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Marshall Tail-Piece Installation Kit

The Tail Piece Installation Kit comes with a custom Install Tool together with one Regular Tail Feather Piece and a second Blank Tail Feather Piece of matching size that has not been annodized and laser engraved (i.e blank aluminum). Use the Blank piece to practice on a molted feather, before installing the finished tail mount on your bird. Practice inserting and removing the transmitter on the practice feather to develop the right feel to the process and get better prepared to use the tail mount on your bird.

Machined here at Marshall Radio to exacting tolerances, the Tail-piece Tool and matching Tail Feather Piece makes the process of mounting up your bird quick and easy when used together.

Designed to match exactly the elliptical shape of the quill when closed, the final result when crimping is a snug fit. It's also self-centering in the upright position on the feather. With the internal grooves machined on the inside of the crimped end, they are used by many without glue or epoxy. Clean yet permanent.

Specify one of five different Tool sizes when ordering.



Tiercel_Peregrine_with_Micro_Tail-mountEarly tail mount designs were positioned under the tail which made them sometimes easier for the falconer to find but more risky for the bird with a transmitter and long antenna dangling below. Top mounted designs above the tail came into more widespread use in the 1980's and are now nearly universal. Transmitters have evolved over the last ten years to incorporate flat shapes, lighter weights and shorter antennas. When a lightweight transmitter with a short antenna is used with a top mounted tail piece, the risk of feather loss becomes very small.

The tiny tail piece is crimped on to one of the deck feathers high up above the webbing and is permanent for the season. Generally, a new one is installed each season since the molted feather drops out. Even though tail pieces are designed to be safely crimped one time and therefore considered a seasonal expense, sometimes an existing tail piece can be saved and reused more than once.

The Installation Kit comes with three components: the Install Tool, a regular Tail Piece of matching size and a blank Tail Piece of matching size.



Bright_image_of_toolWe start with needle nose pliers from one of the most reputable names in the industry (Channel Lock) in quantity and then machine them down into the perfect fitting Install tool. We like starting with these pliers because starting with a precisely made high quality tool enables us to maintain tight tolerances through production, assuring a long lasting tool that will perfectly crimp the tail piece every time.

Made from hardened steel

The Tool is made of fine high carbon drop forged steel that is scientifically heat treated for strength and durability. By matching the precision sized hardened steel of the Install Tool with the softer alluminum Tail Piece, we can achieve a very consistent fit every time through the more pliable aluminum closing around the feather without accidentally crushing the  shaft.

Your perfectly polished and fitted Install Tool will last for a lifetime of Tail Piece installations, when safely returned to your Falconry Box each time.

Shape and sizing

Rather than one "universal tool," Marshall machines five different sizes to ensure a pefect fit for each one up and down the scale.

Each Tool is pre-processed by sorting them into groups based on how each individual closes and centers exactly on the joint. They can then be  machined to close in the exact and symetrically same spot every time.



Side_by_Side_TFPsThere are two Tail Pieces provided: the blank Tail Piece (silver) is the same shape and size, but has not had the additional expense incurred in finishing it having not been tumbled for smoothness, or anodized for corrosive protection in all-weather use and laser-engraved like the example shown here. So, it is intentionally expendable.

After reading through the Installation Tab, you can practice crimiping a Tail Piece on to a molted feather without the stress of making a mistake on your bird or wasting a perfectly good Tail Piece in the process. Then you can practice inserting and removing a Tail Mount transmitter on this new practice feather to develop the right feel to the process and get better prepared to use the tail mount on your bird.

When you feel you are ready, you can then use the regular, finished Tail Piece and confidently install it onto your bird for the season.

Why Aluminum for the Tail pieces

Aluminum has a very, very high strength to weight ratio. Keeping the weight to the absolute minimum is essential for a tail mount. Prior to this design being developed seven years ago, we used brass tail mounts which were 3x the weight.

Single piece construction

Marshall pioneered this single piece design after having a number of two piece Tail Pieces fail in the field. By machining each Tail Piece from a solid block of aluminum there is no joint to fail, no soldering in the process.

TFP_CloseupMachined instead of extruded

Marshall stubbornly chooses to CNC machine each tail piece for the for the ultimate in fit, precision, and strength. By machining our tail pieces, we can obtain a much finer finished product. There are less expensive fabrication methods to be sure (like casting, or extruding), but they result in inconsistent wall thicknesses (that inhibit consistent crimping on the deck), weak points in the material (that can fail), and poor finish (sharp edges that can damage adjoining feathers).


