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replacing the valves for nailed on reeds.

Geoff de Limousin

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I have a couple of old accordions that I am going to restore which have their reed plates nailed or screwed on to the reed blocks. I am thinking that this might make valve replacement easier, if I remove each reedplate instead of trying to fit the inside valves through the window with a pair of tweezers .

What are the downs and ups of this method ? Any advice or tips please.
 

landro

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I`ve read where it IS possible to replace the inner valves thru the reed block window using tweezers. I gave it a couple of tries but I was unable to do it without getting the adhesive smeared while trying to center the valve over the reed. It was also very difficult to clean the old adhesive off the reed. I have to give credit to those who are able to accomplish it with any degree of satisfaction.
I have always found it easier to just remove the old wax and reed plate , revalve , and re-wax knowing for sure the reed was cleaned 100% and the valve perfectly set in place.
Re-using the old nails in the original holes to re-attach the reeds might not be ideal since you would lose their original grip.
 

TomBR

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I agree with what landro said, but would be interested to hear from anyone who finds replacing inner valves in situ worthwhile and straightforward. If it's a matter of practice and technique, so be it! Angled tweezers?

Worth making sure that your reedplates go back the same side inward as before. Most reeds are marked on the outside, a stamped letter or a corner line.
Good luck,
Tom
 

JIM D.

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It is always advisable to remove the reed to replace an inner valve. Tom is correct on observing the inner side of the plate. As for those nails - well it's not necessary to replace them. In most cases reed block nails can be found on lower priced or mediocre brands of accordions and the absence of nails will be found on high priced quality accordions with some exceptions. Most lower priced accordion models and brands are manufactured unlike expensive Pro models, are produced on an assembly line not unlike the auto industry. For example you have employees that only make reed blocks, employees that only assemble the reeds in place and fasten with nails, and then the reeds and blocks go to an employee that waxes the set. A good quality beeswax with the proper amount of resin will hold the reeds in place just fine without nails.
 

donn

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I believe that in the center of France, where Geoff is located, they see the use of nails rather differently, and it would be an error to use wax in a nailed accordion.
 

landro

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A couple years ago I replaced a few valves in a Maugein Brothers piano accordion (made in France) and the reeds were not waxed, just nailed in place . I think it was over a suede like material . I assumed the OP meant something similar.
 

donn

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You bet - Maugein, Cavagnolo, Piermaria, Fratelli Crosio, etc. In France and Portugal, it's what you'd expect.

I have wondered about the point you made re old nail holes. I guess if you're very careful, the nails will still hold when they're replaced, but obviously if the hole is made larger when the nail is extracted, then you'd have a problem.
 

Geoff de Limousin

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Yes indeed Donn . Nailed on reeds appear to be the norm here in France. Almost all the accordeons I have had were made that way, either onto a cork or leather gasket.

At the moment I have CBA's dating from the 1920's through to a 2001 model and only one of them has waxed reeds. In fact 'nailed on reeds' appear to be lauded as a mark of quality when advertising accordeons here... my modern Cavagnolo is one of their Pro range models with 'a mano' reeds nailed and screwed down.

My Coop.Armoniche Vercelli (from 1931), considered at the time to be one of the top makes, is still playing wonderfully well and perhaps its nailed -on reeds may have been taken off once or twice during a long playing career. Luckily it is not this instrument that needs its valves changing.

I take the point about the possibility of the nails loosing their grip after replacement . I notice that some of the nails have a one sided head, as if they could be turned ( revolved) so that they release the reed plate without having to be pulled out. I will experiment with the least of my boxes , a probably unrestorable clunker.

I have seen it said that there is a 'sound' difference between waxed-on and nailed-on reeds and certainly the one waxed reed accordeon I have does have a different character but unless the comparison can be made with two otherwise identical models....... ?

Thanks for all the comments, very helpfull !
 

JIM D.

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I think were talking apples and oranges here -- the norm is an accordion with waxed in reeds and when quality built will not require nails to secure the plates. And then there are accordions that are made for use in extreme temperatures where the wax will melt and then assembled with reeds fastened with nails over leather gasket. Both methods work well but the waxed in reed will transmit the volume of the reed vibration more effectively.
 

Geoff de Limousin

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JIM D. said:
I think were talking apples and oranges here -- the norm is an accordion with waxed in reeds and when quality built will not require nails to secure the plates. And then there are accordions that are made for use in extreme temperatures where the wax will melt and then assembled with reeds fastened with nails over leather gasket. Both methods work well but the waxed in reed will transmit the volume of the reed vibration more effectively.


