Easy and Fast Way of Glueing on the Bellows Cloth

by Melvyn Wright

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Glueing on the Bellows Cloth
I found that the method of glueing on the bellows cloth by holding the bellows vertically in a vice (as shown in the video) and starting from the front was very fiddly and inaccurate.  Accurate placement is rather hit and miss because you are working from the outside and can't easily see the position of the cardboard stiffeners in relation to the edges of the boards.  It's also slow, the glue gets in places it shouldn't, and the glue has started to go off by the time you get to apply any clamps.

I found it was very much faster, easier and more accurate to do it the following way, (and you don't get glue all over your fingers neither!).

Before starting, it is best to make sure that the front cardboard stiffeners are exactly the same width as the bellows boards, and make the two small cuts in the front corners of the cloth that allow it to fold outwards along the top board (see John's video if you don't know what this means).  It doesn't matter if the front cardboard is not exactly the right width, as long as you take this into consideration when positioning the cloth on the boards in the following procedure.

Lay the bellows cloth flat on the bench.  Apply glue along one long edge of the bellows (both boards) and also along the front edges.  Place the long edge of the bellows carefully on the cloth, lining up the cardboard exactly between the two bellows boards.  Check that the corner is in the correct position.  Do not glue the front on yet.

Now apply glue along the upper edges of the boards.  Fold the cloth up the front edges and check that the cardboard is sitting in the correct position.  Finally, fold the cloth over the top edges and line the cardboard up with the hinge end of the boards.  Pull the cloth tight and press it well into position all around, then place a heavy book on it and leave it overnight.

This method is very fast.  I did a pair of bellows and a reservoir in under 5 minutes, with no fiddling about at all.  The weights or clamps can be applied very quickly, leading to a stronger joint.

Note that the bellows remain fully open throughout the entire operation, there is no need to close them or crease the cloth, as it tends to unstick the glue.

When thoroughly dry, trim the ends of the cloth, fold them over the bellows hinge and stick down.

Leave for at least 24 hours for the glue to fully cure before testing the bellows or putting any pressure on them.

Bellows placed on cloth and accurately positioned against the cardboard stiffeners. Note the 1mm gap

Glue applied to the board edges

Wrap the cloth around the board in one go and pull it tight.  Making sure that the cardboard stiffeners are centrally placed. This  method only takes a few seconds!

Completed bellows. The spare cloth is trimmed off around the edges when the glue has dried

If using bellows cloth, instead of trimming it off, it is a good idea to fold it over the edges and glue it down onto the boards.  Especially on the corners, where leaks are more likely to occur

Rather than use weights, it is preferable to clamp the bellows between two wooden panels until the glue has set.  Either that, or pin strips of wood down the sides of the bellows to hold the cloth firmly in place. This is a good idea anyway, as it prevents the stiffeners from trying to force the cloth off during use.

To make your bellows more flexible, close them, clamp them up tight, and leave them for a day.  This presses the folds and sets them.  You may be surprised at the difference this makes.

More bellows tips

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