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View Full Version : Replacing friction tuners with geared tuners?



tad
04-10-2008, 12:54 AM
I just got ukulele number three in the mail yesterday. I'm psyched. It also happens to be the first uke in my collection to have friction tuners.

I know some people like the friction tuners, but I don't care for it. I really prefer the precision you get from geared tuners' gear ratio.

I was thinking about ordering some tuners somewhere and switching 'em out. Which leads me to a few questions:

--How easy is it to install geared tuners where there had been friction tuners before? Is this something where I'm going to want to take it into a guitar shop?
--What should I look for in a tuner?
--Is there anything I should know before making this change?

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

WS64
04-10-2008, 01:22 AM
Usually the holes for the geared tuners have to be slightly bigger.
So it depends on how experienced you are with a drilling machine. I don't think it's a job for a guitar store but for a good craftsman.
No recommendations for any kind of tuners, but of course you should keep in mind that this process is irreversible (well, of course you could close the holes again and drill new ones in case you want to get back to friction tuners).
But who wants to get back to fristion ones? I have geard tuners on ALL of mine, and i would not buy any uke with friction tuners at all (or at least I would get them replaced immediately).

tad
04-10-2008, 01:33 AM
Usually the holes for the geared tuners have to be slightly bigger.
So it depends on how experienced you are with a drilling machine. I don't think it's a job for a guitar store but for a good craftsman.
No recommendations for any kind of tuners, but of course you should keep in mind that this process is irreversible (well, of course you could close the holes again and drill new ones in case you want to get back to friction tuners).
But who wants to get back to fristion ones? I have geard tuners on ALL of mine, and i would not buy any uke with friction tuners at all (or at least I would get them replaced immediately).

Just for the record, I wasn't thinking of taking it to Guitar Center or anything-- just a specialty shop that does sales and repairs-- something like this place (http://www.theguitarshop.us/index.htm)...

Have you had a tuner replacement done? What'd it run you?

WS64
04-10-2008, 01:42 AM
Just for the record, I wasn't thinking of taking it to Guitar Center or anything-- just a specialty shop that does sales and repairs-- something like this place (http://www.theguitarshop.us/index.htm)...

Have you had a tuner replacement done? What'd it run you?


Yes, 3 times, but I did not dare to drill the holes myself, I got some more expirienced friends drilling the holes for me. The actual installing of the new tuners is pretty easy, the hole deal is really just the new holes.

deach
04-10-2008, 10:15 AM
Are any friction tuners any good? I'm in the same boat. I just ordered a ukulele and it has friction tuners. I'd like to keep it original but if they start slipping or if I have a hard time keeping it tune or tuning it, I may have to get some good geared tuners.

NotoriousMOK
04-10-2008, 11:21 AM
I have friction tuners on my first two ukes and they work just fine and never slip. Gear ratio is 1:1 on most friction tuners, but I understand somebody makes some that have a 4:1 ratio, but they are kinda pricey.

I suggest that if yours comes with friction tuners that you at least try them for a while before drilling or modifying your new uke. If you do choose to swap them out, you can find them on stewmac, hanalima, or even ukuleleworld

have fun!

tad
04-11-2008, 06:37 AM
I mostly just don't care for the 1:1 gear ratio bit. And on this ukulele:

http://www.republicguitars.com/images/448_IMG_2064.JPG

I really think some nickel-plated gear tuners would look nice.

