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View Full Version : Upgrading tuners - advice please



ichadwick
08-07-2008, 07:23 AM
I want to upgrade some open geared tuners on one uke, and replace the friction tuners on my Republic reso with either geared or planetary tuners. But the world of tuners is somewhat alien to me. I would appreciate some advice.

I'd appreciate some advice - what measurements should I have in hand when shopping? Post height? Diameter?

What should I look for in tuners? Favourite brands? How easy are they to replace/install?

I am seriously thinking of using planetary tuners for my reso. It is heavy enough they would balance the body better. And that would allow me to experiment with steel strings as well as nylon. Again - any advice on buying and installing planetary tuners?

LoMa
08-07-2008, 07:53 AM
The hardest thing about installing upgraded tuners is that you often have to enlarge the peg holes - not hard to do, but might need some patience. You can either:

a. plug the existing peg hole by gluing a dowel into it. The you just drill a new hole. You should use a jig or drill press to make sure you're drilling straight and accurately, OR

b. use a reamer or a circular file to enlarge the existing hole - chain saw files work well in my experience.

If you're looking for high quality and lightweight open geared uke tuners, I highly recommend Grover Ukulele 14:1 Tuning Machines - they're good for pegheads of up 1/2" thick, and peg hole daimeter they require is realtively small - 11/32" - so you don't have to enlarge the existing pegholes much from that of a friction tuner. They're not too expensive either! You can see them here:
http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tuners/Ukulele_tuners/Grover_Ukulele_Tuning_Machines.html

For a thicker peghead, you might want to consider GROVER STA-TITES tuners for guitars - thay only in sets of six, but these are great open-backed tuners! They are heavier than the Grover uke tuners, but they work well on heavier bodies ukes. Note that the string post is higher than those on uke tuners, so you may need to have your strings longer than you normally do ot make more windings around the string post - that way the string will sit snug against the nut. If that doesn;t make sense, ask me and I'll atry to make that clearer. Anyway, you can see them here:
http://elderly.com/accessories/items/GTM5N.htm

Planetary pegs are heavier and also require a larger peghole - more like 10mm or about 3/8". So yo have to remove more wood from the existing pegholes to install these - not a big deal but kinda tedious.

I personally like Schaller Planetaries - they have a big knurled locking nut so you can easily adjust the turning tension without worrying about stripping a little screw head. But there are also lots of folks who like the 5-star brand. They are both excellent quality pegs.

An alternative is to get narrow shaft planetary tuners which only require a 9/32" peg hole - much easier to install because of that and you don't have to drill out so much of your peghead. These pegs work fine and have the same 4:1 gear ration as the other planetaries, but they don't work quite as smoothly as their more expensive brethren. But they work just fine, but they're not butter smooth when turning them.

In any case, I happen to have a brand new set of Schaller Planetary pegs and new set of the Narrow Shaft Planetaries too. I'll sell 'em at a good discount if you're interested.

By the way, how thick are the pegheads of the ukes you want to upgrade? That will impact what tuners you can use.

Hope this helps!

polynesianpop
08-07-2008, 09:47 AM
ichadwick, I just did this a couple months ago on my Ohana Concert. From that process I found that most frictions tuners use a 9/32" mounting shaft and most sealed gear tuners use a 3/8" mounting shaft.

Before you do this here are a couple things to think about:

1. What size is your uke? I went from friction tuners to geared tuners. It increased the overall head weight by about 16oz (4oz each). This is something to think about if your uke is a soprano size as it will disrupt the balance of the instrument. For my concert, it was borderline and I do feel the difference but not by much. To counter this, look for mini-tuners - they are smaller and lighter. I used Gotoh sealed gear tuners from Hana Lima here:
http://www.hanalimastore.com/servlet/Categories?category=Ukulele+Tuners

2. How close are your existing tuners to the side edge of your headstock? If they are close and you enlarge the holes you might end up blowing out the sides. Even if you don't blow out the sides, will there be enough wood there to mount the tuners properly?

