Picture of How to fix an accordion keyboard

As much fun as accordions are, they can be quite intimidating to take apart, clean, or fix. There are very few accordion builders and very few accordion restorers as well- professional or amateur. Most accordions are antiques, which means that most accordions are in some state of disrepair. The most common problem with accordion keyboards is that they are dirty, and contain oxide and/or gunk thats gumming them up. This can be obvious, as when a key stays depressed when pushed, or subtle, like some keys might have a slightly delayed response that can be hard to recognize if you haven't played a recently cleaned accordion. There can be other probems with keys, however, which I try to get at in step #7.

Before we get started, though, I'd just like to disclaim a few things.

For one: All accordions are different. Chances are, your accordion will have a keyboard somewhat like this one's, however because so many companies make accordions and because they can be very technical instruments, there could be some accordions around that make this instructable completely irrelevant

Because of this, fanatical and meticulous caution should be taken. losing a screw could prove very hard to replace, and I like togo to the extreme of putting the same screws back in each same hole every time. Also, don't force your accordion to do something just because it was how mine was put together in the picture. Try to mechanically comprehend the process and look at your accordion from every angle to see if it works the same as mine. I'd love to answer any questions of yours if at all possible.

Enough of me worrying you, though. As important as being careful with your accordion is having fun and doing it for the love of your instrument.Onward, then...

Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Tools/ Terminology

Picture of Tools/ Terminology
accordion 032.jpg
accordion 055.jpg
A rag, preferably somewhat clean
A green scrubby thing. (Its really the perfect amount of abrasiveness that I've found)
A toothbrush
All Purpose Oil.
At least one pliers. (you might need two if you have to bend metal things...)
At least one small screwdriver.

Not necessary, but ceartainly helpful is a mix CD/tape of the fastest accordion music you can find. It helps to remember why you're doing this when things get tedious.

For some of the terminology used, see the 2nd and 3rd pictures. I'll address other parts or things as they come up. Also, check out http://www.accordions.com/index/gen/ter/gen_ter.shtml if you're bored.

Step 2: Removing the faceplate/ grill

Picture of Removing the faceplate/ grill
accordion 024.jpg

This Accordion's grill has 7 screws. I have an accordion that has only 2 screws, and one that shoud use 4 screws (but uses duct tape instead because I lost all the screws travelling. Don't let it happen to you, it sucks) so your's is probably different

Also +100 Meticulous Accordion Fanatic Points if you can put each screw back in the same hole when you're done!

Once all the screws are unscrewed, CAREFULLY lift the plate off. Some of them are stubborn, so be patient. Also pay close attention to how the register switches relate to the grill. Remember to breathe, and set the grill somewhere safe to the side.

Step 3: Removing the spindle (s)

Picture of removing the spindle (s)
accordion 064.jpg
accordion 028.jpg
accordion 033.jpg
accordion 045.jpg
On the bottom edge of your keyboard (past the highest pitch, or towards your feet when you're playing) is a small metal thing with a screw in it. Unscrew that screw to fing (one or) two metal nubs that are the beginnings of  the spindles. If your accordion is in not-too-good shape, getting the spindles out might be a little bit hard.
In my case, once they were about an inch or two out, they came out pretty easily. Don't bend the spindles, try to pull them straight out.

Step 4: Removing the keys

This part requires more careful attention. First make note of what the lowest and highest pitches are (in my case G and E) just in caseyou forget, then start (I started from the bottom) picking the keys up from the valve side. On this accordion, I had to pick up the first 2 keys (G and G#) and the last two keys (E and Eb) at the same time. Also, look at the way the valve bars are arranged, as you may have to take keys off out of order (I did for the 5 highest black keys).

Its nice to look in from the side while picking up the keys. Here it becomes important to notice the difference between the white and black keys and how they fit in. (I once heard a jazz song about how white people made the C scale the "standard" to segregate music, on a side note) In my example, the white keys all were fixed on one spindle (closer to the camera) and the black keys on another (behind). Remember that you're about to be doing this in reverse. 

Also, Put the keys in order on some nice surface to make it easy for yourself later.
+20 meticulous points if you can do this without confusing yourself!