NukeDOC
04-11-2008, 07:22 AM
friction tuners somewhat take some skill to use correctly.

first of all we must all realize that nylon will stretch, settle, and can be affected by temperature and other weather conditions. so just be cause you set the tune one day, doesnt mean it will be in tune tomorrow. live with it.

next, we must all understand how a friction tuner works, and how the different parts work to tune your uke. the part that you actually turn with your fingers... well thats self explanatory right? but if you want to make precision adjustments on a 1:1 ratio tuner, its going to be next to impossible to do with your fingers. so i use a tool to create a lever. so when the end of that lever travels 1cm, the tuner is only rotating 1 degree (this is an example). the next part people tend to overlook is the screw at the end of the tuning key. that screw tightens the tuner. basically locks it down by increasing the FRICTION of the tuning key against the bushing that keeps it in place. while tuning, you want to adjust this friction to where you can still tune the instrument, while not slipping back under the tension of the string. once in tune, you want to tighten this screw to the point that it locks the position into place and doesnt slip over time... or at least for the next 24hrs hehehe. but be careful that you dont end up turning the tuning key as you are tightening the friction adjustment screw.

recap:
1. nylon stretches
2. nylon reacts to environment
3. learn how to use friction tuners
4. its not because your uke is cheap. its because you dont know how to use your uke... yet. haha

tad
04-11-2008, 07:30 AM
nukedoc-- I never said that the problem was my cheap ukulele. (It is rather cheap, but it's the most expensive one I have, actually.) I understand how nylon works. I even knew most of what you said about how friction tuners work-- although the whole lever principle hadn't occurred to me... that said, I'd prefer to be able to tune it precisely with my fingers. One less tool to carry around, innit?

I just don't really care for the friction tuners. I like how easy it is to make smaller adjustments on the geared tuners, because of the gear ratio. I also prefer the look of "ears" to that more traditional look. It's just a personal preference thing. Maybe you prefer friction tuners? Maybe I'm ignorant for not caring for 'em. I don't really care, though. It's my personal preference.

If I remember correctly, you work on and mod ukuleles. I appreciate that you're sharing your knowledge. But I'd appreciate it more if you shared knowledge relevant to the questions in the original post, as you're one of the people in the community I know is qualified to answer 'em.

NukeDOC
04-11-2008, 08:02 AM
nukedoc-- I never said that the problem was my cheap ukulele. (It is rather cheap, but it's the most expensive one I have, actually.) I understand how nylon works. I even knew most of what you said about how friction tuners work-- although the whole lever principle hadn't occurred to me... that said, I'd prefer to be able to tune it precisely with my fingers. One less tool to carry around, innit?

I just don't really care for the friction tuners. I like how easy it is to make smaller adjustments on the geared tuners, because of the gear ratio. I also prefer the look of "ears" to that more traditional look. It's just a personal preference thing. Maybe you prefer friction tuners? Maybe I'm ignorant for not caring for 'em. I don't really care, though. It's my personal preference.

If I remember correctly, you work on and mod ukuleles. I appreciate that you're sharing your knowledge. But I'd appreciate it more if you shared knowledge relevant to the questions in the original post, as you're one of the people in the community I know is qualified to answer 'em.

haha my reply wasnt directed at you. it was more of a general statement. personally, i dont care for them either. i actually switched out the tuners on my brother's uke from friction to geared because he was one of the people complaining about how they kept slipping and didnt stay in tune. hahaha. so we traded for the ones on my hilo baritone. and they have never slipped or gone out of tune like he was describing. he just didnt know how to use them, even after i told him how to hahaha (sorry for using you as an example, bugoy).

but yeah, personal preference is what its all about. whatever floats yer boat yeah? like i said, i prefer geared tuners as well.

as for the questions in the original post, i was going to try to answer them but they were all pretty much answered by the other poeple on the board. but i appologize for the threadjack hahaha. but yeah, just get a set of geared tuners. and if you are having trouble finding "ukulele tuners" just look for some guitar tuners (3 left and 3 right) and dont use two of them. remove the friction tuners and see how they fit into the existing holes. if its a little too tight, just use a slightly bigger drill bit and bore it out. this doesnt need to be precision, either. as long as you are staying fairly perpendicular to the wood on the headstock, you will be cool. the initial hole will act as a pilot.

off the top of my head, the only thing you might want to keep in mind is that open geared tuners are generally lighter than sealed geared tuners. but depending on the size of your headstock and how close the initial holes are to the edge, bear in mind the size of the base of the open geared tuner. they can be pretty wide sometimes and might stick out the side. a set of mini sealed geared tuners may be what you need and most of the time they only need one screw to be set in place.

sorry again about the threadjack and confusion. i really wasnt trying to call you out. its just that i see so many people complaining about how their ukes keep going out of tune and the two main excuses are "cheap uke" and "friction tuners" hahaha.

seeso
04-11-2008, 08:13 AM
I'm not entirely sure, but I think there are two types of friction tuners.

