.
  2. Scrape off rust with sharp edge - don't forget the back of the reed. It is not usually necessary to file it.
  3. Check the stamp on the reed, if it's within a semitone, tune it in, otherwise look for a replacement. N.B. It is possible that all the reeds you need are in the instrument, but jumbled.

Buzzing Sound or Squeak

  1. Hold the reed up to a good light, if it is possible to see light all round, there must be a small burr either on the reed or the frame - look closer to find it, and file it off with a very fine file. It is easy to make matters worse, so be careful.
  2. If the reed is obviously misaligned, first try to correct by pushing the reed sideways. If this succeeds, tighten the clamp, and leave it at that. If not, loosen the clamp a little - not so much that the reed falls out, move it into position and tighten clamp. This can take ages - particularly difficult is to get the root of the reed correctly situated. The tip appears to be free, but it can't vibrate properly. Be prepared to replace a reed instead of spending hours messing about.
  3. If it works when removed from slot, but not when in slot, clear all paper out of slot, if that fails look for a reed frame that fits properly or carefully file slot out.

Rattling Sound or Warble

  1. First push reed tighter into slot if it is still loose cut a piece of paper to size and slide it into slot between the reed and the edge. Gummed paper can be useful if the reed is to be removed again soon - gum it to the wood. Be careful of overdoing it, this can cause the reed to jam in the frame. It will work when out of the slot, but after you've reassembled the instrument you'll discover it doesn't.

Flap is Heard Before Reed Sounds

  1. Replace valve as necessary. Look for blackened or soft or curling valves, replace these first, again use a rubbery glue. See No Sound 2.

Airy Sound

  1. Push the reed down until it works better. See No Sound 3.

Key Sticks Down

  1. If the hole in the end plate is bushed, rub a screwdriver back and forth through the hole until the key fits. This nearly always works. Use a file to remove dirt, then the screwdriver again if it doesn't, as a last resort remove the bush and replace it. If it is not bushed, file down the key or the hole as necessary.
  2. If the key can't rotate on the lever, then wobble it about until it can. As a last resort remove the bush and replace it - in an emergency just remove the bush.
  3. Just occasionally the pin on the bottom of the key sticks in the sound board - file away the pin as necessary. Sometimes it will work better when rotated 180 degrees.