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Thread: Best suited cast tailpiece

  1. #1
    2TonCommon
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    Default Best suited cast tailpiece

    Hi everyone!
    I was wondering if there was a cast tailpiece "best suited" for a The Loar 700vs Supreme mandolin? I'm not crazy about the punched out style stock tailpieces. Was hoping to avoid major re-drilling etc. I heard that Allen tailpieces worked very well.
    Any advice is appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Joe
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    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    It's always a roll of the dice on imported stamped tailpieces. Some of the inexpensive cast tailpieces are a guaranteed redrill project. The James tailpiece and the Allen TR-1 TR-2 and TR-3 tailpieces are meant to be standard spacing. Those are probably your best bets.

    https://www.axinc.net/James_Mandolin...iece_p/jtt.htm

    https://www.allenguitar.com/tpcs.htm

    The less expensive Ashton Baily and a slew of other inexpensive tailpieces available on eBay will require redrilling. The hole spacing for the AB is here on Stewmac's page.

    I forgot to mention that Allen also makes cast tailpieces that do not have standard spacing.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Jul-27-2019 at 10:08pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  4. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    It happens that today I'm swapping out an imported stamped tailpiece, probably from Korea, no way of knowing for sure with a James tailpiece. If you look at the pictures casually you'll probably think they are the same. The truth is that the bottom screw is close, the upper two are no where near being right. This is a standard tailpiece and by the way, there really isn't a true standard but Bill James and the folks at Allen do try. I'll end up filling the holes with round toothpicks held in with white glue and trimmed off. Then I'll re-drill the holes correctly. Bill James actually uses that elongated hole for the end pin to accommodate the differing spots that the end pin hole is drilled. Allen as far as I know does not.
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    I was just about to buy a 2nd from Allen (marred finish), which are about $80 IIRC, when one popped up on Reverb, new in package, from a guy whose plans changed. I got that for less.
    Last edited by Greg P. Stone; Jul-27-2019 at 6:46pm.
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  8. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    To put it into perspective here are the holes required for the James vs the plugged supposed standard. The James is probably closer. Yours might be closer than this one was.

    I have no idea why I can't get these images to go the right way.
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  10. #6
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    Thanks Mike! I just pulled the trigger on a new James for my F-9 and will look forward to some detailed hole examination.

    Do you notice any tone difference with the James? My banjo experience tells me to expect some differences from a different tailpiece, but mandolin is a different animal.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
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  11. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    I don't expect any tonal difference, you either do it to make the string change easier or for the looks. You shouldn't have problems with the holes or at least I wouldn't think you would on a Gibson product. Pay particular attention to setting the angle on the tailpiece. Beyond that it's beautiful.
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  13. #8

    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    Mike summed your options beautifully in post #2. I, too, tired of wrestling with stamped metal tail pieces and put an Allen on one of my mando's. The Allen is rock solid, looks nice and feels nice too (no sharp corners) but fishing the strings to put them off is a little more work. When I finished my 5th mando a couple years back, I went to order another Allen, but the $20 shipping put me off and I decided to splurge on a James. Oh my goodness, gracious, what a joy. The whole thing is machined, not stamped, and made in USA. Thus the price is higher and you generally only find them on mandos in $5,000+ range. The machined cover is hinged and rubber O rings mute the strings when you snap the cover down. Changing strings is a piece of cake. Indeed, if you're a working musician who changes strings much, it's a well-worth upgrade IMO.

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  15. #9
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    I just installed my new James tailpiece on my 2002 F-9... What a beautiful piece of equipment; stoutly built, extremely well designed, totally functional and very pleasing to the eyes.

    Installation was basically by the book, perfect out of the box. The screw holes matched exactly, in fact I'm using the stock screws which were a slightly smaller, finer thread than those provided by Bill, I figured why re-drill and re-tap if not absolutely necessary. The strap pin fit perfectly right in the middle of the elongated hole, so it looks like it was made for it. The tailpiece angle also was perfect for my current saddle/action adjustment. I was even able to use my old (but very clean) strings, which I really preferred so I could more accurately compare tone and volume before/after...

    Regarding tone and volume changes, I'm gong to give everything a day to settle in before trying carefully to compare.. I'm really a believer that any change on an instrument has the potential to change tone and volume, including loosening and re-tightening strings, adjusting the bridge, relocating string loops on a differently spaced talipiece, etc...

    My first impression is more of a logical one than a sound-based one: This is a stoutly built tailpiece compared to the original Gibson stamped sheet metal tailpiece, it has significantly more mass and weight, it holds the strings much more solidly and firmly, and it is meticulously designed. So my logical bias, yes, partially based on years of banjo tailpiece experience, is that the James tailpiece has to make some difference in tone. But I'm not going to try to prove it to myself at this time.

    My comparison is going to be facilitated by my backup mandolin, my MK, which I have setup as similarly as possible to my F-9, and which I've played very frequently side-by-side with the F-9. Anyway, I'm going to resist temptation; I'll start to make that comparison tomorrow.

    Mike, thanks for sharing your experience with the James tailpiece here. I'm extremely happy!!!
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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  17. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    It's cool that holes matched up. I had to plug and redrill and change the tailpiece angle a bit on the imported mandola.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  19. #11
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    So, here's my comparison... Quick summary opinion, the F-9 seems to be noticeably louder with the James tailpiece. This is comparing it to my backup MK LFSTB F-style mandolin, which is setup as similarly as possible to my F-9, and which has not had any changes for the last year or so. Before comparing them today, both instruments were freshly thoroughly cleaned, including cleaning the saddle slots, the nut slots and the strings which are of the same age.

