More Bellows Hints and Tips

by Melvyn Wright

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Bellows Hints and Tips (gained from experience!)
When cutting the cardboard stiffeners, allow a gap of the thickness of the cloth/leather between the edges of the cardboard and the boards.  For instance, if the cloth is 1mm thick, allow a 1mm gap all around the cardboard stiffeners.  This is to allow the sides to fold inwards without being restricted.  There is no need to leave a gap between the upper and lower stiffeners because the cloth folds in the opposite direction along the centre line, which moves the stiffeners further apart.  In fact, the lack of a gap down the centre will help prevent the cloth from blowing outwards.

Cut away the corners of the front stiffeners very slightly where they butt against the side stiffeners, to allow the cloth to fold 90 degrees around the front of the boards.

When measuring the cloth or leather, leave a 1" gap all around, for trimming off afterwards.

When glueing on the cloth, wipe any surplus glue off, so that it will not ooze out onto the cardboard stiffeners.

Mark the bellows cloth up, then cut the stiffeners to fit, leaving a 1mm gap (the thickness of the cloth)
along the top and bottom edges. Note the small gap between the stiffeners. (Only 3 stiffeners are used here.)

 
Use duct tape for the bellows hinge.  It's much easier, stronger, and sticks instantly.  But beware that PVA glue won't stick to duct tape, so use cloth for the outside hinge.  Don't mess about trying to fold it in half, position the two bellows boards together and stick the tape straight across the joint.

 

Double-Height Stiffeners
I recently tried this trick to simplify the task of making, cutting, and glueing on all the cardbooard stiffeners. This is a fiddly job at best, and accurate placement of all 6 pieces is not so easy.

Instead of 6 separate bits of cardboard, I made just 3 double-height ones and scored them down the middle. This eliminates half of the marking and cutting out work, makes it much easier to position them accurately, strengthens the central fold, and prevents them from lifting off the cloth. Quite a lot of advantages for doing half the work!

These bellows ended up very slightly stiffer than the normal method (as you would expect) but the difference is negligible, and doesn't affect their operation at all. I would guess that the score will eventualy separate after prolonged use, but that won't matter. The idea is to simplify construction.

If you are using leather for the bellows, this idea probably wouldn't work so well because the leather would be thicker and would try to pull the 2 halves apart at the score line.  The result would be a very stiff central fold (I haven't tried it).

The three stiffeners, cut out and scored, ready to fit

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