I’m now the proud owner of a used 20-key Silvagni concertina. It’s perfect and shiny and red and has tiny red stars on white paper inside the accordion folds.
Granted, it is possible that my enthusiasm allows flexibility in my judgment of perfection. The concertina, which I will perhaps call Sparky, but that hasn’t been settled yet, came with a few idiosyncrasies.
For example, a few buttons were a zealous about their pressed-in positions, such that they preferred to stay slightly under the level of the box.
In addition, a person playing might be amused by the idea of hidden treasure inside the box-end, under the torn fabric. However, any annoyance that one might experience from the rattling could be compensated for, if one only played more enthusiastically.
The most whimsical of its non-standard features was a rotation across the body of the concertina, with one keyboard 60 degrees out of sync with the other.
Being new to box squeezing, I didn’t do more than coo over these adorabilities when I bought it. My husband didn’t point out any of those things more than twice.
When I started to practice, however, it occurred to me that the concertina, which might also become known as Bunnicornia, wasn’t necessarily comfortable when its buttons jammed open. Especially when I would then dig into the buttons with any slim tool that came to hand. In fact, while jabbing at a key with a sharp knife, I realized that nobody was ever going to recognize “The Erie Canal” if I kept having to stop whenever I used the left-hand-draw-D.
(Did you see what I did there? I made up a little bit of descriptive notation. ‘Cause I don’t actually know what anything is called.)
So I used the incredible resource of http://www.Concertina.net. And I found out that there’s something called a button-sleeve, and there were pictures of someone’s dismantled concertina.
There were two kinds of commentary: the kind that said “Don’t try to fix,” and the kind that says, “what, can’t you handle an Allen wrench?”
I thought to myself, “I have Allen wrenches.” So here’s what I did.
I started by taking out the pins, using little beading pliers. The whole rattly end lifted right off.
Inside that end, there were only two little screws—slot head. Not a hex head in sight. Once I took those out, I could see what was going on. The button-sleeves had crystalized and cracked and rotted away. Fragments of brown ickies were the rattlers, and took only a moment to clean up.
I took all the buttons off, and brought two of them with me. At my neighborhood Ace Hardware store, I picked up a foot of “Lg Fuel Line” and a foot of “Med Fuel Line.” Turns out, I bought WAY too much—but at least it was less than $4.
At home, I worked out a system. I stuck the end of the Lg Fuel Line on the end of a button-thingie, and cut off the excess with a wire cutter. I pushed it to sit against the button, and then could just barely get it onto the lever.
Then I ran into another problem: getting them in just the right place is kind of a pain. With just one button on the rack of keys, I fit it back into the case. I fit one more, and then the next, with a great deal of trial and error. And then I remembered: I own Sharpies.
With the board in place in the box, I marked the middle of the parts of the levers I could see. Now, I knew just where to put the buttons! I felt a great sense of accomplishment when all 10 keys of the first side fit into place again—which made me really notice the ratty, torn-up fabric that covered the holes.
I just happened to have some brass screening lying around, left over from a hat project. Like you do. But I was concerned it might rattle or buzz in resonant harmony with the notes being blown. So I used a gel-type glue to hold the screen in place, so that hopefully there aren’t any lengths of free metal that would rattle badly.
And, now that I have the power of opening the concertina, I could always tear it out if it didn’t work.
So I cut the screen to roughly fit, and then glued it (with Fabri-Tac), but it didn’t want to lie down flat. So, Sharpie to the rescue! I used some Blue Clamp-on-a-Roll to hold it in place while it cured.
I repeated on the other side – where, much to my surprise, the button sleeves had been replaced much more recently. All 11 keys on this side were much easier to strip and replace the sleeves. The Sharpie trick of marking the button placement worked even better when I used it from the beginning.
And so, with the magic of Internets, it’s all done (3+ hours later.) Remember that quirk about being skewed by 60 degrees? Totally fixed. Also, totally easy to replace the pins.
Oh, pretty Sweethonker*! I’m so looking forward to learning to actually play more than unidirectional, halting scales!
*another potential name for the best little concertina I’ve ever had.