Reed Fixings

The reed blocks are commonly secured with screwed clips or cleats or small diameter ‘bolts’ which engage with the side frames. The blocks are set firmly in place but not over-tightened.

Care is required in removing the blocks from the instrument as these may contain the shift/register slides. Deformation of these in any way is unacceptable and careful identification should be made when they are removed so that they can be accurately replaced. The gaskets/seals associated with the reed block/base plate faces appear to be either felt or soft leather (chamois).

The reeds themselves are normally secured to the blocks by wax or nails or a combination of both. Some manufacturers prefer to pin/nail the reed onto a felt base (no wax).

If it is necessary to remove a reed first check that there is a mark on the reed body (so that there is a distinction between the outer and inner reeds and the reed can be re-fitted in the original orientation). If there is no mark it is suggested that one is added.

The reed can be removed using a knife to cut through the wax around it and then gently levered out. Pins or nails can be gently prised out using a knife resting on another tool to protect adjacent items.

Wax hardens and dries out with age to the extent that a reed can vibrate itself loose. This ageing process is slow and long term, however, though it should be a consideration particularly in older instruments.

Accordion repairers seem to vary in what is considered to be a good wax formula. Desirable qualities are thought to be good adhesion, contraction and ability to flow when melted. (See further information/discussion on this subject on web Group sites such as those in ‘Google’ etc.)

No problems have been encountered with a 50/50 mix of beeswax and resin (or ‘rosin’) with a few drops of linseed oil added. A test of the mixture can be made by laying a reed on a piece of wood and applying wax to one long edge. The wax should flow well and after about a minute or so it should solidify and contract to the extent that the opposite edge of the reed is lifted.

(Two authoritative sources recently (4/04) come to my attention are noted to favour a 90%beeswax/10%resin mix, one with a warning that application by soldering iron may cause the mixture to become brittle.)

Caution is required in the preparation of the wax mixture. Overheating could easily ignite it and it is suggested a cover for the mixture container is to hand. Water should not be used.

Several ways to form the wax mixture into suitable shapes, for later use, have been noted. Satisfactory results have been obtained by pouring the mixture into a shallow container lined with grease proof paper to get a flat slab about 1/4″/6mm thick. Before the wax is fully set it can be cut into suitable strips.

Like most skills and crafts, proficiency comes with practice and waxing is no exception. It is noted a spoon is used by some to apply the wax. A soldering iron has been found to be useful and two different irons have been used. One is used to apply the wax and the other is used to deal with wax which is already in place. The one to apply the wax is 25watt power and has a coil of fairly thin brazing wire coiled around its tip with the tip of the wire led off in line with the rest of the iron. By pointing with this iron and holding a strip of wax against the iron the wax can be run into the area required. This method is slow but effective though there should be minimal delay between treating one side of the reed before moving to the other as the wax on the first side will soon start to cool and cure and may lift the other side of the reed. A sensible approach would seem to be to first carefully position the reed and then wax the front and rear edges to hold it in place before a final check is made for satisfactory operation of the reeds’ inner parts.

The other iron is 40 watt power, has the bit bent at near right angles and the tip/blade filed to a thin, flat section. The thin blade is useful for passing between the reeds where it displaces a minimum amount of wax in its passing and so avoids wax being pushed up onto the reed tops where it may foul the reed tongues or valves.