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Removing and replacing CBA buttons

M

maugein96

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Quite a few members have asked about the possibility of replacing treble buttons on a CBA, where their buttons are of the screw in type.

To anybody contemplating this, you run a real risk of ending up with your treble buttons at different heights, and your fingers will get incredibly sore after youve unscrewed a couple of buttons. The reason the buttons will go out of alignment is that when you try and remove a button youll almost inevitably cause the control rods on the adjoining buttons to bend, and getting them back to the correct height is a nigh on impossible task.

Somebody was asking about this very subject the other day and I couldnt remember what the correct tool was to avoid ending up with dropped buttons.

Ive provided an eBay link to a French seller who stocks the tools they use in France to obviate knocking the buttons out of alignment.

The tools are called clefs pour visser les boutons, and there are two different sizes. One is for the treble side, and the other is for the bass side (only for stepped basses with mushroom type buttons). The bass side tool is no good if you have the standard peg bass buttons.

The device is simply placed on top of the button and adjusted to the correct button diameter, which must be between 14 and 17mm, otherwise the tool will not be worth buying. The button is then screwed or unscrewed manually by rotating the tool in the required direction. Use of the tool will not affect the alignment of the adjacent buttons, as would most likely be the case if you unscrewed the button by hand.

It will be seen that these tools are not cheap at around 80 Euros a go, and I appreciate that there may be other simpler tools available which would achieve a similar aim.

I dont know much about accordion repair, but do know that swapping treble buttons on a CBA is a very protracted operation resulting in sore fingers and wonky treble buttons if it is attempted without the use of the tools shown, or some suitable alternative.

So, for anybody intent on replacing lots of buttons it might be worth considering the purchase of at least the treble side tool, as in my experience the button control levers on the bass side are less prone to bend when being worked on.

For the avoidance of doubt, if your CBA has buttons that are glued on, these tools will not work, and I have no idea how to swap such glued buttons. However, In all cases care must be taken so that the button control levers remain in the same place as they were when they left the factory.

If you only wish to swap a button or two then I doubt the purchase of such tools would be necessary, as any misaligned buttons, with a certain amount of application and patience, could be pulled back up into their approximate factory positions. However, if you plan to remove all the buttons for cleaning or any other reason, you could end up with your treble button rows resembling a profile of the Alps!

EDIT:- Ive since been advised that the vendor in the original link is deceased, and out of respect for him Ive removed that link.

Here is another link to an identical tool:-

https://www.ebay.fr/itm/Outil-vissa...180929?hash=item5207dc1081:g:Qo4AAOSwcgNZCdJl
 

Morne

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That seller is Bernard Loffet, who has recently passed away. I dont know if somebody else is involved with his shop, so it might not be possible to actually buy that linked item.
 
M

maugein96

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Thanks Morne,

I did read about Bernard's passing, but unfortunately never made the connection. Out of respect for him I've removed that link and replaced it with another to a seller who is still current.
 

debra

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maugein96

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debra post_id=57380 time=1524164024 user_id=605 said:
It is a standard tool in the accordion industry.

Thanks Paul,

I had seen them before years ago on French accordion websites, but at that time nobody appeared to be offering them for sale to the general public. Mind you, at that price maybe not many of the general pubic were interested.

Wish I had one when I took all the treble buttons off my Cavagnolo years ago to clean it, though.

Thought I had re-discovered a little trade secret that was unique to the French accordion world, but it seems that once again I am years out of date.

Wonder if I could get one from China for 5 Euros?
 

boxplayer4000

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CBA Treble Button replacement.
I didn’t know the buttons could be so troublesome. I’ve replaced a few in recent times, mostly ones which have been lost. The last one, a Crucianelli Magicvox, converted to standard midi, required accessing the keyboard from the rear to level the button with standard key bending tools.
 
M

maugein96

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Hi boxplayer,

Replacing one or two is not too much of an issue, although I have had issues with inadvertently bending the control rods on neighbouring buttons even then. In my very limited experience the metal used in French made boxes sometimes tends to be a bit on the soft side, and consequently all of the control mechanisms need special care.

I do believe the tools are mainly used by makers who would not really want to take the back off and try to get 90 or so treble buttons aligned after they had fitted them. I did see a video some time ago where a French repairer said he couldn't do without them, as it was sometimes the case that he had to strip all the buttons off and replace them again during an overhaul.

I've never actually used one of the tools, which I see are also available in Italy, Germany, and probably in any other country where accordions are made. Considering their price of between 70 and 130 Euros a pop, I would only really consider buying one if I happened to be in the situation where I had to remove a lot of buttons.

