La Clavietta Stainless Steel Reed

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  David Elizabeth 10 months, 2 weeks ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
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  • #8161

    David Elizabeth
    Participant

    Today the Middle B note of my beautiful Clavietta stopped working. I opened it up and a tiny metal reed fell out and sure enough you can track it back to the missing note. To compound matters, when I put it back together the remaining notes are almost unplayable because the air is just, I assume, passing through the gap like an open window.

    Obviously I need to replace the reed. I can’t find a Clavietta for parts at the moment anywhere online, although I know they come up pretty often on eBay. I spoke to an accordion repair guy who says that the reed is too small for him to deal with. So I’m reaching out to everyone on the forum who may be able to help or give advice.

    I am wondering if a harmonica reed would be a suitable replacement since it most closely resembles the voice of the Clavietta. Please help, I do not want to get out the accordions to record the piece that I wrote specifically for Clavietta.

    #8165

    Melodica-Me
    Participant

    Hello David, let me check and see what I have and I will get back with you.

    Melodica-Me

    #8169

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    Other Italian melodicas (ca. 1970) such as the ones I have been posting about have similar individual reed plates and reeds, David. I just made a comparison with a Clavietta. The individual reed plates look nearly identical; it’s a little hard to compare since the Clavietta’s reeds are mounted upside down in comparison with those of the others. But I think these are probably the closest thing you will find (other than in another Clavietta) to the reeds of your Clavietta. Most if not all of these other Italians need work before they are playable, but there are lots of them around, often at modest prices. These reeds are pretty sturdy.

    Photos here, for example: http://www.melodicaworld.com/forums/topic/refurbishing-a-vintage-italian-melodica/

    #8170
    Daren Banarsë
    Daren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    Also, start looking for Claviettas that don’t work on Ebay etc. They normally have a complete set of working reeds and pretty much worthless to the seller

    #8171

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    Can someone advise me on how to extract a reed from one these Italian melodicas without damaging it? Removing and replacing an individual reed is not something I’ve attempted, but I may have one I could send David in my pile of Italian melodicas.

    I have been comparing the Clavietta reeds with those of the 25 key Italians more closely. They are of comparable size. In other words, at least some of the small Italians do not have smaller reeds than the Clavietta. I had been just assuming that they did, but in terms of size and material, they don’t appear to be different. I have not been able to make meaningful sound comparisons because my Claviettas are so leaky. There are lots of these reeds out there to be harvested by anyone who’d like to build a melodica around them. They are very durable.

    #8172

    David Elizabeth
    Participant

    Hi Daren and Alan, thanks getting involved and offering your expertise. Melodica-Me is also trying to find the appropriate B(4) reed, you guys are my heroes. Seriously, what a great forum. Alan, if you can find anything that you think may work please do contact me. The more potential replacement parts I have, the better the chance for success. I will gladly repay any expenses incurred in helping me out.

    #8173

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    I have a Pianetta (from Melodica-Me, actually) in very good condition but with a failed reed. Recently I acquired another that’s marginal but has all reeds working. I was hoping to switch out the whole reed section. However, I just opened the recent acquisition, and there’s quite a bit of corrosion, so the more likely fix is to replace the individual failed reed, which I’d need to figure out how to do. In any case, my failed reed is middle C#, so there will be an available middle B. I’d have to dismount it without damage, and then it would have to be cleaned up, which I think is doable. Let’s see what else is available first, though. A reed from a Clavietta is the best bet, but my guess is that this would work, and I’m curious about the possible interchangeability of Italian reeds.

    #8174

    Shannon M
    Participant

    Removing the reeds from the Clavietta is pretty simple-they are held in with screws and sealed with wax. Removing the necessary screws and melting the wax with a hot instrument allows the reed to be removed. Since they are of similar vintage, I would think the other Italian melodicas would be similar, but Alan will be more help here than I would.

    #8175

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    The reeds of the others are not held in by screws, Shannon. They’re seated in some kind of heavy clear glue and so may have to be cut out. Possibly it can be melted. As soon as I decide which set of Pianetta reeds to break up, I’ll find out. Maybe today or tomorrow!

    #8176

    David Elizabeth
    Participant

    Good luck Alan, we look forward to hearing how it goes!

    #8178

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    Okay, here we go!

    I had to decide which of these banks of reeds to use in my #1 Pianetta, the original on the top or the one from the “parts” #2 Pianetta on the bottom. All the reeds on the #2 were functional, while the C# reed on the #1 seems to have failed. But, while there’s some corrosion with both sets, it’s much worse with #2.

    Because I have not given up on the C# reed, whose problem now seems to me to be that the reed is hitting the side of the opening, so that scraping might resolve the issue, I decided to harvest the B reed for David from the #2 Pianetta. The corrosion problem, a defect of the Pianetta, seems to be from the larger plates on which the individual reed plates are seated.



    The individual reed was easy to remove by scraping around the edges with a chisel and then lightly tapping with hammer and chisel on the edge.

    It is possible that the corrosion has been caused by a chemical reaction with whatever kind of glue was used to attach the reeds. Now, although the reeds look the same as those on the Chordiana and other small Italians, the sound of the Pianetta (my Pianetta at least) is quite different from that of the others. I am guessing that this is not because of a difference in the reeds. The Pianetta has one design feature that I like and another that I don’t. The air-pad release mechanisms are very nice, solid and requiring no adjustments to get them lined up well. Torsion springs are used under the keys, rather than compression or entension springs. This means that the keys are much trickier to remove and replace and it is harder to adjust tension.

    You can find my email address in my profile, David. Send me your address and I’ll try to get this reed out before I leave for Mexico on Saturday.

