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Thread: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

  1. #1
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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  4. #3
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    rcc56: Thank you so much for answering my post and educating me. I really appreciate your help!!!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    Simple and to reiterate simply what rcc56: leave well enough alone! Play your L&H and stop looking at its molecules.
    Jim

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    Thank you CarlM - I hear you loud and clear!!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    Quote Originally Posted by Hendrik Ahrend View Post
    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.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress

  14. #11
    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    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.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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  18. #14

    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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  20. #15

    Default Re: Plating on a Lyon & Healy Model A tailpiece

    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.

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