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Thread: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

  1. #1

    Default Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    So I've been sad that there are no longer any tuner buttons being made for Gotoh machines, so I decided to work on making some.

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    Inspired by all the great woodworking questions and answers around here, I started working towards developing a process that will let me make buttons and pockets for Gotoh, Waverly and round-shaft tuning machines. Making small parts out of wood with tight tolerances is miserable hard work--and fun!

    Right now my prototypes are all being made in hard maple--and I'm going to hopefully have a few sets made up for testing in the next couple of weeks. Would anybody here be interested in trying a set out and reporting back on how they hold up and how they fit on your instrument?

    Only criteria is that I'd like to send them to folks for instruments they are currently playing daily so I can get some tuning miles on them.

    Anybody here interested?

    Thanks!
    Scott R.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    I’m wondering if they would resist the torque better if the wood grains were perpendicular to the metal shaft?

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  4. #3
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Very nice! How do you make the square holes? I always thought a Lego guy with a tiny mortise machine would be about right.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...


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  8. #5

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Andrew, my LEGO guys went on strike. I making round holes and then working on a mill I’ve made some tools that let me broach the holes pretty accurately from steel.

    The square holes aren’t the hardest part of all this. The small everything is.
    Scott R.
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  9. #6

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    That’s a good point, right now I’m trying all the ways to see if anything is actually better. Gotoh tuners are pretty stiff compared to rubners and Schallers. With the oval hole I’m less worried about it than I am with the small waverly square holes.
    Scott R.
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    2017 Pava A5 Pro - Autumn Burst
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  10. #7
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    I've PM'd you
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  11. #8
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Me too.

  12. #9

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    I think you could make acceptable square holes by drilling a hole of diameter .005" or so above the width of the square shaft, then supporting the knob in a "soft jaw" fixture (just a piece of wood with holes the size of the knobs) to prevent them from splitting, and compressing the wood into a square shape using a square piece of steel or brass rod with a double bevel ground on one end.
    The advantage of this is that as seasonal changes come on, the wood fibers will expand, if anything, rendering their fit tighter. If you get it dialed in right, it would be very fast and reliable.

    Or you could make a homemade broach out of a suitably sized steel rod. Taper it slightly and then grind a series of perpendicular flutes in it such that the leading edge is sharp. You'll have to stop and blow out the chips many times since you don't have a through hole, but you'll get a clean machined square hole just like you would get with a metal broach.

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  14. #10
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Hi Scott - Gotoh tuner buttons are still made of course,but Gotoh simply will not supply 'spares / alternatives' !!. As for Gotohs being any more 'stiff' that other tuners,the ones on my Ellis "A" style (which you know about), work as smoothly as silk. Tom Ellis woudn't have used Gotohs for as long as he did if they weren't up to par.

    Your choice to make buttons for Gotohs ( & other tuners) is commendable. I was incredibly lucky to get a set of Black Gotoh buttons last year,which 'Allparts' USA had held in stock for many years - so long in fact that they couldn't remember how they came to have them,
    Good luck - Ivan
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  16. #11
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    That video may be the coolest thing I've ever seen I had no idea such a thing existed.

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  18. #12

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Yep, the dilemma is the only buttons out there are plastic and I really like wood

    So I figured I'd build a way to make the darn little buggers.
    Scott R.
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    For economy you might want to look at going all the way through. Then dust plugging the ends. Purists may not like it but who looks that close? How many people even know what "Handel" means?

    Let folks custom order by round or square shaft size. Otherwise (in my opinion) there is no way to fit all of the unknowns without returns eating all of the profit. I hand made my first set of ebony buttons. Painful. Even worse when one snapped a few months later. As did its replacement (yes....spares). Anything is possible if you want to spend the money. Or time.

  20. #14

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    The square vs round hole is a moot point. 1/2 gram of sawdust and a drop of superglue will make any simple round hole work. I make buttons all of the time for a variety of instruments. Turn a cross grain dowel on the lathe as one large dowel, then slice off the individuals as needed. The little pieces are hard to hold on to, so drill the shaft hole next and use a small tapered handle in the hole while you are working the little details.

