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Shipping an Accordion: How Not To Break Your Box

September 25, 2017
by
Busted up Accordion Keyboard

theAccordionShop.co.uk

It’s remarkably easy to improperly pack an accordion so the slightest bump can cost hundreds of dollars to fix.  After “What’s this Accordion Worth?” the other post I’ve been meaning to write is about safely shipping squeezeboxes. If you’re putting an accordion in a car, truck, airplane, boat, train, mule-back, rocket-ship… you should know about these safety precautions.

What I hope to do is gather ideas that are available online and direct readers to those sources for more information.  First a few vids for the audio-visually-inclined:

“How to Pack an Accordion for Shipping” Liberty Bellows‘ ten minute video!

  • Hot tip in the comments: As you get the accordion all secured and packed, cut a small square out of the top of the box and have the case handle come through that. [Does this mean less padding on top? Discuss….]

120 Weak-points: Bass Buttons in Transit

The basic issue (so to speak) is that besides the obvious packing to protect the outer shininess of your accordion from getting bashed in – which I won’t really cover here – the bass buttons on larger accordions are very vulnerable. A single bad bump can “drop” the bass buttons inside the accordion and create chaos requiring hours of skilled work to repair and reassemble.

Accordion Bass machinery with buttons stuck inside

Bass Buttons fallen, from TargetEntertainment.net

Accordion Bass Innards Fixed

Five Hours of Work Later… you wish you could have avoided that.

Don’t let this happen to you! With a few minutes care you can prevent this expensive accident.

Everyday Tip: never load an accordion in a car on its “back” with the bass buttons facing upwards:

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Only a few small springs support the whole left-hand mechanism and this is asking too much of them. One speed-bump could ruin your next gig. Storing the accordion with the keyboard end upward (with most cases’ handle helpfully on top) or sideways in playing  position is better.

How to save the Grief and Embarrassment of Improperly Prepared Bass Buttons:

There’s two main techniques of saving your basses during extended or rough travel. One for smaller 48 or so basses, and more impressive methods for larger 120-ish models. (Where an 80-bass falls is your call.)

The Simple method worked well for my 72-bass Giuliette shipping from England. They’d secured the bass buttons by threading plastic cable-ties with the ends cut off between the buttons and then covering the whole button set with clear packing tape. It was quite a solid unit and quite nifty. Beware though of poor quality sticky tape that leaves a mess!

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For even more security, the second option is recommended for 120-bass and other heavy instruments. It requires you to take off the bass-cover and insert a piece of cardboard or other brace under the bass mechanism to keep it from “falling” into the accordion. This may actually be simpler on most accordions than all the threading and taping mentioned above, but you do have to open it up.

Again, you really don’t want to arrive and find this:

Bass buttons with most of the chords bushed in to the body of the accordion.

Pack for shipping. (Accordionology.com)

The House of Musical Traditions has swell graphics showing what you need:

diagram showing bass buttons "unsecured" and "secured" with a piece of cardboard supporting them.

Basically, you unscrew the bass cover-panel (you probably need to loosen the bass strap to get it out of the way.) Then you place a piece of securely fitted cardboard or similar in the space between the base button rods and the “stop rail” that controls their motion in normal conditions. One of my accordions had two levels of buttons where a bit of cardboard would fit. (Don’t use styrofoam or crumbly-dusty material inside your accordion.) This will keep your basses happy and safe. Then all you need do is remember to take your protective shim out when your accordion arrives!

Some images from the AccordionGallery site that show the process.

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“Packing Accordion Bass For Transit” 2 min basic video by Norman English of www.accordionbay.co.uk

 

Wax has melted and Reeds are scattered inside an accordion

Melted Wax Leaves Reeds Scattered Accordions.co.uk

Cool Critical Tip: never leave an accordion in a hot car (or next to a radiator, in the hot sun, etc.)

Most accordions use beeswax to hold their reeds in place (no vegan accordions). If the wax melts it may require a complete rebuild of the instrument. So keep it cool, eh?

Here’s my raw list of recommended links that will make you an accordion-shipping master.

How to Ship a Squeezebox by Maryland’s House of Musical Traditions

Instructions For Accordion Packing/Shipping by the AccordionLab

How to pack an accordion for shipping by Accordionology

How to protection to protect accordion basses from harm by seasoned ebayer John M. Burlake (juevon)

How to Pack an Accordion: Travel tips on Shelia Lee’s Accordion Blog (air-travel with accordions is a whole ‘nother saga we won’t get into here.

And when it arrives: Unpacking Your Accordion by the Accordion Gallery

Very, very sad that the How to Open an Accordion and How to Pack it for Shipping! page (mentioned by Accordion Guy here) has vanished, and the Internet Archived version is missing all the photos! Still a great description of the process of opening the accordion and protecting it for travel.

A few helpful blog and forum posts:

Packing an Accordion (and Pepto-Bismol?) for Travel by Nathan at DanceMotion (good details in comments)

Bass Blocking for Shipping, on the fine UK Accordionists Forum

Shipping an Accordion, of course it’s on Reddit (not many details)

For die-hards: Accordion Packing — No, no, no – not the hmtrad.com way! Robert and others on the Narkive newsgroup add to the discussion

 

That’s what I know at this point. Please add your ideas and tips below. It’s a bit of a mess with bits from here and there. I wish I had better pictures of the process on various accordions.

Note that if any of the above links are broken, I saved them so they should be on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

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