UPTs on vintage Martin: What would you do?

mattlyon

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Hi all, I have a mid 50s Martin style 0 I dearly love... fantastic tone, no cracks and in great shape. My dilemma is this: I lead a big uke jam and perform pretty regularly and would love the ease of tuning that I could get with Gotoh UPT tuners. Sure I could put them on another newer uke but the Martin is... well, awesome sounding.

What do you folks think? I'm not planning to sell it anytime soon, and it's a style 0 so not exactly rare. Would the UPTs kill its resale value or make it a more attractive uke as a "player"? If you saw it for sale would you run the other way because it had been modified or think "Cool! A vintage Martin that's easy to tune!"

It's a one-way conversion because the holes will need to be enlarged slightly to accommodate the UPTs, so I really want to be sure before taking a reamer to it.

Here it is in action in its present state:
 

Lori

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I would be tempted to keep it original if that kind of thing is important to you, or you think resale is possible. If you never plan on selling it, and just want to enjoy it more, then alter away. If I were buying it, to be a player, I wouldn't be bothered by the newer tuners.
I have found that when playing in a large uke group, the sound of the individual ukes get lost... I know I can't tell if I played that last clam, or the person next to me. In those situations you can just play another uke that is easier to tune quickly. If you are leading, and need to be amplified, you might even get one with an amp in it.

–Lori
 

coolkayaker1

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I think UPTs would devalue it. Why? I know that, if I were to change them back to the originals, the headstock would have a "ring" from the UPT thick base, plus the larger holes as you say. So, like Lori, I'd keep it stock. Plus, although it's a more common Style O, as you mention, it's in great shape. Those are increasingly hard to find in great shape because they were rather beat up over the years by heavy players, children, etc. So, yours is sweet (as is your playing!).

Let's face it: whenever we have to use the word "reamer" along with the word "value", most commonly they are inversely proportional. LOL

I was at a uke fest and someone was selling a Martin O with violin-style, geared Peghed tuners. It sold for less, in my estimation, than it would have with the stock tuners.

That said, if you will play it more, for years and years, then go for it. Fun! Save it for eternity.

Note: I tighten those friction tuners, like, wicked tight. No problems. Keeps tune very well, even with playing and over time (once strings stretch). It's sort of like a Floyd Rose tuner on an electric guitar. Solid. Are yours tight, tight, tight? Like, just barely tunable tight?
 
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M3Ukulele

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From player perspective I'd change to UPT's in a heartbeat.you said you never planned on selling it. To me without good tuners I'd pick it up less. I changed a Fluke tenor a month in to pegheds as I hated the friction tuners. I knew I would never play it if I didn't have good tuners. By the way some friction tuners leave a ring in the wood from last washer anyways. I'd go UPT.
 

RichM

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If it's a museum piece, keep it original. If changing out the tuners will enhance your enjoyment of the instrument, do it. Honestly, I think there are as many people who would value the UPTs as those who'd want it all original. I have a Ludwig Wendell Hall with the friction tuners replace with Five Star planetary tuners. They look great, tune like a breeze, and are a huge improvement over the Ludwig friction tuners I had on a previous Wendell Hall. If they knock a dollar or two off resale, so be it-- the uke plays incredibly well.
 

dirtiestkidever

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It is not a super rare uke so I say go for it. But I would put on Pegheds instead. They will look better on that particular uke. More vintagy.
 

peewee

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I have found that when playing in a large uke group, the sound of the individual ukes get lost... I know I can't tell if I played that last clam, or the person next to me. \
–Lori
As the person who was frequently next to Lori in that situation, laying down the clams, I can answer that question..
But no, I too think you should keep it original and adapt to the instrument. I play a '29-'31 Martin Tenor with the wonkiest friction tuners on earth. Low G. At least I am very certain about what has happened when that low G slips.
(and I recently tore it down and cleaned and reassembled and tightened as hard as I dared, which has actually made it work fine...now it's the C that slips...) I've read about felt washers and stuff.
I view it as a reminder that I'm playing an elderly instrument. I'm a guy who likes to telemark ski. It can be rewarding to do things the hard way!
 

aquadan

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I like my vintage ukes to be vintage so I wouldn't change them on any of my older instruments. I'm that way about a lot of things though. I prefer fountain pens over ball points, wood pencils over mechanical ones, and traditional styled greenland kayaks and paddles over modern designs. The extra steps they require are for me part of the enjoyment.

