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Author Topic: A question for the pro fettlers  (Read 523 times)

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mselic

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A question for the pro fettlers
« on: June 03, 2020, 07:50:27 PM »

I may have asked a similar question recently but I don't recall getting a clear answer.

As someone who offers tuning/repair work on accordions, I get a lot of PAs come my way.  If someone comes to me looking to get their accordion tuned and  the wax and valves are old I usually recommend that it all get replaced before tuning.  The thing is, with PAs you often end up with 200-400+ reeds in an instrument, and that ends up translating into a lot of time and therefore money for the client, and often it falls outside of what they're willing to spend.  Sometimes it's just not worth the money, and I'll be honest in communicating that to them, and sometimes it may be worth it but not worth it for me unless I charge properly for my hours.  Sometimes, though, I'll have someone give me a lovely old accordion that is certainly worth the effort, however they'll admit that they aren't willing to sink a fortune into it.  They'll ask for a tuning.  I'll look at the accordion, which may already play quite well as is, but discover that the wax is old and some of the valves are beginning to curl.  I hesitate to offer tuning in these cases with old wax and valves (although with the reed pins it does appear that the wax is doing it's job - for now).  I discover that I have a genuine desire to fix up this old accordion for this person, however I'm uncertain how to proceed.  Do I simply tell them that I would have to replace valves, wax and then tune (pricey for a PA), or do I offer to tune it as is with the understanding that more work may be needed sooner rather than later?  Whilst the latter approach leaves me uncomfortable as it feels like a proper job was not done, I also feel hesitant about offering it as the only option and quite potentially letting an otherwise good instrument fall into disuse and obscurity. 

Do any of you ever offer tuning services on an accordion that has wax and valves that are getting by OK but could certainly use being replaced?  You might be opening a can of worms if you do, though, as sometimes I find that I have to start removing reedplates due to problems with a valve, and then having to flake away old wax and reinstall with new, which gets messy, etc.  I have a genuine desire to help folks with their instruments, but I have to be fair to everyone, including myself.  Advice sought!
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boxcall

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2020, 08:12:52 PM »

This is similar to a client asking for a new skylight in a roof that is old and you’re suppose to fix the leaking skylight, with roof above and below it and do a good job with no leaks  ??? I was just going through this, I will do the work (if requested)with the understanding that it is not a guarantee. Do the job completely and it is a guarantee, and I sleep better  (:)
Not melodeon related but my two cents
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Theo

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2020, 08:57:02 PM »

The same thing can apply to tuning where wax is maybe ok maybe not -  only the complete job comes with a guarantee.  Also decide for yourself if you take the job with your business hat on or with your conservators hat on.  And remember there are huge numbers of old piano accordions out there,  many of them originally of high quality.  Some just need to be allowed to slumber!

Another fun thing that happens sometimes with wax that looks ok.  You take one reed out to attend to a valve, and even after cutting the wax in each side as you lever the reed up you see a whole line of reeds lifting as one piece!   Arrrgh!
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Theo Gibb - Gateshead UK

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Gonk

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2020, 09:13:59 PM »

Preface: I'm a hobbyist, not a professional.  I share the (perhaps misguided) urge to "save them all."

It sounds as though you're communicating all you can, and your customers are able to make informed decisions.  I think that's great for building trust.  I had a favorite mechanic whom I trusted to offer "backyard" fixes, when the vehicle and/or my finances warranted it.  He was quite up front about the trade-offs of my options, so he got all my business.

I wonder if you also advise customers about what experience they could reasonably expect with a newer instrument in the same price range as the full restoration.  If I were bringing an old heirloom to a shop, I would like to be able to weigh that information alongside the emotional value of the instrument.
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playandteach

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2020, 11:37:09 PM »

You go to the doctor. You tell them fairly honestly how much you exercise, drink and smoke. They tell you the bad news. Is it their fault? Not a bit. If someone says, I love my instrument please save it (along the lines of 'I love my 2 legged cat, please save it'). Then work your socks off to preserve Mrs McGonagain for eternity.
If they say, 'This is a nice instrument that I fancy sorting out a few things on' then that is the time for full disclosure.
I've been on both sides. Sort it out please, any cost. And make this lovely, cheap.
Is there really any 3rd way. I've even said in the past, I've tried to fix it and failed - what can you do.... which is a further can of worms.
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Nick Collis Bird

