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Wax warming

Mr Mark

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In the past I have used a hotplate with a very small tin pot to keep my wax warm. I have not been able to keep the heat at a consistent temperature with this, either the wax is smoking or hardening. I have seen a bunch of alternative methods out there; from cosmetic wax warmers to small crockpots, which works best for use with a spoon? Ideally I would like something temperature controlled by degrees, not just WARM and HOT. Also, what is the ideal temperature for waxing - I have read 150 - 165 degrees C. In my upcoming rebuild and indeed for all future repairs and builds I would like this to be as ideal as possible. Why go through all the work to rewax and not do it right, right?

Also, unrelated yet also related...I had recently picked up an older used Accordiana where it looks like the original wax is starting to break down and crack, and it also looks like someone has gone over all of these cracks with fresh wax. I'm curious as to opinions on effectiveness of this type of repair. Obviously not ideal, but also a ton less labour intensive. How long will this type of repair hold up? (Do I need to rebuild this as well)?...
 

AndyM

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I did some re-waxing in one of my accordions a while ago, using a 30W soldering iron with a modified tip, but found that it was far too hot. The wax would smoke immediately on contact with the tip of the iron.

So I bought a commercially available light dimmer, installed it in a small plastic box, and wired a plug to the input and a socket to the output of the dimmer. Plugged my soldering iron into the socket and the dimmer into the mains electricity, and after some trial and error have managed to get the temperature just right - hot enough to melt the wax without creating any smoke.

Not sure what the wattage of your hotplate is, but it may be low enough to use with a light dimmer.
 

Gonk

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The cosmetic wax warmer is what I use. When I was starting out, I tried all kinds of things. I'd never go back. (Although dimmers are a useful resource and Andy's solution is ingenious.) The wax pot is perfect for my purposes -- it has a deep dish to dip the spoon into, and a built in wire to drag it against. It cost $35.

You definitely don't want to overheat the wax. Smoke means the volatiles are leaving. I would imagine there's no hard rule for the temperature. I try to get it good and runny without going any higher than I need to. Some formulations may have more linseed oil or similar, which I imagine would lower the temperature needed to get to that state. If you're buying the wax from someone, they may have suggestions about the ideal temperature to use with it.

I'm in the "do it right" camp for sure. I'd rewax the Accordiana when you have time, mostly because to me that suggests that it's also time to deep clean the reeds and put fresh valves on them. It'll sound much happier. As far as bodgy 'repairs' like layering new wax, or re-melting the existing wax -- they'll buy you some time if you're just trying to get through another day without whistling leaks and reedplates falling off the blocks. But then, some days that's what success looks like.

Speaking of such a day: I was once busking when a gentleman asked me to play an Irish tune that evening at a restaurant table for his anniversary dinner. I agreed. Then I put my accordion on a table and walked across the street for a sandwich. I had turned to start back when I saw my accordion wobble for no obvious reason, and, in excruciating slow motion, fall three feet down onto the pavement. It was a clean hit and the instrument survived like a champ, but the impact knocked out a reedplate. I had the vague notion that reedplates were held with some sort of mix of pine resin and beeswax. I had some beeswax at the farm where I was living, and I remembered noticing a large glob of sap oozing from a pine tree in town, so I biked to the tree, scraped the sap, biked to the farm, boiled an essentially random quantity of sap and wax on the stove (it made a serious mess) and tried to rewax the reed with the resulting goo using a batiq tool. Of course the mixture was too thick to flow through the small spigot on the tool, so I tried holding a lighter to it. The flow did start to increase a bit, and then the tool ruptured and became a goo fountain. I managed to get the reed "waxed" from that flow, sort of cleaned my hands, and barely made it back to town in time to deliver the tune. That fix has lasted over a decade now and is my fondest bodge.
 

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debra

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Jim2010

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Also, unrelated yet also related...I had recently picked up an older used Accordiana where it looks like the original wax is starting to break down and crack, and it also looks like someone has gone over all of these cracks with fresh wax. I'm curious as to opinions on effectiveness of this type of repair. Obviously not ideal, but also a ton less labour intensive. How long will this type of repair hold up? (Do I need to rebuild this as well)?...
I have the opportunity to pick up an accordina that has wax that smells burnt. Is that an indication of a problem, and is it likely that the smell will eventually go away? Since the wax/smell/fumes would be in close proximity to the nose and mouth when playing such an accordina, could it pose a toxicity concern?
 

debra

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I have the opportunity to pick up an accordina that has wax that smells burnt. Is that an indication of a problem, and is it likely that the smell will eventually go away? Since the wax/smell/fumes would be in close proximity to the nose and mouth when playing such an accordina, could it pose a toxicity concern?
The "burnt wax" is not a problem. You can remove the reeds, then scrape off the wax, clean with benzine or alcohol (not acetone!) and then put the reeds back in with new wax. But... the body of the accordina is likely made of some type of plastic so you need to make sure the plastic itself is not the source of the burnt smell. When the wax was heated to the point that it gives off the burnt smell the plastic may be burnt as well.
 

Mr Mark

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Yay! Great responses!

I guess I'm a bit of a stickler for old school which is why I'm spooning - but understand the need for modernity when applicable. I will be sourcing a cosmetic wax warmer (I have seen the real deal you linked debra and if not for needing to spend money upgrading everything else and parts I would get one!) and a soldering iron with dimmer switch (for those reeds with little to no spacing). The wax warmer route was confusing as the only info I had on melting temperature of wax was actually a lot hotter than those warmers typically go.

Great story Gonk, sums up my life well which is perhaps why the accordion came calling.

A side note, my first rebuild was a few years ago now and it STILL smells of naptha when I am playing it (from cleaning the reeds). Hopefully I won't have to compare burnt wax long term to find if that is any better!

Thanks everyone!
 
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