View Full Version : Need help

Olive Oyl
10-29-2011, 04:40 AM
I am a newbie and have my father's vintage soprano Martin Style O that won't stay in tune without over-tightening the tuning pegs. One Luthier suggested I try to find washers for the original friction tuners. He thought banjo washers may be small enough to work. Is there a way to find uke washers? I have searched online, but can't find any. Any suggestions?

10-29-2011, 04:58 AM
Welcome to the forums!

Martin used pretty good friction tuners. I am assuming you have mechanical friction tuners, not wood peg tuners. I think we need a bit more information to help you. Where did he suggest you put the washers? A couple pictures here would do wonders. I've worked a lot with vintage mechanical friction tuners and often they need to be disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled with a bit of lubricating oil on the threads. That usually does the trick. However, for some tuners which have no washer between the plastic tuner button and the wood of the headstock, a small smooth metal washer there helps a lot. I like to use a smooth brass washer from the hardware store, nothing special.

So, if you can give more info and some pics, we can help!

Olive Oyl
10-29-2011, 12:48 PM
I appreciate your reply. I'm not sure which type of tuners they are so I am attaching a couple photos so you can see what they look like. The luthier suggested placing a banjo washer, which he said was made from leather, between the the peg and the metal base it screws into. I have never played an instrument, so have never disassembled and cleaned one. I live in a small town so we do not a music store and certainly not a luthier nearby, but I am heading to Austin tomorrow for a week or two and can probably find one there if needed. Let me know if you think a small brass or stainless washer would work without marring the wood, or give me any other suggestions you have. I could really use some advice. Thank you.

PS - I'm trying to figure out how to attach a photo?

10-30-2011, 04:13 AM
Hi Olive,
To attach a photo I upload photos to a hosting site like photobucket and then just copy and past the image code here. Or you could just upload pics to a hosting site and give a link to that page.

Your luthier doesn't sound like he has worked with ukuleles. I have never heard of anyone using a leather washer on a uke tuner.

When you say you have to over tighten the tuners, what do you mean? Friction tuners must be adjusted to where they are just tight enough to hold without slipping but not so tight that they won't turn. You must adjust them in small quarter or half turns. Once you get them right, they stay without needing adjustment for a long time.

How old are your strings? Very old strings don't usually tune well and sometimes people mistake that for tuner problems.

As far as disassembling friction pegs, it is the easiest thing in the world. Loosen string to no tension, loosen screw, remove screw, take apart tuner. A small drop of oil on the threads can be very helpful in making it so the screw adjusts well.

Olive Oyl
10-31-2011, 02:24 PM
Hi Ryan,

I checked the FAQ section on this website and they said I could only attach photos in a new thread. So if you check the thread titles there is one titled "Photos for RyanMFT" which has two photos of my tuners. I've had some other replies, saying I should disassemble one of the tuners and take it with me to a hardware store to find a small washer that will fit. One person suggested a washer and a lock washer. What do you think about the others' suggestions? I'll try cleaning them as you suggested. Any special lubricating oil?

11-01-2011, 12:53 AM
Start with the easy option.

Take one tuner apart, noting the order in which it goes back together. Clean up any dirty parts (alcohol and a toothbrush is as good a way as any, unless there's substantial corrosion, which seems unlikely). Let dry and reassemble. A tiny smear of ordinary lubricating oil on the screw thread and nowhere else (you don't want oil on the wood, or on the parts which are friction!).

Now reattach the string, pulling it all the way through the tuner hole before you start tightening, so that when it's up to tune there are only two or three turns round the post. Lock the end of the string under the first wind round the post. Pluck away on that string, tightening it as the string stretches. As these are not new strings, it should settle down within a couple of hours.

If that string now holds its tune, you can do the same job on the others. No searching out for washers, no expense, just 20 minutes work. My prediction is that this will fix your problem unless your strings are old and dead. If it doesn't work, all you've lost is a little time.

11-01-2011, 04:52 AM
Take it very easy with solvents of any kind on vintage tuners. A friend of mine managed to dissolve the knobs on a set of Gibson tuners by leaving them in alcohol. Obviously, they were in it for some time. But you might dull the surfaces on your knobs if you clean them with a solvent.

I've written about this unfortunate incident before, haven't I. But I'll keep repeating it.

11-01-2011, 08:11 AM
I've written about this unfortunate incident before, haven't I. But I'll keep repeating it.

So he has - I'd forgotten.

Clean only the metal parts with alcohol. Damp (not wet) cloth for the knobs.

Keep the image of Sven's dissolving knobs in your mind as an awful warning.