    This MK has a history of really sounding quite good, good enough that it makes a suitable backup for the F-9. It's tone is brighter and more hollow sounding than the F-9, but it has huge bass and long sustain. It's interesting to note that this final model of the MK has MK's own very solid and heavy welded tailpiece.

    The F-9 has the typical Gibson woody muted tone and percussive bark, while the MK has noticeably less of these characteristics. While I do like the MK a lot, I much prefer playing the F-9 for its specific tone.

    The MK also had very similar volume as the F-9. Now, with the James tailpiece on the F-9, the F-9 is enough louder that both my wife and I can notice the difference immediately.

    As much as I've tried to bracket setup changes to the F-9 though, a lot has been done to it in the process of changing the tailpiece... Even though I haven't changed the strings, the strings have been loosened and re-tightened, and they are in different positions on the nut and saddle due to different loop hook locations on the new tailpiece. I've also lowered the action. So as such I can't absolutely guarantee that the volume difference isn't the result of some other change. But for whatever it's worth, the instrument is noticeably louder now.

    As Mike pointed out, worded differently in an earlier post, any decision to replace a tailpiece should probably be based on improved convenience and/or esthetics... From this comparison experience though, I might add that if you're replacing a stamped thin sheet-metal tailpiece with a heavier and more solid tailpiece, you may actually hear a difference in sound.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  20. #12

    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    have they started making titanium ones yet, its all the rage in violins

  21. #13
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    I haven't read anything of future James tailpieces being made of titanium, however while these tailpieces are much more solid than the typical stamped thin sheet metal tailpiece, they are definitely not as heavy as many of the cast or welded tailpieces are -- and that may be an important factor for some people.

    As I was installing my James tailpiece on Friday I remember wondering what they are made of because they are not really that heavy. But solid, yes!

    One of the things that bothered me the most about my original Gibson stamped tailpiece is that it was bending in a few different directions under string tension and it had been doing that since I acquired the instrument. My new James tailpiece doesn't do that.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Registered User nordian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    Common, I replaced the tailpiece on a LM700 with an Allen and the screw and end pin holes were a direct match. YMMV

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    Registered User nordian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    PS. I used the TR2 gold Allen

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  26. #16
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    So cool when it just works!

    I do however miss the orrico cast piece I have. I like it’s a bit different and I like the mass of it. Solid old worldly.
    I wonder what it would take to get a small foundry to cast some on order sometimes.
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    Quote Originally Posted by kjbllc View Post
    have they started making titanium ones yet, its all the rage in violins
    I emailed with Bill James about the metal he uses. His tailpieces are made of bronze.

    In my opinion from my banjo experience, the best banjo tailpieces are made either of bronze or of brass. Of these, bronze has better tone and resonance related qualities.

    I have a titanium plate in my neck, but it doesn't sound like much.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    I've noticed one very significant difference with the James tailpiece on my F-9...

    With the original stamped sheet metal tailpiece, when tuning for example my low G course, I'd tune the 8th string, and then when I moved on to the 7th string and tuned it, the 8th string would actually go either flat or even sometimes sharp, and I'd have to re-tune it. That happened with all of my strings, some courses much more noticeably than others, but always happening.

    I had thought perhaps I needed to widen the slots in my nut, that the strings were binding.

    But it has disappeared completely with the James tailpiece and I didn't do anything to the nut (or to the saddle either), so I'm now thinking that the string tension was bending the whole tailpiece enough to require the tuning touch-ups...

    Looking over the old tailpiece, I can see a number of areas that are bent out of alignment with the rest of the tailpiece. It's only 17 years old, but under string tension it didn't hold its shape.

    So anyway, tuning is noticeably much easier now with the James tailpiece!
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  29. #19
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    It's always a roll of the dice on imported stamped tailpieces. Some of the inexpensive cast tailpieces are a guaranteed redrill project. The James tailpiece and the Allen TR-1 TR-2 and TR-3 tailpieces are meant to be standard spacing. Those are probably your best bets.

    https://www.axinc.net/James_Mandolin...iece_p/jtt.htm

    https://www.allenguitar.com/tpcs.htm

    The less expensive Ashton Baily and a slew of other inexpensive tailpieces available on eBay will require redrilling. The hole spacing for the AB is here on Stewmac's page.

    I forgot to mention that Allen also makes cast tailpieces that do not have standard spacing.
    I never understood what the big deal is about redrilling. More often than not the new tailpiece will cover the old holes anyway. Iíve changed the tailpiece on a few mandolins and never had to plug the old holes.

  30. #20
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    Quote Originally Posted by mandobassman View Post
    I never understood what the big deal is about redrilling. More often than not the new tailpiece will cover the old holes anyway. I’ve changed the tailpiece on a few mandolins and never had to plug the old holes.
    Look at post 5 above. I didn't have to plug two of the holes, but I had to plug the third because the new screw hole was too near the old hole. Not plugging is not a big deal but shoving a round toothpick with some wood glue on it in a hole and trimming it off takes about 20 seconds for each hole. I don't make them go away by finishing them or anything.

    If I hadn't plugged the third hole the screw would have eventually worked its way loose.

    Oh, and some folks are afraid to drill into their instruments. me, I go forward with the courage of the ignorant.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Aug-23-2019 at 3:43pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best suited cast tailpiece

    As I understand, James is a machined casting, the basic form cast then finished with a CNC milling machine..
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