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Thread: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replacement

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    Default Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replacement

    Years ago I had a style A 13 5/8" L&H, did a lot of work to it, and ended up selling it. I've missed it ever since, and finally got another in today (No. 97) ....with tuner issues. I was able to get it tuned up (except for one e string) to play, and the tone is even better than the one I previously owned. This will end up being a heavily played instrument when I get it fixed up.

    It looks like some of the tuning posts/gears have been previous replaced, with one of them being completely different and welded on, and the outside E tuner having a different gear.

    So.....
    Are drop in entire replacement tuner sets available?
    Is there a way to replace each of the tuners/posts/gears?
    Other options?

    The length of the set is 3 3/8" long, 5/8" wide, top of plate to bottom of gears is 3/8".
    Distance front center of tuning gear to the next tuning gear is 7/8".
    From center of 1st gear to 4th gear looks just over 2 5/8".
    Height of string tuning post is 1/2" from top of plate to top of post.
    The side pieces (decorative) can come off if you remove the tuner knob.
    And yes, I have the vulcanized black cover that goes on top of the tuners.

    Any suggestions? I appreciate your help!

    Next on the list:
    Pull and replace frets. The original bar frets are barely higher than the board. I could not get the first one off without using a fret puller and it kinda got chewed up. I will probably use .037 high by .053 wide nickel-silver frets, unless someone has a good alternate suggestion. Or, is there something I can put in the fret slots to help 'raise' the existing frets if I can salvage them and put them back in and then to do a level?

    Plane the board flat or a slight radius? Has the 1 3/16" nut.

    And need a good solid case that fits!
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    Last edited by Highstrings; Mar-29-2023 at 8:47pm.
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Are drop-in replacements available? No.
    Is there a way to replace post/gears/other parts?? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. No way to tell without the tuners in hand.
    Do you know a skilled machinist??

    Any other alternatives?? I suppose you could contact Rubner and see if they could make something that would work. It would be expensive. It would be a one-of-a-kind job that they would largely have to do without being able to use their standard tooling.

    Other options: You could try to find some old bowlback tuners that fit and worked well. That would be difficult, but may be the best choice.

    ================================================== =======================

    Lyon & Healy carved mandolins did not use bar frets. They used small t-frets with an old-fashioned serrated tang. I've re-fretted 6 or 8 of them, from very early examples to very late examples. 53 x 37 wire will work. I've also used 80 x 40 wire with good results. It is likely that the slots would have to be widened slightly no matter what wire you choose. Most that I have seen had very mildly radiused boards. Whether or not to maintain what is already there is up to you.

    If you are not a seasoned repair person, you should not attempt to pull and replace them yourself. If you do, you will tear up the fret board. Then it is likely that the board will have to be replaced, and that will more than double the cost of having the mandolin re-fretted by a pro.

    Heat is advised for lifting frets on any instrument. On these 100 year old instruments, the frets can sometimes be very difficult to remove even with heat. There are some advanced techniques necessary in such cases. I'm not going to go into them here except to say that when frets and fingerboard "become one," you have to use extra care to make sure that you don't gouge either the instrument or your fingers.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-30-2023 at 12:10am.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Thank you for your information and wisdom. The last L&H A model I worked on, and replaced the fretboard, had these similar frets. I always thought they were bar frets, as they looked similar to the one I pulled off my old Embergher.

    The measurement of the current fret is .032" thick. The fret I pulled doesn't have much to work with in depth....

    Would you try to reuse these frets (raise them) or replace with a current fret? I don't mind .037x.053 or similar.
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    Last edited by Highstrings; Mar-30-2023 at 8:03am.
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

  4. #4

    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Whoever spliced in that one tuner had not only done an intelligent job, but faced the same problem of no available replacements. And yes, a decent machinist could adapt new gears and posts to the existing plate, or make a new plate, but there’d be some mods that also require some thinking. If you can tune all strings except one, I’d opt to fix the single tuner that might require a little repair, also potentially a machinist job.
    Old bar frets, now that I’ve messed with a few, trying to keep the originals, can be raised (see frets.com) or replaced with something similar, either from a specialist or as raw metal strips. Inserting a piece of wire underneath is one way. I’ve also added solder to the bottom edge. Just be aware that the old frets may not be uniform in depth or even uniform pieces of metal. To lift them or remove, a very thin awl inserted in the side works where there isn’t enough to grip above. If they’re serrated or not, they may need added adhesive to stay put. Definitely possible wood breakout. Of course, there’s not much latitude for leveling, so the planarity of the setup needs to be measured first, preferably under string tension. It may be that a modern refret is the route to a playable solution. Certainly the straightforward thing to do.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Huh. I stand corrected. Those are indeed bar frets.
    I've re-fretted a number of L & H style A, B, and C mandolins; and yours is the only one I have ever encountered with bar frets.

