• Laura Moir

Electric Accordion: Part 1

A rare find on the Accordion section on TradeMe! A perfect restoration project. This, friends, is a 1960s Electric Chord Organ. Because I'm fun, I'm calling it an Electric Accordion. Like most accordions from the 20th century, it was made by one of the thousands of accordion makers in Italy and research is fruitless. The name Castelfidardo is a town, the 'international capital of Accordion builders' (Wikipedia).

This plays much like a Piano Accordion. The left hand buttons are chords and the right hand is a normal keyboard. This one has 2 reed banks - Bassoon and Viola - and the option for Organ, which plays both.

It also functions essentially like an Accordion. Pressing the keys release air through a set of reeds, creating noise. The FUN difference is that this piece creates the air with a vacuum motor instead of bellows.

I bought this with the knowledge it needed a new plug, so the first thing I did when I got it back to the 4C Centre was to get inside. It was harder than I expected, but the keyboard section can be unscrewed removed so the only access is from the top.

I was honestly surprised as I was expecting some kind of circuitry, but all that was inside was the vacuum motor. The on/off switch on the left connected directly to it and then to the 3 pronged plug. Apparently, it's DC. I don't fully understand currents but my techy mate Alec organised me the correct plug replacement with just pictures. I found an ancient 230V sticker on the motor and apparently that said it all!

Alec is a nifty dude and he also modelled a thing so the plug would slot into the original hole. From there I did some very careful soldering (which really all soldering should be I do admit) and voila, the fan worked! It was loud but it was fantastic. Here's my celebratory video:

I researched the possibility of a new fan, but all options seemed too costly for the moment.

With a functional instrument, the next step was refurbishing. The instrument exterior is wood veneer, but the old-fashioned type where it's actually just a very thin laminate and a lot of lacquer. On some sections the finish was cracking severely and that sometimes means it can be scratched off. Sometimes a little rubbing with acetone will do the trick but I found this layer so thick that I ended up essentially soaking it in acetone, letting it sit, and scraping off the horribly sticky mix like golden syrup. I did remember to mask off the keyboard - something I often forget in my excitement.

With the varnish gone, the wood underneath actually looked pretty nice. I used my usual finish of linseed oil and beeswax.

Next step is to reassemble and tidy up. The keys are slightly yellowed, and the plastic attachments could use a bit of sparkle. I also maybe got acetone where I shouldn't've.

The underside and legs are also very nifty and ripe for restoring, more on them later...

That's it for part one! Enjoy the miscellaneous pictures.

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