    Having done this on probably 50 sets over the years, I'll comfortably say that it is a waste of time....

    For all that effort, you spend $3000 on tooling and labor to wind up with a beautiful set of buttons on a junk $45 set of Chinese tuners. You'll be 100x better off getting a set of Alessi or Waverly machines that come with nice buttons and far superior function and durability.
    Last edited by grandcanyonminstrel; Feb-06-2019 at 9:54pm.

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  22. #15

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Iím definitely trying to do this in a way that lets folks install these without resorting to glue and having them work well. I really appreciate your experience here.

    Iíve had some good luck working on this over the last few weeks that have me to pretty reasonable results. This weekend I hope to finish my first prototype set out of Paduk. Then Iíll build a few for the people who were nice enough to contact me about testing.

    It might just be me but I am pretty happy with the performance of the Gotoh MA40ís and would simply prefer the look and feel of wood buttons.

    These are also going to be a couple kilometers wider and thinner than the Gotohs which also helps with ease of tuning for my hands.

    Hereís where I am so far:

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    Scott R.
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    2017 Pava A5 Pro - Autumn Burst
    1987 Flatiron F5 Artist
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  24. #16

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Here is the first batch of Paduk, Maple and Ebony...

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    And the Paduk getting the first coat of Danish Oil. They turned a really nice dark red that is going to go nice with some tortoise binding on my Pava.

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    Scott R.
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    1987 Flatiron F5 Artist
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  26. #17

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Very nice!

  27. #18
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Looking great Scott!

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  29. #19
    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Last May I had the same idea, but I wanted them to resemble Handel tuner buttons. I carved one out of maple and wood burned the "inlay" into it. I haven't pursued the idea further. I think if you take your wood buttons and laser etch the Handel design (or any design) into them, they'd be a very popular item.
    In dark colored buttons, after they are etched, you could fill the etched recess with gold (paint?) and they would look really cool.

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    It ain't gotta be perfect, as long as it's perfect enough!

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  31. #20
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Those are looking very nice. From my experience, Padouk is not exceptionally hard and can be prone to splitting.
    I made a set of Cocobolo buttons for the stock tuners on my Fullerton Gloucester. They aren't as nice as yours-- basically flat discs with no contouring. I just drilled round holes and glued them on with epoxy and it worked well. They've been on there for about 10 years,I'm guessing, and haven't come loose. The bad news is that that beautiful Cocobolo grain is no longer visible, as the buttons have turned nearly pitch black (common with Cocobolo).
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  32. #21

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Paul, yep, Paduk also turns a chocolate brown color in the light as it ages. It's just how it is, you enjoy the orange while it is still in there.

    Here is a look at the first two full sets of ebony buttons ready to head into finish for a couple of lucky beta testers-- Baron Collins-Hill for his Collings Mandola, and Brian Glueck for his Glueck!

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    Scott R.
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  34. #22

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Here they are installed on my Pava. I learned a lesson about over tightening ebony buttons today

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    Scott R.
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  36. #23
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    Those look great on the Pava!
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  37. #24

    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    ScottR made me some matte ebony buttons for the Gotohs on my Collings MT2. They were easy to install and look great. The best part is that they are slightly less thick than the original plastic buttons and are easier to use. I had been having some problems turning the original buttons and thought it was the tuners themselves, but now I think it was just the buttons. No problems anymore. ScottR has me on the list for a set of matte ebony buttons for some Grover 309s as well. Great job, Scott!

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  38. #25
    Registered User Ranger Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making Real Wood Buttons for Gotoh Tuners...

    I just installed a set of Scott’s ebony buttons on my Collings MT. 2 thumbs up! If I had 10 thumbs they’d all be up. These are pro quality, look great and function better (for me) than the original ivroids. Couldn’t be happier!
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