There are the traditional 1:1 tapered peg friction tuners:

http://img101.imageshack.us/img101/4775/frictiontunertf9.jpg

And there are mechanical friction tuners:

http://img129.imageshack.us/img129/6972/mechfrictiontunerdc8.jpg

The tapered friction tuners require a tapered hole in the headstock. If this is the type of friction tuner you have, then you should definitely take it in to switch to geared tuners, because you may have to fill that hole in first.

I don't think that the mechanical friction tuners (what Nuke is referring to) would require a tapered hole, so these may be easier to switch out.

At any rate, I would suggest taking it in, whether you have tapered pegs or mechanical pegs. It's just not worth it to learn how to switch them out on an ukulele that you like. Best to learn on a junker. My two cents.

As an aside, if you like the traditional tapered peg tuners, there is an option available that offers a 4:1 ratio. They're called pegheds, and you can find them here:

http://www.pegheds.com/

Again, I could be completely wrong about all this. If I am, someone please correct me.

tad
04-11-2008, 08:27 AM
sorry again about the threadjack and confusion. i really wasnt trying to call you out. its just that i see so many people complaining about how their ukes keep going out of tune and the two main excuses are "cheap uke" and "friction tuners" hahaha.

Dude-- sorry about the confusion as well. I was just kind of confused, like, "why's he calling my ukulele cheap?" Everything you say makes total sense, though. I'm thinking about calling the place I linked to earlier and asking them for an estimate. Like I said, the Republic may be about the cheapest dobro style uke on the market, but it's still the most expensive one I've yet bought, and I'm actually quite liking it. Don't wanna **** up a ukulele that runs around three hundred bucks. I'm poor.



As an aside, if you like the traditional tapered peg tuners, there is an option available that offers a 4:1 ratio. They're called pegheds, and you can find them here:

http://www.pegheds.com/

Again, I could be completely wrong about all this. If I am, someone please correct me.

I don't really care, as I said, for friction tuners aesthetically. That said, the pegheads look pretty cool. I like the idea of "secret geared tuners."

seeso
04-11-2008, 08:31 AM
What size is the ukulele? If it's a soprano or concert, you may want to keep in mind that there's a danger of your ukulele becoming top-heavy with geared tuners.

If your ukulele's balance is out of whack, it could mess with your playing.

tad
04-11-2008, 08:41 AM
It's a concert, but it's metal bodied, so the risk of becoming topheavy seems rather low.

seeso
04-11-2008, 09:03 AM
It's a concert, but it's metal bodied, so the risk of becoming topheavy seems rather low.

Oh, the picture that you posted is the ukulele in question? I didn't know that. Sweet. That will look nice with some geared tuners.

tad
04-11-2008, 09:40 AM
Oh, the picture that you posted is the ukulele in question? I didn't know that. Sweet. That will look nice with some geared tuners.

Yeah, well, that's a pic from the manufacturer's website. This is my actual uke:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/retius/2401704581/

...but there's not any real difference. I do think it'd look nice with some nickel plated tuners stickin' out the sides.

It's a Republic. I'm really happy with it thus far. Plan on posting a review once I've had it for a few more days and I've put better strings on, etc...

polynesianpop
06-15-2008, 05:11 PM
Tad,
Did you ever get this done?

I'm bringing up this old thread because I'm now in the same boat. I picked up an Ohana 35G Concert Uke that came with Gotoh friction tuners. I ended up purchasing some Gotoh sealed gear tuners because (1) I wanted more precision tuning and (2) I like the "eared" look on the headstock. I picked up these at Hana Lima (http://www.hanalimastore.com/servlet/Detail?no=14) because the pearl buttons will match real nice with the inlay on my uke.

