Improving Cheap Tuners

Discussion in 'Project Depot' started by Rollin Hand, Apr 4, 2020.

  1. Rollin Hand

    Rollin Hand Well-Known Member

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    Anyone here have any good techniques for making cheap tuners work better? I have done all of the tightening, chnged strings, and the damned thing (my LTD EC256) still won't hold tune. It has the standard LTD tuners (non locking), and I would hate to pay a ton to upgrade.

    Yes, I have considered the possibility it is the nut, but my source does not have any in stock, and ordering off eBay triples (!) the price.
     
  2. Rollin Hand

    Rollin Hand Well-Known Member

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    Tuning stability bump.
     
  3. nomadh

    nomadh Well-Known Member

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    I have seen guitars where the tuners were the problem. You know it when you see it because you can hear the note change as you pluck and even see the tuning key move by itself. Cheap tuning keys make it hard to get in tune with backlash or a bad ratio, they do NOT stop it from staying in tune.
     
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  4. mozz

    mozz Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Pencil graphite the heck out of the nut slots, just to make sure. Only thing i can think that might help a bad tuner is a shim of some sort, either on the gears them selves or on the keys. I would think 12:1 ratio would even hold tune, ratio is more for convenience. Make sure you are stringing it correctly, i feed it through and then loop it across with a 180 degree bend with needle nose.
     
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  5. Mickey

    Mickey Guest

    Wilk EZ-LOC replacements. Cheap & good. :)
     
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  6. OpenG

    OpenG Active Member

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    I lubricate the nut slots with dilute soap solution.

    But honestly, when I upgraded my tuning machines to 18:1 ratio locking tuners the difference was immediately obvious. The guitar sounded different, everything was in harmony, and it stays in tune for at least an hour, maybe all night.
     
  7. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    So what good is getting a guitar for super cheap if you've got to pay more for a new set of tuners than the cost of the instrument itself? I've been down this road. If you want to keep it in the cheap and still stay in tune, these are my suggestions.

    As others have already advised, make sure the nut is lubed. It makes a world of difference. I use my own proprietary concoction of pencil lead shavings mixed in petroleum jelly. That grey goop is magic sauce.

    Make sure the nut slot is not binding. A set of nut files is necessary. These can be had on the cheap by way of modifying a set of feeler gauges from a place like Harbor Freight.

    Always tune up, not down. This also make a big difference.

    If your tuners are the Klusson type (or knock-offs), squirt some oil in that tiny hole on the back plate. Gears are smoother when they're lubed.

    If you want to really invest in being cheap, get yourself a 3/8" X 12" X 12" slab of bone colored Corian at Lowes or Home Depot and learn the relatively simple skill of cutting your own nuts. For a few bucks you'll have material for
    a lifetime supply of custom made nuts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
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  8. andrewsrea

    andrewsrea Well-Known Member

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    Agree with past posts. Graphite down the post as well, if they are the type with a grommet sleeve. However, as @mozz said - tuning is typically binding at the nut. Unless the gears are actually slipping, then @Mickey nailed it. Good tuners are $30 to $50 these days.
     
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  9. Rollin Hand

    Rollin Hand Well-Known Member

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    I do know the whole tune up only thing.

    Here is the type of tuners:

    905bd57ee67d31059b218034db7ec667._.jpg

    The thing always goes out of tune damn near instantly. Start bending? Out of tune. Pick aggeessively? Out of tune. Paddlin'the school canoe? You guessed it -- out of tune.

    I'll try the pencil lead thing, if I can find a pencil. It might answer a few questions.

    If it is the nut, I'll get the appropriate Tusq XL and put it on. They are 10 bucks, if you can find it.

    If it's the tuners....well, they aren't as cheap to us Canucks. I'll go with lockers just to get the extra sustain. The convenience is a nice side effect.
     
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  10. backinit

    backinit Well-Known Member

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    Check the bridge saddles to make sure they are not moving. That has happened to me recently. Look for a set of used Grover's possible. I have replaced a few sets of marginal tuners with gotohs and they were not crazy expensive.
     
  11. tobijohn

    tobijohn The Great Enabler Gold Supporting Member

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    I use a teflon based (no silicone) pool equipment lubricant instead of petroleum jelly. Not that it's any better, just that I used to own a pool service business and always had it around...

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Magic-Lube-Aladdin-PTFE-Based-Lubricant-51630/202268160
     
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  12. rrobbone

    rrobbone Well-Known Member

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    I followed this chunk of wisdom from you posted several years ago. I have bought at least a dozen sets for various projects since then. Wilkinson/Gotoh makes great stuff without killing the wallet.

    These. plus a Tusq graphite nut and the upkeep TMC has recommended work wonders.
     
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  13. nomadh

    nomadh Well-Known Member

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    Motor oil and oatmeal?
     
  14. Mr. Leyvatone

    Mr. Leyvatone Well-Known Member

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    I’ve swapped a lot of parts on guitars, but never a set of tuners. I’m sure there are some cheapos out there that are absolute crap, but even the stock hardware on my sub-$200 SXs are perfectly usable.

    I tried this technique today and was pretty amazed how well it works for locking strings onto non-locking posts...

     
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  15. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    Some cheap tuners, you can take them apart by popping the cover off the back of the gear housing and then add a very thin brass washer on the opposite side of the tuner body to act like a poor man's thrust bearing.

    It will tighten up the feel of the shaft and improve functionality of tuner in my experience. Much like a higher quality machined tuner ala Sperzel.

    It is most easily done with cheap open frame tuners and classical tuners, but I have done it on Grover knockoffs to great effect.
     
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  16. Chapstick_Addiction

    Chapstick_Addiction Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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  17. tobijohn

    tobijohn The Great Enabler Gold Supporting Member

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    Are the proper sized washers available at Lowes/HD? If not, where would be a good source? TIA...
     
  18. Mikesr1963

    Mikesr1963 Well-Known Member

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    On headstocks like this I measure the string going one tuner up. Winding it I wind one round over the top and the rest down keeping the string tight with my hand so the winding is tight looking like a screws threads going down and never over lapping. I do each of the strings like that. Then I tune to pitch and stretch each string several times. Using a thick pick I strum the guitar 15 to 20 times hard. Tune to pitch again. Stretch the strings again. Tune to pitch again and then start playing it. I've done it like that for decades without having problems. Good Luck. PS: Found a photo of how the wrap should look. If you measure using the distance between tuners you will always end up with the right amount of wraps. Here you see 1 over and 3 under.
    630ad88769af499be3a1ecd2224e4c8f.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
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  19. Rollin Hand

    Rollin Hand Well-Known Member

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    Thanks but they don't ship to Canada. And that is a problem, because cheap tuners from the US get pricey with exchange and shipping. Jin Hos are $60 Canadian which seems nuts to me.
     
  20. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    my Ace hardware has a huge selection so that is where I found mine, can't remember off hand the size though.
     

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