Step 5: Cleaning the keys

Cleaning the keys

First, I would use the dry toothbrush or rag to remove any dust or crud on the wood before working on the keys. If this makes your toothbrush dirty brown, then just load it up with oil and scrub it out onto the rag.

As for the keys, I used and refined this process:
1. Put a drop or four of oil on the toothbrush (you probably dont need much- just enough to make the flanges look wet)
2. scrub the brass flanges on the outside with the toothbrush
3. Use the green scrubby to scrub off the oxide and gunk
4. Use the rag to clean up any left over oil on or near the flanges.
5. Clean the spring or slat if you need to.

If the actual tops of the keys (like where your fingers touch) are dirty, I've used just the slightest amount of Simple Green brand cleaner on a rag.

If there is oxide crust on the wooden spindle-slats, scrape it off with a screwdriver.

Step 6: Putting the keys back on

Picture of Putting the keys back on
accordion 058.jpg
accordion 059.jpg
accordion 060.jpg
accordion 061.jpg
accordion 062.jpg
Putting the keys back on can be painstaking, but you'll get good at it fast.
As in step #4, you may have to put the keys back on out of order. Think ahead.

Begin by Putting the spindles into the holes they came out of(with the pointy side first). Then grab the highest key (or 2 highest keys, in my case) so that you're holding the spring up next to the key. Put the spring where it should be (in my case, in the wood slat-holes for black keys and just before the red pads for black keys).
Then Put the Slats in the Slat-holes and move the top of the key back toward the reeds so that the flanges fall into the spaces in between the spindle slats so that the holes in the flanges line up with the spindles. This is hard, and requires patience and trial and error. Look at how the valves line up for help.
Push the spindle through the flange hole gently until you see it come out of the next spindle-slat.
Then test that the key is on correctly by pushing it a few times.
Once your sure that it is, pull the spindle out just enough that the point of the spindle is hiding in the wooden spindle-slat-hole, waiting to be stuck through the next flange.

Then repeat. Over and over and over and over...

Once you get the first few keys of each color, use them as reference points in putting the next key of that color in.

Be sure to give each key a test-tap or two, because sometimes they look like they're in but actually aren't, and you don't want to forget to test the keys until after they're all put on and have to take a bunch of them back out...

Step 7: Done/ Troubleshooting

Picture of Done/ Troubleshooting
Alright! Almost done! Now screw the spindle-cover back on,

Screw the grill back on,

And bust out the jammzzzzzz!


If you have any problems with the keyboard action that still aren't resovled try taking it apart again and check these things (to name a few):

-Is the valve doing its job?
-Is the spring doing its job?
-Are the flanges/ spindle slats/ spindles clean? (if not, re-read this instructable)
-Are the register switches in the right place?
-Are the register switches cleaned and/or working?
-Are the keys and valve-bars set properly in place?

I can't think of anything else that deals strictly with the keyboard. Other problems with the melody side require taking off the bellows and checking out the reed blocks. (Instructable forthcoming?)

Ok so now go play your accordion and fix and build and learn and DIY or die and sieze the day!
ClaireC17 months ago

oh thisis beautiful, I'm about to start on my thrift store Brilliante. But what about the bass buttons???!!?

sarahrw1 year ago

Terrific photos and instruction, thank you so much. Turned out I couldn't budge the spindle, but since you showed me where to find it, I could sight along the length of the key to where it would be. I then used a hypodermic syringe to squirt an infinitesimal amount of Prolube and Protek CLP on either side of sluggish key where it should fit onto the spindle. These are excellent polymer lubricants that claim not to swell the wood and can deal some with the corrosion. (A 4-ounce bottle is more than a lifetime supply. I am hesitant to use oil near wood on my accordion.) It worked, anyway. If it's a short fix, I may budge that spindle yet.

naught1012 years ago
Watch out on step three - I started pulling the the spindle out of an accordion that needed some attention, and half of the keys sprang out, some landing half a foot away from the keyboard. Don't do this on the edge of a table! Definitely had me worried for a bit that I'd lost the order, until I realised that they were all numbered - one set of numbers for the white keys, one for the black keys. Putting them back in is pretty time-consuming, but not too difficult. In mine, I had to put the last two keys in before the third last one, because they are under a little ledge in the body. Thanks for the instructable. Very helpful. Would be very keen to see more - especially if you know what to do about reed valves letting air through!
I have a Honer Verdi III and there's no way to access for removing the spindle. What can I do in that case?
skrie3 years ago
In my case , removing the spindle wasn't just hard... With the hugest of effort I was able to get about 1 centimeter out... then it was jammed absolutely stuck!