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2020, 06:31:17 AM »

I can apply this to book restoration. A customer would come Into the shop with a book with the back detached.
When you give them a quote they say “can’t you just glue the back back on?” “No, because when it falls apart in a few months time you’ll say I’m the worst bookbinder on the planet. So either have it done properly or not at all” “Is it worth it?” Sometimes I’d say “If it was mine, yes I’d have it done” and sometimes “ I think it’s probably better to buy a new copy”
 When it comes to restoration, there aren’t really any half measures ( or shouldn’t be)
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Theo

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2020, 07:59:54 AM »

Nicely put Nick.  I can take that idea a little further. I recently had a very cheap ancient German one row brought in for renovation.  The bellows were falling apart,  metal fittings were corroded, some reeds broken.  Can I repair it? Yes.  Will I repair it?  No, because even if I charge full rate for the work I will get no satisfaction from doing it.
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Theo Gibb - Gateshead UK

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Lars

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2020, 08:54:43 AM »

I think the most important point is, that you will forever in your personal and business life be judged by your honesty. Tell it like it is - and be frank about it. There's nothing wrong with spot tuning an instrument that really should have been completely overhauled - if that's what the owner wants, or is prepared to pay for - as long as they know what they're getting.

But an equally important point is, to be able to actually explain quickly and simply what they're getting. Not many people, even good players, will know in detail the internal workings of a box, and how it needs to be maintained regularly to be in top shape - if someone inherited an accordion or bought a cheap box at a flea market, they're probably more interested in just getting to play it, than a full lecture on how wax shrinks and how valves curl.
I like the analogies mentioned in this thread, and I personally like relating to cars and motors. "Yes, I can change the spark plug and make it run, but your wires are so ragged that it's gonna bust any moment" or "if someone finds a car from the 30's in the barn, they'll change the oil and clean the engine before trying to turn it on - accordions are the same - they need wax and valves like cars need oil and sparkplugs replaced".

Also, fixing instruments balances between business and pleasure. Make up your mind what you'd be prepared to do with your business name to it, and what you personally are willing to do. There's nothing wrong with saying "It's simply not worth it".
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Kimric Smythe

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2020, 06:15:03 PM »

I do PA ,B-box, and Concertina work.

I usually don't do full teardowns if I can avoid it. I am typically backed up 4-6 months, and I also have to rebuild instruments for the showroom too.

You can often do a "top wax" this does involve removing the wax from the bottom and tops of the reed plates without disturbing them ,down to bare wood and metal (if you don't it is a complete waste of time) and make notes of bad inside valves and remove those plates and address them only. If you find that it has a lot of bad inside valves then it becomes a "full valve and wax" and that is just the way it is.
 In regards to PA accordions it helps to explain that even a 120 bass student accordion in 1950 cost about $300 , this was about 20% of the cost of inexpensive new car at the time. I often use car analogies to explain accordion repair ,a 2 reed 120 is like rebuilding a 4 cyl engine and a 4 reed tone chamber is like rebuilding a V8 with a roots blower. That accordion you bought on e-bay for $45? that can be the car sitting on blocks in a field that you bought thad had raccoons living in it. There is no easy path around 60+ years of no maintenance.
I would pay a lot for a car that only needed a overhaul every 40-50 years.

It is still often cheaper to rebuild a vintage instrument if you are looking for something particular, for example nobody makes a 4 reed accordion with a 17'5 inch keyboard anymore and the only way to get one is to rebuild a used one.

I will try to do the work affordably but I need to pay rent and eat and it has taken me a long time to get this good at this. I base my rates on that.

No I can't tell you what it will cost to rebuild an instrument from a photo, anymore than someone could tell you why your car won't pass smog from looking at a photo.
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Steve C.

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Re: A question for the pro fettlers
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2020, 12:56:47 PM »

"you’ll say I’m the worst bookbinder on the planet"
I used to do pianos in my "youth" and I'm with Nick.  Do it right or not at all.  Sooner or later it will be an unhappy report.

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