Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Removing a Vintage Instrument Case Handle

One of the things I enjoy about old instruments is that sometimes you get a cool old case as part of the deal.  In the case (ha) of my Gibson TU, I got a very neat case.

But as you can see from the picture, the handle is shot.  So I'm going to replace it.

Since I find myself doing this periodically, I had purchased a rivet setting tool and a selection of rivets some time ago.  I believe this is the third handle I've replaced.

To remove the rivets holding the handle brackets on, we first need to be able to get to the back of them.  Here I'm using my trusty removal palette to gently separate the case lining from the sides of the case.

You may remember my removal palette from its roles in removing various bridges, fingerboards, and other seams on guitars and ukuleles as documented right here.  It is a wonderful little tool.

The glue is quite old and brittle, and the lining comes apart easily.  We need to be careful not to tear the fabric in the process.

I'm using a 1/4 inch chisel to get under the rivet's tabs to pry them up.  I've tried this with a screwdriver, but the chisel tip is thinner and will get under the rivet since it's sharp.

Be very careful when doing this.  Do not put your other hand in front of the chisel to get leverage!  I guarantee the chisel will slip and fly up and away from the rivet during the process.    This is the worst part of the process - it takes a while to get those tabs pried up.

You can see how far the rivet tabs were driven down into the plywood case sides.  On this case, the plywood is very thin - probably only 3/16 of an inch (maybe 4mm), and I wind up hacking some of the wood away unintentionally.

Once the tabs are straightened out, I can pull the rivets out from the front.    Notice also how corroded (ok, rusted) the hardware is.  I'm going to clean it up as much as possible.

Here's one of the old rivets after removal.

I suppose you could try to drill the rivets out, but I'm a little wary of using a drill around a vintage case.  I can just see the bit slipping and hacking up the case. 

Next I'll put new rivets on along with a new handle.


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