    #8183

    David Elizabeth
    Participant

    Okay, my Clavietta repair is complete, but it was a bumpy road with a surprise discovery at the end. Bear with me here if you are interested and/or have a leaky instrument. MelodicaMe and Alan both sent reeds to me in hopes that one could be used to replace the broken one, awesome on their part by the way. It was the first time I’ve been inside a reed instrument at all, so removing the broken reed by first melting the surrounding wax was trepidating but not that hard to do with the forum to give me some confidence.

    The reed from MelodicaMe was brass-colored, whereas mine were stainless steel in appearance but were otherwise identical. I was pressed for time so I went for it. I bought a hotplate and a shot glass at the Liberty Thrift Store to melt the accordion wax that I picked up from Liberty Bellows (lots of liberty going on here in Philadelphia).

    First let me say that sealing the new reed back in with wax was bound to be sloppy. Having no skills or practice, I taped over every possible opening within six keys to prevent running wax from creating an even bigger problem. I managed to apply the new lines of wax but nowhere near as elegantly as the originals. Anyway, I put it back together and I tried to play—only to be instantly disappointed. The new B reed was perfect which pleased me immensely, but the dreaded leaky Italian Melodica problem so many of you have reported was now my problem; it was all breath and no volume like an accordion with a cracked bellow. I took it apart and methodically put it back together again. And again. And again. I was really heartbroken, the air was coming out somewhere near the air chamber or mouthpiece weld or somewhere. It was so bad I thought that I had misplaced a piece or put it together wrong. Did the spit valve fail? No it was working fine. Keep in mind that everything worked fine previously until I broke reed just last week, so I didn’t know where to look next. The material serving as the air chamber gasket is all brand new and had been working fine earlier, so what the $%&?? No visible bends no gaps, no answers.

    I gave up for the night. I considered every possible place where air could leak and decided it had to be from the seal of that blasted air chamber, I could feel the escaping air across my fingers, but how and from where exactly was not evident. I thought of cutting and inserting a contiguous pair of soft rubber gaskets, but that sounded tedious and imprecise. I have read how adhesive foam weather-stripping can be applied but that might be too tall and wide with the close quarters I was dealing with. In repair, my rule # 1 is always “Do No Harm” so any material used to troubleshoot must be reversible or removable without damaging the instrument. Then it hit me. I had used this clay-like window caulking from Duck that is called “Press to Seal Rope Caulk”. It comes cheap and is extruded into a strip of five ~3mm wide beads. I could use this to serve as a temporary diagnostic gasket sealer.

    Were I to lay one of those beads of that caulk around the perimeter of the air chamber cap, then align and press the two halves together to seat them, it would effectively make an airtight seal that would eliminate or identify this as the source for the mystery leak. I used a razor blade to carefully cut one thin bead and then applied it to the gasket area of the cap. I pressed the two halves together and slowly turned the four bolts tight. I could see the excess caulk emerging slightly from around the crack. I peeled away the excess with my fingers imagining that the same was likely happening on the inside. I blew into the mouthpiece and …………..wait for it…………..my **********GOSH********** it is WAY better than it ever was before and in fact better even than other Melodicas I have tried. It was a whole new instrument. The fast trilly responsiveness seen in those 1960’s film clips on YouTube was real and alive again at my fingertips. I timed it—I played MelodicaMe’s new B note steadily for 35 seconds on one breath. The chiffs and fipples and pops I like to play I could now play with considerable ease. Earlier I had just accepted that it took a lot of air to play, like my low whistles. Now it’s as tight as a drum. When you apply air pressure with no keys depressed there is no leakage. Although it was intended as a diagnostic step, there is no way you’re going to get me to take that bead out now! I understand that it may be unprofessional to use window caulk on this antique instrument, but this 100% fixed my leakage problem and revitalized the instrument.

    1.) I don’t know how long it will last.

    2.) I will have to repeat this process every time I open up the Clavietta (which I hope I will never do again). In any event it would be no big deal to repeat the process because it was easy to carry out.

    3.) This material is probably not food grade, USDA approved, Non-GMO, free range, organically certified, may have been tested on animals, may be known to cause cancer in the state of California —I Don’t Care!! As it makes no direct contact with skin or mouth and is strictly downwind from the operator (unlike a harmonica for instance) I see no harm in trying this. The stuff seems to be friendly, inert, costs $2.50 for a lifetime supply, and may give you back an instrument you thought you would never play again.

    I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I’m just putting it out there. A couple of us are trying it on older leaky but beautiful instruments. It’s crude but effective.

    MelodicaMe, you remain my hero. Your reed tunes 2 cents sharp of 440 tuning which matches its neighbors almost exactly, we got lucky there. Like I said, it looks like brass vs. stainless, I didn’t know there were different reed types out there under the Clavietta name, but it sounds beautiful nonetheless.

    Thanks to all who helped me repair my instrument.

    D.E. out.

    #8184

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    Sounds very promising to me, David. I will be trying the Duck Caulk. Not to worry about what is or is not food grade. All USDA regulations pertaining to such have been suspended.

    #8185

    Melodica-Me
    Participant

    David, glad it all worked out. By the way the reed it self shoukd be stainless, but the reed plate is aluminum, that has been anodized. If you look at your old reed plate, take a little sand paper to it and you will see it will look brass as well. The one I sent you was originally aluminum color or stainless color. But it had so much old wax when I removed it, I removed the stainless color.
    I am going to try the rope caulk on a an extra clavietta I have and see how it works.
    Thanks for the tip.
    Melodica-Me

    #8186

    David Elizabeth
    Participant

    Interesting regarding the appearance of the metals, I was wondering about that. By the way, I’m changing mouthpieces because I have such better airflow now. The broken B has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It led to improvements I would not have otherwise made, and it has led me here to be among fellow melodiphiles. What a week a difference can make.

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