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Thread: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

  1. #1

    Default Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Hi there! I'm looking to do repairs on an old bowlback mandolin I recently inherited. I took it to my local music shop and the guy there told me he wouldn't take on the job because he was afraid of causing significant damage if he tried to remove the heavily corroded tailpiece. I figured if I try to remove it myself, at least I'll be the one responsible for any damage and I won't end up paying for an incomplete repair/more money than expected due to further damages.

    My dilemma is that I don't know how to go about removing this tailpiece. As you can hopefully see from the picture, the nail is rusted beyond recognition and the wood around the tailpiece doesn't look to be in great condition. If I can remove it, I want to give it a good clean with some tarnish remover and look into finding a new one if the current one is way too far gone.

    Does anyone have any tips for removing a corroded tailpiece? Do I use heat, steam, moisture, something to loosen it from the wood? Or is the whole thing a fool's errand and not worth the possible damage? I really appreciate any and all input!

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  2. #2
    Registered User Greg Mirken's Avatar
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    May 2008
    Nevada City, CA

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    If it is like many similar tailpieces the cover will lift straight up and off the part that's attached to the bowl. [You may have to push with something from underneath] That should reveal two more pins or screws. That may enable you to wedge something between the base and the side and pry it loose.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Yes, that sliding cover is obscuring (likely) two more fasteners.
    Try "drifting" the sliding cover up and off the tailpiece with a stout block of wood on the covers back edge. If you can get the cover off, then try driving some hard, thin maple or plastic wedges between the tailpiece and the wood to gently force the tailpiece off the body, or carefully drill out the head of those nails, using a center punch first to locate the holes.
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  4. #4
    Teacher, luthier
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    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    If possible, it would be best to try to remove the cover before taking the base off the mandolin.
    This looks like a very touchy job. I recommend taking it to someone with considerable experience with old instruments.

    If it came to me, I would try and get a small amount of penetrating oil into the sliding surface with a hypo where cover meets base. Then wiggle it very gently to help disperse the oil, then wait awhile, and try to gently wedge it out. It might take a long time and plenty of patience. If that didn't work, I might try to wedge out the unit as a whole.

    I would be prepared to sacrifice the tailpiece, or at least the cover, if that's what was necessary to get it off the mandolin. If the cover won't come loose, it can be cut off carefully. The bottom line is that you don't want to damage the instrument itself for the sake of trying to save the tailpiece.

  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Is that really corrosion or paint? Since when does a steel tailpiece rust to green. Paint or some other crud. Also nails are not usually used to attach tailpiece. If it is a nail see if you can pull it out with a pliers. And like others said try to remove the cover.

    Do you know what make this mandolin is? It looks to me that someone decided to decorate the tailpiece.

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  6. #6

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Well here's an update for you:

    While attempting to get the cover off, half of the tailpiece snapped clean off. I'm not upset about it, since I ultimately just wanted to get it off and I knew it was in very bad shape.

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    I cleaned the piece that came off the best I could, and to me it looks like the tailpiece was coated because the parts that appear silver are peeling off, revealing rust-toned metal underneath. I'm not sure what it's made of or why it tarnished green. It was on my aunt's wall for decades in a negligent environment, so who knows the kind of crud that accumulated on it over the years. So far I haven't been able to get the cover off.

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    Now I'm left with a small piece that's being held on by that rusty old screw. I've tried using oil to loosen it and break down the rust, but it doesn't want to budge. I can't seem to get a grip on the actual screw with needle-nose pliers, and the screwdrivers just slip when I try to turn it. I may try deepening the groove in the head of the screw to see if my screwdriver can have a better chance at moving it.

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    Once I remove the remainder of the tailpiece, cleaning that whole area should be fun...

    Oh, and as I just learned as of last night and confirmed with the help of this lovely website, this mandolin is a Weymann from the early 20th century.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Okay, I was able to get the cover off and I'm working on getting it cleaner and polishing it. It has a brassy look to it underneath that silver plating. I'm pretty excited about how clean I've been able to get it already considering where it started out. It's just great to be able to reveal a design that's been hidden for so long.

    I also got the remainder of the tailpiece off the mandolin by grinding down the head of the screw. So my original task of removing the tailpiece has been accomplished! Now I just have to work on...a whole myriad of other problems 😂

  8. #8

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Itís the nickel plate thatís green. The screw is corroded to the piece itís holding, so if you can very slightly twist the plate left and right, the screw should lose its grip and be more removable. In fact if you can rotate the plate without scratching up the adjacent finish too much, use it to remove the screw. Failing that, a Dremel with a disk can either deepen the screw slot or grind the whole head off. Leaving the rest of the screw in the wood is an unlikely problem with the replacement item.
    Too bad itís so far gone, some people really like to preserve the original hardware if itís unique, but if not, you have a very wide choice of similar tailpieces available.
    Last edited by Richard500; Sep-06-2021 at 11:20am. Reason: A few minutes too late

  9. #9

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    These tailpieces are available at eBay although you are unlikely to get one with that same engraving in the short term- it may take a long time. The engraved examples tend to go for more money. I have bought old and apparently useless mandolins for their tailpieces but end up mending them! The last time I did this I asked the seller to send me the tailpiece and the tuners so I was not tempted- he has recently sold the mandolin minus those parts on eBay!

    This one is bent- he calls it a clamshell but that's a different item- these are known as "cloud" tailpieces. It is described as "nickel on brass" and in good shape but it is bent. It may be possible to straighten it and not leave evidence of the bend but I have my doubts!
    I have to wonder about the atmosphere in your great aunt's house- was it also a chemical plant?

  10. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Howell, NJ

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Keep the cover, that's the hard part to find. The bases are on eBay all the time. Search using "vintage mandolin tailpiece" and "vintage banjo tailpiece". There's only one right now but check daily for the next week. They do come up.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    It's looking like the cover piece will be usable, thankfully. I'm very glad it was the base that went and not the cover.

    Here's a progress pic of the cleaning process. I used a vinegar and baking soda bath, various scraping tools, and a dremel for removing surface corrosion and polishing. Much better than how it started, I'd say!
    Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Howell, NJ

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Cool. That cover isn't the same as the cover in the one you linked to. You might try a product called Nevr-dul that is a corrosion remover that isn't as abrasive on the finish. You can generally find it at the big box stores or Amazon.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #13
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Ann Arbor/Austin

    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Good work.

    Mike's right, the base piece for these are available fairly often on ebay, etc.

    The one caveat is that the width dimension of these is variable.

    I've got numerous ones of a few different sizes.

    They're not as mix-and-match as you want them to be.

    The cover is the more valuable piece, as those are the parts that tended to get lost.

    Good luck!

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  14. #14
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Corroded tailpiece on old bowlback---how to remove??

    Cheers for saving and cleaning up that engraved cover. It'll look great on your Weymann when you find a tailpiece base that it fits.
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