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La Tosca restoration.

Tom

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Well, this is interesting. Are accordions getting more expensive and rarer on sales sites on the US? This is in reference to another post. It almost seems so.

Anyway, a quick perusal indicates that the costs are increasing and that Sonolas have become desirable. Go figure. What is your experience? I've had and restored a few Sonolas, in fact the last accordion I bought and restored. I think they are pretty nice.

Anyway, I have a few people interested in learning so need a few loaners. One is the Sonola.

So, a quick look at ebay brought me to a pre 50s La Tosca. Were these made or imported by the Gretsch company in Baltimore?

It's a cool design. I restored a later model La Tosca and thought it was pretty nice.

This one should show up this weekend, and hopefully it's in "good, restorable" condition, suitable for a loaner.

Wish me luck!

unnamed.jpg
 

Dingo40

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Tom,
"..and that Sonolas have become desirable. Go figure. What is your experience? .."
l have a full sized 4 reed LMMH 41/120 , model R460, c. 1972 Sonola from new and two "student/ladies' sized" 41/120 models ( a LMH, and a LMM) both of which I obtained used.
My experience has been they are well made, dependable, and sound good (to me).??
Over the years, they have given less trouble (all three together) than your average lawnmower by itself!? ( Just a very little spot tuning)
My experience is only with Sonola's lower-mid range priced models, there being also some very high priced top of the range ones made, such as my erstwhile teacher owned.)
 
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Tom

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Tom,
"..and that Sonolas have become desirable. Go figure. What is your experience? .."
l have a full sized 4 reed LMMH 41/120 c. 1972 Sonola from new and two "student/ladies' sized" 41/120 models ( a LMH, and a LMM) both of which I obtained used.
My experience has been they are well made, dependable, and sound good (to me).??
Over the years, they have given less trouble (all three together) than your average lawnmower by itself!? ( Just a very little spot tuning)
My experience is only with Sonola's lower-mid range priced models, there being also some very high priced top of the range ones made, such as my erstwhile teacher owned.)
Thanks for the info, Dingo!
 

JIM D.

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That La Tosca in your picture will be a candidate for this advice --
 

Ventura

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Sonola was the accordion of choice among professional Strolling Musicians
for many reasons

Most pro's of this type played thousands of gigs... played constantly...

many many Sonola's are plumb wore out, but still look nice and
play pretty good and could still be useful for Students or occasional players

in my experience, it is near impossible to still find a
(Real by God original from the actual factory) Sonola
in reliably great or even good condition

ciao

Ventura
 

Tom

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That La Tosca in your picture will be a candidate for this advice --
Thanks Jim!!!! Very cool page. You're right, I expect this LaTosca will need full reed restoration but I'm hoping it will play well enough with "minor fixup" to be a loaner for those people who "always wanted to learn accordion." As I've mentioned here, I got out of restoration and sold all my old accordions. But now, in retirement I have the urge to get more accordions going and may have to finally bite the bullet and learn to wax. This accordion will be a good candidate, as it's value won't preclude potential hazards of learning.
 

Tom

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Sonola was the accordion of choice among professional Strolling Musicians
for many reasons

Most pro's of this type played thousands of gigs... played constantly...

many many Sonola's are plumb wore out, but still look nice and
play pretty good and could still be useful for Students or occasional players

in my experience, it is near impossible to still find a
(Real by God original from the actual factory) Sonola
in reliably great or even good condition

ciao

Ventura
Thanks for the info, Ventura. I should say at this point that my current "Sonola" is the Rivoli (student) model which appears factory original and that I posted about the restoration here:


According to our resident expert, the Rivolis were built with some of the same parts and processes as the "Sonola" branded instruments, so, good enough for me!
 

Tom

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So, the La Tosca arrived, in "acceptable restorable" condition. Definitely a "labor of love" restoration. It seems to have all its parts and seems to play out of the box, however sadly. The bellows corners are decent. Will need major cleaning and new gaskezs right off the bat. I'll post interior. My goal is to initially clean it snd render it playable as a small loaner, maybe for practice waxing and releathering without fear of wrecking something.

It's got this interesting window on the back, appears to be for showing the (non functioning) single treble palmswitch. Will be hard to see when accordion is on. Presumably decorative. No bass switches, 80 bass, 16 X 5. Plus the craziest celluloid folds.

Branded "Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co." C4968.

Jim, do you think it was made (or imported) in Baltimore in the 1930s?_IMG_000000_000000.jpg20211023_120607.jpg
 
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Tom

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The leathers, although they should be all replaced at some point, are in surprising good shape. Two reeds are totally out, a couple are loose, showing failure of wax over time. Good because one bass block is waxed in. Interesting set of small "bass reeds" installed sideways, with lots of scratch marks and maybe replaced leathers at some point.

