View Full Version : 1920's Martin Style 2 Soprano Gets Grover Tuners, & NO Uke Peghead Modifications!

09-09-2011, 01:50 PM
A few weeks ago i picked up a 1920's era Martin Style 2 Soprano uke on Elderly for $850.00 It has had NO cracks in all those years, and is loud and sounds mighty fine. Light as a feather....

It was refinished with a pretty dark stain over the mahogany, probably decades ago from the looks of it. (the rosette was so dark it was hard to see). The peghead had a replacement set of wooden violin style friction pegs when i got it,......ughhh,...what a PITA to use.

I decided right off i was NOT going to alter the tapered peg holes to install a set of resonably priced Grover "Sta-Tite" friction tuners i had ordered, and they arrived this morning. (only $20.00)

"Peghed" geared tuners were an option, but they're $80.00 , and I don't particularly like the extra length of them either,.....especially on a soprano scale uke.

The early Martin had survived over 90 years without a crack, and i was not going to ream out the fronts of the peghead to install the bushing that comes with the Grover fiction tuners.

I looked them over carefully, and decided there was no reason i couldn't get them installed on the Martin, making only changes to the parts and their arrangement,......and leaving the unaltered tapered peg holes alone.

In the 1st pic below, the upper tuner is how it comes form Grover, in the arrangement of parts as you would normally install it. The main stumbling block is the front bushing that is splined to fit a larger hole than the Martin had. The taper of the peg hole was just too narrow at
the front of the peghead to be able to remove enough of this bushing and still have enough left to do it's job.

The lower tuner in the picture is after i have altered and fitted it to be a press fit into the "rear" of the peghead. It's much wider hole there allowing for fitting, yet plenty of metal left to secure and guide the tuner shaft.


After i got the bushing fitted to the back hole (a press fit with thumb pressure), i saw that there was a little space above the bushing that i wanted to address.


Before i made a trip to the hardware store, i decided to connect everything up just to make sure it was going to work as i hoped. It did, but i wanted to support the front part of the shaft since that's were the string tension is pulling most directly. Off to the hardware store........

I picked up both nylon and aluminum spacers that fit the upper hole section perfectly, although the holes would have to be opened up to accept the shaft. In the end i decided to use the hard nylon as a bushing, as it has a natural lubrication. Try drilling this stuff and your
drill better be sharp! Also on my list were additional nylon and stainless washers to fit the shaft and add some needed spacing.

Here's one of the nylon bushings fitted to an upper hole, after the back bushing was in place. I didn't have a drill, so used some diamond setting burs i had on hand. A ring clamp (for jewelry work) held the little bugger while i worked the hole larger. A course rat tail file would have worked also,....just didn't have one of the right size.

I had to trim 2 of these nylon bushings in length also, due to the taper in thickness of the peghead. Only a few millimeters, but i wanted the nylon bushings flush to the top.

Here's the bushing now in place:


Here's the first tuner fitted and installed. Note the much nicer overall match to the peghead. Those wooden violin pegs are about what the "Peghed" geared tuners would look like,....this is cleaner imo. I can live without the 4 to 1 gear ratio the Peghead geared tuners offer, in order to keep the smaller overal size.


......more to follow......

09-09-2011, 01:56 PM
I don't have a lathe,....but found a piece of drill rod just slightly smaller than the bushing hole. A little masting tape on the rod created a "stop" to keep the bushing at the end so i could work it, and a little more tape over the edge kept it from spinning while i ground it down.

Here's the holder before i did the fitting to the peg hole:


....and after the fitting was completed. (when you get close, work solw and check the fit often to each peg hole.)


Not a bad looking set of $20 friction tuners for this vintage Martin. I missed the sale price of $18.60, but got free shipping when i ordered stings to get up to $49.00 over at Elderly Instruments.

I'm going to eliminate a few of the spacing washers eventually above the knobs, and use a single thicker spacer on my next trip to the hardware store. They had a wider aluminum spacer that goes over the shaft, and i can remove 3 washers off the back between the button and the back of headstock. I'll also look for a replacement set of ebony buttons to replace the black plastic buttons used here, but that can wait.


