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View Full Version : Replacing friction tuners (for a non-luthier)



mailman
08-12-2010, 12:10 PM
I have a custom soprano with friction tuners....which I've come to hate. They are very difficult to use, and don't work well, IMHO. I showed this uke to some folks at UWC2010 who have much more experience than I do, and they told me that the tuners on my uke were very cheap, and not highly thought of.

I've seen positive comments here regarding tuners from the eBay seller, tiasamlu. I have just ordered a set of four uke tuners from him, #229, I believe, in chrome and black.

What do I need to know to successfully swap out the old tuners with the new ones? Any pitfalls I should watch out for, or is it pretty straightforward?

Thanks in advance for any advice....

ProfChris
08-12-2010, 12:47 PM
If you're swapping for better friction tuners it should be very simple. Remove single screw on back of each tuner button, remove bits, disassemble new tuner, fits bits in same order, tighten screw.

Possible gotchas:

1. New tuners have extra bits (washers most likely) - refer to instructions! If none, take a guess at right order, and if it doesn't feel right try a different order. Tuners are usually supplied assembled, so the parts go together in the same order. Thus your only question is whether this washer goes at the front or the back. Leave at least one new tuner assembled so you can check the order of the parts.

2. It's possible that the insert on the front of the headstock is a different size (on cheap tuners this looks like a hexagonal nut with a cylinder unedneath which fits into the hole).

If the insert is too large: (a) if close in size, try pressing it in gently (I use pliers with insulating tape on the jaws to prevent marking the headstock). If it won't go, you need to make the hole a little bigger, but only deep enough to take the insert, not all the way through. If you use a hand electric drill, it is likely to grab the wood and shoot all the way through before you can stop it (ask me how I know!) I'd try wrapping the end of drill bit in tape for a better grip and then turning it by hand. If you have a drill press, set the stop so you only go just deep enough.

If the insert is smaller than the hole then I'd first try fitting the tuners and seeing if it doesn't matter. If they wobble you need to glue a dowel in the hole and re-drill - proper luthiers will be along to advise the best method.

Jnobianchi
08-12-2010, 08:41 PM
I just did this last week, and for about the fifth time. Acquired a MayBell model 24 that was missing 3 tuners, so the decision to go with new Grovers was a no-brainer. True enough, as ProfChris says, new tuner inserts are often bigger, and they are of various types and shapes. I went with Grover 1s as they are closest in size to the originals, but they still have a beveled piece that needs to be countersunk into the headstock, so the neck went into a vise (well padded) and I carefully and slowly dremel sanded the countersink holes into the headstock. It worked fine thanks to having the right attachment, but if you have a drill press and a countersink bit, that would be a LOT easier and relatively risk free.

That said, this is one of the easiest things you'll do with a vintage uke. You just don't want to be half-baked in going about it. With the right tool (a drill press), the whole operation can take a few minutes.

RyanMFT
08-12-2010, 08:51 PM
I don't like to make a countersunk hole for the washer on the top of the headstock of a vintage uke when replacing tuners. So, I go to the hardware store and buy a small package of chrome flat washers, or stainless depending on what looks better and just substitute those on the top side. Cost is usually a dollar or so for the washers.

Tip: galvanized washers don't look good next to chrome in my opinion. Spring for the stainless/chrome if you are doing this.

chadp
08-13-2010, 03:02 AM
I have two ukes with geared tuners and one with friction, and my five string banjo also has friction tuners. I find they take a bit more effort to get RIGHT at pitch than geared ones, but other than that, i'm happy with them.

Timbuck
08-13-2010, 04:39 AM
Dear "Mailman"..the tuners you have purchased will require the holes to be 5/16" dia..drill them out as neat as possible and you should have no problems..apart from sometimes the screw will need shortening a little:mad:..if this is the case it is best to grind it down a couple of mm's, *Note* a hack saw will not cut it, as it is made from very hard plated steel.:D

dustartist
08-13-2010, 05:05 AM
Yikes! If you need to enlarge the holes, please don't use a drill bit. Most likely you will chip the finish around the tuner hole. You want to use a reamer to enlarge the holes. Wont chip the finish and you will stay concentric to the original hole

thistle3585
08-13-2010, 05:40 AM
Just go to a hardware store and buy a tapered reamer. The bushings need to be pressed in, so don't make the hole too large. To press them, use a C clamp with a caul to protect the back of the headstock and the bushing.

