View Full Version : The innards of a James Tailpiece

Scotti Adams
Jun-22-2005, 3:29pm
..for my money the best TP out there..

Jonathan James
Jun-22-2005, 4:40pm
Seems like lots of the top smaller builders are moving to make the James TP standard on theirs, like Wiens, Brentrup, BRW and Arches to name a few...that's a great endorsement!

Scotti Adams
Jun-22-2005, 4:51pm
..yea..Bill just invented the the better mouse trap...so to speak.

Eric F.
Jun-22-2005, 4:55pm
Yup, that's what's on my Arches. Very nice.

Jun-22-2005, 6:42pm
..for my money the best TP out there..
I'll second (or even third) that!

Jun-22-2005, 7:22pm
I have yet to talk to Will Kimble or Bill James about mine, but I've been having problems with my Axiom tailpiece. The two rubber gaskets/rings are maybe getting worn. I don't really know. I have a devil of a time sometimes getting my tailpiece cover to close and stay closed. The edges of the rings want to push that top up and keep it from locking. I actually have to get leverage from underneath the tailpiece to apply enough pressure to get it to shut and stay shut. Initially it "burped" like fine tupperware and closed without a problem. I know recently--when I changed to the Waverly tuners--I had all the strings off on each side at once and those rings would pop out and had a hard time getting them back in position to get the strings on (however, I've been having the problem closing the tailpiece for about a month now--not a result of the rings popping out.

It's a beautiful tailpiece and well made. If Bill James reads this and could offer me some suggestions, I'd appreciate it.


Scotti Adams
Jun-22-2005, 7:27pm
..Vaseline Jim..Vaseline..I was having the same problem with mine..take a Q-Tip..dab a little on the O rings..and it should stay closed...Mr. James points out this very important tip in the directions with every TP he sells. Theres no need to take the strings off to do this..Bill says this is a once in a life time application...with all due respect to the life time of the O rings of course...there is always a chance of one them going agog..

Jun-22-2005, 10:53pm
Thanks for the tip, Scotti. I haven't seen Mr. James' instructions, so I wasn't aware if there was any provision for this. I'm going to go ahead and do it. I changed strings tonight and again fought with it for about 1/2 a minute for it to stay closed.


Jim Hilburn
Jun-22-2005, 11:19pm
It also has to be "aimed" at the bridge so there's no chance of the strings putting pressure on the lid. The way Bill designed it to be bent to the correct angle is another great concept that isn't readily apparent.

Jun-23-2005, 1:33am
I saw one of these at Hans Shop, very nice. Question: I have just the cheap gibson style tailpiece's on my mandos from stewmac. Do the screw holes on these match this style? 3 holes and pin in the center? And CAN or DOES a tailpiece upgrade really make the mandolin sound better? Assumeing it is put on a good mandolin?
I am thinking on getting one of these for my F4, Hans said they run $130ish I think. Lot of cake for a tailpiece,I know they look and funtion well,so do the cheap ones, but if the opinion is it should improve tone, color me a owner!
I can not think of how a metal "hook" to hole the string would make a mandolin sound better or different, can someone explain the phyics or theory of a tone difference from a tailpiece?? Assumeing there is one! And what should one expect to hear as far as better tone, upgrading to this? I know ther are lots of variables, just in general. Thanks JD ( I hope I can be talked into one of these, anything that will improve the tone, I'm doing it!)

Jun-23-2005, 1:50am
I really like the James tailpiece. Thanks for the information about the vasoline on the o-rings. I saw some printed material in the case, but figured "what is there to know about a tailpiece?" Now I know.
Good call on the hardware, Mr. Hilburn.

Jun-23-2005, 7:22am
Scotti, didnt you have a gilchrist tailpiece on your last BRW ?? is this better ?? Those are pretty classy too.

Kevin K
Jun-23-2005, 7:47am
Scotti, Who did the engraving on yours?

Does Bill have a website? or can you provide contact info?


Scotti Adams
Jun-23-2005, 8:13am
..Bradley..yes it was a Gil Tp..I feel the James TP is better..esp. in the hinge area...its beefier... Kevin..Bill James done the engraving you can contact him at axiom@core.com

Bill James
Jun-23-2005, 8:33am

Thanks Scotti, don't forget to update your address book. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jun-23-2005, 8:39am
The tailpiece design has many features that I like. The finish on mine is a satin gold that looks very nice and the engraving is first class. I don't know how long these have been around, but they look like they will be hard to beat. Re-stringing is made very easy ( as easy as it can be ) . So in summary, it is very functional and looks good. I don't have any idea how much they cost as mine was on the mandolin when I got it, but I think it is a nice piece of hardware.

Scotti Adams
Jun-23-2005, 8:56am
..ya know Bill..Ive got two addys for you and I cant seem to remember the right one....its a pity gettin old..thanks

Jun-23-2005, 9:42am
Bill offers engraving in a variety of styles at a modest upcharge. The hole pattern is identical to a variety of traditional Gibson-type tailpieces and the Weber cast tailpiece.

Scotti Adams
Jun-23-2005, 9:59am
..sure enough John..also..the hole that the end pin goes through is oval shaped not round so that allows more leeway too...undoubtedly the better mouse trap has emerged. Thanks Bill...

Ken Sager
Jun-23-2005, 10:36am
I ordered one earlier this week. Custom engraving, silver.

Excitedly curious,

Jun-23-2005, 11:15am
Bill James is a peach. He PM'd me today and got me his instruction sheets. The angle was off--possibly from me cause I tend to ride my arm over the tailpiece ala early Roland White. I followed his instructions and reangled the tailpiece and now it's snapping shut like a charm. When I first got the mando from Will, it shut as it's supposed to. I can only think that either my arm riding it or maybe closing it too hard reset the angle of the lower plate.

