Oil/ lube for cheap open backed geared tuners

Oldscruggsfan

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Soon after wearing out the first set of strings on my rubbish DIY kit soprano (the one shown in my avatar), I noticed an annoying grinding/ semi-binding in the open backed C string tuning gears. I first thought I'd gotten something between the gears such a fragment of toothpick. When a close inspection revealed no foreign matter, I considered, then rejected, WD-40 because of the anticipated volume of over-spray. By chance, I found my son's old model train oil, a tiny bottle with a cap that resembles a tiny tube of caulking. He'd capped the tiny opening with the type of pin you'd put on a map at least 15 years ago (he turned 29 last week).

Long story short, I laid the uke upside down on my folding table and carefully dropped tiny bits of the train oil around and between the tuner gears. Still upside down on the table, I then ran the tuners down and back up several times, then left the uke in that position overnight. No more grinding! The lube job worked perfectly and has thus far lasted over 3 months. In the future, is there a better choice such petroleum jelly or the sort of graphite powder we used on the axles of Pinewood Derby cars in Boy Scouting?
 

badhabits

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I'm surprised that worked, but good to know. I've taken apart (better) tuners to clean out sand and gunk (outdoor uke) but on cheapos it never seems to work, even when replacing the shaft and/or gear wheel. I've replaced a couple of grinders that kala replaced for free.
 

saltytri

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A drop of Tri-flow. The liquid version that is applied with a little tube stuck in a squeeze bottle, not from a spray can

For future reference, the "WD" in WD-40 stands for "water displacement", which is among its intended purposes. As a lubricant, it is so-so and if long term lubrication is your goal, better to use a product that is formulated for lubrication. I confess to having squirted it on squeaky door hinges but it doesn't last as long as a proper lubricant.
 
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Oldscruggsfan

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A drop of Tri-flow. The liquid version that is applied with a little tube stuck in a squeeze bottle, not from a spray can

For future reference, the "WD" in WD-40 stands for "water displacement", which is among its intended purposes. As a lubricant, it is so-so and if long term lubrication is your goal, better to use a product that is formulated for lubrication. I confess to having squirted it on squeaky door hinges but it doesn't last as long as a proper lubricant.
Thanks for the tip. I've had the same experience with WD40. It works far better when sprayed in the cylinder of a lawn mower engine to reduce plug-fouling than as a long term lubricant. One of my many regrets is that I failed to buy and hold shares of WDFC stock two decades ago. It's long been a top NYSE performer. In case you didn't know, Lava soap is one of retail brands they own. What a winning combo.
 

Wiggy

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Recently purchased an Aklot Banjo Ukulele. It felt very rough turning the tuners. I took all the strings off (which I was going to do anyway) and put tiny drops of 10w40 on all moving parts. Worked it in, and wiped it clean. That made them work smooth as butter. 2 weeks later, still very smooth.
 

kypfer

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I'd suggest a dry lubricant, like graphite powder, every time.
It might take a little more effort to "work it in" and it won't have the same flushing properties as a liquid lubricant, but it won't stain the woodwork nor will it retain any passing grit/dust that might stick to a "normal" oil.
Just my tuppence worth … YMMV ;)
 

donboody

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Recently purchased an Aklot Banjo Ukulele. It felt very rough turning the tuners. I took all the strings off (which I was going to do anyway) and put tiny drops of 10w40 on all moving parts. Worked it in, and wiped it clean. That made them work smooth as butter. 2 weeks later, still very smooth.
I had the aklot banjo uke a while, I noticed the same thing with my tuners now that you say that if I recall correctly.
 

DuckyI

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I'd suggest a dry lubricant, like graphite powder, every time.
It might take a little more effort to "work it in" and it won't have the same flushing properties as a liquid lubricant, but it won't stain the woodwork nor will it retain any passing grit/dust that might stick to a "normal" oil.
Just my tuppence worth … YMMV ;)
Exactly this. On a piece of equipment that doesn’t get wet or dirty, graphite powder is the way to go. It is also what violin family luthiers use for bridge slots, where the strings ‘break’ over the bridge with high pressure.
 

Oldscruggsfan

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Exactly this. On a piece of equipment that doesn’t get wet or dirty, graphite powder is the way to go. It is also what violin family luthiers use for bridge slots, where the strings ‘break’ over the bridge with high pressure.
Thanks, Duckyl for mentioning that. Now I remember running the sharp tip of a No 2 pencil into banjo bridge slots to stop minor buzzing which is the same concept. At the time, it didn't occur to me to lube the uke tuning machine with graphite powder.