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MMD > Archives > January 2009 > 2009.01.01 > 07Prev  Next

Removing Bellows Fabric
By Terry Smythe

Arthur Lemley asks:

> Please let me know how to remove the fabric from the bellows.
> Is there an easy way to release the glue?

Bellows fabric was originally glued in place with animal hide glue,
which softens with higher temperatures.  I've had good success over
the years heating the glue joints.

Some people use a wet rag and a hot iron.  I choose to use a propane
torch, the type that has a pencil-thin tip.  Must be used with caution.

First, measure the overall length and span for new fabric, then remove
all the tacks holding down the various corners, lots of them on the
main heavy weight bellows.

Have a bucket of water nearby and a wet rag to douse occasional open
flame that may emerge.  Terribly obnoxious odors.  Do it outdoors.

Heat the fabric just enough to soften the glue and allow the fabric to
be peeled away.  What you will be left with is old residual hide glue
on the wood.

Here's where the propane flame becomes extremely useful.  Again, with
care, pass the open flame over the residual glue and watch it
crystallize.  Careful not to overdo it, as the wood is easily scorched.

Now hit the crystallized residual glue with a medium grade sandpaper
and it will magically come off in a dust, without clogging the
sandpaper.  When hot glue is over-heated it loses all its adhesive
properties and is easily removed.

The process is reasonably quick and what you are left with is nice
clean original wood, ready to receive fresh new hide glue.  Absolutely
do not use any other kind of glue.

If you don't have a glue pot, a good substitute is an old $2 garage
sale deep fryer that still works and still has its basket.  Its lowest
setting works fine for me.  I use an empty jam can to mix up a batch of
glue, just enough for use with the current project.

Hope this helps a little.

Terry Smythe
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 

(Message sent Thu 1 Jan 2009, 16:32:00 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Bellows, Fabric, Removing

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