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advice on fixing my dad's accordion

eil

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Greetings!

I inherited my father's PANitalia accordion and have been learning to play since about July of last year. He was a polka guy and I'm trying to learn some of the same songs that he knew and played. As well as going my own path and learning songs that are interesting to me.

The accordion is in great cosmetic condition but needs some attention here and there. I am an avid DIYer, so I'm not afraid to jump into projects that are new to me. You can see the pictures for yourself but to summarize, it's a 41-key, 120-bass LMH accordion. No idea what era it's from, but he had it for as long as I've alive. It doesn't seem to be (much?) out of tune but needs some other work.

I've been to accordionrevival.com and it is an awesome site, I just have a few questions and would be grateful for any advice on the following:

1. Leather valves. Most are fine but some of them are curled, a few quite badly. I was going to try replacing them all for peace of mind but not only would that be extremely tedious, it looks to be cost-prohibitive as well, just for the leathers themselves. Above $100 for a full set. I've searched the web, checked ebay, etc. Are there any other options I should look into? Do these not come in strips or sheets that I can cut myself?

2. There are supposed to be covers over the holes in the bass section. When I was a kid, one of these was always missing, now the other one is gone too. Where can I get replacements? My last resort was going to be basically calling around to every accordion repair shop in the country. Which unfortunately probably wouldn't take very long. Maybe you guys know of a more expedient method? Assuming I can even find them, what do I use to glue them back on? Cyanoacrylate (super glue)? Very thin epoxy? Whatever was used originally was a surprisingly small amount.

3. Excuse my lack of terminology here but two of the plastic treble key tops are starting to come loose from the piece of wood that they should be bonded to. Results in a rattle or click that you can feel when playing. Should I (gently) pry them off completely and sand off the old glue from both surfaces, or am I okay to just squirt some superglue in there and clamp them up?

Greatly appreciate any advice, this seems like an awesomely helpful forum.

Thanks,
Charles
 

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Tom

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Welcome and congratulations, Charles! That's a beautiful accordion, well worth fixing and learning to play. I am not a repair expert, but there are those on here that will give you great advice. Good luck!
 
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JIM D.

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On your reed leathers - well you'll have to bite the bullet and replace them. As far as your bass ornaments, well new factory parts are
obsolete and 40% of the used Pans out there will already have cracked or missing covers. If you do however find a couple used they
may very will be in black as 80% of these were sold in black and 20% in white . I've refurbished models of these Pans in the past and
50% of them have had missing or broken ornaments. In some of these cases I have made curved cellulose plates, drill vent holes, and
used them for replacement. If you find a repair shop with some of these used they likely will not part with them as they are scarce as hen's
teeth and valuable in restoration. You may try a call to https://ernestdeffner.com/ as they have all the older stock from Ernest Deffner.
As for the key top - remove it clean it and use 5 min. epoxy as it will give you time to align the key top before it dries.
 
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debra

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Accordion repair asks for many different components which are not too expensive when you buy them in larger quantities, to repair many accordions, but which are rather expensive if you need just a few from each type. The problem with the leather valves is that you need a few from many different sizes (and thickness). It's less expensive to just buy sheets of leather of different thickness and cut them yourself, but even then you will have bought way too much leather for a single accordion.
Glue is another issue. The "ideal" glue for key tops is called "celluloid glue": it's celluloid dissolved in acetone so it reaches a consistency like most glues (not really liquid but not like a paste either. For white keytops you need to use white celluloid to make the glue. Fortunately superglue is typically acetone-based and can be used for key tops. Not ideal, but it should work as long as you use very little (because the acetone will try to dissolve the celluloid key tops. As Jim suggested, using something else (he suggests 5 min. epoxy) may be safer, as working with anything that's acetone-based is dangerous around cellluloid.
 
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Dingo40

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Welcome Eil, and good luck with your project!πŸ™‚πŸ‘
It sounds like finding replacements for the bass covers may be difficult. Perhaps they could be fashioned from some coloured Perspex?πŸ€”
See here:
Another option could be some decorative, anodised & expanded metal (aluminium?) mesh?πŸ€”
Or a piece of attractively faced three ply?πŸ€”
Any of these could be glued in place ?
 