An interesting point about the sound transmission Jim..... I guess this is because the reed plates of the waxed in method have direct contact with the wood of the reed block ?
 

JIM D.

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You got It !! :tup:
 

dunlustin

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JIM D.

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90% of accordion production today will apply to the subject here. Small makers of concertina's and diatonic's are an exception.
 

donn

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Geoff de Limousin said:
I have seen it said that there is a sound difference between waxed-on and nailed-on reeds and certainly the one waxed reed accordeon I have does have a different character but unless the comparison can be made with two otherwise identical models....... ?

Exactly, and of course not only are the accordions we have as examples not identical, theyre likely different on purpose, to suit differing tastes in the respective markets. I mean even if a modern maker like SEM/Piermaria for example offered nailed construction as a simple option, for the sake of science youd want to make sure that they dont routinely use different reeds with this option. What do you think? my guess is that this all happens because the French market is strongly influenced by some early French maker like Cavagnolo or Maugein, who happened to use nails and other local makers followed suit. (Its also more common in diatonic accordians, am I right?) I know some of these nailed accordions were made in Italy, like my Fratelli Crosio, and while the brand may be rare outside France & Portugal, I think they made waxed-reed accordions under other brand names. I think there are analogous cases for Portugal, for example Ive never heard of Ranco Guglielmo anywhere else.

With the same reeds, Id be very surprised if any listener could tell the difference. If youre curious, I guess it would be easy enough to experiment with one of the accordions you intend to work on - mount a couple reeds with wax and see.

Since its so unlikely to make any perceptible difference, I think Id suggest that for the sake of science, instead you try mounting one on a thick layer of rubber cement or something of that nature, so unlike a nailed reed plate it wont be firmly attached but rather wiggly. That reed might sound slightly different, or it might not - Id be curious.

But nails provide a very firm, direct contact with the wood on which theyre mounted. If anything, wax might insulate the reed block a little, acoustically, compared to nails, but certainly not enough to make any difference even if it mattered in principle.

Anyway, Im hoping that you can get some information from local repairmen who are used to nailed accordions, as suggested above. That will be very interesting for those of us who have them outside France & Portugal.
 

Geoff de Limousin

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Donn, some interesting points you have made:

Yes I guess the reason for the different method of fixation could be as simple as the over heating of one famous accordionists instrument back in the early days with the resultant publicity swaying popular preferences...or perhaps wax fixing is a more recent idea ? It is not like France is an especially hot country. I do recall one friend whos accordion was made unplayable during a road trip in Australia to Alice Springs when the wax melted !

I thing that all my current accordions are of Italian manufacture and only one is waxed.

You relate Ranco Gugliemo with Portugal... though they are well known in France, in fact I bought one yesterday..... oh dear, what will my wife say... another accordeon!! A good friend has a Luigi Ranco which is awaiting restoration by laurent Jarry.... so perhaps I should enquire of Mr.Jarry regarding this reed plate removal question. There are others nearer, like Maugein Freres whose factory is less that two hours drive away.

I will report back when I have further information. Cheers to all.

PS; for those interested in the secondhand accordeon market in France a visit to http://www.leboncoin.fr and search accordeon in instruments de musique will reveal an average 3000 accordions for sale on any day.
 

donn

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Ah, interesting. Well, the Portuguese seem to think very highly of this brand, I'm envious! If it helps, you may tell your wife I got a tuba the day before yesterday, a big, heavy and comically ugly one. At least an accordion can sit on a shelf and hardly get in the way.
 

dunlustin

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I have a 65 Bass (yes = 5*13) Ranco from the 50s which is loud.
John Crawford in a short article (The History of Ranco Accordions ) writes
‘The reed tongues are Swiss cobalt steel. The reed plates are fitted on the bridges to the bare wood and are pinned and glued – no wax was used.
…..Luigi Guglielmo built a three row, three voice, 72 bass, diatonic for Emile Vacher which he used for his first 78s.

