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View Full Version : Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece



Tim Logan
Oct-17-2020, 7:36pm
I think, but am not really sure, that my Model A tailpiece is in pretty good shape relative to many. But occasionally I wonder if replating it is just a simple "no problem" process or a "risky, expensive possibly zero benefit" process. I don't know that it really needs it, but still, I am curious about the process. If any luthiers who restore the older Gibsons or L&H's et al happen to read this, do you ever replate hardware or simply buff it up and leave well enough alone? Thank you in advance for sharing any experiences and expertise. The tailpiece, I believe, is brass with nickel plating (???) and I know nothing about plating metal.

189234

rcc56
Oct-17-2020, 9:01pm
We generally avoid re-plating these days. The current vintage market considers it to be an undesirable practice.

The last time I cleaned up a badly tarnished tailpiece, I used rottenstone and oil on a soft rag.
Yours looks quite nice. I would leave it alone, or just use a drop of mineral oil on a soft rag. Old plating is delicate, and you don't want it to flake off or wear through.

There are a couple of different processes that are used to re-plate metal parts. Some include stripping the old plating completely off. In a nutshell, new plating is applied by immersing the part in a chemical plating solution and applying electrodes to the work.

Tim Logan
Oct-17-2020, 9:12pm
rcc56: Thank you so much for answering my post and educating me. I really appreciate your help!!!

Jim Garber
Oct-17-2020, 9:46pm
Simple and to reiterate simply what rcc56: leave well enough alone! Play your L&H and stop looking at its molecules. :)

CarlM
Oct-17-2020, 11:28pm
It is possible to do damaging stripping and replating. A really good plater can do it but there is risk of eroding areas, particularly delicate engraving. As good as yours looks it would not be worth the risk of serious damage for at best a minor improvement.

Tim Logan
Oct-17-2020, 11:36pm
Thank you CarlM - I hear you loud and clear!!

William Smith
Oct-18-2020, 9:30am
Yeah man don't even polish a tailpiece cover or base! I know a few guys who polished off the soft Gold plating of some Loar/Fern covers-not real good, expensive mistake considering one can tell from the patina if say the Gold was re-plated. I have a Gold re-plated 30's F-5 cover and while its very nice and well done it can't be confused with an original.

Hendrik Ahrend
Oct-18-2020, 4:35pm
Tim, those L&H tailpieces (of models A, B, C) were never plated AFAIK. From what I saw on my own Style C, and according to the original sales literature they were made of an alloy commonly referred to as "nickel silver" (or "German silver") mainly consisting of brass, nickel and zink. Polishing with a mild cloth and compound wouldn't do any harm IMHO.

rcc56
Oct-18-2020, 4:48pm
I have one here that is clearly nickel plated brass, despite what the sales literature might have stated. There is a small flake of plating missing, and I can clearly see the brass.

Stretching the truth in catalog and sales literature was pretty common in those days. Several companies were known to do it routinely. One of the worst offenders was Gibson.

Tim Logan
Oct-18-2020, 4:51pm
Tim, those L&H tailpieces (of models A, B, C) were never plated AFAIK. From what I saw on my own Style C, and according to the original sales literature they were made of an alloy commonly referred to as "nickel silver" (or "German silver") mainly consisting of brass, nickel and zink. Polishing with a mild cloth and compound wouldn't do any harm IMHO.

Hi Hendricks -
Thank you for that very interesting observation. I have seen elsewhere on the Cafe the expression "brass with nickel plating". So there seems to be a bit of confusion. Is the difference between plated brass and a brass/nickel alloy something that is obvious to the naked eye or can it only be tested by chemical or other means? Very interesting.

Hendrik Ahrend
Oct-19-2020, 1:16am
Hi Hendricks -
Thank you for that very interesting observation. I have seen elsewhere on the Cafe the expression "brass with nickel plating". So there seems to be a bit of confusion. Is the difference between plated brass and a brass/nickel alloy something that is obvious to the naked eye or can it only be tested by chemical or other means? Very interesting.

Don't know about the "brass with nickel plating" observation. The book on Washburn (by MC member Hubert Pleijsier) specifies "a nickel silver plated" tailpiece cover, which is misleading and must be a mistake, as nickel silver - an inexpensive alloy - wouldn't make much sense as plating material. Moreover, the sales prose of the early 1920s specifies a tailpiece with "artistic nickel silver cover" (e. g. for the Washburn "Aristocrat", which is the L & H style C). Lower rank mandolins had "nickel plated" tail pieces.

Your plating should have at least partly worn off by now and reveal the bare (yellowish) brass, if it was not solid nickel silver. But apparently it hasn't. So I'm absolutely convinced we are looking at solid nickel silver tailpieces, much like on most vintage Gibsons BTW.

Tim Logan
Oct-19-2020, 3:38am
Hendrik and rcc56

As Hendrik suggests, on my particular tail piece there is no yellowish color showing nor what I would describe as flaking. Rather it has some spots that appear darker than others almost like ""dirt" that will not disappear with a good hardy buffing sans polish. Perhaps that is flaking? Tarnishing? I don't know. I just noticed, rcc56, that you posted about one in front of you that shows clear flaking - so not quite sure what to think!

Perhaps the disparity here has more to do with the descriptive words being used to describe this material? Or perhaps there was more than one type of material used over time to make these tailpieces? Experiences and opinions seem to differ, so perhaps it is safer to assume the latter.

Thanks to all who have posted!

Hendrik Ahrend
Oct-19-2020, 12:47pm
Those spots are to be expected on nickel silver items and shouldn't be anything else than corrosion, as nickel silver is not a precious metal.

Richard500
Oct-23-2020, 9:14am
Brass and nickel silver are non-magnetic. Nickel plate is. A little magnet on a string may provide some answers.
Note that ‘nickel silver’ isn’t a very specific alloy, so not guaranteed to be totally non-magnetic. If you like to get quantitative, you can use the little magnet to measure plating thickness- a vintage technique.

George Henry
Oct-26-2020, 8:16pm
I would assume that originality of original hardware is nearly as important as an original finish on a vintage instrument. A new or as new tailpiece just wouldn't look right on a vintage piece.