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Ventura

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hi Eli,

good for you on keeping this link between you and your Dad alive
and wanting to make it a part of YOUR life too

regarding those missing louvers: first of all having those triangular
holes exposed is merely cosmetic, and does not affect the way things work

the purpose of the original louvers was to re-direct a small portion of the
sound from the Bass section toward the direction of the ears of the Musician
playing the instrument (sort of like tiny Stage Monitors)

this was very welcome by Strolling performers as it is much easier to
keep on note and time when you can hear yourself even in a noisy environment

so you can make some kind of nice looking covers for these just to prevent
dirt and stuff from falling in through the holes, or even just glue some kind
of metallic cloth or fine screen to the inside of those triangles

next, from looking at the pictures, it would not appear that the accordion
suffered from excessive time in an attic (a common heatstroke problem)
i say this because the Bellows are NOT warped
(very common on these Crucianelli's that get too dry too quickly)
BUT
the leathers are excessively curled AND you have a keytop or two lifting
which ARE often indications of overheating... something caused the
bond between the Wood and the Keytop to give way, and that something was
likely the Wood of the key warped enough to cause enough opposing pressure to
overcome the bond

so you have to look critically (or let accordion top look critically) at all the
keys and all the leathers to determine if you should expect MORE of them
to end up giving you a problem... OR if you can fix the spot issues and
the rest of the box will hold together

so one thing many budget fixer-uppers have done is work on the leathers
to rejuvenate them

this requires a bottle of Indian Shellac
(gasket cement from the auto parts store, but the handiest Shellac available)
for glueing the leather back on and some type of Leather conditioner like LEXOL
(which is to be used very sparingly)

you take a stiff leather, give it a light wipe on the shiny/smooth side with
the lexol, then ROLL it up soft/suede side in and let it sit that way awhile,
(that stretches them opposite the curling)
then lay them out flat on a piece of waxpaper for awhile
(if they all feel softer and lay flay without arguing, that's good)
and lay another piece of waxpaper on top and let them sit overnight

sometimes the leather will soften up and re-capture some of it's strength
and again be able to close fully and hold against the reed-embouchure

re-attaching it be careful not to use a big blob of shellac, it can get everywhere
and make a mess... just a tiny bit of that purple on the bottom will do the trick
and you can usually just lift the applicator partway out of the bottle and touch
the bottom of the leather to it... maybe dab the excess off on a bit of paper if
you got too much

it is possible to also make your own shellac as in the old days if you search for how

this inexpensive method has worked for many of us, but is tedious...

other than that, if you happen to visit Wash DC sometime this year, I have
a couple of old, good-for-parts-only big old Crucianelli's here that you
can get some parts from
(Tom, you still have first dibs)

best of luck with your Project, and i hope you also can find some
recordings and music from your Dad's Polka career so you can also
learn a few of his favourite songs to play on it

ciao

Ventura
 

Tom

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hi Eli,

good for you on keeping this link between you and your Dad alive
and wanting to make it a part of YOUR life too

regarding those missing louvers: first of all having those triangular
holes exposed is merely cosmetic, and does not affect the way things work

the purpose of the original louvers was to re-direct a small portion of the
sound from the Bass section toward the direction of the ears of the Musician
playing the instrument (sort of like tiny Stage Monitors)

this was very welcome by Strolling performers as it is much easier to
keep on note and time when you can hear yourself even in a noisy environment

so you can make some kind of nice looking covers for these just to prevent
dirt and stuff from falling in through the holes, or even just glue some kind
of metallic cloth or fine screen to the inside of those triangles

next, from looking at the pictures, it would not appear that the accordion
suffered from excessive time in an attic (a common heatstroke problem)
i say this because the Bellows are NOT warped
(very common on these Crucianelli's that get too dry too quickly)
BUT
the leathers are excessively curled AND you have a keytop or two lifting
which ARE often indications of overheating... something caused the
bond between the Wood and the Keytop to give way, and that something was
likely the Wood of the key warped enough to cause enough opposing pressure to
overcome the bond

so you have to look critically (or let accordion top look critically) at all the
keys and all the leathers to determine if you should expect MORE of them
to end up giving you a problem... OR if you can fix the spot issues and
the rest of the box will hold together

so one thing many budget fixer-uppers have done is work on the leathers
to rejuvenate them

this requires a bottle of Indian Shellac
(gasket cement from the auto parts store, but the handiest Shellac available)
for glueing the leather back on and some type of Leather conditioner like LEXOL
(which is to be used very sparingly)

