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Author Topic: Refinishing an old Hohner, to do or not to do, and if yes, some questions...  (Read 559 times)

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Grape Ape

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So I bought an old AD Hohner on German ebay at a great price.  It plays reasonably well and is reasonably air tight. Definitely could use a good fettling, and will get it, but the thing is, despite it being in fairly good cosmetic condition for its age, I do not personally like the look of it.  I love the metal keyboard, and it, along with the grill could really shine if re-chromed. What I do not like is the rather third reich look of the thing, right down to a sticker which gives the name of the street for the shop of purchase as Adolf Hitler St. 

My plan is to strip it, apply a veneer into which I will inlay another lighter veneer spelling "Hohner" and perhaps if feeling brave some decorative corners, strip the keyboard to it's natural color and then varnishing it nice and shiny, giving the box a two tone look, and having all metal rechromed so it it is nice and shiny.  I would then like to find chrome buttons for the right hand and black ones for the left. The result will hopefully be quite smart, and a great sounding box in a great key.  I would also like to then send it off to someone who can install a left hand and hopefully a right hand stop as well.  Yes, I know this will never lead to a return on investment, and the fact is, it is completely not about that, so please do not worry about the expense of the project on my account.

So my questions are as follows:

1) Am I somehow ruining a piece of history by refinshing this box?

The rest more or less depend on it not being reprehensible to do so in the first place...

2) Are the metal corners fundamental to the structural integrity of the box, and if not how does one go about removing them.  Could they then be replaced with wooden corners or even re-chromed and adjusted to fit the box once a veneer has been applied?

3) Is veneer the best way to go? Has anyone had success with the self sticking stuff for a project like this?

4) Where can I get a set of chrome buttons? I have looked without success.  Also, are the left hand buttons basically piano buttons? Could I have the current buttons chromed as long as I am getting other stuff chromed as well?

5) Are left AND right hand stops possible, and if so, is there someone who can do it? (Willing to ship world wide to do so), or is anyone out there willing to provide instructions for building a stop oneself? Not that it wouldn't turn out to be above and beyond my comprehension....

6) Is having the grill and and keyboard cover re-chromed a viable option?  I am sure there are shops nearby that do so...
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 01:08:18 AM by Grape Ape »
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Broadland Boy

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Pretty :)

You might find bright Nickel Nickle plating looks more the part but any plater should be able to identify the original and match it. You might even find they can plate the existing buttons, have seen it done by painting a thin layer of graphite on a non metal surface then plating with copper for strength then Nickle or Chrome for finish.

Can't say it immediately shouts anything about the era from the view posted GA


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Steve_freereeder

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So my questions are as follows:

1) Am I somehow ruining a piece of history by refinshing this box?

The rest more or less depend on it not being reprehensible to do so in the first place...

While this design of instrument is not the rarest, it nevertheless looks to be in quite good condition and my personal inclination would be to leave it alone. If you want to make the sort of cosmetic changes you propose, I would suggest looking out for a really beat-up box and apply your changes to that instead. But that's just my personal opinion.

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2) Are the metal corners fundamental to the structural integrity of the box, and if not how does one go about removing them....
The metal corners should just slide out, although they will probably need a bit of persuasion with an old screwdriver blade. They do not form a structural part of the box.

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5) Are left AND right hand stops possible, and if so, is there someone who can do it? (Willing to ship world wide to do so), or is anyone out there willing to provide instructions for building a stop oneself? Not that it wouldn't turn out to be above and beyond my comprehension....

It should be possible to add a LH stop to remove the thirds from the chords, although the reeds will need shifting around on the reed block. Mike Rowbotham is an expert at doing this.

Wanting to add a RH stop prompts the question: Why?
I suspect this is a two-voice box tuned MM. If you wanted to add a RH stop it would be tricky and would only give you the options of M and MM. It would involve some rebuilding of the reed block mounting and construction of sliders to silence one set of M reeds on each of the two reed blocks. A  lot of work for something which may not give you much difference in sound.

Adding a third reed block to give you MML, with the stop to control the L voice, would be a really difficult job as just about everything would need to be rebuilt, including repositioning the existing reed blocks, changing the vents on the fondo/pallet board thing to match, and adding a set of extra vents, plus redesigning and rebuilding the lever-arms and pallets. As Theo has said elsewhere, if you buy a car, look for one which has the particular engine which you want already in place, rather than install a new engine.

If the box is already a three-voice box tuned MMM, it might be slightly more feasible to add a stop and sliders to remove one of the M sets of reeds. But again, a lot of effort for not much return in sound difference, and it would throw the tuning out too. It would be more tricky still to convert it to MML as you would need to source the L reeds and probably the larger sized reed block (with the correct vent hole spacing) to suit them too.
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Grape Ape

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Steve, it is MMM, was looking for a stop to go from M to MMM, or perhaps MM to MMM if I could tune it so the MM was a demi swing, and the the MMM significantly wetter, which was suggested as being possible in another thread.  Also suggested though, was that it might be best to keep it in it's original tuning, which, aside from bringing it to current pitch, I will probably do, but would still love it to switch from a clean single read tone to full on Musette...