My Fordom flexable shaft handpiece locked it the vise on my old jewelry bench with a thick cut off disc i got at Sears. (20 to a tube) The disc is spinning while i rotate the bushing against it to approximate the taper in the peg hole.


09-09-2011, 03:59 PM
.....all 4 installed,.....a lean, mean, ukulele tuning machine! :D




09-09-2011, 04:29 PM
Looks good to me. I like that it can be put back.


09-09-2011, 05:52 PM
Good for you for finding a way to make the process reversible, but those violin pegs aren't too far removed from the originals
see: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?52953-c.1920-Martin-Style-1-Uke
and I wonder how the weight balance is with the heavier pegs. I love the light weight of the wooden pegs, personally.. it's like having an invisible strap.
I read somewhere Martin might machine replacements, not sure I believe that, but I'm sure they could be found.
Enjoy it!

09-09-2011, 06:30 PM
Good for you for finding a way to make the process reversible, but those violin pegs aren't too far removed from the originals
see: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?52953-c.1920-Martin-Style-1-Uke
and I wonder how the weight balance is with the heavier pegs. I love the light weight of the wooden pegs, personally.. it's like having an invisible strap.
I read somewhere Martin might machine replacements, not sure I believe that, but I'm sure they could be found.
Enjoy it!

The weight balance is much better than what it would be without the changes i made. Four of the heavier metal bushings were eliminated from the arrangement, and there is some weight loss in grinding down the original front metal bushing now at the back.

I weighed the 4 formally back bushings i'm not using, and they weight 8.7 grams. The washers i used weigh a little, maybe .7 grams or so,.....for a net savings of 8 grams maybe. The aluminum spacer i plan on replacing the back washers with is lighter than the 3 washers probably, so even better.

In the original tuner (top in photo), the heavy metal cupped bushing at the left close to the button is not used. This was supposed to be the rear of headstock bushing that i replaced by the lightened and fitted formally front bushing.

BTW, the new setup works as it should, with the nylon top of headstock washer not moving, while the base of the post slides nicely along the top of the nylon washer. It seams the post is following the path of least resistance, and the bottom of the nylon washer against the softer wood creates more friction than between the top of the nylon washer and the base of the post.

The nylon washers are pretty hard. If i ever develope a condition that the nylon washer starts to move against the top of the headstock,.....i was planning on rough sanding or cutting slight grooves on the bottom of the washer. This would increase the friction at that point to prevent any slipage, but would likely dig into the finish a bit. Better left off as long as it's working as is.

Just thinking out loud here, but some of the rear bushing could be removed for additional weight savings, as well as turning down whatever part of the post is then exposed inside the tuner. The posts certainly don't need the entire shaft the same diameter, only the part making contact with either end bushing.

Might make for an interesting experiment, buy another complete $20 set of these Grovers, and have them set up the same but add the middle of the post turning down & rear bushing shortening. Weigh them before and after, and see how close to a set of wooden pegs you could get and still have a workable tuner. As long as 3mm or so of metal bushing supports the rear and front of the post, that should be enough for this level of stress,....especially on a soprano.

...............ummmmm???? :D


09-09-2011, 11:29 PM
Interesting stuff. I love seeing people's instrument modifications. :)

In this case, no mods to the actual instrument! Neat.

09-11-2011, 06:37 AM
I finally picked up a few aluminum spacers at the hardware store so that i could replace the 3 washers needed to properly space the friction tuners. This spacing is dependant on the thickness of the headstock, and on this Martin the taper required the use of 2 different spacer thicknesses.

I picked up 4 of the spacers, ($.99 each,...wow!), but ended up only needing 2 of them as i was able to split them with a fine bladed jewelers saw. In this application i split it about 60/40, since the top most tuners required a thicker spacer because the wood is thinner there.


.....and a bit closer:


This small change lowered the number of parts involved, and eliminated 10 stainless steel washers in total and replaced with just 4 aluminum spacers. There was some weight savings also,....although small. I left the harder brass washer in place that came with the tuner set, which covers the supplied nylon friction washer buried in the tuner bushing and hidden from view.

All set now,.....and much easier to get tuned up even at a 1/1 non-geared ratio because of the extra smoothness.

.....next thing i'll eventually get around to is polishing off the casted seam line on the plastic buttons,.....until i can find or make a set of ebony ones!