Saturday, September 26, 2009

Disassembling an Accordion Bass Mechanism Part 4

Disassembling an Accordion Bass Mechanism
Part 4

After you have removed the 40 Bass and
Counterbass Button Rods, cleaned them
And placed them in the jig, you can examine
The “fingers” which extend out, and which
The Bass Button Rods push down on to open
The Bass Reed Valves.

These can be cleaned as needed with Q-Tips
And Goo Be Gone. Be Careful not to bend
Them, or to leave lint from the Q-tip on them.

I sometimes cut a strip of fine sandpaper, fold
It in half, and gently clean every slot in the
Wooden guides which hold the bass button

This is a good time to make sure there are no
Loose pieces laying down inside the Bass Side
Of the Accordion. You can vacuum up any
Debris, and do other cleaning or minor repair
At this time. You may want to clean the holes
Where the bass buttons protrude, of any dirt
Or residue at this time, using a Q-Tip and Goo
Be Gone.

Once you are satisfied that everything has been
Cleaned properly, you can begin reassembly
Starting with the Bass and Counterbass
Button Rods. I usually begin from the right
Side, nearest the Air Release Valve, and work
My way to the left. As you install each rod, be
Certain that the little pins that push down on
The Bass Reed Valve Fingers, are all positioned
On the top of those fingers. This will become
Very important when you install the Chord
Bass Button Rods, All three pins on each rod
Must be on top of the fingers to make sure the
Entire chord is played when the button is

As you Install each bass button rod, gently test
It by depressing it to make sure it operates
Freely and does not rub. If a bass button rod
Seems to rub, you may need to remove it, and
Gently straighten it with a pair of pliers. Don’t
Overdo the bending, usually if a rod is rubbing
It takes just a hair of straightening to make it
Operate freely.

After installing the Bass and Counterbass Rods,
Reinstall the thin Wooden Retainer which holds
those rods in place with the screws you removed.

Then Reinstall the Chord Button Retainer Guide into
The Slot on the Stand Off, and screw it into place.
Then, Begin reinstalling the Major and Minor
Chord button rods into their respective locations
Working from the air release valve over to the left.

Again, test each rod to make sure it operates
Freely and adjust as needed. Make sure each rod
Is positioned so that it actuates three “fingers”.

Once you have reinstalled the Major and Minor
Chord Button Rods, Reinstall the Thin Plastic
Retaining Strip into the slot on the wooden
Retainer guide, and using a Q-Tip and some
Wood glue, reattach the 4 or 5 thin plastic strips
Which you removed previously, and space them
Evenly so that they hold the thin plastic
Retaining strip in place. If you broke a plastic
Strip during removal, take a thin piece of
Cardboard or cardstock, cut it to the approximate
Size, and use in lieu of the plastic strip.

When the glue has dried, reinstall the 7th and Dim
Chord Bass Button Rods, testing each one to
Make sure it operates freely.

When the final Bass Button Rods are installed,
Attach the outer thin retainer wood strip using the
Screws you removed. Test all the buttons to make
Sure they operate freely and make sure that all
The pieces you removed have been reinstalled.

You are done1! Reattach the bass mechanism
Cover plate, and the bass strap and you are ready
To enjoy!

By the way, a Great Children's Book about the
Accordion, with a music CD is available at:

Accordion Bass Mechanism Repair Part 3

Accordion Bass Mechanism Repair
Part 3

To remove the next set of 40 button rods
from the Minor and Major chords, you will
have to remove the plastic retainer strip
which separated the “Dim/7th” chord rods
from the “Min/Maj” chord rods. It is a very
thin plastic strip which rests in a slot that
runs the length of the guide which retains
these bass button rods. This retainer strip is
held in place by a series of four or five tiny
black plastic pieces which are glued in
place to keep this retainer strip from
popping out of it’s location.

You will have
to remove these tiny plastic pieces using
your jewelers screwdriver or a small sharp
chisel to pry them loose. Before you pry
them loose, cut a thin strip of masking tape
and stick it to the top of the strip you are
removing, so that when the strip comes
loose it won’t go flying but will be retained
by sticking to the tape. Then Pry loose.

If one of these
strips breaks, don’t worry. We’ll cover
how to make a replacement for it later on.
As you remove each plastic piece, take it
off of the tape, and put it in a baggie and
mark it. Once you have removed these
plastic pieces, gently pry the long thin
retainer strip up out of it’s slot, and wipe it
down with some “Goo be Gone” and place
it aside.