3. How confident are you doing the work yourself? If you have a way to secure your headstock (without damaging it) and are confident that you can enlarge the holes squarely then I might go for it. However, if the holes are not enlarged squarely then your tuners will not mount squarely and any shimmy in the mount will cause you tuning problems as the tuning peg won't sit firmly. I ended up taking it to a local luthier and they enlarged the holes, mounted my new tuners, strung them up and tuned them all for only $25.

Whatever you decide, think twice about drilling into your uke. $25 is not a lot to spend to make sure its done right. You can also call the guys at Hana Lima for advice. When I contemplated doing it myself they recommended I use a hand reamer -- which would have cost me just a little bit less than having it done by my local luthier.

polynesianpop
08-07-2008, 09:58 AM
I went back and re-read your post so going to geared tuners shouldn't affect the balance as much on your reso as it would on a traditional wood-bodied uke. See if you can do some research before you put the steel strings though (maybe call the manufacturer). I know the tension on steel strings is much higher than nylon strings and if your uke doesn't have a truss rod inside it might not be able to take the tension.

ichadwick
08-08-2008, 08:08 AM
I went back and re-read your post so going to geared tuners shouldn't affect the balance as much on your reso as it would on a traditional wood-bodied uke. See if you can do some research before you put the steel strings though (maybe call the manufacturer). I know the tension on steel strings is much higher than nylon strings and if your uke doesn't have a truss rod inside it might not be able to take the tension.
I agree - it's already a heavy bodied uke and a heavier head will probably give it some balance. I've spoken with Frank at Republic and he says it can take steel strings, if I change the tuners to a geared set. But first I want to try heavier nylon strings - Aquilas probably.

Jack33@
08-11-2008, 04:34 AM
Locking Machine Heads? (http://www.guitar-parts-and-spares-uk.com/index.html?lang=en-uk&target=d511.html)

If price were no object, would these work on a uke?

tad
08-11-2008, 04:55 AM
I have Grover geared tuners on my Republic.

I know what the purists say about "ears" on a uke being heresy, but they look right on a metal-bodied ukulele, to my eye.

Here's a pic of it with some of my other babies:
http://flickr.com/photos/retius/2493228701/sizes/l/

tad
08-11-2008, 05:00 AM
I've spoken with Frank at Republic and he says it can take steel strings, if I change the tuners to a geared set. But first I want to try heavier nylon strings - Aquilas probably.

The thing is a string-eater, that's for sure.
Don't even think about fluorocarbon or nylgut strings.

I actually have some Aquilas sitting in my room right now, waiting to be put on my Republic. I'll tell you how it goes.

Any idea what kind of steel strings you'd buy for a ukulele? I'm kind of curious about that idea.

SailQwest
08-11-2008, 07:32 AM
We put Bushman sealed gear tuners on our concert resonator. I believe they were the tall post tuners. We also replaced the strings with Aquilas. It sounds mucho better, but it's still not really my kind of thing. And it's so loud it's nearly impossible for me to sing over it!

ichadwick
08-11-2008, 08:31 AM
The thing is a string-eater, that's for sure.
Don't even think about fluorocarbon or nylgut strings.

I actually have some Aquilas sitting in my room right now, waiting to be put on my Republic. I'll tell you how it goes.

Any idea what kind of steel strings you'd buy for a ukulele? I'm kind of curious about that idea.
I have been trying to come up with a suitable sleeve that would protect the Aquila strings. I think a small piece of ballpoint pen refill would work. I'm waiting for a replacement cone to come from Republic and when it does, I'm going to look at tuners and replacement strings. I'll also see if I can use a glass bead end.

Steel strings? Probably banjo or mandolin.

ichadwick
08-11-2008, 08:32 AM
I have Grover geared tuners on my Republic.

Beautiful collection!

Can you tell me which model tuners you used, and did you have to do anything with the peg holes?

tad
08-11-2008, 12:31 PM
I have been trying to come up with a suitable sleeve that would protect the Aquila strings. I think a small piece of ballpoint pen refill would work. I'm waiting for a replacement cone to come from Republic and when it does, I'm going to look at tuners and replacement strings. I'll also see if I can use a glass bead end.

Steel strings? Probably banjo or mandolin.