That being said, on a new instrument, I wouldn't hesitate to use the UPTs. We have a uke on the other side of the bedroom with them and they are fantastic tuners.
 

Captain Simian

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If it's truly your main player then do what you feel is best for your needs. Save the originals in case you ever do decide to sell it. The only thing that truly devalues an instrument is not playing it.
 

Pukulele Pete

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I say keep your Martin as it is. Buy a new S1 or find an old SO and put whatever tuners you want on it.
 
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vinceherman

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If it's truly your main player then do what you feel is best for your needs. Save the originals in case you ever do decide to sell it.
This.

I put UPTs on my vintage Oscar Schmidt. Now it is more likely to be the one I pick up to play.
 

Vintageukes

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As the owner of several quite early ukuleles (pre 1915) they usually have some sort of repairs or modifications, especially tuners changed. I wish that had not been done because I like them as original as possible and I always return those to wood pegs. For your Martin, I think it was meant to be played, and if you will play and enjoy it more, go ahead and put the new tuners on it. Yes, it would impact resale price if I were looking at it but you are enjoying it now, and you should enjoy your ukulele as much as possible.
 

PhilUSAFRet

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It's a matter of personal philosophy. I could not bring myself to change the tuners on my vintage Martin. Convenience and vintage frequently aren't compatible. I choose to be slightly inconvenienced and keep my Martin original. Doesn't require retuning all that often anyway.
 

lakesideglenn

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Agree with everybody who said "keep it original" ... Shame to drill out old wood!
Cheers!
 

wayfarer75

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It is not a super rare uke so I say go for it. But I would put on Pegheds instead. They will look better on that particular uke. More vintagy.

I agree, except UPTs could match what is already on the ukulele.

Personally, crappy old tuners turn me off buying a vintage uke. I would sooner buy one with new machines. I don't think that preserving the original state does any instrument any favors.
 

Buc-a-Roo

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I lean toward keeping it original. Another point to consider: the UPT tuners will add considerable weight to the headstock end of the instrument and it will change the way it feels. Your ukulele.......your decision......g'luck!
 

Futurethink

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If you keep it original, you have an excuse to purchase several more 'ukuleles until you find one you like the sound of just as much. ;)

Have it appraised, and ask the appraiser how much it would be worth if modified.
 

UkerDanno

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I have a 30's style 0, it's not in great shape, but I hesitate to mess with it too much. Once the strings settle in, it doesn't need much tuning. If your tuners don't work very well, look for a friction tuner that would drop in with no mods. And if you find such a thing, let me know! :shaka:
 

mattlyon

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Wow! Thanks for all of the great insights folks! This thread is kind of turning out the way I was afraid it might: all of my internal dialogue writ large, with the pros and cons about evenly weighted. As you can hear from the video I posted I really don't have a problem using the current pegs. The UPTs would just give me the ability to do fine tuning easier mid session with less fuss. That being said, the thought of putting a drill to old wood just seems sort of wrong.

I'm thinking I will put the UPTs on my Ohana SK38 (the Martin 2M style uke) and see how I like it. It's a great sounding uke in its own right (though obviously not quite up to the Martin's level). It will probably make a pretty good session instrument and I can always revisit modding the Martin down the road. Your insights have definitely made me decide to put a set on my no-name 1920s banjolele though. Great instrument with awful tuners... I'm going to do it and not look back!