You are now ready to remove the Minor
and Major chord button rods. They follow
a similar procedure as just followed in Part 2


Rather than removing the Minor and Major
chord button rods as described above, you
can just remove them as an assembly by
loosening the wooden guide which holds them
as described below. If you choose this method


To remove the wooden guide
which holds the 80 bass button rods. It is
probably held in place by a screw at each
end on the top where the guide slides into a
slot in the wooden “stand off”. Remove
those screws, bag and identify them,
remove the wooden guide, and set it aside.

If you removed it as an assembly with the
bass button rods, lay the assembly on an
old towel and carefully remove the plastic
pieces and retaining strip as described above,
and remove the bass button rods one by one
cleaning them as you do, and placing them in
their correct location in the jig.

Follow a similar procedure for the Bass and
Counterbass button rods. More in Part 4.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Accordion Bass Mechanism Repair Part 2

Accordion Bass Mechanism Repair Part 2

After you have built your jig to hold the
accordion bass button/rods, you can
proceed with the disassembly of the bass
mechanism. Before I start, I position the
accordion on a table, supported by a couple
of pillows, with the edge of the keyboard
away from me, and resting against some
sort of support to prevent it from slipping.

A couple of large spring clamps attached to
the edge of my table work well. You will
need a small jewelers screwdriver, and a
long nose pliers for this. If you can obtain a
“Bass Button Straightening Tool”, it may
come in handy to straighten any crooked
buttons. Also some masking tape, a pen or
pencil, a small straightedge, some cleaning
cloths, a bottle of “goo be gone”, some Q-
tips, and some small containers or baggies
for the screws you remove. A small
flashlight also comes in handy.

First, you must obviously disengage the
Bass Strap from the knurled adjusting nut
by spinning the nut until the threaded end is
free, and then moving the strap aside and
out of the way.

Then you must remove the
bass mechanism cover by removing the
appropriate screws. Make sure you mark
these screws and place them in a small
container in a safe location. Once the cover
is off you can see the Bass Mechanism

On older accordions there may be a
lot of dust and debris loose on the bottom. I
make sure there are no essential pieces
lying loose in there, and then I take my
vacuum cleaner and gently vacuum out any
obvious dust or debris. You may notice
“greasy” or “sticky” debris on the bass
button rods. Don’t worry about that now,
we will clean all of that up later.

The first set of Bass button rods you will
remove are the Diminished and 7th chords.
To do this you will have to remove the
“retainer” which holds them into their guide
slots at the bottom of the rods. Usually this
is a thin strip of wood held in place by four
small screws. Before you do anything,
mark the retainer with a pencil in some way
so that you know how to orient it when you
reinstall it. I usually put a letter “R” on the
right side.

Remove the screws, mark them
appropriately and place them in a small
container in a safe location. Remove the
retainer and set it aside.

Now the first set of rods is available for you
to begin to remove. Starting at the far right
side, with the bass button rods nearest the
air release button, remove the first rod by
gently sliding the bottom of the rod out of
the guide, and then gently lowering it until
the button is free of it’s hole up above.
Carefully withdraw the rod from the
accordion and being sure not to bend it.
These rods are made of aluminum and will
bend easily. Examine it for cleanliness and
straightness. Put a few drops of “Goo Be
Gone” on a cloth and clean the rod to
remove any grease or dust. Hold the rod up
against the small straightedge to see if it is
straight along it’s axis of movement. If it is
bowed at all, gently straighten it and then
place it into your jig in the appropriate
location. Follow the same procedure with
the remaining 39 bass buttons from the
Diminished and 7th chord locations.

More in Part 3.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not For The Faint Hearted!

Disassembling an Accordion
Bass Mechanism
Part 1

If you’ve ever had an accordion that eventually
developed sticky bass buttons, or had bass buttons that
had “fallen into” the accordion, you may have
been intimidated, as I was,
about ever trying to fix the problem.
If you’ve ever ventured a peek into the
bass mechanism of the accordion, it looks like
something designed by a mad scientist.
How anyone ever conceived of all that “stuff”
I will never know. It is a very intricate
and complex thing that you just
don’t feel like tackling.
After reading John Reuther’s book on accordion
repair, and visiting several other websites,
I attempted my first bass mechanism repair on
an older, "fixer-upper."
It wasn’t really that difficult as long as
I followed a few very basic guidelines.
Before you begin, it is important to have
some way of keeping each individual bass
button/rod identified
and in the correct position so that when
you go to reassemble it, each piece
goes back into the same place
from which it was removed.
This is absolutely essential!
Some people recommend making a “jig”
or a device with 120 “holders” that mimic
the layout of the bass buttons,
so as you remove each button/rod,
you put it into a slot
that corresponds to it’s normally
installed location on the accordion.