Some writing on bass reed block. One side says "151 Wow" (?), the other "152 Pero" (???) or maybe "Nero (black)"????_IMG_000000_000000.jpg_IMG_000000_000000.jpg

Will need to replace totally bent or missing leathers, but not all to render "playable." Need to clean up and free treble shifter mechanism.
 

JIM D.

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Imported from Italy late 30's to early 40's.
 

Tom

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Added foam gasket on top of leather ones, put paper tape (for now) over hole in bellows leather, adjusted some treble pallets, one still leaks. Will need all new pallet wax.


_IMG_000000_000000.jpg
 

Tom

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Yup lots of treble pallet leakage. Try to save the leather and replace all the wax? Not worth trying to save the leather?
 

Tom

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I decided to sell the La Tosca. A very interesting 90 year old gentleman came over looking for a restoration project because he wants something to do. He had very interesting stories of the glory years. "Within a 12 mile radius of the city there were 18 polka bands. Now there is nothing! I played 10 hours a day for 6 days straight, man I was tired." He made his whole living playing accordion. We looked and found more holes in the bellows, not the pallets leaking as I thought. I told him he has to call when he is rewaxing as I've never seen it in the flesh.
 

Tom

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Update:

He desired to make a "French Musette."

He replaced the lower reeds with clarinet in the same block, ("Oh, I got thousands of reeds.") filling in with small slivers of wood, waxed in. All waxing was done with a soldering iron, with strips of wax that were layed out on tin foil, cut to strips. ("I've had this soldering iron for 30 years, just have to make a new tip. That pouring on the wax will never work, you gotta shape the soldering iron so it will get all the way down to the wood.") The initial block was "tuned to 440" using a cheap guitar tuner (no Dirk's tuner here), and mainly a dremel tool with a grinder blade. ("You can't use this yet, you'll wreck 'em, I been doing this for 75 years, you should see the piccolo reeds, you gotta use sandpaper, one touch and it's way out.") Then he tuned one block "high" and one block "low," totally by ear, getting the musette he liked, using his handmade tuning "table." ("You gotta tune 'em until you get that round and round sound like Lesley speaker, you hear that? It's sooo beautiful, round and round.") I gotta get as much of this as I can, first time I ever witnessed someone who actually knows what he's doing. "I want to tell you about my memory. I remember when I was born, and before that too. My mother worked all day on the farm (6 kids) and played 6 nights a week with the family band. Where was my head when she was playing the cordeen? Right there. When I was laying in the crib I remember the same songs, only this time there were also two trumpets I could hear. That proves it and that's why I have all these d*mn songs in my head, I can't get rid of them." A hundred more stories about 80 years in the accordion business, nobody can do this anymore,, they just wreck 'em, "you should see this guy, every cordeen that comes in, he just pours new wax over all the reeds, just wrecks 'em." You can't make this stuff up even if you wanted to. Didn't cost me $4200 either. ("I gotta show someone all this before I buy the farm. Good thing you showed up.")
 
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Tom

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Unfortunately, after all that work, the La Tosca was a bust - although the 3 reed musette sounds good, the bass machine is really slow, the sound is uneven (too much bass) and, even though the bellows seem tight, it requires too much work (air) to play. "All accordions have one of three bass mechanisms, and this one has the type that is really worthless." Plus many other phrases deemed by your gentle writer to be unfit for present company. The plot continues, but first there's this other accordion we need to check out, "it has musette reeds, but they are not tuned musette." Hmm, what could that even mean? Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel.
 

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Unfortunately, after all that work, the La Tosca was a bust - although the 3 reed musette sounds good, the bass machine is really slow, the sound is uneven (too much bass) and, even though the bellows seem tight, it requires too much work (air) to play. "All accordions have one of three bass mechanisms, and this one has the type that is really worthless." Plus many other phrases deemed by your gentle writer to be unfit for present company. The plot continues, but first there's this other accordion we need to check out, "it has musette reeds, but they are not tuned musette." Hmm, what could that even mean? Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel.
Shame about the La Tosca, but you seem to have entered a really interesting little world there.
 

Tom

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Shame about the La Tosca, but you seem to have entered a really interesting little world there.
Yup! Today it seems there may be some hope.... Tomorrow I insisted that I do the work, even though I will probably "wreck 'em all!."
 

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in my experience, it is near impossible to still find a
(Real by God original from the actual factory) Sonola
in reliably great or even good condition
They are about, if a bit thin on the ground now.
I picked up a compact 120 bass Sonola LMM from around 1975, in very good playing condition, for a very reasonable price recently.

Right place at the right time, I think.
 

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