Although I don't recommend it, you can use a drill bit but spin it in reverse.

mailman
08-13-2010, 07:18 AM
Dear "Mailman"..the tuners you have purchased will require the holes to be 5/16" dia..drill them out as neat as possible and you should have no problems..apart from sometimes the screw will need shortening a little:mad:..if this is the case it is best to grind it down a couple of mm's, *Note* a hack saw will not cut it, as it is made from very hard plated steel.:D

Thanks for the info! Would that require a 5/16" straight-sided hole, or a tapered hole which is maximum 5/16"? I have access to a drill press, but have no tapered reams.

I do have a grinder, so shortening the screw would not be problematic. How would I knoe whether or not to shorten it? And, how would I know how much to shorten it if need be?

mailman
08-13-2010, 07:20 AM
Yikes! If you need to enlarge the holes, please don't use a drill bit. Most likely you will chip the finish around the tuner hole. You want to use a reamer to enlarge the holes. Wont chip the finish and you will stay concentric to the original hole

I'm unfamiliar with reamers....are you meaning tapered? If so, how do I determine how large to go?

mailman
08-13-2010, 07:21 AM
Just go to a hardware store and buy a tapered reamer. The bushings need to be pressed in, so don't make the hole too large. To press them, use a C clamp with a caul to protect the back of the headstock and the bushing.

Although I don't recommend it, you can use a drill bit but spin it in reverse.

Forgive my ignorance, but what is a "caul"? Also, how would a drill bit spun in reverse cut anything?

thistle3585
08-13-2010, 09:54 AM
A drill bit used in reverse will "scrape" its way through the wood as opposed to cutting. On lacquered instruments, I normally pre-drill with a bit half the diameter then use the final it in reverse so that it doesn't splinter or chip the lacquer. This is standard operating procedure as I tend to drill holes in my electrics after the finish is buffed out.

A caul is a protective piece of wood, leather etc that is used between the clamp face and the surface of the item being clamped to protect it from being marred or damaged.

Andrew

Timbuck
08-13-2010, 11:57 AM
:D Intresting stuff this is ??..drills in reverse??? ..Taper reamers for parallel fittings ????..what taper do you recommend ????..I will review this thread with intrest..carry on Chaps. :D

Bradford
08-13-2010, 12:25 PM
The bushings that come with Grover and Schaller tuners are tapered and I use a reamer that matches that taper.

Brad

barefootgypsy
03-03-2012, 02:29 AM
If you're swapping for better friction tuners it should be very simple. Remove single screw on back of each tuner button, remove bits, disassemble new tuner, fits bits in same order, tighten screw.

Possible gotchas:

1. New tuners have extra bits (washers most likely) - refer to instructions! If none, take a guess at right order, and if it doesn't feel right try a different order. Tuners are usually supplied assembled, so the parts go together in the same order. Thus your only question is whether this washer goes at the front or the back. Leave at least one new tuner assembled so you can check the order of the parts.

2. It's possible that the insert on the front of the headstock is a different size (on cheap tuners this looks like a hexagonal nut with a cylinder unedneath which fits into the hole).

If the insert is too large: (a) if close in size, try pressing it in gently (I use pliers with insulating tape on the jaws to prevent marking the headstock). If it won't go, you need to make the hole a little bigger, but only deep enough to take the insert, not all the way through. If you use a hand electric drill, it is likely to grab the wood and shoot all the way through before you can stop it (ask me how I know!) I'd try wrapping the end of drill bit in tape for a better grip and then turning it by hand. If you have a drill press, set the stop so you only go just deep enough.

If the insert is smaller than the hole then I'd first try fitting the tuners and seeing if it doesn't matter. If they wobble you need to glue a dowel in the hole and re-drill - proper luthiers will be along to advise the best method.

I've just bought a vintage Slingerland Maybell in great condition but one of the tuners slips, and the screw is already tightened right up - so I've got the screw out to clean it as per advice I've read - I wanted to put a tiny washer between the tuner and and the wood of the peghead, but - I thought the tuner would just come out, but it won't - and I'm turning the tuner round and round but it doesn't come apart or come out - what am I doing wrong? Please don't get too technical on me, I'm a girlie......! I think the tuners are original.