I should add that, inspired by the works of Kay Albrecht, I did buy this with the intent of refinishing it, but was surprised on arrival by how well it is preserved.  I could not have bought one in lesser shape for less money.  I have seen them go in far worse condition for twice what I paid.  I love what Albrecht has been doing with those old Lilliputs.  I have an old Preciosa but it is too beautiful to refinish.  This one, is just not that beautiful to me despite being in good shape.  I dunno, it really is dilemma as part of me feels like I will be destroying something even as I make something (hopefully) beautiful.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 02:34:38 AM by Grape Ape »
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Grape Ape

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Pretty :)

Can't say it immediately shouts anything about the era from the view posted GA

Maybe its the sticker, maybe the whole black and red with gold trim thing, I don't know.
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Lester

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5) Are left AND right hand stops possible, and if so, is there someone who can do it? (Willing to ship world wide to do so), or is anyone out there willing to provide instructions for building a stop oneself? Not that it wouldn't turn out to be above and beyond my comprehension....
It should be possible to add a LH stop to remove the thirds from the chords, although the reeds will need shifting around on the reed block. Mike Rowbotham is an expert at doing this.

Adding a thirds stop requires more than shifting reeds around on the reed blocks. Unlike most Italian boxes the thirds of the two chords for any particular chord button are almost certainly on different plates due to Hohner's inclination to have the two closest tones on a reed plate. So, for instance the G push, D pull chords will be built of three reeds  G/F# - B/A - D/D, so the thirds are on two separate plates. So to make the thirds removable the plates will need to be changed to G/A - B/F# - D/D
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Theo

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The existing finish on your box looks to be in very good condition.  I think it would be a crying shame to refinish it in the way you describe. I would even go so far as to say it would be vandalism. It has survived three quarters of a century in good visual condition.  Please don't throw that away.  Of course you are now the owner and it is your decision, but perhaps you should think of if yourself as the custodian rather than the owner, which might prompt you to think about the instruments past and future as well as its time with you.
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Theo Gibb

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Microbot

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5) Are left AND right hand stops possible, and if so, is there someone who can do it? (Willing to ship world wide to do so), or is anyone out there willing to provide instructions for building a stop oneself? Not that it wouldn't turn out to be above and beyond my comprehension....
It should be possible to add a LH stop to remove the thirds from the chords, although the reeds will need shifting around on the reed block. Mike Rowbotham is an expert at doing this.

Adding a thirds stop requires more than shifting reeds around on the reed blocks. Unlike most Italian boxes the thirds of the two chords for any particular chord button are almost certainly on different plates due to Hohner's inclination to have the two closest tones on a reed plate. So, for instance the G push, D pull chords will be built of three reeds  G/F# - B/A - D/D, so the thirds are on two separate plates. So to make the thirds removable the plates will need to be changed to G/A - B/F# - D/D

Hi Grape Ape, Theo, Steve and all,

Fitting a pull-stop to take out the thirds on this model is possible, but complex ...if this was a standard Hohner with triad chords Lester's point about the reeds would be correct ... but it's more difficult because this model has linkage between the basses and chords with a 4-voice chord layout.

This makes fitting a slider problematic ... as per this thread

http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,19115.msg232696.html#msg232696

....But it is do-able.

Switching from MMM to LMM is not too much of a problem, requiring the existing centre reedblock chambers to be extended and a set of Low reeds. Fitting a treble pullstop is also perfectly feasible. This could be either from LMM to MM or, as Grape wants, to go from MMM to M or even LMM to M.

But in total there is a LOT of work in the above conversions/reorganisations.

Finally - I absolutely concur with Theo that this is NOT a candidate for refinishing... I'm a great fan of these boxes and I have several - they are hard to find in this condition. Getting the corners and fingerplate rechromed is relatively easy.

And don't let Triskel hear that you're contemplating a refinish .. he'd like as not have your guts for garters!

cheers!

Mike R
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 09:06:23 AM by Microbot »
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Henry Piper

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I have veneered a couple of old Hohner boxes and they can look very attractive, but I would only do so if the original cosmetics were really badly worn or damaged, your box appears to be in quite good condition for its age, and I would be inclined not to refinish it, it is what it is,.... an old and well used instrument, whilst I wouldn't go so far as to call a refurb "Vandalism", I  would prefer to see this particular box retain its period features.  As a previous poster has said, if you want to try your hand at modifying an old Hohner buy an old beaten up one and  bring that back to life, !!
I,m also somewhat confused !1 you say you do not like the appearance of it, ...one is tempted to ask if you didn't like the appearance of it, why buy it !! surely it would have been more sensible to save the money and buy a different one particularly if you are contemplating extensive renovations, more mundane Hohners, even in A/D do come up on German Ebay reasonably regularly. You say that what you dislike is the "Third Reich" look of the thing,...Unfortunately it IS a product of the Third Reich, and its not unreasonable to expect it to reflect its origins, its certainly a piece of Hohner's  history, even the sellers Address is history, I doubt very much that Adolf Hitler Strasse is called that any more !!!.
The metal corners can be removed quite easily, although you may have to "Drift" them out from the open ( inside ) end using something like the end of a Blunt screwdriver, New ones are obtainable from Charlie Marshall I believe, or if the plating is really worn it should be possible to polish of the remaining plating and reveal the underlying brass which can look quite attractive when lacquered.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 09:21:26 AM by Henry Piper »
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Theo

