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Replacing the tailpiece on a Maccaferri guitar

The tailpieces on Maccaferri guitars can snap.

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 1.

Why? I cannot pretend I have the definitive answer. Here are some guesses -

  1. they are made with weak alloys
  2. the metal is stressed when they are bent into shape
  3. they are not fitted symmetrically and so are unevenly stressed.

I have seen quite a few of these break on several brands of Maccaferri style guitar and until recently I thought the cause was 1 or 2. However, when doing some repairs recently, I began to think the answer is at least in part 3.

I have developed a method of replacement which I hope overcomes this problem.

First thing to say is that you do not want the bridge ends to be glued to the soundboard if this approach is really going to work. (In fact I do not think they should ever be glued hard to the soundboard, even though you often see them come from the makers like this.

After you have removed the strings, removed the old broken tailpiece and put some protection down on the soundboard, the first step is to find the centre line. (Do not be tempted to fit the new tailpiece into the old screw holes and hope for the best). I do this with a metre-long metal ruler. I mark a centre spot on the nut, then run the edge of the ruler down from this, through the position dots, through the apex of the soundhole and on to the join between the 2 halves of the soundboard.

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 2.

I mark the centre spot at the base of the guitar on a piece of masking tape attached to the soundboard. You will see in the picture that this is "off-centre" when compared with the joint of the purfling and the joint of the two sides of the guitar at the base. Not to worry.

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 3.

Then with more masking tape loosely attach the new tailpiece centering it over the centre spot and keeping it as close to vertical as possible. You may find the holes in the new tailpiece line up with the previous holes but in my experience this is rarely the case - indicating that the old tailpiece was definitely not attached at the centre point!!!. Drill some new pilot holes and screw in the new tailpiece.

Carefully bend the tailpiece about 75% of the way over (get it right first time without any twisting so that you do not stress the metal by repeated movements). Then attach the bass and the treble strings and tighten them up, a bit at a time, alternating between them frequently, and use their tension to bend the tailpiece into shape and line it up at the same time.

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 4.

All being well, when you look along the string from tailpiece to nut, each of these strings will be running parallel to the edge of the fingerboard and each will be the same distance in from the respective edges.

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 5.

Replace the bridge and restring the guitar alternating between tightening bass and treble strings. When the strings are to pitch, they should all be running in straight lines from tailpiece over the bridge over the fingerboard and up to the nut.

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 6.

The finished job -

Replacing a broken Maccaferri guitar tailpiece 7.

If you cannot line them up in this way, then either you have not got your tailpiece fixed where it should have been or else the neck and body of the guitar and not properly lined up.

 

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15 December 2018