Bolo King: Repairing A Vintage Bolo Tie

 
 

My grandfather, Dr. Tom White, was a Renaissance man with an epic bolo tie collection. Five years ago, my grandmother found his bolo tie collection tucked away in the attic and she passed it along to me. This epic hand-off will go down in history as Granny’s greatest power play of all time.

How to repair a Vintage Bolo Tie

As can be expected, my grandpa’s bolo collection didn’t exactly age like fine wine. When I started to explore the collection, the medallions were tarnished and the cords were frazzled from decades of wear & tear.

I’ve worn them many a time since receiving them, but only now am I starting to actually refurbish these vintage collectibles.

Want to repair an old bolo tie and give it some new swag?

Here's what you'll need:

  1. Bolo Tie Supplies

    • A fresh bolo cord. I suggest using leather, cotton (waxed or untreated), or a synthetic you can trust. (Vinyl cords can be good, but some low quality options really suck… be wary)

    • Shiny new bolo tips. Technically these little doodads are called aglets. In this case I actually reused the old bolo tips, but don’t let that stop you.

    • A modern bolo slide. Many old bolo ties have a simple version of a bolo slide. This old slide can’t be easily loosened once you tighten it which causes damage to the bolo tie every time you adjust it. Get the spring-y kind of slide that let’s the wearer adjust their bolo on the fly. You’ll thank yourself years from now when your bolo looks as fresh as it did on Day 1.

  2. Tools

    • Pliers - for pinching and pulling

    • Tweezers - for tiny pinching and adjusting

    • Rotary tool (I use a Dremel) - for removing old solder from a vintage bolo medallion, and for cleaning out old glue from vintage bolo tips

    • Exacto knife - for slicing lengths of bolo cord and also for removing soft solder from an old medallion

    • Industrial strength adhesive (I use Omni Stick) - for sticking things together in a way that won’t unstick

      • You could also use solder for the medallion part, but you’ll still need adhesive for the bolo tips

    • Rubbing alcohol - to remove gunk & junk from an old medallion

    • Silver polish - to make yo style sparkle, player

Step 1:
Take apart the bolo tie

Alright first things first folks, I cannot stress enough…

When taking apart something this old: BE DELICATE.

I use a proprietary blend of patience, delicacy, and small hand tools to get the job done.

 

The vintage silver medallion & fraying vinyl cord.

 

For this project I trusted my pliers, a pair of tweezers, and an Exacto knife.

To remove the aglets, use your pliers to grab the cord right where it joins the bolo tip.

Gently pull & twist until you start to get a little movement, and finally pluck out the cord in one go.

 

The vintage silver bolo tips (or aglets as we bolo-makers call ‘em)

 

The ancient glue that is holding the bolo tip on should give way pretty easily.

(Unless the maker was a bolo genius like me and used industrial strength adhesive to make sure that shit was extra durable.)

Toss the old cord. You won’t need it, especially if it looks as bad as this one right here.

 

Up close & personal with a vinyl bolo cord that has seen better days.

 

What you’ll keep:

  • The Medallion

  • The Bolo Tips

Throw out that ole crappy vinyl cord. We’re upgrading that with something much cooler today.

 

Step 2:
Clean + Prep the Medallion

This medallion looks like it is made of silver. TBH, it’s likely silver plating over something less valuable - maybe pewter or lead… I don’t know.

I can see the top layer chipping away in some areas, so this just means I need to be careful while cleaning it. Don’t want to make things worse while I’m trying to make them better.

As you can see below, before I cleaned the medallion, it was pretty junky.

 
Before  - Gunky and tarnished. Probably hadn’t been cleaned in 40 years.

Before - Gunky and tarnished. Probably hadn’t been cleaned in 40 years.

 

But with a little TLC (and rubbing alcohol applied via Q-tip), most of that junk came right off.

This left me with a spiffy little medallion that shined like a new penny.

 
After  - Shiny like a new penny. There are parts of this that are just too difficult to reach or simply too delicate, but that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be perfect - it is a vintage piece after all.

After - Shiny like a new penny. There are parts of this that are just too difficult to reach or simply too delicate, but that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be perfect - it is a vintage piece after all.

