Paul Plays a Buttonbox

Accordion Failure Modes

by Paul F. Watson

I have bought many used accordions, & this experience leads me to the following conclusions:

  1. Accordions (& concertinas) do not ship well.
  2. Used accordions (& concertinas) have a limited number of likely failure modes.
  3. New accordions work better.
Knowledge of common failure modes is needed by those who repair & buy used instruments.

Shipping Risks: Most accordions & concertinas have reeds 'glued into the instrument' with a mixture of bee's wax & rosin. This works pretty well, but leaves the instrument vulnerable to reed detachment. This can occur if the instrument is left in a warm car, attic or in the blazing sun. It can occur during shipment at either cold or hot temperature extremes. A sudden "jolt" as may occur during shipment, may detach a reed. Other shipping risks exist. The buttons of the accordion left hand may drop into the instrument, leaving a nice round hole where the button should poke out. These risks can be minimised by skilled vendors & by ordering in spring or fall (not winter or summer) ;but, there is always risk when buying an instrument which must be shipped.

Failure Modes: The following is a list of common failure modes & their effects: The following list will help a prospective buyer examine an instrument before purchase. The above list is not comprehensive but identifies the more common problems. Caution is advised when buying a used instrument; however, I have handled many accordions of advanced age that still played well & were not greatly out of tune.

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