Rick Turner
03-03-2012, 09:38 AM
Do you guys understand the concept of "0" (as in zero) rake drill bits? An absolute must for safely drilling wood, brass, or PlexiGlas (Perspex for you Brit types) or enlarging existing holes.

Also note the difference between "patent" style friction tuners and old-style violin type friction tuners. Two completely different beasts...

Kayak Jim
03-03-2012, 10:09 AM
Seemed like a simple task didn't it? "I'll just swap out these tuners...."

Rick Turner
03-03-2012, 10:59 AM
Just remember that when non-luthiers attempt to do lutherie work, the result is often job security for luthiers at best, and land fill at worst.

You wouldn't believe how a simple task like drilling out undersized holes can turn into a complete disaster.

http://www.sdplastics.com/polycast.html Scroll down to the drill bit mod. Appropriate for wood, brass, or plastics...

Liam Ryan
03-03-2012, 11:53 AM
Rick, do you use the zero rake drills for everything or just for specific tasks?

ProfChris
03-03-2012, 12:08 PM
I've just bought a vintage Slingerland Maybell in great condition but one of the tuners slips, and the screw is already tightened right up - so I've got the screw out to clean it as per advice I've read - I wanted to put a tiny washer between the tuner and and the wood of the peghead, but - I thought the tuner would just come out, but it won't - and I'm turning the tuner round and round but it doesn't come apart or come out - what am I doing wrong? Please don't get too technical on me, I'm a girlie......! I think the tuners are original.

I'm not clear precisely where you've got to on this, so what follows is my guess: You've removed the screw but nothing happens. (If wrong, ignore what follows)

The answer is that the button is a press fit on the post, which goes all the way through the peghead and round which the string winds on the other side. You must, carefully, pull the knob off the shaft. Because these are old tuners the knob might be fragile, so don't lever it off with a screwdriver. If it really doesn'twant to move some heat may help - a cloth dipped in warm water and wrung out would be a safe way to apply heat. A hair dryer is more risky because you don't know the temperature at which these knobs will melt or burst into flames!

Once the knob is removed the post will slide out (on the upper surface of the peghead), and any washers on the under surface will fall on the floor. Sotry to take it apart in such a way as to stop this happening.

It might be that once you've cleaned everything up, including the screw thread, it will work properly. If not, the washer goes on the underside of the peghead, and you will need to decide how to workit with any other washers which are there already.

A leather washer, if you can find or make one, is probably better than a metal one. Brass would be better than steel.

If you've removed the knob and the tuner still won't come apart then it's an unusual design - pictures will help someone here recognise how it works.

ProfChris
03-03-2012, 12:23 PM
Just remember that when non-luthiers attempt to do lutherie work, the result is often job security for luthiers at best, and land fill at worst.

You wouldn't believe how a simple task like drilling out undersized holes can turn into a complete disaster.

http://www.sdplastics.com/polycast.html Scroll down to the drill bit mod. Appropriate for wood, brass, or plastics...

Rick, many thanks for this link! I had no idea ...

As a (very) amateur builder I'd dealt with the problem by first drilling a small pilot hole, then drilling from both sides to avoid tear-out at the exit (except on the first two, where fortunately the bushing/washers covered the damage). Will try this out soon - I was going to say "on the current build", but I'm now experienced enough to test my mod on scrap first!

barefootgypsy
03-05-2012, 01:59 AM
I'm not clear precisely where you've got to on this, so what follows is my guess: You've removed the screw but nothing happens. (If wrong, ignore what follows)

The answer is that the button is a press fit on the post, which goes all the way through the peghead and round which the string winds on the other side. You must, carefully, pull the knob off the shaft. Because these are old tuners the knob might be fragile, so don't lever it off with a screwdriver. If it really doesn'twant to move some heat may help - a cloth dipped in warm water and wrung out would be a safe way to apply heat. A hair dryer is more risky because you don't know the temperature at which these knobs will melt or burst into flames!

Once the knob is removed the post will slide out (on the upper surface of the peghead), and any washers on the under surface will fall on the floor. Sotry to take it apart in such a way as to stop this happening.

It might be that once you've cleaned everything up, including the screw thread, it will work properly. If not, the washer goes on the underside of the peghead, and you will need to decide how to workit with any other washers which are there already.

A leather washer, if you can find or make one, is probably better than a metal one. Brass would be better than steel.

If you've removed the knob and the tuner still won't come apart then it's an unusual design - pictures will help someone here recognise how it works.