 

Once I had the front surface of the medallion cleaned it was time to take a look at the back.

If you look below, you can see this old world bolo slide I mentioned earlier in my supplies description.

 

Booooo. Whoever invented this type of slide is still burning in bolo hell.

 

All it does is CLAMP down on the cord and hold the bolo in place.

This is great if you’re the type of person who likes a clip-on neck tie. (boooo)

But it’s terrible if you’re a stylish person who adjusts an outfit to match your mood. (Sometimes a player’s just gotta loosen up, nahmsayin.)

I used my pliers to simply pull this slide right off the medallion.

 
 

In my experience, these old medallions have a slide that has been soldered on.

FYI: Solder is a really soft metal that is great for jewelry making. (But I’m not a jewelry maker. I’m a Bolo King, and I use industrial strength adhesive.)

Here you can see what it looks like after I have finished taking the slide off. I’ve also used my Dremel to clear away the old solder.

 
 

Since the solder is so soft, I switch between a Dremel and Exacto knife to clear it away.

With an Exacto knife you can literally carve away pieces of solder like cake.

JUST BE CAREFUL.

Like I’ve already said… the capital rule of repairing old bolo ties is BE DELICATE.

If you look closely at the image above, you can see that I’ve scored the metal a little bit.

This was done with an Exacto knife, and it is an essential step to consider when using industrial strength adhesive.

The rougher your surface is, the more surface area the adhesive has to bond with.

In addition to scoring the back of the medallion, I also scored the back of my new bolo clasp. Double whammy.

I attached the two pieces together using a healthy amount of Omni Stick, and used a dull Exacto blade to clear & smooth away any overflow.

 
New bolo slide for vintage bolo tie.jpg
 

Set your medallion out to dry while you work on the next steps.

Omni Stick is usually good to go within 30-60 minutes, but I usually let my bolos “cure” for 24 hours to ensure a proper bond.

Step 3:
Clean the Bolo Tips

While your new bolo slide is bonding to your medallion, it’s time to clean out those vintage bolo tips.

Taking all due care for a piece of vintage jewelry, bust out your Dremel.

If you don’t have a Dremel, it might make this part harder to complete. Before I had a Dremel, I used tweezers & pliers to manually pluck out as much old glue as I could.

Take your Dremel and select a rotary bit that is roughly the size of the bolo tip interior.

Ramp up your speed and carefully excavate the inside, cleaning out any old glue / residue.

Try not to damage the exterior of the bolo tip while using the Dremel - this is all too easy to do.

Once your bolo tips are clean, congrats! Now check to see how your new cord fits.

 
repurposing these vintage silver bolo tips.jpg
 

You can see below that I repurposed one of my old bolo cords for this project - this one is an untreated cotton cord in a color that matches the turquoise on the bolo medallion.

I simply removed the bolo tips using the same process listed above and made sure that after cleaning out the vintage tips my new cord would be able to fit.

 
Repurposing an old bolo tie cord for my new bolo.jpg
 

Step 4:
Assemble your bolo in the right order

The last step is to reassemble your new & improved bolo tie.

Be sure that you loop your new cord through the new bolo slide before glueing your tips on.

(I made the mistake once of getting so excited about my new bolo tips that I glued them on before putting the cord through the slide… It was pretty depressing realizing that I’d basically wasted by supplies.)

To Recap:

  1. Dismantle the old bolo tie delicately

  2. Clean all the parts & prepare your supplies

  3. Glue your new bolo slide onto your medallion

  4. Run your new bolo cord through the slide once the adhesive has dried

  5. Glue your bolo tips to the end of your cord and let everything dry for 24 hours.

  6. Wear your new bolo.

  7. ????

  8. PROFIT

Run through all these steps in the right order and VOILA!

You’ve got yourself a dope new bolo tie in a fly colorway.

 
vintage bolo tie repair - final photo.jpg
 
Repairing a vintage bolo tie - the finished product
vintage bolo tie repair - final photo 2
 
 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if I can answer any bolo questions for you. :)

Also let me know if you’re ever interested in a custom bolo tie, or you want an old bolo tie refurbished.

Message me on social and I’ll holler back.

Shep Bryan