Extract from Box and Fiddle 2003
All a bit off topic but if like me, you enjoy accordion 'factoids'
 
D

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interesting topic.
Reed plates: waxed or pinned. Many opinions on this subject.
There isnt much information on this topic to be found online, only scraps and bits of info.
(Maybe the forum could invite people from the accordion making industry to give us some more detailed information).

http://www.lucas-accordeons.com/les-sommiers
Il existe des musiques cirées et clouées. Cest juste un choix du fabriquant qui ninflue pas vraiment sur le son. Les musiques clouées présentent lavantage dêtre facilement démontables pour accéder aux anches ou aux cuir tournés vers lintérieur du sommier. La cire demande dêtre remplacée pour démonter un cadre (attention cest une cire spéciale), avec le nombre des années elle sèche et se craquèle, ce qui désolidarise les cadres du sommiers et provoque une vibration forte et désagréable. Auquel cas il faut remplacer la cire, lidéal étant de nettoyer tous les sommiers et den remettre une neuve car tôt ou tard dautres notes subiront le même sort.

Nails and leather have been used in Schrammelharmonikas and early accordions with very good results, but one had to be careful not to damage or perforate the reed chambers, as shown in one of these photos:
http://www.accordeon-special.de/reparaturen-1.html

Today wax is used, but pins and nails were also a very good method. Perhaps the nailing or pinning method took more time and care to make.

This is information directly from the Italian accordion community on accordion production, its also talking about the wax
http://www.strumentiemusica.com/not...ilizzati-nella-costruzione-della-fisarmonica/

Some accordion repaires would like to go back to the nailing/pinning method, because its easier for replacing and repairing. Wax dries and crumbles, it can be messy to clean and repair. The naling/pinning on leather method is cleaner, but perhaps more labor intensive to make.
Leather also dries and becomes stiff after years, but when the accordion is kept in good climate conditions, leather can last for many years. Leather chamois or leatherette with the right thickness could be used, but only if it doesnt hinder the sound/vibrations on the reed blocks. But if its been firmly (but carefully) pinned or nailed, the reed plate can be pressed down a little bit into the leather chamois. After a few years these markings leave small grooves or channels of depression (?), that can hold the reed plates firmly.

When the wax starts crumbling and disintegrating, the wax no longer has the force to keep the reed plates firmly in place on the reed block. The intensity of the vibrations make the reed plates become loose, and sound quality and air pressure conduct is very poor.

http://www.accordionrevival.com/ACCORDION_REPAIR1.php
Old brittle wax transmits sound differently. Fresh wax could make your accordion sound more like it did when it was new. However, re-waxing is very time consuming and expensive. If you pay to have it done, the cost could exceed the market value of your accordion.


Its not really clear what is best for sound transmission, the wax or the leather/pinning technique. Both seem to have good sound qualities in quality accordions. Maybe wax could transmit vibrations of the reeds and reed plate better, its possible. I am not aware of scientific studies on this issue, but the accordion industry must have some test results about this topic. If they will publish this information, thats another thing.
 
D

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and if I may add some interesting info coming from the melodeon forum.

quote from the melodeon site:
"A reed always tries to unload energy to its surroundings, instead of using the same energy to produce sound. Usually reeds are fastened to the block with wax. In the beginning the average wax is still rather soft, thus absorbing more energy (resulting in less sound), as it hardens the box gets louder. Unfortunately most types of wax tend to get brittle after a certain number of years loosening its grip around the reed frame. The sound gets weaker, and there might be other disturbing side effects. That's the reason why reeds in high end instruments are kept in place with nails or screws. The main function of the wax in this case is to prevent air leaks. Sometimes there is no wax at all, and the manufacturer uses cork or leather instead (which may give way to other problems). The reed still tries to transmit energy to the reed blocks and other parts of the instrument, a vibrating reedblock means less sound and unregular beatings (tremolo). This is why it is so important to connect the blocks with a "bridge" (it. "traversina"). It also means that using "tone wood" in reed blocks or "sound"-boards has absolutely no effect... accordions are not violins.
The best way to force a reed not to disperse energy is to rivet all in a row on one long plate. This will have the same effect as the vice in the above mentioned experiment. There will be no need for wax, the plate rests on cork or leather (fastened with screws, nails or hooks). The problem: It's not user friendly at all. Should a reed break, even your local accordion technician may not be able to help you."
 

donn

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That makes sense to me, to some degree, but I think they've gone overboard. The principles seem right - if the reed's vibration can move the reed block, that might indeed dampen the sound - but in practice, again I doubt very much that anyone could detect a difference between waxed and nailed reeds, because either way the reed block is held firmly enough, that it doesn't matter at all. (If the difference were noticeable at all, the best accordions really would all be made one way.)

But I suggested the rubber cement experiment, something that really does allow the block to move as much as reasonably possible, because without understanding the physics of how a free reed operates, I'm not really sure it makes a difference even in principle.
 

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