So I gave up and kinda hammered it back in!

The thing is... the stuck key I was trying to fix worked perfectly after that... So, operation a failure... patient cured :D

I guess all that violence loosened something up.

So, thx anyway. I'd never have touched that pin without this tutorial.

beenjammin (author)  skrie3 years ago
Totally! While I don't abdicate accordion-violence, rust is a hated enemy. As long as it worked and you're happy.
I have a red "Traviata" accordion (120 bass, LMM treble reeds, MM=wet). I need to adjust the height (and therefore key-travel distance) on the piano keyboard. They are too high, and the height varies along the keyboard. I have no idea how to adjust those, and am afraid of messing it up if I start experimenting.

I did see a "key tool" or something for Titano accordions that looks like a metal strip or bar (don't know how thick) with a square notch cut in on the side of each end (slightly different size notches I assume). I don't know if that would work on the Traviata. I occasionally perform in public accompanying a friend, and would really like to get the key-level and key-travel problem fixed.

Do you have any advice or photos?

Thanks so much,

Lee Patterson
beenjammin (author)  banjocordian3 years ago
I haven't researched the "key tool," so I can't really say what that would do, but a lot of cheaper accordions get the variable height symptom from the bar (that goes from the actual key to the reed-stop-padding) being slightly bent. Carefully bending the bar forwards (or backwards), while making sure the leather sits in the exact same place (allowing no air to squeeze through- or else you'll get that faint pitched-squeak) has always worked for me.
alvarucho3 years ago
Wonderful step by step instructions to fix the accordion keyboard. I have an old Hohner Tango IVM with a thin brass spindle that I haven't been able to remove it. It's extremely hard, does not turn or moves when I pull it with the pliers. Please let me know what can I do to take out this frozen spindle. I have tried soaking it with silicon spray for several days and it still like frozen or glued to the keyboard wood. Thanks in advance for your advise. Best regards. - Al
beenjammin (author)  alvarucho3 years ago
The only tip I can think of would be to put the accordion on its side (the bass button side) and drip oil in under the keys. Or maybe vice-grip the end of the spindle and try rotating it first, to loosen it up...
That's a hard one, though. You might have to get a new keyboard and destroy the old one to get in there. Maybe a new spindle, too. Sorry.
jscott293 years ago
Great instructable, but I have encountered a problem. Not sure if you'll be able to help. The spindles on my instrument are uncovered (they have to balls on the outside of the instrument to pull them out with) but I cannot budge them at all. I don't know if there just super gunked up or if I have to have them in a certain direction to pull them out, there are no holding screws or any thing. Just wondered if you knew anything about it, thanks.
beenjammin (author)  jscott293 years ago
I'm not really sure what you're talking about. Sorry. If they're the kind of pins that also hold the bellows' frames on, they should pull straight out with some pliers or with a screwdriver used as a lever. I wouldn't try to force it, since I'm not sure what you're talking about... Have any pictures?
samtwig4 years ago
great instructable!
detailed and good pictures!
Thank u!
djkopel4 years ago
you are great ! thank you so much. gave me the confidence to move ahead with this. I was gonna try, but thought best to look first, your description is absolutely wonderful thank you.
I have this exact accordion! Thanks for this - a perfect instructable! :) 5*
aeray5 years ago
Fantastic, and timely. I have an accordion that I bought for my fiancee for Valentine's day last year that is currently being semi-repaired at Petosa in Seattle. A full repair is very costly though, more than the very old accordion is worth, so they are only taking care of the major issues. I had long been considering attempting the remaining repairs myself, and this 'ible has inspired me, and given me direction. Thanks! 5 stars.