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Accordion Newbie with Old Accordion

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  • Accordion Newbie with Old Accordion

    Hello! This Christmas I received an accordion, the age of which I don't know. It says "Vercelli" on it (I'll attach pictures), but I'm unsure what it really is. I understand this is hard to identify sometimes... It appears to have only one rank of reeds (no buttons for changes on either side). I believe it's been in the basement of a music store for who knows how long, but it seems that it was played a considerable bit at some point in its history.

    Though it would be nice to know the brand, I'm not so much interested in that as in assessing its current quality and eventually getting the repairs it needs. My current idea is to play it frequently for a month or so, and see what problems arise in the process, and then get it repaired. Any ideas would be welcome.
    Current issues I've noticed:
    1) The bellows aren't the best. It's definitely playable as long as I'm not playing the bass notes. Chords and the right hand are fine to use, though it does take quite a bit of pumping. Though all the bass notes do seem to work, it takes so much air for them to operate that I can only play one for about a second before I need to change direction on the pumping. So, yeah, the bellows will need repair eventually.
    2) Some of the chords seem a little off. Initially, all of the chords sounded great. After a while, however, the C major chord started sounding a bit funny when the bellows are pulled outward. Rather than the rich major chord which I hear when depressing the bellows (sorry, I'm sure my vocabulary is quite bad in regard to these things), I hear a minor-ish sounding chord when pulling out. It seems that the C-major chord button might be sort of linked with what I think is the E-minor chord button, because one is somewhat depressed when the other is. Is this normal? I've only noticed this problem with the C-major button so far, but I imagine it could happen with others as well.

    The right hand keyboard seems to be in excellent condition, and I have noticed no problems in that area.

    As I said, I plan to play it normally for a while before considering any repairs. As with any old thing that hasn't been used in a long time, I'm sure some things will break within the first period of use.
    What are some things I should look out for? What should I test? What should I "try to break"? Not literally obviously, but I want to (carefully) push it to its limits before getting any repairs to make sure everything that is soon going to break has done so.

    I've found the pump and reed organ part of this forum very helpful, and I thank you in advance for any help!

  • #2
    Congratulations!

    I could be wrong but I expect that Vercelli is the maker.

    I wouldn't hesitate to disassemble it and look at the wax. It's probably cracked. You could fix this with a soldering iron (really, it works good) but if you plan on someone else working on it in the future, you might not want to do that.

    Midwestern America is a pretty big place. 😁 There are quite a few accordion repair shops there.

    If you're serious about taking it to someone for an overhaul, and you're aware that it won't be cheap, don't hesitate. Take it in now before something does break. Otherwise, if you're not prepared to have someone else work on it, take it apart, clean it, rewax it, and play it, play it, play it.

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    • #3
      The closest large city is St. Louis, so that would probably be where I would be taking it.
      I'm sure it varies by location, but any idea on what the price for a general overhaul would be versus a "spot fixing", as in, just going and fixing what might be broken, including the bellows?
      Given my current situation, I imagine it would take me a long time to open it up and fix it myself, so I'd probably opt for having someone else fix it.

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      • #4
        I don't know actual pricing; you'd have to talk to the guy doing the work. It won't hurt to discuss this with him. I see there's a place in St Louis called St Louis Accordions, but they are on Facebook and I'm not so I can't tell you anything about them.

        It's safe to assume that it's going to need to be rewaxed, releathered, and tuned. The bellows will need to be taped and re-gasketed. You'll have to decide if you want to have it tuned, but the rest will to be likely need to be done. I highly recommend replacing the straps. Old straps can break at the worst time. The last thing you want is your accordion crashing to the floor.

        I don't know what your current situation is, but you should be able to pull the escutcheon pins on one side (I'd remove the bass side first), give it a good inspection, and put it back together all within an hour.

        Playing it without inspecting it, you risk leathers and reeds bouncing round. Usually nothing comes of this, but it's possible to affect reed tuning, and even tear the bellows. Once the bellows are torn, it would be very hard to justify repairing this one versus replacing it.

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        • #5
          Thank you very much for your help! Do you know of any good resources on opening up and inspecting the accordion? I just don't want to take it apart and then have no idea what I'm doing...

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          • #6
            An accordion is a complex thing, but they're surprisingly simple to disassemble. I'd like to make a video to show you how to do this, I might get a chance later.

            Let's do this the easy way:

            Stand the accordion on its feet. Look where the treble half meets the bellows. Perpendicular to the direction you pull the bellows, around the perimeter, are escutcheon pins. They look like nails with an extra head. You can pull these with a slip-joint pliers. Be careful to pull straight out so that if one comes out suddenly you don't scratch the accordion with the pliers. When you have all the treble side pins out, the treble half will lift off of the bellows. It might be a little stuck, but it should pull apart. There shouldn't be any kind of adhesive or anything, so as long as you have all the pins out, pulling won't damage anything.

            Once you get the treble side off, remove the bass pins the same way, and then you can lift the bellows off.

            Here's where you'll want to take pictures. But what you're looking for is loose leathers and cracked wax. If there are any loose parts inside that aren't attached at all anymore, take them out.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mr. Goodfellow View Post
              Though it would be nice to know the brand, I'm not so much interested in that as in assessing its current quality and eventually getting the repairs it needs. My current idea is to play it frequently for a month or so, and see what problems arise in the process, and then get it repaired. Any ideas would be welcome.
              While you said you don't necessarily need to know the brand, the name Vericelli indicates it was probably made in Italy, and since there are no reed selectors, it probably only has one set of reeds for the bass and one for the treble.