you take a stiff leather, give it a light wipe on the shiny/smooth side with
the lexol, then ROLL it up soft/suede side in and let it sit that way awhile,
(that stretches them opposite the curling)
then lay them out flat on a piece of waxpaper for awhile
(if they all feel softer and lay flay without arguing, that's good)
and lay another piece of waxpaper on top and let them sit overnight

sometimes the leather will soften up and re-capture some of it's strength
and again be able to close fully and hold against the reed-embouchure

re-attaching it be careful not to use a big blob of shellac, it can get everywhere
and make a mess... just a tiny bit of that purple on the bottom will do the trick
and you can usually just lift the applicator partway out of the bottle and touch
the bottom of the leather to it... maybe dab the excess off on a bit of paper if
you got too much

it is possible to also make your own shellac as in the old days if you search for how

this inexpensive method has worked for many of us, but is tedious...

other than that, if you happen to visit Wash DC sometime this year, I have
a couple of old, good-for-parts-only big old Crucianelli's here that you
can get some parts from
(Tom, you still have first dibs)

best of luck with your Project, and i hope you also can find some
recordings and music from your Dad's Polka career so you can also
learn a few of his favourite songs to play on it

ciao

Ventura
Thanks Ventura! I "think" all I need is one errant reed and to swap one grey piece of corner trim for a black one (if I can find it). Only problem will be getting there.... Thanks for your help for Charles.
 
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eil

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Thanks for all the kind responses! Sorry I wasn't able to reply sooner, been busier than a cat on a hot tin roof.

Jim: I'll contact Ernest Deffner and see if they happen to have any bass ornaments, even though it sounds like the odds are pretty slim.

Paul: Do you know where sheets of appropriate leather are sold? Or are they just not sold as "accordion" leather? I understand that I would end up with way too much, just curious what all the options are, even the non-sensical ones. Thanks for the tips on celluloid. I think I'll give the epoxy on the key tops a try.

Dingo: I appreciate the suggestions. My fabrication skills are on the mediocre side but I'll try and dream up some ideas for replacements that won't look too out of place. My only real concern is for the cosmetics... if the holes were a little cleaner, I'd just stick some aluminum grill on the inside and call it a day. Really wish I knew a metal guy who owed me a favor because chrome ornaments would look really nice!

AccordionTop: Thanks, I'll reach out!

Ventura: Thanks for the comments and advice. The accordion did spend a couple of seasons in a house with mildew problems, so that and simply age might explain the key tops. Aside from a musty smell that's pretty much gone now, the key tops and leathers seem to be the only things affected. Basically everything else _inside_ the accordion still looks like new. I don't expect to be in DC anytime soon but I really do appreciate the offer!
 

Scuromondo

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Thanks for all the kind responses! Sorry I wasn't able to reply sooner, been busier than a cat on a hot tin roof.

Jim: I'll contact Ernest Deffner and see if they happen to have any bass ornaments, even though it sounds like the odds are pretty slim.

Paul: Do you know where sheets of appropriate leather are sold? Or are they just not sold as "accordion" leather? I understand that I would end up with way too much, just curious what all the options are, even the non-sensical ones. Thanks for the tips on celluloid. I think I'll give the epoxy on the key tops a try.

Dingo: I appreciate the suggestions. My fabrication skills are on the mediocre side but I'll try and dream up some ideas for replacements that won't look too out of place. My only real concern is for the cosmetics... if the holes were a little cleaner, I'd just stick some aluminum grill on the inside and call it a day. Really wish I knew a metal guy who owed me a favor because chrome ornaments would look really nice!

AccordionTop: Thanks, I'll reach out!

Ventura: Thanks for the comments and advice. The accordion did spend a couple of seasons in a house with mildew problems, so that and simply age might explain the key tops. Aside from a musty smell that's pretty much gone now, the key tops and leathers seem to be the only things affected. Basically everything else _inside_ the accordion still looks like new. I don't expect to be in DC anytime soon but I really do appreciate the offer!
I don’t know if this addresses your needs, but The House of Musical Traditions sells leathers of various sizes: https://hmtrad.com/products/treble-reed-leathers-individual-sizes
 

Valski

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Eli, I am an accordion repairman in Dansville MI, about 40 minutes drive from Ann Arbor. I can help you!
The repairs that you mentioned might be simple enough for an experienced craftsman, however a simple repair might end up being more complex than you might think. If your instrument holds high sentimental value, you might want to engage an experienced technician. Just saying...
 

oldbayan

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CGM sells valves in assortment packs and they are not expensive, especially the vinyl kind.
 

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