    You might contact Gruhn Guitars and speak to the boys in repair. They have a rolling machine, and might be able to supply you with some bar fret wire of the correct width.

    Or, you can convert to standard T-frets. Generally, the standard techniques for converting bar fret instruments to T frets requires narrowing the fret slots with ebony strips and re-cutting them, or replacing the fingerboard. A lot of work.

    I do have a technique for converting bar fret mandolins to standard T frets that does not require that narrowing the slots or replacing the board, but it is my one and only trade secret, and must be done in my shop. You can pm me if you wish. This technique will not work on guitars.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    I forgot to mention-- You cannot get good results by simply driving modern wire into existing slots on a bar fret instrument. The tang is too narrow for the slots, and sooner or later the neck will compress to close the gap between the slot and the tang, causing an "accordion effect" which will result in a badly bowed neck.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Thanks, all, for your ideas and wisdom....

    The existing frets were soo low, some less than 1mm, that it was not easy to get them out. No salvaging or reusing these frets. So, I've been in contact with LMII to get some 13 5/8" boards slotted. I'll order 2 as I want to try a flat board, then might do a compound radius on the other if I don't like the flat. Indian Ebony boards look like they will be a good fit. I'll go ahead and use Jescar 39x40 stainless steel frets so there will be no need to refret in this lifetime....hopefully. Using these thin frets will make playing up to the 24th fret cleaner.

    Tuners....another story. I've been in contact with several companies, including Rubner. I have some 'damaged' sets coming my way for me to see if they can be retrofit into the slot. Rubner can make custom plates with anything I want, but several month wait and a lot of money, unless others needs sets. More soon!
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Very interested to hear about your tuner journey. Looking forward to know what happens with this.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    This is the earlier, long scale L&H A, perhaps very early and they may have well used bar frets. I have two A’s—one of each— and also a pile of tuners though I doubt any specifically from L&H from that period. I can check to see if any would possibly work. I will let you know. I doubt any modern tuner company would make anything that would work.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    I'm with Joe ......... please keep us posted.
    lane

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Current step: Tuners! I was able to get one side of tuners donated to hack up / modify to make sure they would work. Cutting the ends off the plate, a bit of sanding and some dremel, and the tuner section fits in the area. The string barrel posts are 1" high, but couldn't find any 1/2" posts, so I will cut down the posts, smooth over, and redrill the string holes. The posts shown are brass, but my complete set that is coming in will be brushed/antique silver. Another small issues is that the post space is about .5mm off between each post, so the black cover won't fit. Since my cover is cracked and barely holding together, I'll make a new ebony cover.

    Don't those ebony buttons and brushed nickel sleeves look good? Thought I'll go for a better than average set.

    Next step: Pre-slotted 13.7" (yes, that's what they are mathematically) fingerboards are on the way. I'll make a flat board and install either stainless steel 39x40, or should I just go elegant and use 37x53 Gold Evo frets? What would you suggest?
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    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Quote Originally Posted by Highstrings View Post
    Current step: Tuners! I was able to get one side of tuners donated to hack up / modify to make sure they would work. Cutting the ends off the plate, a bit of sanding and some dremel, and the tuner section fits in the area. The string barrel posts are 1" high, but couldn't find any 1/2" posts, so I will cut down the posts, smooth over, and redrill the string holes. The posts shown are brass, but my complete set that is coming in will be brushed/antique silver. Another small issues is that the post space is about .5mm off between each post, so the black cover won't fit. Since my cover is cracked and barely holding together, I'll make a new ebony cover.

    Don't those ebony buttons and brushed nickel sleeves look good? Thought I'll go for a better than average set.
    So, you are using Rubners after all and adapting them for use on the L&H?
    Jim

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Be advised that EVO fretwire is no longer being manufactured. The story is that Jescar is no longer able to get the raw material to make the wire. LMI still lists some in stock.

    At any rate, unless something changes, when the current supplies are gone, there will be no more.