Hmmm-- a beaded end is something I hadn't thought of. I might have to hunt some beads down.

I think it was Hobbit or someone who suggested finding some wire of a similar guage and peeling the rubber off that, but I'm not sure I'd know how to go about that.

tad
08-11-2008, 12:33 PM
Beautiful collection!

Can you tell me which model tuners you used, and did you have to do anything with the peg holes?

I used the standard Grover geared uke tuners. They work well.

The peg holes needed to be expanded. Not having much in the way of tools, I took it to a local guitar shop and let the guitar tech do that part-- well worth the thirty dollars or so, just to not screw it up.

That said, if you're handy, you could probably DIY it.

ichadwick
08-11-2008, 12:44 PM
Hmmm-- a beaded end is something I hadn't thought of. I might have to hunt some beads down.
Most craft shops sell a wide selection of glass beads that are suitable. Some may also have metal beads as well. I have several hundred beads of various sizes and hole diameters, total cost about $5-$6. As I change strings, I try adding a bead to the end where the uke's design permits (Flukes for example, don't really like them). I have a quote about beads and some links about their use on classical guitars on my uke page (http://www.ianchadwick.com/essays/ukuleles.htm).

ichadwick
08-11-2008, 12:46 PM
I used the standard Grover geared uke tuners. They work well.

The peg holes needed to be expanded. Not having much in the way of tools, I took it to a local guitar shop and let the guitar tech do that part-- well worth the thirty dollars or so, just to not screw it up.

That said, if you're handy, you could probably DIY it.

Thanks. I used to be handy, and I'm not afraid of tackling projects, but I don't have all the tools I'd need, including a drill press. My biggest worry is drilling the holes off centred, and changing the intonation. A luthier would be a good choice...

Futch
08-11-2008, 01:20 PM
The intonation wouldn't be affected by holes drilled off centre. The position of the tuners has no effect on intonation whatsoever as they are located behind the nut.

Of course it would be undesirable anyway to drill the holes off centre but there is no need to worry about intonation. :)

ichadwick
08-13-2008, 01:34 AM
The intonation wouldn't be affected by holes drilled off centre. The position of the tuners has no effect on intonation whatsoever as they are located behind the nut.

Of course it would be undesirable anyway to drill the holes off centre but there is no need to worry about intonation. :)

Thanks. I had thought otherwise. Good point.

Futch
08-13-2008, 02:15 AM
Off topic I know, but I just have to say Mr Chadwick that your website is brilliant! I checked it out a few days ago and really liked it, especially the informative section on tequila. I learnt a great deal and thought the information was presented excellently! Well done :D

Now, back to the topic in hand...

ichadwick
08-13-2008, 06:59 AM
Off topic I know, but I just have to say Mr Chadwick that your website is brilliant! I checked it out a few days ago and really liked it, especially the informative section on tequila. I learnt a great deal and thought the information was presented excellently! Well done :D

Now, back to the topic in hand...
Thanks. It's one of my passions. Would that I were as well informed about and as capable on the ukulele as I was on tequila.

Futch
08-13-2008, 07:54 AM
In the last year I have really got into single malt Scotch, I can only remember having tequila on a couple of occasions though. I shall make a point of trying some next time a find myself in a bar!

ichadwick
08-14-2008, 01:07 AM
Got a new resonator cone from Frank at Republic Guitars. He generously sent me one at no charge after he learned my reso's cone had arrived damaged after its journey through Customs.

Last night I replaced the cone, swapped the GHS strings for Aquilas, adding a small plastic sleeve and a glass bead to the ends of each string. Photo and details at www.ianchadwick.com/essays/ukuleles.htm (http://www.ianchadwick.com/essays/ukuleles.htm). Took about an hour, but was more finicky than difficult.

The Republic is noticeably brighter and louder now. Much improved, I think. It almost sounds like a banjo ukulele. I am now looking into the bigger job of changing the tuners to geared versions because the Aquilas have more tension and the tuners are still slipping a bit.

deach
08-14-2008, 01:16 AM
Nice write-up. I couldn't have "evidence" of my UAS though. You're a brave man.

I'm still in denial.