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Squeezebox Information > Repair Tips updated March 6, 2008

Answers to some commonly asked repair questions at HMT...

Thanks to contributors to the Squeezebox Newsgroup, especially Alan Polivka, for much of the advice given here.

  • Leaky Bellows
  • Applying Bellows Tape
  • Reed Skins
  • More tips in the book Accordion Repairs Made Easy
  • Accordion Repair Parts

  • Leaky Bellows

    Q. My accordion has a little air leakage at one place where the bellows frame joins the accordion. I know that this is coming from here because when I apply pressure it becomes air tight again. On an older accordion when I had this problem I just ran a piece of electrical tape over the affected area.

    A. It sounds as though the bellows gasket is worn out. This is a very common problem. The gasket should be replaced. Specially made accordion bellows gasket material is available, and is the best solution. In a pinch, you can temporarily replace the entire gasket with the appropriate size of adhesive-backed weather stripping.

    The problem with weather stripping is that the foam rubber will crumble after aging. Many folks use it anyhow. The accordion bellows gasket is much longer lasting.

    How to Apply New Bellows Tape

    Use ordinary white glue for putting on bellows tape. The standard technique is to spread a bunch of the glue out on a board. Then lay the strips of tape on the board and press them onto the glue (with a piece of wax paper on top of the tape, to keep the glue from getting all over your hands). This gets just the right amount of glue on the tape. Then apply the tape to the bellows.

    If you are using ribbed bellows tape, be sure that the diagonal ribbed pattern is going in the same direction from one fold to the next. The bellows need to be pressed while the tape dries (under quite a bit of pressure, e.g. at least 50 lb.). Put strips of wax paper between the bellows folds while the glue dries so that they do not stick together.

    Use 3/4-inch wide tape unless you are putting new tape over the top of old bellows tape. In that case, use 1-inch tape.

    Tips for Reed Skins (Leathers, Valves, Flaps)

    Q. Some of my reed leathers are curled up, and the reeds are making a funny noise. Do I have to replace all of them, or is there a quick fix?

    A. A badly curled reed skin can be removed and straightened by creating a sort of spine down the center (by pressing into the leather with a sharp pointed object to create little bumps), then shellacked back into place. Some repairmen use a piece of metal with a slot in it and a blunt ice pick to do this reshaping. The spine adds to the stiffness of the skin. Avoid ridging the free tip of the skin.

    It is better to replace the reedskins rather than try to condition them, but if you must, use a leather conditioner that contains no silicone (such as neatsfoot oil). That is because the silicone can destroy the adhesive holding the skin in place. Saliva or anything containing water is not recommended for use with PA reed skins. The reason is that piano accordions with non-stainless steel reeds (which is most PA's) depend on the reed skin to absorb moisture in order to prevent the reed tongues from rusting. This is not a problem if you live in a very dry climate. But for the rest of us, it is a concern over time.

    Q. What about valves that are missing entirely? Are you better off ordering them from a supplier, or can you make them yourself?

    A. The smaller piccolo reeds in a PA are not intended to have any reedskins at all.
    It is extremely difficult to get leather with all the right properties for reed skins. Even the old time pro repairmen usually get their leather for reed skins from accordion supply houses rather than trying to pick it out themselves at a leather shop.

    The standard adhesive for use on PA reed skins is shellac. It should be left out to dry until it is sticky. It holds leather to metal well enough and it dissolves easily with standard solvents when you are doing a reed overhaul. Since accordions are designed to be overhauled (re-waxed, new skins and re-tuned) every 20-30 years, this is an important consideration.