When I started my first disassembly I noticed
that inside the accordion, the guides
for the 6 rows of 20 bass button rods
are actually arranged into 3 rows
of 40 Bass button rods.
That is to say, that starting from the
bass strap side, the diminished and 7ths chord
bass button rods are contained together in
a “guide” that holds those 40 rods.
Next, the minor and major chord bass
button rods are contained together in a
“guide” that holds those 40 rods.

Finally, the Bass and Counterbass button rods
are contained together in a “guide” that holds
those 40 rods.
So inside the accordion what you have are
three rows of 40 rods. Hence, I decided
to make a holder or “Bass Button Jig”
that had 3 rows of 40 holders.

I chose to use “Jumbo Plastic Straws” and
Cardboard to make my jig.

(Cardboard with 2 strips of double stick tape.)

(Straws stuck to double stick tape.)

I chose Jumbo Plastic Straws rather than regular
straws because my first jig used regular straws
and the fit was a bit too tight.
The jumbo straws give you some room
to play with.
There are a lot of different possibilities here,
but I was trying to do it on a budget.
I cut the straws into two and a half inch lengths,
and used double sided tape to hold 40 of those
straw segments between
two pieces of 2-1/2 inch wide cardboard.
Once I had three such sections made,
I attached them to a box and labeled one side
“Bellows Side”
and the other side
“Bass Strap Side.”

Once the jig is made, you are ready
to actually begin your disassembly.
More in Part 2, to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Music For The Heart

Today I am featuring a Guest Blogger:

Hi All ~

I am extremely fortunate to be married to an accordion player...
namely the gentleman pictured above.

The music he plays is a delight to my heart. It is joyous and sentimental, festive and soul-tugging! I love to hear him practice at night and look forward to any 'concert' he gives
(whether at home or in the community).

I eagerly introduce friends, family and acquaintances to the unique musical offerings of this wonderful instrument.

If you play the accordion, do you realize how much joy it brings your listeners?

The point of this short blog is to encourage you to practice and play to your heart's content. And to confirm what a pleasure it is for your "audience," whether they are 2 years old or 90!

For over 25 years, I had to implore and nag my husband to drag his squeeze box out of the closet to play birthday songs for family and special friends. Perhaps you too have relegated your instrument to the dark recess of storage.

Take it out, dust it off and enjoy the merry tones!

Remember, it's never too late to learn to play

and with practice, you can bless many.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Recent Repair Continued

When all of the white keys were removed, I then pulled the axle rod for the black keys, rotating it with a slight back and forth motion and using my channelocks. I again numbered each black key as it was removed. Once all the keys were removed I checked the springs, and all were in good condition. I examined the valve pad felts and brushed each one gently with a soft brush to remove any residue and restore the surface.
I also thoroughly cleaned each key using a mild plastic polish to remove years worth of accumulated dust. The wooden underlayment of the keyboard was completely dusted and vacuumed to remove years of dust. I also made sure to vacuum both sides of the aluminum register plate to remove any dust there as well, and thoroughly vacuumed around where the treble reed blocks are installed. I also wiped down the two axle rods with some Goo B Gone, and then wiped them dry, and finally wiped a very light coat of sewing machine oil on them, and then once again wiped them dry before reinstalling them.
Then came the slow process of carefully installing each black key, and when that was done, each white key. Then the treble register mechanism was re-engaged with the treble register pivot arms and screwed into place. Finally the grill cover was reattached.
When I played the accordion after doing these repairs, three of the notes on the Clarinet setting played in one direction but not the other. I suspected a stuck reed tongue. I removed the appropriate reed block and using a thin bamboo skewer I gently pushed on the tongue to free it up. The bamboo is very soft and can in no way scratch the reed tongue or change it's sound. Once I did this I reinstalled the reed block and the accordion plays perfectly, or as far as I can tell without having a chromatic tuner. But when you play each note opening the bellows, it sounds the same as when you play it closing the bellows. I then proceeded to clean the outer surfaces of the accordion with a plastic polish and wipe it to a lustre as best as I could without a buffing wheel. It is a SWEET instrument and sounds wonderful.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Documenting a Recent Accordion Repair

I recently obtained a nice Contello 2/4 reed accordion which had some sticky keys, and a sluggish treble register mechanism. Having successfully done a limited degree of disassembly and reassembly on a number of previous accordions, I felt comfortable tackling these particular problems. The first step was to remove the Bellows Pins from the Treble and Bass sides of the accordion. I do this very gently with a pair of pliers, pulling the pins out with a slight back and forth twisting motion to help break some of the friction, and being very careful to in no way mar or scratch the body of the accordion. I am careful to identify which holes the bellows pins must be reinstalled in.

Once the pins are removed, I gently separate the treble side from the bellows, lifting the treble side straight up and away from the bellows so as not to risk having the reed blocks rub against the side of the bellows. I then removed the reedblocks from the treble side and stored them safely aside. After removing the grill cover by unscrewing the machine screw on either side, it was a simple matter to unscrew the treble register mechanism and disengage it from the treble register pivot arms.

