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How to Make A Mandolin Rail Strip

Here's what I've got so far...


For best results a heavy bellows cloth or woven bushing felt strip should be used. Due to the many different piano scales, the spacing of the tabs are all different and must be custom-fitted. Here is an easy way:

1. Remove mandolin rail and clean off old material.

2. Glue on new the material with rubber cement or contact cement and replace rail briefly to cut out notches to clear the action brackets.

3. Swivel the rail up and out of the way. Use blackboard chalk on the section of strings that will be covered by the strip. Lower rail so that it rests against the bottom stop-screw and trim the bottom of the strip to clear the dampers by at least 1/8", tapering upward to clear the extreme treble dampers.

4. Hold steady in this down position and rub front side of the new material to take the chalk impression on the backside.

5. Remove the rail from piano and draw a line on the backside of the material, parallel to the top of the rail, but starting at a point 1 1/2" from the bottom of the material at the bass end (the distance may be slightly less at the treble end).

6. Use a hole-punch about 3/16" to cut the crotch of each tab separation. Examine the chalk impressions at the bottom of the material (where the hammers will strike the tabs) to locate the midway points between each set of three strings. Draw lines straight up from these mid-points, and punch the holes where each forms a right angle with the horizontal line previously drawn.

7. Finish with scissors, cutting a 1/16" slot along each perpendicular line to meet the crotch hole.

8. Metal clips may be pinched on with a pair of pliers, then secured with a hammer against wood or a concrete floor.

Here's a video that shows some of the steps used to make the rail.

NOTE: Another option with regards to the cutting of the cloth for the tickers is to follow the example of the honky tonk rail that was made by the Aeolian Corporation from around 1960-1986 (picture here). They cut the tickers in a trapazoidal shape and secured the tab to the bottom of the ticker.

It's also important to note that the flat side of the tab is the side that contacts the strings, not the side with the round dome.


John A Tuttle
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Brick, NJ

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