So I tried installing them today and found that the holes for the friction tuners are smaller than the shaft of the geared tuners I just bought. I was thinking of drilling the holes larger myself as a guitar friend of mine said it doesn't need to be precise per se. Thing is, all the research I've done online leads to me believe that I'm being better off taking it to a local luthier.

What did you end up doing and how did it turn out?

tad
06-15-2008, 05:52 PM
I took it to a local shop, got it back the next day-- I'd already taken out the mechanical friction tuners and purchased the geared ones...

It was pretty straightforward, but I wasn't going to be the one to ruin my new uke.

Also, the guitar tech guy I had do it said that I was cutting it close with the head-- when you look at how they're made, it's a different piece of wood, so that the grain of the wood reenforces the angle. But he said he could pull it off.

He did. It ran a bit more than I would have liked-- about thirty bucks, but I think the uke looks 100 times better, and I don't have to deal with the PITA 1:1 gear ratio.

deach
06-15-2008, 05:55 PM
Tad - did you take it to the Guitar Shop in DC?

tad
06-15-2008, 06:08 PM
No-- I was lazy. I went into the Guitar Center in Fairfax. I normally recommend people steer clear of the place, but the guy who does repairs actually seemed to know his stuff-- I talked with him for a while, and found him friendly, knowledgeable, etc. So I left it with him. The Guitar Shop's rates were cheaper, though, and I'd bet their staff's even more qualified.

But the repair guy at GC Fairfax did a good job-- and got it done by the next day.

Gaby
06-16-2008, 03:27 AM
One tip in relation to these kind of operations: buy the parts (and perhaps new strings) at the shop where you get the work done and you should end up paying less for labour! You generally get an 'all-in price' which should work out better (at least it does at my shop) - especially if you pop into your small local store. E.g. we install pickups for free if purchased at our shop (provided it's a straight forward drop in type operation without modifications required), but not if purchased elsewhere. It's worth checking this out, eBay parts + labour at local shop may not work out as cheap as you thought.

polynesianpop
06-16-2008, 04:01 AM
One tip in relation to these kind of operations: buy the parts (and perhaps new strings) at the shop where you get the work done and you should end up paying less for labour!

That makes sense which is what I would have done initially if I'd known that the tuner shaft sizes were different. Both were Gotoh brand so I naturally assumed they were going to be the same size but I was wrong! :o


I went into the Guitar Center in Fairfax.

Hmmm. Guitar Center. Why didn't I think of that? :confused: Did you end up putting all new strings as well or did you keep the old ones? The uke is only a little over a week old and has new Aquila strings so I would hate to have to toss those out yet.

cMejilla
06-16-2008, 04:06 AM
Hmmm. Guitar Center. Why didn't I think of that? :confused: Did you end up putting all new strings as well or did you keep the old ones? The uke is only a little over a week old and has new Aquila strings so I would hate to have to toss those out yet.

i wouldnt think you'd have to change all of the strings if you changed to tuners. worst case scenario would be that. if anything happened, the strings would simply lose their "memory" of how stretched out they are and you would just have to deal with the couple of days of stretching them back out and having to re-tune your uke more than usual.

snowdog
08-24-2010, 05:28 AM
You know, I hated my friction tuners when I first got my Hilo Baritone. But after a while I forget all about them, until I have to change my strings again!

Granted, I still prefer geared, but I don't know if I want to run the risk of ruining my Strider.

olgoat52
08-24-2010, 06:19 AM
I saw the term "drill" several times. I would use a tapered reamer to increase the hole size to fit the new tuners. That works for both types of tuners and is a ton safer than drilling the headstock. FWIW. I would use a tapered reamer like Stewart MacDonald sells, not the type you get at Ace hardware or Home Depot. The taper is too extreme on those for luthier work.