Finding the right alloy

Not only is using aluminum important, selecting the specific alloy is just as critical. Marshall specs the 5052 alloy that has just the right mechanical properties to be ductile enough to be easily shaped around the feather shaft during crimping, yet strong enough to hold the shape without incurring any micro fractures that would normally result when bending aluminum, leading to catastrophic failure later in the field.


Practicing with the Blank Tail Piece provided

Blank_installed_in_toolYour first step is to practice without putting the bird at risk of a beginner's mistake. Insert the blank Tail Piece into the jaws of the Tool and get it centered. Look closely at which way it is facing: the slots in the Tail Piece are designed to cradle the tail springs of the transmitter, so they need to be facing forward.





Blank_from_aboveTake it out again and using a molted feather, slide the tongs of the Tail Piece over the quill and practice sliding it up and down to check the fit at different spots. You'll quickly see that the thickness varies dramatically from just above the webing to down into the webbing. This size difference can help you find just the right fit for the Tail Piece you have.




Blank_crimping_from_abovePut the Tail Piece back in to the Tool, center it and nowbring it down on to the tail feather using the tool instead of your hand.

Check to see that your Tool is being held vertical to the flat feather (a 90 degree angle). The closed Tool is eliptical in shape (not circular), intended to match the dimensions of the feather and there should be some self straightening as you begin to crimp. With the spot selected, and the Tool upright, give it a gentle squeeze until you feel one side collapse, then the other, but not all the way. At this stage it is snug but not tight and can still be adjusted if you are off center or too low/too high.

Make any last adjustments and then apply the Tool once more for the final crimp. Do not worry about crushing the feather because the Tool stops well short of that point, assuming yo've got the right size for the right bird.



Transmitter_in_to_blankYou can now practive inserting the transmitter's tail springs into the mounted blank and practice removing it again, taking note of how it functions and how it should feel when the springs are in place, down in the grooves. Squeeze the springs together and move the transmitter forward to make the tiny hooks clear the Tail Piece and cross over each other in order to be removed.




Getting ready to Install the real Tail Piece on a real bird

Choose a calm time when your bird is empty, and you are sure there's no food in the crop.

If you are going to add a small drop of epoxy to the Tail Piece, have it mixed and ready. Use a toothpick to apply it to the insides of the Tail Piece and minimize the risk of getting any on the feathers. Most people nowadays do not use epoxy, since there are small ridges machined into the inside of the Tail Piece that effectively "bite" in to the quill and hold it firmly once it's been crimped.

It's helpful to pre-load the Tool with the new Tail Piece, taking care to note which way the slots are facing (toward the bird's head, not the tail) and have it ready to pick up in one simple motion.


Finding_the_deck_feathersCasting the bird

Even though the design allows a very quick installation, you will want to get help from a competent falconer to cast your bird for the process. Many people use bare hands since being wrapped in a towel can cause a bird to overheat quickly.

If you are both in chairs the same height, facing each other, it's ideal.



Inserting Tail Piece into the Tool

As you already learned with the blank tail Piece, there are two key things to look for here: 1) getting the Tail Piece centered in the jaws, and not to one side or the other, and 2) making sure the notches in the Tail Piece are facing the correct direction before you apply it to the feather.


Pointing_the_deckFinding the right spot on the feather

First, determine which Deck feather will be the top one. Often, you think this is obvious and then after the procedure it changes.

Next, carefully work the coverts to one side to reveal the quill of the Deck and your target area. This takes a little practice to not antagonize your bird with this new sensation, fiddling with the feather shafts up high, while she's cast and helpless. You'll notice how large the quill is above where the webbing begins, but it narrows quickly as you go lower. There is usually about 1/2 inch up or down that is an acceptable spot to choose. The lower, the easier for you to later find the "target." The higher, the safer for the transmitter to be up and away, although take care not to get close to the skin (follicle area) at all, since there will be tail springs of a transmitter coming through the Tail Piece in this direction. Be very, very conservative in this direction. The springs of Marshall transmitters have a pre-bent cant to them, laterally, so that they follow the bend of the feather in this upper area and therefore lay flat against the feather when mounted.

Executing the Crimp

Once any final adjustments have been made to your satisfaction, it looks straight, it's at the right height to be accessible and safe, then squeeze the Tool completely till it stops to make the final crimp. You do not have to worry about crushing the feather, as it is designed to stop well before that point.

Open up the Tool away from the tight crimp, and gently pull it away.

Installing and removing a tail mount transmitter

Tail_mounting_a_GoshawkYour last step is to go ahead and install the transmitter now, having practiced with the test feather. It's a good idea to put the transmitter one just before releasing the bird back up on the fist, and then leave the transmitter on as the bird regains composure. Watch and observe her reactions to the new sensation on the tail, and let her preen and work on it hooded. Some birds are just more tolerant than others.

