Edward Jay's Accordion Know-How

If I know how, I'll show you how.

Reed filing techniques

1. To flatten a facing reed, first insert the blade tool underneath it to support it. Hold the file like a pencil and scratch a vertical line up the reed tongue (from about half way). Three significant scratches should be enough to bring about a noticeable change in pitch.

Warning: Try not touch any of the reeds. In time, the acidic moisture from your fingers may corrode the scratched metal.

2. To sharpen a facing reed, again, place the blade tool underneath the reed to support it. (You may also wish to partially cover the neighbouring valve with the blade tool to protect the valve from possible damage from the file.)

Tip: A single short firm stroke from the file is all that is necessary to bring about a significant change in pitch.

Warning. Make sure you file parallel to the reed face. If you file at an angle and cause the reed to taper to one side, the balance of the reed may become uneven, which may cause the reed to vibrate in a figure 8 motion, and perhaps clip the edges of the hole in the reed plate.

Second warning. If you apply too much lateral force with the file, you may cause the reed to rotate on it’s rivet. This will also cause the reed to interfere with the side of the hole in the reed plate. Symptoms will include buzzing and possibly the reed not sounding at all. In this instance, you will need to use the blade tool in order to rotate the reed tongue back into alignment with the hole.

3. To flatten a non-facing reed, carefully insert a file underneath the facing valve. Either scratch or gently file from half way up the reed, all the way to the rivet.

Warning. If your file angle is too steep, you risk deforming the valve. If this happens, the valve will need to be replaced.

Second warning. If you push too hard with the file, you risk permanently bending the reed tongue too far away from the reed plate. This will cause the reed to sound late, or not at all. In this event, the reed plate must be levered from the wax, and the reed manually pushed back into alignment using the blade tool. This is explained in greater detail on the ‘Reed Calibration‘ page.

Third warning. If you have to remove the reed plates from the block, be vigilant for particles of wax that may have broken away. They may collect inside the reed block, or become stuck on the face of the reed plate. At all costs, these particles of wax must be completely removed.

Also be sure to wipe the blade of wax before further manipulation of any reeds. (should any wax get in-between the reed and reed plate, the reed will cease to sound!).

4. To sharpen a non-facing reed is the most difficult operation. To begin, lift the facing reed (and the facing valve) with the blade tool. Have the lock pick tool at the ready.

Insert the lock pick tool underneath the facing reed, and use the hook of the lock pick tool to lift the tip of the non-facing reed above the reed plate.

Insert the blade tool underneath the (now visible) non-facing reed, and remove the lock pick tool from the reed block.

Holding the blade in place, pick up a file, and with it, gently lift the valve away from the reed. You can now see the tip of the non facing reed and are now in a position to file it.


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