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Replacing leather with plastic tabs

Mike K

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My accordion originally had leather tabs on the reeds, someone working on it replaced some of them with plastic ones, said they were better. Any opinions or advise? The accordion is about 50 years old and the leather may be causing some tuning problems. I also had a couple broken reeds.

Why do some reeds, larger ones, have "covers" and others do not?
 

debra

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Leather dries out and becomes stiff. The quality greatly matters. Cheap 50 year old boxes may have stiff leathers. The leathers on a 50 year old Hohner Gola should still be fine...
Plastic valves are pretty much the norm nowadays. A 50 year old box will need to have all the wax (holding reed plates onto the wood) replaced and that's a good time to replace the leather valves with plastic. Only the largest (mostly bass) reeds will have a valve that has leather as its "bottom" layer (and then some plastic layers on top of that).
When a valve does not close properly the frequency of the reed next to it (on the same side of the reed plate) will go up.
It is very unusual for reeds to break by themselves. When the reeds on a 50 year old box are still good they can easily go for another 50 years. Avoiding moisture that causes reeds to rust is important!
 

Mike K

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How do you tell when was needs replacing? I have looked at mine and it looks great in general. There was one that was probably replaced years ago by my instructor that did not look "neat" but it seemed secure. Costs like $2000 to get wax replaced. not really excited about that opportunity. Leathers...or plastic....I can replace by myself, at least on the outside, ones in the inside are a little tricky

As for broken reeds, mine are not from rust. more from my enthusiastic style of play in my younger years.
 

debra

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When a reed plate comes loose because of brittle wax it can either fall out (if the wax is the only thing holding it in place) or the note will sound bad (not just out of tune but with inconsistent and not constant frequency) if the reed plate is held in place by nails (in addition to wax).
Wax dries out and becomes brittle. Depending on the wax used this can happen after 30 years, maybe after 50 years, and some may still be ok for 10 or 20 years more. You can rewax individual reed plates that have come loose. But once reed plates start coming loose it will keep happening. A trip to a repair shop each time it happens is not going to be pleasant.
Alas rewaxing an entire instrument is a tremendous labor-intensive job so for a larger accordion I'm not surprised about the $2000 figure. What it really means is that an accordion that needs a complete overhaul of wax and valves is probably economically total-loss...
 

JerryPH

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debra said:
Alas rewaxing an entire instrument is a tremendous labor-intensive job so for a larger accordion Im not surprised about the $2000 figure. What it really means is that an accordion that needs a complete overhaul of wax and valves is probably economically total-loss...
This is probably the #1 reason why people want to learn to do these kinds of things themselves, because they dont have that $2000 or because though the value of the accordion may be less than the cost of the repair, yet there is sentimental value that often more greatly defines what something is of value to them over what the actual value is.

The main reason I plan to create a tuner this winter, the main reason I plan to invest several hundred dollars in a piece of tuning software and the main reason I plan to purchase several hundred dollars worth of tools and then take the time to learn how to use them properly by practicing on hardware that has no value, sentimental or real to anyone, is primarily because I have a passion for this, but thats not the only reason.

If I was to pay for everything that I wish to refurbish, retune and fix over the long term, Id not be spending $2000, $4000 or even $5000, but probably well over $10,000 (say over the next 10 years), so, since I have the intelligence and potential to do this myself, I am going to learn. For me, as an amateur, my time to me is free, but to a professional, this is where they make their money, on time, more than hardware or anything else.

Besides the fact that I would be saving a big amount of money, I am willing to invest in myself because I have a passion for this, but I am also going to be honest about my skills and use them when I can, but more importantly, I am also ready to pay a professional for those times that I am not ready or it waits until I am ready, if it is not time sensitive. Id also be doing something that interests me a lot, and that alone is probably the best reason.
 

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