Accordion blues...

I've been teaching myself more accordion repair over the weekend and the past few days (when Oona and Bonnie and I aren't canoeing on our off days!) -- and oh my -- it's tedious work. These snapshots (the one above is the reed block with some reeds removed) are of the interior of a 1930s three-row Hohner diatonic button accordion that I'm fixing up for myself (keys of G/C/F).

I probably should have started on a one-row button-box so that I felt like I was getting somewhere, but so far I've got the C&F melody side nice and tuned and tidy.

Rather than installing new valves (that's what those leather bits are) I'm turning the originals over and regluing them. I should probably be installing some of those modern plastic-y "ventiles" (the fancy way of calling synthetic valves something) but using the back side of these valves seems to work just fine. Old leather valves eventually curl up and away from the reedblock which means the player loses air and the 2nd reed on the block might sound or make ugly tones if the valve doesn't seal correctly.

Here you can see the reedblocks in place. The right-side "F" row is all set to go while you can see I haven't even gotten to the "G" row yet -- all those valves peeling off are a good hint at that.

Here I have one of the reeds removed and the end supported with a tiny splinter so I can work on it. I'm going to be sanding off a little material at the "butt" end of this with my Dremel to lower the pitch of the reed as many of the reeds have gone a bit sharp due to age and also my having had to remove some material from the front of the reeds to get them to not chime against the slot of the block.

A cautionary note, here -- don't attempt this if you have no idea what you're doing. I practiced on a really beat half-accordion I had hanging around my "trash" bucket to get the process down. Removing only slight amounts of material on the smaller reeds changes the pitch dramatically and one has to have an idea about "wetness" of tuning to get the right sound for the right accordion (typical button boxes have 2 reeds per note and they're tuned slightly flat and sharp to give a tremolo effect).

ANYHOW, I promise more fun instrument pics tomorrow. I should have this box all done by then and I'll also have a nice old 5-string banjar to check out.


Anonymous said...

Really cool explanation, Jake. Reminds me of a harmonica on steroids. I've never played an accordion. Is is possible to 'bend' accordion notes like on a harmonica?


Antebellum Instruments said...

Ben: If you play it real hard it's possible to sharpen the notes but unfortunately the "breathing" is controlled by the box -- so, nope. Cajun players, however, tend to play like blues harp players -- in the opposing key to the one the instrument is naturally in.

Anonymous said...

Ah, cross-cordian, so to speak. Do you ever work on concertinas? I think they're pretty cool too.

Antebellum Instruments said...

I'm planning to work on all manner of squeezeboxes now, but I have a feeling they'll be fewer and farther between due to the amount of time needed to restore them.

I'm thinking my focus will be on diatonic button-boxes like the Pokerwork and the one seen here (as well as Cajun-style single rows), as they're the ones I like to play more than others.