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"Tips and Tricks"
Pin Hole Leaks in Bellows

Reference Materials

Also check out: Sealing Accordion Bellows and Rejuvenating Bellows Cloth

Hi John,
I don't know if you remember me, but I'm the guy who wrote you 
about my Steinway Duo-Art sometime back and I purchased your 
Duo-art repair catalog.
I also had Skip Downing (listed on your website) take a look 
at my Duo-art system.  

He said all was fine and in good working order.  However, 
he pointed out a small pinhole in a fold on one of the bellows 
and also some wear on the corner of the bellows.
His suggestion was to try some "carter's rubber cement" and 
talc powder.  

My question to you is do you sell anything specifically for 
this type of repair.  If not, do you know where I can get my 
hands on some Carter's rubber cement?  I've searched the 
internet with no luck.

Thanks so much.



Hi Bryan,

You didn't tell me which bellows have the pin holes............

You're most likely to find rubber cement at a stationary 
store like Staples or Office Depot. The brand name is not 

That said, my recommendation is to use such a product 
very sparingly - if at all. Pin hole leaks develop for only 
two reasons. One, the cloth is wearing out from usage. 
Two, the bellow was improperly rebuilt and the fold is 
rubbing against something which is causing the cloth to 
wear out prematurely. Secondly, once the rubber cement 
dries, it's only going to be a couple thousandths of an inch 
thick at best - if that.... So how long will that last???

Typically, when you can see holes developing in a bellow, 
it's time to replace the cloth or live with slightly reduced 
performance. The beauty of the Duo-Art system is that 
it is relatively easy to compensate for minor vacuum losses 
without reducing overall performance. There are a number of 
compensatory adjustments throughout the system to 
accommodate for various losses in the system. Armed 
with a test roll and a trained ear, a good technician can make 
minor adjustments to temporarily improve performance 
instead of rebuilding various components. Naturally, such 
things are judgement calls, and at some point down the road 
the wore out materials will need to be replaced.

My objection to using any type of sealer on a bellow is that 
all of them cause the bellow to get a little more stiff as they 
dry out completely. Furthermore, where you can see a pin hole, 
there is no cloth left. What you can't see are the thousands of 
microscopic holes that are developing in the rubber layer that 
is sandwiched between the two layers of cloth. The point is, 
sealing just the pin hole/s rarely makes much of a difference, 
and sealing the whole bellow typically causes more harm than 
good in a relatively short period of time. A slightly exaggerated 
analogy with regards to sealing pin holes with rubber cement 
would be that it's like putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm.

In certain cases, and depending on the actual condition of 
the cloth that looks good, bellows can be satisfactorily 
patched with thin tan pneumatic leather. If that is done, the 
correct glue to use is hide glue. Here again, patching bellows 
is a stop-gap measure that is usually only done when making 
compensatory adjustments is no longer effective.


John A. Tuttle
Brick, NJ, USA

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This page was last revised May 15, 2002 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
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