I put the post on as a sort of caveat to those who had declared an intent on replacing all the black buttons on a bi-coloured keyboard with white ones. The thought of taking the back off to painstakingly realign half of your treble buttons may be just an inconvenience to some, but I wouldn't even consider it.
 

boxplayer4000

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Maugein96
We’re probably talking about two different tools. The ones I have in mind are the simple key stem bending tools while I think the ones you refer to are tools to grip the button to unscrew it from its stem. I haven’t seen one of them and find the price of the ones mentioned in this post to be quite surprising. I can easily see how the process of removing the buttons could get problematic in having to use too much force to free a button could result in breaking the button stem or bending the metal parts in the process.
I’ve probably been lucky in that defective buttons I’ve come across in recent times have been fairly easy to remove.
 
M

maugein96

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Hi boxplayer,

Yes, the tools I'm talking about grip the button, and are very expensive. Like you I've never actually seen one in the flesh, and it was while I was watching a French TV documentary years ago that I became aware of them. I thought I'd need to get one but after a while I more or less forgot all about it. Let's face it few of us would need to replace many buttons under normal circumstances.

If a button falls off it's a fairly easy deal to screw another one on by hand (unless you have a French made box with sensitive control levers like mine). From time to time I've seen CBAs being offered for sale with a few buttons well out of alignment.

Years ago Jimmy Clinkscale gave me a Cavagnolo 2 voice accordion with "swing" tuning home on a trial. Somebody had bought it but couldn't live with the fact it never had three voice musette. It was probably the best sound out of any instrument I'd ever played (for those of us who prefer that sound), but one of the buttons in the lower part of the keyboard was considerably higher than the rest. Consequently I declined to buy it and gave the box back to Jimmy, slightly fearful of the fact that I may have been blamed for the dodgy button. If I'd known at that time I could have just lowered the button with bending tools I'd have kept it, but I knew even less about boxes then than I do now. Some time later I read on a French forum that some Cavagnolos built in the mid 80s were typical "Friday afternoon jobs". Unfortunately I actually bought one of those from Jimmy after reneging on the 2 voice, and everything they said about them was true. Two other "lucky" buyers bought the other two, and hopefully they got ones that were built on a day other than a Friday! Somehow I doubt it, as a whole batch of them were declared suspect, and the three of them arrived at Melrose in the same consignment. Just after that Jimmy appeared to stop importing French boxes, although I do remember a big Crucianelli he had made with the "Clinkscale" logo on the front of it. That box is still doing the rounds and the buttons are all over the place on it.

Jimmy's shop was fascinating as there was always something of interest in it. He used to phone me occasionally telling me that he had just taken stock of a French spec box, but I never really forgave him for selling me that awful Cavagnolo Bal Musette. It wasn't his fault as the maker let him down, and I did buy another box from him later when the shop had moved to Galashiels.

IMHO the Italians still make the best boxes for whatever market, unless you want a bayan, which I used to think was a Turkish aubergine dish! I obviousy haven't seen all that many French spec boxes here in the UK, but Jimmy had a cracking red Piermaria that had 3x3 bass, something I had been seeking for a long time. Brian Forrest put me off it as it didn't have three voice musette, and reckoned I'd struggle with the French bass. How I wish I knew then what I know now!
 

boxplayer4000

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Maugein96
Given the prices of the button gripping tool it’s probably only really busy repairers who could justify having one. Indeed the replacement of the buttons, in my experience so far, has been fairly straightforward though the last replacement of a bass button involved removing the brass screw, which had broken off, with part remaining in the button stem.
Jimmy Clinkscale was well known throughout the UK and Ireland and many people have memories of the original shop in the square in Melrose. (Did jimmy have a sales presence in Innerleithen or Walkerburn before this, about the same time as his BBC broadcasts?) A visit to the shop on Sunday would quite often involve a ‘tune’ and frequently bumping into well-known musicians passing through. I still speak with sales staff such as Tommy Pringle and Brian Forrest. It’s hard to believe how busy the shop could be with accordions leaving by the van-load sometimes for marching bands etc. I believe Jimmy’s successor is still active.
 
M

maugein96

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Hi boxplayer,

Your mention of marching bands is interesting. I tried to describe what those entailed once on here and got my ankles taken off at the knees, as we say in Lanarkshire. They were one of the reasons why I turned my back on the whole Scottish accordion scene, and it was only when I moved out of the west of Scotland that the accordion began to capture my heart.

I agree with you about the gripping tool, although if I ever considered taking all the buttons off mine again to clean the keyboard then I might consider one (for French boxes at any rate).

