View Full Version : Really grinds my gears

02-17-2016, 09:20 AM
First string change on my islander and the open geared tuners feel awful! Very stiff and grindey.
Anyone reccommend a lubricant that wont damage the instrument?

02-17-2016, 09:54 AM
Those are grover sta-tite's right?
Brass on steel shouldn't need lube. CoEoF of brass on steel is very low.
If it's grinding, you might be better off cleaning it than lubing it.
Or else the drive screw is bent.

On the upside, those sta-tites are only like.. $20 a set.

Can you tell where it's grinding?

02-17-2016, 02:39 PM
I'd try some air like out of a can of computer cleaner air, then a very light dusting of graphite powder. If that doesn't work, something may be bent.

Croaky Keith
02-17-2016, 10:38 PM
Try rubbing them over with a bit of graphite, (pencil lead).

02-18-2016, 12:15 AM
Is it a wound low G string? It might br grinding on the nut. Might need a larger groove in the nut. I had the same problem on my Aiersi when I switched to low G.

02-18-2016, 12:52 AM
Try rubbing them over with a bit of graphite, (pencil lead).

Not pencil lead.
Graphite is a powder.
Pencil lead is graphite + clay as a binder to make a solid.
Graphic is slippery, but clay is abrasive.

If you want to use graphite, you can buy it in a tube.
Don't try to use pencil lead.

02-18-2016, 01:10 AM
Will likely smooth out with use. I never overtightened a gear screw but wonder if that's a possibility.

02-18-2016, 02:34 AM
My uke that I take to the beach has open gears, I have to deal with corrosion as well as it getting sticky. I use a small drop of three in one oil, and I brush it in with a small paint brush.

02-18-2016, 04:48 AM
I tend to avoid liquid lube on open gears. The problem is that the oils are sticky, and attract dust dirt, which ends up being a problem again in the long run. If you keep it clean, stuff doesn't really stick.

Brass on Steel has a low coefficient of friction.
That combination of metals is often used for things that need to slide against each other.
Steel on steel though.. can need some help.

I'm not saying lube is bad.... but it shouldn't be needed, and long term will require more maintenance because it gum's and attracts gunk.

02-18-2016, 08:14 AM
I have reservations about oil of any kind around wood and I avoid it. Once stained, there is no way to unstain the wood.

There is a source for world-class advice on this subject and for all kinds of stringed instruments. It's the warm and witty web site of Frank Ford, the proprietor of Gryphon Music. There are directions for lubricating and servicing machine heads. On other forums when people have tuner questions they are almost always directed here:


A second well-respected reference is www.lutherie.net
He's a fan of Tri-flow.

This search:

maintenance mandolin tuning heads

Will get you a host of results, but the first two above are serious websites from people who actually know what they're talking about.

02-18-2016, 02:54 PM
...the first two above are serious websites from people who actually know what they're talking about.

I realize this might have sounded offensive. I meant absolutely no slight to the folks here! I was referring to the anonymous and random advice one gets from web searches.

02-18-2016, 10:48 PM
The main problem I've found with inexpensive open back tuners is that the base plate doesn't hold the shaft with the worm gear very tightly. This causes slack as the worm gear loses contact with the tooth gear when first moving in one direction or another. And very often the hooks of the base plate are uneven, or the grooves in the shaft aren't machined smooth. This is usually the source of that grinding feel. I've tried to tighten some up by massaging the hooks on the base plate, but it doesn't work well.

My advice, which I think someone else mentioned, is to buy a set of Grover Sta-tites. Stewmac has them in nickel for about $13.50 a set plus shipping, and they're worth every penny. You can get them with bllack or white buttons. They also have gold colored sets, but they cost more.

02-19-2016, 12:59 AM
I think the islander came with grover sta-tite's though.

02-19-2016, 08:15 AM
Oh -- I missed that. Are the tuners branded as Grovers? Sta-tites aren't high-class tuners, but they shouldn't feel rough. I've seen poorly cut gears on really cheap tuners, but the Sta-tites I've bought directly have been very smooth. You might contact the uke maker to see what they use.

Another option would be to buy a new set of Sta-tites and see if they work better. It wouldn't be a big expense.