    As for wire size, that's a matter of personal preference. I have refretted a number of old mandolins with both 53w x 37h and 80w x 40h wire, with good results either way. My preference is for the larger wire. I haven't tried 40w x 39h stainless. It would be the closest thing available to what Lyon & Healy used on most of their carved mandolins, and similar to what Gibson used from circa 1908 through at least the mid to late 1930's.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Jim - Yes! Great sleuth work. Kent over at Rubner has been great to work with, and this is the best option at this time. A custom set would take around 10 weeks, and I am anxious to get this going. The quality of these gears is far superior to the originals, and I like these better than anything I have seen for under $200. I know these are not 'chrome' but it looks good with the the tailpiece cover that has faded a bit. If I end up doing tuner retrofits for others, I would put in an order for several custom sets, but would still need a bit of modification. Depending upon the material that the string posts are made of, post size reduction could be not very hard, or a big challenge.

    RCC - I previously ordered my Evo in small batches from CBGitty, but they are out of the 37053. LMII shows they have it, so I asked them to add some on to my order if it hasn't already shipped. I have a 6ft set of 80x43 evo, but that would be too wide for me up in the upper 6-8 frets.
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    It's entirely your call. What fits me might not be what's best for someone else. I learned a long time ago to stop pushing any particular style of fret wire on my customers. I let them make their own choices. The only exception is if they ask for something that I'm sure won't work, like putting wire .095" wide or more in a mandolin, which is too wide to work well.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Highstrings, you were also looking for a case? My Style B fits well in a Bobelock. I'm not sure whether the extra length of the scroll would fit. Mine is getting a re-fret, but I'll be happy to measure for you when it's back.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Sorry for the delay in updating.....when you have paying customers, your stuff gets thrown to the back of the pile.

    New board is cut, bound, slightly radiused, and I had just enough time to start putting in some 37053 Gold Evo wire. The 37053 is a great size and easy to work with. Hopefully I'll be able to get the board fretted, glued on, and then finish working on the tuners and new custom peghead cover made out of macassar ebony in the next couple of weeks.

    New bobelock case that LousieNM recommended should be here today - looking forward to seeing how that fits the L&H, and also how it fits another mystery instrument that I won't disclose at this time.

    I saw the pictures of the Carter L&H 'B' that is an A style. That mando needs a new board, frets, nut, and more. The board is wrong specs. I have a few more boards custom slotted to the correct dimension, who knows, maybe that person will send it to me to breathe some new life. It did go cheap.... but not as cheap as this one, but then again that one doesn't need new custom tuners.

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    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

  19. #18

    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Regarding L&H tuners. My L&H cello tuners appear not to be original. The metal shafts are narrower than the holes. Does anyone on this thread know whether the shafts were originally surrounded by gromets or are these tuners in fact a replacement set with narrower shafts than originally provided. One person who looked at them thought that the holes might simply have been ground larger by 100+ years of high tension on the strings, but it seems to me that, if that were the case, the holes woul be somewhat oval shaped.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Bob - attach a picture of your tuners and the headplate. The ones I have seen, including the original on this instrument, have holes that are somewhat larger than the shafts, worn by years of tuning and whatnot. No grommets or bushings are used on the headplate.
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    I can take the picture with my phone; however, how do you attach a picture to the thread?

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    This project is moving slower than I had hoped due to a busy work schedule, teaching etc., but should be finished this summer.

    I showed a student the mandolin and peg cover and he said I should do a 3d cad drawing and have it 3D printed to check fitment before I made one out of wood. 3 revisions and it is almost ready. Iím thinking I may just use this as the base and apply an ebony veneer, unless I can sand and polish it this plastic. What do you think?
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  23. #22
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Or you could do it the old-fashioned way.

    You already have your pattern. You can leave it a trifle oversized and do your final fitting later.

    Ebony for the whole plate, a plastic plate, or a plastic plate with an ebony veneer? That's a judgement call. If you use a veneer, you'll have to find a cement that will do a really good job of binding plastic and wood. Depending on the type of plastic, I've sometimes had trouble finding cements that are reliable for the job.


    Ebony is brittle and crack prone if it's worked too thin. If it's thick enough, it's less likely to check or crack.
    An alternative would be a dyed maple plate.
    Or you can laminate a piece of ebony to a piece of maple, and dye it.
    Last edited by rcc56; May-25-2023 at 2:18pm.

  24. #23
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Hey, I just found this. You could be even closer to the originality: https://www.mcmaster.com/products/vulcanized-fiber/

    that is assuming the thickness is correct.

    I agree with Bob that the 3D printing seems like a runaround. Yeah, it’s cool process but I would be hesitant to trust the quality of the plastic. I know VF is an old plastic made of wood fibers.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin Tuners - need repair or replace

    Not that this will help out in a practical way, but maybe help make your decision: The L&H mandocello left on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago had the broken peghead plate replaced with ebony:

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