Jimmy tended to stay behind the scenes in the shop unless a big name was due to call, and Brian and an older chap were the main two people I dealt with. I would think the older guy I mention may now be deceased, but I'm not sure. I could never remember his name, and they used him as a messenger, rather than as a salesman. That shop in Melrose was jam packed with accordions, and Jimmy would usually try and find you what you wanted, or definitely sell you what he thought you should have, if he didn't have anything you fancied! Tommy Pringle's name rings a bell, and I do believe I've met him. I do remember them getting excited about pro players who were there at the same times as I visited, but considering I wasn't into the Country Dance stuff at all, I probably walked straight past them in all ignorance. Only two Scottish players I could identify would have been Jimmy Shand and Will Starr, but Jimmy was getting near the end of his days then, and Will Starr had been pickled a long time before that. The rest were just names I'd heard of, but could make no connection with at all.

Jimmy had a son and a daughter, and I'm sure his son (Gareth?) is still involved in the accordion trade which he runs from his home in Melrose. Looks like it is mostly by word of mouth these days although he has/had a website. Jimmy's daughter, Belinda, was a police officer in the Borders for a while, but she must have left the job before I moved down here from West Lothian in 1996, as I never met her. She was into running as far as I can remember.

I bought a total of four boxes from Jimmy between about 1983 and 1999, which was the last time I dealt with him. Suffice to say I wasn't really happy with any of them. I picked up my Maugein Mini Sonora from south of the border, although there is a good chance that Jimmy may have imported it. Now that is a decent box, even if I can't make the best use of it. I have no knowledge at all of any business connections he may have had in either Walkerburn or Innerleithen. I do believe Jimmy was originally from the Helensburgh area, but he lived most of his life in the Borders.

When I went to buy my first box Brian tried to persuade me to go for a PA, and when I told him I wanted a French CBA box he looked at me incredulously as to why any beginner would want to start off on one of those. I told him I wanted to play like Verchuren and he advised me (diplomatically) that Verchuren was one in a million and so were my chances of being able to play like him, considering my age. He was dead right of course but I was determined to give it a go. Self taught is never ideal and it just never happened, as Brian predicted.

Robert Rolston, whose shop was in Motherwell at the time, put me in touch with Frank Mabbutt, who was originally from London, but moved to West Lothian after WW2. He worked for a finance company that dealt with both Jimmy and Robert, and Frank used to buy French spec CBAs regularly, maybe every couple of years. Frank was an amatuer PA player but got hooked on French musette and went onto CBA. I learned a lot from him about the big name players in France, although we were on a similar footing with regard to playing. I think he's still on the go, but I lost touch with him a few years ago when his eyesight started to deteriorate. We still swop Xmas cards, but that's about it.

Frank introduced me to Tommy Kettles, a fantastic player of French musette, and he was playing the French restaurants in Scotland at one time. He also played fairly regularly at various venues in France, and I actually read about him playing alongside some of the better known players in a French accordion magazine. His Cavagnolo box was made to the same spec as Joss Baselli's, and he certainly knew how to play it. I never really got to know Tommy all that well, and am not sure whether he's standing up or lying down these days. Frank used to visit him from time to time.

Only Scottish semi-pro CBA player I know is Bob Liddle, who I think we've spoken about before, but I haven't seen him much in the 14 years since I retired from the police. I've never even heard him play live, although I think I still have a CD of his. Always a glutton for punishment, after "retirement" I did 11 years driving buses when there was not a lot of time spent playing the box at all. I now can't actually remember the last time I played one, but still like to listen. For some reason I've never been able to get into the Scottish scene at all. I thought I might have a go at it some day, but it has never happened, and probably now never will.

I've been lucky with buttons over the years, but then my boxes never leave the house.
 

WaldoW

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I modified an old needle nose plier by filing a round notch in the jaws, just inboard of the plier tip [how far in depends on how quickly the jaws taper]. I then rounded off the remaining tips down to the top of the notch. Done properly, the notch will match the button edge shape and the plier will close sufficiently to fit between the adjoining buttons. Care is still required while rotating the button in/out, but the plier is very effective (and LOTS cheaper).