Oh thanks for this! I've only just found your reply, so something adrift on my notifications somewhere - (maybe). That is all SO helpful.... As I hadn't seen your reply, this morning I got up and decided to go at it with a drop of oil, to try and loosen it. I've put a drop of very light sewing machine oil down the shaft, and another drop at the base of the black button. I'll leave that for a while and see what happens. if I still can't shift it I'll try a bit of heat. I believe the tuners are original and the uke was built in the 20's - but it's in generally great condition. The tuners are beautiful so I don't want to replace any of them! Here's a pic....34706 I'll get to play this baby if if it's the last thing I do! Thanks so much for your help - I'll post the progress......

strumsilly
03-05-2012, 04:39 AM
Just remember that when non-luthiers attempt to do lutherie work, the result is often job security for luthiers at best, and land fill at worst.

You wouldn't believe how a simple task like drilling out undersized holes can turn into a complete disaster.

http://www.sdplastics.com/polycast.html Scroll down to the drill bit mod. Appropriate for wood, brass, or plastics...
I read the bit , pun intended, about grinding flats on the cutting edge. but didn't really understand exactly where to grind. are you taking a 'bit' off the leading edge to make the bit less aggressive so it won't bite/grab and chip?

Pukulele Pete
03-05-2012, 04:53 AM
Can't you just clamp a piece of scrap wood to the face of the headstock and then drill through the back to prevent damage to the face of the headstock ? It's worked for me.

barefootgypsy
03-05-2012, 04:57 AM
To ProfChris - I have got that tuner apart now! I took one of the others off to see how it should be, and after a couple of hours with the Singer oil in, and a bit of extra tug on the button, it came off fine! There are no washers in this set-up, but I'll make a little leather one if I can. What's the best way to clean up the screw? And do you think I should just leave the machine oil (it's a very very light one) in the tuner? Or soak it in something to get it out again? Thanks so much for your help! :)

Timbuck
03-05-2012, 05:00 AM
If you can get one the correct size ..a straight flute drill will do a decent job...ideal for opening up holes in wood, plastic, brass, etc:
this is a 1/4" one on e-bay.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Kennametal-Straight-Flute-Carbide-1-4-Drill-NEW-BN13-/380281688938?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item588a8e136a

ProfChris
03-05-2012, 05:12 AM
I'd treat that brass bell-shaped part as a washer, and put a leather washer underneath (if needed).

Clean up the screw thread with soapy water and a nail brush (don't drop it down the sink, so put the plug in!), dry well then oil lightly, wipe off as much oil as possible with a tissue.

Reassemble tuner and see if it now holds. If the screw still bottoms out, make your leather washer to go between the brass bit and the peghead.

barefootgypsy
03-05-2012, 05:27 AM
I'd treat that brass bell-shaped part as a washer, and put a leather washer underneath (if needed).

Clean up the screw thread with soapy water and a nail brush (don't drop it down the sink, so put the plug in!), dry well then oil lightly, wipe off as much oil as possible with a tissue.

Reassemble tuner and see if it now holds. If the screw still bottoms out, make your leather washer to go between the brass bit and the peghead.

So do you mean two washers? One either side of the head? I'll do what you say with the screw - there isn't any oil on that; it was already out. You are such a star. :)

barefootgypsy
03-05-2012, 05:29 AM
Silly me, you said to put a bit of oil on it - yes I'll do all that.

Rick Turner
03-05-2012, 06:13 AM
The modified drill bits scrape rather than aggressively dig into wood, brass, or plastics. Ordinary twist bits are designed for ferrous metals where you need that self-feeding digging action.

I've modified nearly all the drill bits in my shop for safety drilling. I keep a fresh set of drills for working with steel or iron.

Another trick for ultra clean holes is to drill a 1/8", 3/16", or 1/4" pilot hole through the wood, and then use the correct combination of "aircraft" piloted counterbore choosing the appropriate pilot size to go with the right final counterbore size. You drill the pilot hole straight through, and then counterbore just over half way through from each side. Do it right and you'll have absolutely clean, no blow out holes.

This is machine shop stuff. Ken will be perfectly familiar with these ways of doing things. I highly recommend that if you've got a community college near you that gives a machine shop course, that you take that course. It will completely open up your approach to making precision things out of wood as well as free you to design much better jigs and fixtures.