And, no one please take anything I've said as a criticism of the James tailpiece. I personally think it to be the best tailpiece commerically available (the Gilchrist is a great tailpiece, too, but not available except through Gilchrist). I rank it up there with the Waverly tuners I hold so dear.


Jun-23-2005, 11:49pm
Just installed my James last night - installed easy as could be - No problems - works great. Glad I sprung for it. I marked the bridge location real careful, then restrung slowly with a strobe tuner - all is fine.

Fred Keller
Jun-30-2005, 8:21pm
The only "complaint" I have (and you'd have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h to call it a complaint) is that they do tarnish. A little silver polish does clean it up but after a sweaty gig, the discoloration returns. On the other hand, my sweat appears to consist primarily of battery acid and glue.

That being said, I love this tailpiece design.

Mike Buesseler
Jun-30-2005, 8:43pm
I hate to be the voice of dissent (no I don't http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif ), but although I think the James tailpiece is very nice to look at and well-designed, IMHO, any tailpiece with moving parts is a potential problem. #I personally choose one-piece cast TPs for this reason alone. #

Absolutely no offense intended to Bill or anyone who uses this tailpiece. #I just have to wonder how they will hold up after 80 years, or so....

Jul-05-2005, 9:48am
Well I don't think anyone should worry about the moving parts. This is a very very well made tailpiece and if the pins that hold the cover on somehow got broken (?) they could be easily fixed. The o-rings are cheap and easy to replace. I've seen plenty of 80+ year old hinged mandolin tailpieces in fine working shape and they were junk compared to the James tailpiece. It is such an elegant design. It dampens strings better than anything I have used....far better than cast tailpieces. It strings more easily than cast ones as well, especially for mid-show changes when you need speed. Yes it does have a moving piece but they are built so well that it's just not an issue. I would not sacrafice the wonderful functionality of this tailpiece for worry that somewhere in the next 80 years it maybe abused and broken. Any normal use should leave it in great shape in 80 years. The only reason to choose a cast tailpiece over this is aesthetic preference. It's my all-time favourite tailpiece as far as function and tied with the Allen and Monteleone cast pieces for aesthetics (they're apples and oranges). That's my two cents.

Ben Wilcox

BRW Musical Instruments

Jul-05-2005, 9:50am
here's the BRW cover

Jul-05-2005, 10:33am
Here's a slightly better shot of the wonderful innards....

I just love these tailpieces...

Jul-05-2005, 12:38pm
This is probably painfully obvious to everyone but I had to learn by trial and error...re-stringing is made easier if done in pairs....helps keep the o-rings in place...

Fred Keller
Jul-08-2005, 9:53am
I'm not sure if it's easier or not to do it in pairs. I learned a hidden talent of this tailpiece (probably I'm the last to figure this out!)--this tailpiece holds the string in place WHILE you're restringing.

I learned it last weekend. I must have gotten a bad batch of J74's because 7 of 8 broke over 2 days (and no, I don't play THAT hard http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif ). I figured out that if you pop the tailpiece, hook the loop and then pop the tailpiece back down--effectively clamping it next to the O-ring--you can then thread and wind the string without worrying about the loop popping off. Even the band commented about how good I was getting at re-stringing in a hurry.


Bill James
Jul-08-2005, 10:04am
I learned a hidden talent of this tailpiece (probably I'm the last to figure this out!)--this tailpiece holds the string in place WHILE you're restringing.

Actually Fred, that feature is "by design". If you look at Bruce's image, you see little raised-up areas on the underside of the cover. These little bosses capture the string loop and keep it from jumping off when re-stringing. It mentions this in the instructions which the builder sometimes forgets to..ahem..supply to the owner. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif

Jim Hilburn
Jul-08-2005, 10:21am
Well I may have to change my way of stringing. I've always done my knot on the post and spun the string around about 3 times and then hooked it.

Chris Baird
Jul-08-2005, 10:21am
When stringing up for the first time I hook all the strings onto the posts and close the door, no o-rings yet; the door will usually stay closed enough to keep the strings on the posts. I then put them through the tuners with just enough tension to keep them on the posts when I open the door. Then I slide the o-rings in position and tune up.

Jul-08-2005, 12:56pm
Bill, congratulations on the TP design. I was tickled to find out that it's standard fare on my new BRW.

How about posting the o-ring size? I'd like to keep some spares in my case.

Joe F
Jul-09-2005, 10:26pm
You need to bring one of your mandos with the new tailpiece to a Tuesday night Pickin' Parlor jam so I can see it in person!

Fred Keller
Jul-10-2005, 8:31am
Bill--I KNEW I was the last to know http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif . It's an even more impressive design than I was aware and you're right--no instructions were included with my mando. Any other hidden talents I should be aware of? Is it also a phone? A camera? Can it eliminate my flubs and make my right hand looser?


Bill James
Jul-10-2005, 9:17am
If you're marooned on a desert island you can flash it in the sun to signal passing aircraft. Other than that no, it's just a tailpiece! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Scotti Adams
Jul-10-2005, 9:32pm
If you're marooned on a desert island you can flash it in the sun to signal passing aircraft. Other than that no, it's just a tailpiece! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
..and thats why I love this place...Bill..you have a superior product..You...my man..have invented the "better" mousetrap..for the lack of a better term http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Jim Hilburn
Jul-11-2005, 5:48pm
I just got my new Stew-Mac catalog and there’s the Bill James tailpiece.
What a success story.