With respect to screwed/glued on buttons:
Mushroom style treble; If the felt impact pad located under the button slides easily down the post, away from the button, the button is probably glued on. If the felt is captured in between the button bottom and the post, its probably a screw-in type.
Most larger boxes have some false buttons placed to make the button board look uniform. If unsure of which style you have, attempt removal of a false button first. If it snaps off, it can be glued back on without effecting play.
Pay attention to the screw length. A longer screw than original may bottom out before reaching the desired height, resulting in a proud button. Also, the original screw cut threads only as deep as the original screw. The longer screw will require more torque to seat fully which may bend or break something.
When installing new screw type buttons, carefully place the button screw into the post hole and rotate backwards [counterclockwise or to the left, for digital types], by hand, until the screw thread snicks into alignment, the goal being to align the existing post threads with the new screw on the button. Then carefully screw the button several rotations by hand. If a tool is required, you missed the thread alignment. This makes a big difference in the effort required when getting close to the final button location.
Post (like bass side) style treble; This style has the impact felt inside, under the access plate on the back of the button board. Remove the access plate and view the intersection of the button and the post. Glued on buttons will show squeeze out of the adhesive around the perimeter of the post, rounding off the edge. The edge of the post will be square and sharp if screw in type. Use the false key approach as described above. If the button goes straight to a metal rod, without an intervening post (usually black in color), its pressed on.

Button heights:
Screw type can be adjusted by simply screwing in less or more. Selecting a button that is a little thinner than the original will afford some latitude for adjustment. Getting accurate dimensions from the vender, however, may be a challenge.
Glue type have little latitude for adjustment outside of bending the rods. Buying a button that is a little thicker would allow the button to be sanded to the correct height. While other adhesives are available, factory buttons and posts are of the compatable material to facilitate bonding between the two (the adhesive melts the two and sets up as one). Super glue and other substitutes, being surface adhesives, will work, but for how long? The correct adhesive for the plastic used [PVC, ABS, PS, etc.] is of paramount importance for durability.
Place a straight edge over the glued button, resting on the adjacent buttons of the same row, adjust the level as necessary, and walk away for 24 hours.
Piston type; Gauge the depth and inside diameter of the hole before installing to confirm compatibility. Too shallow of a hole will result in a proud button height. Too deep a hole, a low button, unless detected and compensated for. Too large a hole and the button will eventually fall off. Too small a hole and the button may split due to internal pressure, and/or bend the connecting rods because of the excessive pressure necessary to install them. Interference should be in the .001-.002 range [.020-.050mm].
IMPORTANT but often overlooked: Make sure the outer diameter dosent exceede the original buttons OD. Clearance between buttons on some accordions is minimal and deflection clearance must be maintained or buttons will hit each other (bad).
Libertybellows.com offers a good selection of all 3 styles in different sizes and colors. Im sure they would also measure them to your requrements, if asked. I have delt with LB numerous times and I can vouch for their honesty and knowledge.
DISCLAIMER: I get nothing for my recommendations, but I also believe in good mouthing quality vendors.
Press on...
Waldo
 
M

maugein96

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That probably just about covers it Waldo. I'm glad you drew attention to the fact that buttons come in different diameters. The typical Italian button is of greater diameter than it's French equivalent, and the length of a row on a full sized French spec instrument, even those that are made in Italy, will typically be a cm or two shorter than an Italian equivalent with the bigger buttons. As you say, buttons can be very closely spaced indeed and that makes their replacement more difficult.

French connecting rods can be dodgy, as the metal is often on the soft side. Easier to bend without breaking them, but a nightmare to get them to the correct height.
 

debra

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I have had (and still do) Italian accordions with three different sizes of buttons. The typical non-convertor instruments often come with rather large buttons, the same size as on the Italian bass accordions. The first convertor instrument my wife got (Bugari 508/ARS/C, different from what that model is now) has somewhat smaller buttons, en 46 notes. Most convertor instruments, with even more notes, have smaller buttons still, same size also as on my Russian bayan. And I wouldn't be surprised if the French spec instruments also use that size.
 
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maugein96

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Paul,

Maugein buttons are 14mm diameter, 20mm centre to centre, giving 3mm spacing all round between buttons. Most other French spec boxes will be similar, if not identical. I do remember that I found French box buttons were rather widely spaced and small when I moved from a Guerrini to a Cavagnolo. Guerrini buttons were huge but very closely spaced.
 

McSqueeze

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Just picked up on this post. I've removed and replaced countless CBA buttons with this water hose connector without any damage to buttons or adjoining buttons or the posts. I'm sure there's lots of other gizmos could be used.Button Tool.jpg
 

Tom

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Even though I don't drink any more (or less) I do miss Johnny Walker....
 

McSqueeze

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G'day Dingo 40. Turning it upside down from the position in the illustration and simply pressing it onto the button with enough pressure then loosening or tightening as appropriate. I have another similar hose connector with a smaller internal diameter for smaller buttons. Because the buttons are not flat but are bevelled the hose connector grips the button. I did try lining the connector with masking tape to avoid marking or damaging the buttons but found it was not necessary. I also have used a tapered pipe that can be used with various size buttons and will post a photo as soon as I find it.
 

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