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On metal corners - the originals are most likely nickel plated brass and if that is the case they will polish up nicely.  In theory they just slide off and on, but they can be very tight, so best to polish them in situ, they are also a part of the structure of the case.  New ones from Hohner are stainless steel and their brash appearance will be visually very different from the rest of the box.
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Theo Gibb

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Garry Probert

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Hi it looks lovely vintage beautifully detailed box.I personally would leave as is and find a basket case to fettle
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I do not like is the rather third reich look of the thing, right down to a sticker which gives the name of the street for the shop of purchase as Adolf Hitler St.

Ironically I think attempting to erase the history and gloss over was part of the propaganda lol     

 
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malcolmbebb

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Martyn White has a Hohner that he veneered, with contrasting lettering, and it is very presentable.
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Grape Ape

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Vandalism. Yikes, I was afraid of this.  In answer to the question of why buy it if I don't like the look of it, see the above post.  I love the MMM tuning and the metal keyboard.  I was trying to buy an old junker when I bought this, and paid a junker price, but instead it turned out that it looks quite nice.  I guess its back to looking for one that is more beat up, though I doubt I will find one for as little as I paid for this one.  Anyone know of one out there?
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Grape Ape

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Martyn White has a Hohner that he veneered, with contrasting lettering, and it is very presentable.
.

Would love to see photos!
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malcolmbebb

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There's a pic on his tuning and repairs page, not sure if it's the same one (can only access it with the phone at present, not ideal). I've seen it at sessions etc.
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Garry Probert

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Hi you could just remove the offending sticker?
I bought my club 2 with the same intention as it was advertised as a fixer upper but it arrived in wonderful condition with that glorious vintage patina

So I decided to keep the exterior and focus on the internals ,new pallet felt faces ,strip button mechanism new lever springs ,new valves ,gaskets and lots of little repairs re hide glue joints airtight and finally tune

Playing wise it's a completely different instrument to play and is now my favorite ,perhaps restore the inside first then debate  the aesthetics and after all the time and work you might just like her as she was intended to look and play   
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Melissa Sinclair

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Don't want to hijack the thread, so if this is "stepping in" inappropriately, I'll move the discussion elsewhere.

This looks very similar to my Hohner Burl melodeon. Did they make these in burl wood and painted wood (it looks painted on my computer in the small photo)? Didn't someone just sell (or is trying to sell one very similar to this?) Same time period?

And, while I'm thinking of it, is there a way to easily/safely remove permanent marker on a burl wood melodeon? It seems that Scott worked to get some of it off as it's less noticeable than showed in his listing of the instrument, but it's still there. I don't particularly need my instrument to say someone's last name across the front of it. (Why would anyone ever do that? Theft prevention?) Is there a way to find out more about when and where these were made. Mine has a lovely sound (though I cannot make play anything charming with it yet) even though the instrument itself isn't flashy or striking.

Hmmm... while really looking. Is this even burl wood? or simulated burl wood? It's kind of interesting.

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Garry Probert

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Hi what an absolutely marvelous box,the coloured walnut veneer is lovely

Having worked on numerous vintage instruments defaced usually buy children lol but to be fair passionate about their instruments ,very fine wire wool then a very fine polishing material called micromesh ,the chap that sold me the club2 had put a sort of paper sticker with the item number and the marker had soaked through to the wood but only needed a little rub with micromesh to remove

sadly using parcel tape to wrap the original leather case for safety protected the melodeon from those devils at the post office but removed the top layer of the leather

Great thing about the micomesh its so fine ,so it takes off so little of the finnish     
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Pearse Rossa

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Am I somehow ruining a piece of history by refinshing this box?

I think it would be a great pity to do that to this box.
If you decide to sell it, please talk to me. I would be very interested.
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Jamie H.

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I work in the museum field as well as being the current steward of numerous vintage instruments. The marks and stickers you describe are akin to the lines on our faces and the scars upon and within our selves. In the museum field we refer to it as "the history of use". If there are things that can be done to enhance the usability and playing of a vintage instrument, by all means do it. However, if "restoring" it means updating it to meet a vision of something you think it "aught to be", please sell it away and buy a new instrument. I, for one, was very much intrigued by the "Adolph Hitler Street" sticker, as it placed it in history for me and I could hear the sound emanating from it in that context. In the end, I think you'll be glad you took it on its own terms and learned the wisdom and experience it contains.
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