              Regarding its condition, some of your issues may have been a result of how the accordion was stored in the basement and the condition of the basement. If the basement was moist, you may find some keys stick (due to felts swelling), or there may be some surface oxidation on metal parts. As already mentioned the leather straps, etc. may be rotted or at least weakened. If the accordion was stored in an upright position and the basement was warm, the wax may have migrated over time from one area to another, causing notes to not work, etc. There have been other threads regarding wax migration in the past.
              Originally posted by Mr. Goodfellow View Post
              Current issues I've noticed:
              1) The bellows aren't the best. It's definitely playable as long as I'm not playing the bass notes. Chords and the right hand are fine to use, though it does take quite a bit of pumping. Though all the bass notes do seem to work, it takes so much air for them to operate that I can only play one for about a second before I need to change direction on the pumping. So, yeah, the bellows will need repair eventually.
              From your description and looking at the bellows, they appear to have seen better days. If you're lucky, you may be able to find a set of bellows to replace the others, but you may need to repair them. When removed, as another poster has described, you can shine a light inside, and anywhere you see the light coming through the bellows will need to be repaired.

              Re-reading your post, it also makes me wonder if it might not be engaging the button above the C Major button. The C row gives you the root of the chord, while the major/minor, etc. gives the 3rd and 5th of the chord. If the button engages any other buttons around it, that could account for the sound.
              Originally posted by Mr. Goodfellow View Post
              2)After a while, however, the C major chord started sounding a bit funny when the bellows are pulled outward. Rather than the rich major chord which I hear when depressing the bellows [snip], I hear a minor-ish sounding chord when pulling out. It seems that the C-major chord button might be sort of linked with what I think is the E-minor chord button, because one is somewhat depressed when the other is. Is this normal? I've only noticed this problem with the C-major button so far, but I imagine it could happen with others as well.
              The issue you describe sounds like one of three things. If the accordion has been dropped, sometimes the bass button mechanism will fall inside the accordion and cause what you describe. They can't suffer man-handling.

              Another possibility is that the wax has migrated and only affects the minor reed cell on the return. The last possibility is that the mechanism has been somehow compromised, and when you press the major button, it is somehow engaging the minor button. There is VERY LITTLE clearance between the mechanisms (like a flute, oboe, or clarinet), and the slightest bump can bend the mechanism so it contacts inside the accordion.

              That said, please let me warn you that messing with the bass mechanism inside the accordion is NOT for the faint of heart. Generally, it's best left to a professional.
              Originally posted by Mr. Goodfellow View Post
              The right hand keyboard seems to be in excellent condition, and I have noticed no problems in that area.
              The piano keyboard appears to have a couple of keys that need to be height-adjusted, but that's not a major issue with an older issue. I've never played an accordion yet that didn't have at least 1 key a fraction of an inch higher or lower than the rest.

              Please DO not try to break anything. You are better off treating the accordion with a bit of TLC, following KC9UDX's advice, and not creating any additional damage if possible. As already mentioned, there may be things running around, loose in the reed box, and it's best to find them before they cause damage. It might be a loose reed, migrated wax, or even a leather that has come off a valve.

              Hope this helps.

              Michael
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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              • #8
                 

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                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Excellent, informative video, KC. Do you also have one on re-leathering the pallets?

                  Michael

                • KC9UDX
                  KC9UDX commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thank you! No, I don't (yet). I've never actually done it. I might someday, and if I do, I'll surely make a video. I wish I'd made a video of re-waxing this one. If I get time (someday) I'll dig out my parts accordion and make some demonstration videos with it. I could even attempt to tune a reed.

              • #9
                Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                I could be wrong but I expect that Vercelli is the maker.
                Vercelli is a town in northern Italy and home of the "Cooperativa armoniche Vercelli" (now Cooperfisa). For those who read/understand Italien, here's the website: http://www.cooperfisa.com/azienda-co...ria-cooperfisa



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                • #10
                  Thank you for the video, KC9UDX. I will undertake this operation as soon as I have time, which will hopefully be Friday. I believe the first time I open it up, I'll simply look around, take a lot of pictures, and carefully put it back together. I will continue to be careful with it before I can get some repairs done. Having looked inside, I'll be able to tell better what needs to be done. Thank you all very much for your help, and happy New Year!

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                  • KC9UDX
                    KC9UDX commented
                    Editing a comment
                    You're quite welcome. Happy New Year, and happy accordioning!

                • #11
                  Not sure which direction you are from STL but, these folks are in KCMo :http://www.kcaccordionrepair.com/

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                  • #12
                    Alright! The accordion has been dissassembled. There is a lot of cracked wax and loose leather. A few of the treble reeds are missing the leather altogether. There's also a weird gap in the treble where it looks like there should be two reeds, but aren't.
                    I shown a flashlight around in the bellows in the dark, and, though it glowed at the corners, the light didn't shine all the way through anywhere that I could find. So, does cracked wax make air leak and thus the air use inneficient? I'm a little confused on the result of that. I'm not taking any steps right this minute, so any advice would be appreciated!

                    Sooo, here is an overload of pictures! It might take a few posts, since I can only do five at a time. Click image for larger version

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                    • #13
                      More photos...

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                      • #14
                        Mooore

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                        • #15
                          And the last

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