Now I had the keyboard of the accordion with no treble register and no reed blocks installed.

I removed the aluminum end cap which covers the keyboard axle and to my surprise I noticed that this little accordion had a double axle! I think this is somewhat rare. The double axle seems to give the keyboard a nicer action when playing. I took my channel lock pliers and gripped the end of the axle which held in the white keys. I gripped down very tightly on the exposed end of the axle, and with a slight back and forth twisting motion I began to withdraw the rod. As I did I placed a number identifying each white key as it was removed. After all the white keys were removed, the accordion looked like the above photo. I will publish more info at a later time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Accordion Reed Blocks and Reeds, A Revelation

I have sold around 30 accordions or so to date. I thought I understood things like how to count the number of reed blocks on the Treble and Bass Side of the Accordion. I just recently listed a small accordion on ebay, which had 3 reed blocks on the treble side, I counted them. I listed it as a 3 reed accordion, only to find out it is actually a 2 reed accordion. Yeah, 2 reed blocks. Here's the reasoning according to the helpful ebayer who pointed this out. Even though there were 3 blocks installed on the treble side, there were only 82 reeds. This is a 41 piano key accordion so functionally, there were two reeds for each key, or two reed blocks. I noticed after looking more closely that the middle reed block had a lot of empty spots on it. Thank You to the helpful ebay user for pointing this out. See the photo and look for yourself.

I hope to upload some photos of other accordions I have worked on, and would love to hear from you about your interests.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Working on a Patriotic Medley

Our church is having a Patriotic Concert on July 5th and I'm working on a Medley of George Cohan songs including Yankee Doodle, Give my Regards to Broadway, and It's a Grand Old Flag. It's a bit weird because the music is so old that the left hand, which is supposed to be Bass Clef, is actually written in G or Treble Clef, so I have to constantly remind myself of that. But it's a nice arrangement.

I came across an interesting link today for anyone who is interested in how accordions produce their sound and how they are tuned. It is a very informative website and full of great information. Our Brevard Chapter of the Central Florida Accordion Club met last Sunday and Jessica and I went down to visit them. It was a fantastic meeting, the room is spacious and those who sign up to play don't have to compete with a lot of disruptive conversation. A Couple of weeks ago I found a 2nd accordion, (I've been wanting to have a back-up) in Deland. It is an Excelsior AC, and it is in pretty good condition. The keyboard action is fantastic and I will eventually get it tuned, but it is in pretty good tune. Now I'm torn when I go to practice. Do I play the Excelsior which feels better to play, and sounds better acoustically than my Pietro, or do I play my Pietro connected up to my amplifier with the CIAO Midi on, which produces a lovely sound.

If anyone out there has any favorite patriotic songs, or medleys which you enjoy playing, please share them with us. Have a happy 4th of July! Tony

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Interesting Facts from "The Accordion" by Toni Charuhas

Toni Charuhas writes in her book, published in 1955 as a dissertation for a graduate course of study, the following, from page 15.

"The accordion today is one of the largest selling instruments in the musical world. According to statistics, more than 125,000 accordions were imported into the U.S. from Italy alone in 1953 and with the demand constantly growing it would not be too presumptious to predict that in the near future there will be an accordion in practically every home. A census conducted by the American Music Conference discloses that in 1955 there are an estimated 1,500,000 persons playing accordion in the US."

Wow. Who would have thought that the accordion had once been so popular in the US? But it is making a resurgence. Artists like Cheryl Crow, Billy Joel, and Barry Manilow play the accordion. For more interesting facts, check out

There are also some awesome accordion performances you can check out on You Tube. Frank Marocco is of course my favorite. But I checked one out the other day at this location, It is Joel Guzman doing a jam session and it rocks!

I had never looked at the inside of an accordion until about 4 years ago when I took the bellows pins out of my Sano with great fear and trembling, and gingerly separated the bass and treble side from the bellows and peeked inside. I'm not recommending that everyone do it, but it was very informative.

If you are an enthusiast, and you have any interesting stories about your accordion experiences, we'd love to hear them. Hope you are spending a little bit of time each day working those fingers and squeezing the bellows. Spread the happiness!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wow, my first post on a brand new blog about accordions!

I hope this will be a place for accordion lovers to share thoughts and ideas.

Perhaps tell us about projects you are working on, and maybe receive answers to questions you may have. Also, let us know your favorite music, your favorite artists, and your accordion journey.

(I probably won't be monitoring this blog daily, so please be patient when leaving comments)

Most importantly, get that box out of the closet and start practicing again!