How to Care for Your Concertina

Borne of a Victorian era mania for tiny machines, the concertina is an intricate instrument with many delicate moving parts – all designed to enable the production of a musical note by directing air from the bellows through the reeds.

There are innumerable moving parts in any Anglo Concertina and in order for your concertina to operate and play efficiently these parts must function optimally.

It’s important to note that concertinas are susceptible to changes in environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. They are also sensitive to rough handling and don’t like to be dropped!

How to Store Your Instrument

The concertina storage tips below, courtesy of Chris Algar, will ensure your instrument stays in top condition for longer. They’ll also help you to maintain smooth action and playability. If your concertina should receive a knock, you’ll find some simple and easy repair instructions here too.

  • When not playing your concertina, always store your concertina in its hard case with the lid fastened to prevent dust or grit getting in and affecting the intricate internal mechanism.

  • Concertinas hate extremes of temperature and humidity, we recommend storing your concertina, in its hard case, in a room with an ambient temperature of at least 18C but no more than 25C. Extremes of temperature or extreme fluctuations of temperature, may cause key functioning and moveable parts of the concertina to warp, sometimes to an irreparable extent.

  • Humidity must also be kept constant, anything under 40% humidity will cause the concertina to react and will likely affect the reed pan and cause other issues that may make the concertina harder to play or may prevent it from playing at all.

  • In winter keep a tray of water near the radiator in the room where you store your instrument to prevent the air from drying out – those of you on the East Coast of the US, be particularly careful as your low humidity during winter may lead to internal damage to the concertina.

  • When storing your concertina, make sure that you keep the bellows compressed. Firstly, ensure that you have the bellows compressed by placing a tight elastic band around the instrument. Secondly, keep the concertina tightly packed in its hard case. Keeping the bellows compressed in this way prevents them from expanding and losing elasticity and means you won’t lose action on the concertina.

How to Repair Damaged Concertina Reeds

Sometimes rough handling in transit can dislodge or otherwise move a reed from its position. Even the slightest displacement of a reed can cause sound production faults including buzzing on the notes or no sound at all.

Should this occur follow the steps below for repairing a reed on your McNeela Concertina.

Please note these instructions are specific to the McNeela Wren 2 Concertina. For other makes and models please seek expert advice before attempting home repairs on your instrument.

Step one: Watch this handy video we’ve recorded to help you with this very task.

Step two: Follow these simple instructions.

We recommend unscrewing the cover/end, then taking off the action pan and turning it over to view the reed pan. Take a look for dust or grit around the reed pans and reed tongues and remove by blowing off gently.

Mcneela Wren concertina reed

Use a screwdriver, or even a knife, to loosen. Then, using your finger, pop up the reed that is buzzing or not sounding (the notes will be marked on the reed).

Turn it over to test as outlined in the video above. The reed may need to be moved slightly left or right and flicked out until you hear the twang. Once you hear it, the reed should now be working.

Replace and play and see what happens.

You may need to warm the wax slightly to reaffix the reed. A little blast with a hairdryer should do the job perfectly.

Mcneela Wren concertina reed

Mcneela Wren concertina reed

Mcneela Wren concertina reed

How to Repair a Sticky Button on Your Concertina

What Causes it and How to Fix it

There are four factors which can cause a concertina button to stick. Don’t worry, all are easily remedied!

A sticky concertina button can be caused by:

  1. Excess glue on the button
  2. An issue with the lever pad 
  3. A lever that has been knocked out of place
  4. Not enough tension on the lever spring 

I’ll deal with each one here and show you how to fix the issue and get your concertina working perfectly again.

First things first. If a button is sticking you’ll need to carefully remove the concertina end where the problem is occurring. You will need a screwdriver to unscrew each screw on the end and lift it off.

Lifting off a concertina end to fix a sticky button

Next, you’ll need to examine what is causing the button to stick

Compare the button causing issues to a button that is working perfectly. This will give you a good guide to how it should work.

This is how a concertina button should look:

 A close up of a concertina button or key

Then examine the button or lever for the following issues:

1. Excess Glue on the Button

There may be a bit of excess glue on the button itself that is causing it to get stuck. If you do see any excess glue along the button or lever that is sticking, lightly sand it down to remove the glue. 

2. An Issue with the Corresponding Lever Pad 

There could be an issue on the action pan with the pad for this button. It may have become misaligned during transit and may not be fully covering its corresponding hole. 

This can cause the pad to get caught on one of the pads beside it which could then cause the button to get stuck.

If this is the case, you can gently bend the levers to allow the pad to cover the hole fully. You may have to bend the lever either slightly to the left or slightly to the right to achieve full coverage of the hole.

A good rule of thumb in this situation is to compare the lever to one that is working perfectly and try to match that. Good lever action should provide smooth travel and good alignment of the pad over its hole

The Action pan of an Anglo concertina showing levers, buttons and puds 

All buttons need to be running parallel to each other – refer to the above picture.

When placing the endplate back in place, make sure the buttons are all standing upright and slowly lower it back in place. This may take some time and concentration, but it should not be too hard!

3. A lever that has been knocked out of place

In the Wren Concertina, the buttons are situated on levers that run parallel to each other. They are designed to be a certain length, and to fit on the action pad perfectly. 

Unfortunately, even the slightest bump in transit can knock them out of place. This can cause the end of the lever – where the button sits – to catch on the metal bar where the levers rest. 

You will notice this if you press the button with the endplate off, it will stick down. If you refer to the below photo, you will see where the arm is getting caught (circled in red).

A detailed shot showing a concertina lever that has been knocked out of position

The solution for this is very simple. Firstly, don’t move the lever, as this might result in the pad not resting on the hole properly. 

Instead, using a pliers, gently snip a tiny bit off the end of this lever. Just the tiniest adjustment will stop this button from sticking. 

Use a pliers to gently snip off the end of the lever

NB Be careful not to cut too much off or the button will not sit on the lever properly. 

4. Not enough tension on the lever spring 

There could be an issue with the spring for this button, causing the pad not to apply full pressure on the hole. If this is the case, we will be able to send you a replacement spring that you can put in place yourself. Simply email and we will pop a replacement spring in the post for you.

Browse our full range of new and antique Anglo concertinas for sale.

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