Many people find that it helps prepare for this moment by having worked with the bird the week prior, touching the tail area and stroking that area so it's not a new assault on her senses just after being cast.





Which deck Feather should I use for mounting?

Answer: In truth, either one is fine. We all want to be sure we've chosen the top one and there generally is one that remains on top most of the time. Then we get fooled during the install process, select the wrong one, but that's still OK.

Can two mounts be used at the same time?

Answer: Yes, but only if the transmitters are appropriate in weight to the size of the bird. In general, only the Micro would be recommended for a double tail mount for all but the largest of birds.

If the antenna from a transmitter on the TrackPack comes down next to my tail mount transmitter, will that cause a problem?

Answer: Some have been told the this will "cancel out" the signal on both transmitters, but we have not found this to be true.

Do most people use epoxy to secure the tail piece?

Answer: Epoxy was more commonly used with the older brass designs, to secure them in place. Most people nowadays, using the Marshall Tail Mounts simple depend on the internal grooves to hold it permanently in place after the firm crimp.

Do I really need to use the Marshall Tool to crimp the tail pieces?

Answer: Yes.

Can I use the blank tail piece that comes with the Kit on my bird?

Answer: It's certainly possible, yes, but we would not recommend it. It hasn't been tumbled for smoothness (to protect the feathers), or anodized (for all weather use) so it's not "finished" and intended for actual use.

What is the risk of actually smashing the quill of the feather?

Answer: If you use the correct size tool for the right size bird (feather shaft), you have no risk of having this happen. However, by using a smaller tool and Piece on a large bird, you could produce cracks when crimping, but never actual crushing as people have done when using pliers. So, check carefully the size recommendations before ordering, and second, look closely at the practice feather to check for any possible damage in advance to assure you've got the right size.

Why does the Marshall Tool cost more than the copies?

Answer: We begin with a more expensive tool with hardened steel, and then invest a significant amount of machining and polishing time to get a precision fit and finish. And, since every Tool comes with two Tail Pieces, it's an even better value.

How safe is a tail mount?

Answer: the key to this question lies in another question: how big, how heavy is the transmitter and how long its antenna? The Tail Mount is a great option from many angles but it depends on if you're using a small and light, safe antenna-length transmitter. You can find a convenient summary of the Risks and Advantages of various Mounting Methods here.

Should my bird be sedated in order to install this?

Answer: Generally, this procedure is so quick and simple it can be done with a friend stopping by to cast the bird for all of 30 seconds. If, on the other hand, you are imping feathers, coping a bird fresh from the loft a getting ready for the season, some people like to sedate their birds to eliminate stress and avoid possible injuries from struggling.

Advantages & Risks

Advantages of the Tail Mount:

  1. Keeps feet unencumbered. Proponents like how this frees up the feet and stays safely out of the way when contact is made with quarry. With the feet properly tucked up, the bird is less likely to be harassed by another raptor. Having a single light weight transmitter on the tail seems to have little effect on a hunting falcon’s flight or maneuverability.
  2. Better broadcast position. The transmitter is higher up and will always give a better signal when the bird is on the ground, since the transmitter antenna will be in a 45 degree position so that the signal is broadcast outward in a 360 degree radius.
  3. Can be very easy to get on and off (with some birds). Assuming it’s acclimated to being touched at the base of the tail (a process similar to hood training), the bird will hold still while the tail mount is quickly installed before use.
  4. Aesthetically pleasing. With the advent of the new flat transmitter designs with short antennas, the tail mount is visually out of the way and much less noticeable.

Disadvantages and Risks:

  1. A deck feather can be pulled out. While most accidents with this method occurred years ago when all transmitters had long antennas, it is still a risk today. Some people using 151MHz tail-mounts had an 18-inch long wire dangling from underneath the feather so antenna wrap was inevitable. But even with today’s short antennas, birds can still have a deck accidentally pulled out in a struggle with quarry as the transmitter is inadvertently pushed or pulled. And if there’s sufficient trauma to the follicle, the feather may never grow back. Sometimes, inserting a plug (the top part of the feather) back into the follicle allows it to properly heal and a new feather grows in during the molt. Some proponents still say, “better to lose just a feather than have a broken leg or neck injury.”
  2. Some birds won’t tolerate them. Some birds never get used to the weight of something on the tail feather and will continue to preen at it, sometimes actually destroying the feather.
  3. Can be difficult to use. Some birds don’t like to be touched in that spot, and it can be nearly impossible to get a transmitter on or off without casting the bird first. Getting a tail-mount on a touchy bird just before a flight can be aggravating, with both you and the bird now angry as the hood comes off.

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