Photos: Bellows

I make my bellows from full goatskins, linen cloth cut on the bias, custom-laminated acid free card with a cotton core, and fish glue. (Prior to No. 12 I almost exclusively used rabbit skin glue.) I cut out and skive individual cards and assemble them one at a time. It is quite a lengthy process but it results in very supple bellows with a wide usable capacity that require minimal breaking-in. I assemble the bellows on the frames using some fairly rudimentary jigs. Doing it this way allows me to customise the bellows to fit any size and shape of instrument and the customer’s requirements rather than being limited to one or two standard hexagonal models.

I make my bellows frames from carefully selected knot-free spruce, tapered on the inside to make the reed pans easier to remove. I reinforce the mitre joints with four or five hard maple splines on each corner. The resulting frames are very strong and lightweight. The captive nuts for the end bolts are made from 2mm thick brass plates, held to the frames with a pair of stainless steel wood screws.