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Thread: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

  1. #1
    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    I need a recommendation for a set of tuners that will fit my 1912 and 1913 Gibson A Oval mandolins. There is too much play in the original tuners on both. Is there a particular machine set someone has used successfully as a replacement? Thanks!
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    Registered User liestman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    As far as I know, these are the only ones that are an easy drop in fit (and they work very well).
    https://www.stewmac.com/Hardware_and..._Mandolin.html
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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by liestman View Post
    As far as I know, these are the only ones that are an easy drop in fit (and they work very well).
    https://www.stewmac.com/Hardware_and..._Mandolin.html
    Ditto. The post spacing for mandolin tuners was changed in the 1920's, and the Stew-mac Golden Age tuners that John linked you to are the only modern tuners that I know of that have the pre-1920's spacing. If you try to install any other tuners, you are likely to encounter problems.

    I've installed the Stew-mac tuners on a couple of mandolins, and they indeed work well.

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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    I just use any tuner that I like and cut the tuner plate into pieces so it fits. If you cut thru the screw holes the screws still hold them on and the spacing is no longer an issue. I don't mind altering something new and get whatever tuner I prefer the quality of. I have done this on my '22 and several old Gibsons.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Before you buy new tuners take a quick look through the late Paul Hostetter's tuner page.

    If you can't revive them you can get the Stewmac Golden Age tuners listed above. Keep in mind that your old tuners still have value.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    I have those tuners from Stewmac on my 1923 A-Jr. They work well and look right. I still have the original tuners in the case, but they don't work too well anymore.

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  12. #7
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Yes, the StewMac Golden Age “Restoration” Tuners are the only ones routinely available.

    As Mike says, check out Paul Hosetter’s page but I think that mainly covers how to free up tight tuners rather than tightening up loose ones.

    A word of warning though, I notice that one of the mandolins has a “Gibson” logo on the headstock from a much later date. Has a logo simply been added to the headstock or has the mandolin neck been replaced? If the neck is contemporary with the logo and the tuners contemporary with the neck, the tuners are likely to have the more modern (post early 20’s ) spacing. [They look to be “worm under” tuners which suggests the old style spacing but worth double checking]
    Last edited by Ray(T); Jul-27-2019 at 4:44am.

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  14. #8
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Good advice above. Yeah , once the metal is worn from the worm, usually the problem, it is time for a replacement. StewMac gives a good set of measurements on their site if you want to check for yourself. Luck … R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    The best way to determine the tuner spacing is to measure it. The "old" spacing was .931" (23.65mm) from post center to post center. The "New" spacing is .906" (23.01mm).

    This is where owning a cheap set of digital calipers from Harbor Freight really comes in handy. Both of yours should be the old size unless that was renecked or something.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Hi Mike and all ya all, Yes, the 1912 mandolin that is without the guard is the one I am unsure of. It has the label, body and inner markings of the teens A ovals, but yet has this 40's - 50's headstock decal. I am under the impression there was some Gibson repair shop history that ended with the Logo being added? The bushings are a different shape and size, but the gears and the posts look the same. The one with the correct tailpiece and pickguard is the '13. I will do as you have suggested and measure the spacing. Thanks for the help, friends!
    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5
    1913 Gibson A Oval
    1912 Gibson A Oval

  19. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Pull a side from the 13 and see if it fits in the other. That should tell you one way or the other or just measure them.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Here are the backs of the two headstocks. The '13 (some have said it is an '09) is on the left and the '12 with the 50's decal is on the right. Both are 15/16" from center of post to center of post, and this is roughly 23 millimeters.
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    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5
    1913 Gibson A Oval
    1912 Gibson A Oval

  21. #13
    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    1913 on left and 1912 on right:
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    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5
    1913 Gibson A Oval
    1912 Gibson A Oval

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    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Pull a side from the 13 and see if it fits in the other. That should tell you one way or the other or just measure them.
    Great suggestion, Mike!
    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5
    1913 Gibson A Oval
    1912 Gibson A Oval

  23. #15
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    The one with the new logo could have been back to the factory for a 50's-60's repair. I had an early 30's F2 that they did the same thing to.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  25. #16
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    The earlier spacing is 15/16", center to center. The later spacing is 29/32". Be sure you measure carefully.

    If you're not sure about the accuracy of your measurements, you can measure from the first tuner on the strip to the last tuner.
    The earlier tuners will measure about 2 13/16" center to center, or just over 2 3/4". Later tuners will measure closer to 2 23/32" or just under 2 3/4".

    The Golden Age Restoration tuners are the only ones that will work on the early spacing. All other modern tuners should fit the later spacing.

    I see that Stew-mac is finally offering a version of "Restoration" tuners for F models. For those of you with teens F-4's, you might want to order a set in case they go out of production.

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    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    rcc56, Thank you for the standard measurement specificity. This is very helpful, although admittedly, a caliper tool would help.
    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5
    1913 Gibson A Oval
    1912 Gibson A Oval

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Serviced mine removed them.. one of the shaft hole journal pieces came a bit loose, over rhe years since 22..

    so I made a tool, to support. one end , curved to march the edge, so as to not change the shape of the shaft hole

    as, I banged on the swaged part, to re tighten it in the hole in the backing plate..

    then put them back on (I forget how long ago this was) been fine ever since..






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  30. #19
    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Thanks for the heads up. I just ordered a set for my 1917 A1. Will post pictures as I do the install.
    Russ
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    I've had two custom mandolins made for me. Both a-models. I don't like the worm-over look, so I requested that both of them be made with worm-under tuners. Both builders used the restoration tuners and drilled with the old spacing.

    Those tuners work just fine. And, I like the looks!

    f-d
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  34. #21
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by Russ Donahue View Post
    Thanks for the heads up. I just ordered a set for my 1917 A1. Will post pictures as I do the install.
    Russ
    You are ahead of me, Russ. I look forward to hearing how things went! Thanks.
    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5
    1913 Gibson A Oval
    1912 Gibson A Oval

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  36. #22
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Hi folks.
    I promised pictures but found the job finished before I even remembered I was going to document the process.

    It was really easy.

    I did one side at a time. Made sure I had the correct tuner plate ready to go into the holes when the old one was removed. Removed the strings from the treble side. Removed the screws. Gently pulled the original tuner plate out. The bushings fell out. Picked up the new tuner plate and gently popped it into the existing holes. Eezy-peezy. Turned the instrument over, and gently put the old bushings back into their holes around each new tuner shaft. Took a little gentle pressing, but each went back where they belonged. Turned it over, and the screw holes were a dight off. No problem. The original screws went right back in with little difficulty. Repeated the process on the bass side.

    Result? Tuners feel more solid and don't "wiggle" as I tighten the strings. Seem to hold tuning better as well.

    Of course, I saved the original tuners, and the replacement bushings (that I didn't use) and the replacement screws (that I didn't use). Looking forward to playing her for the next few days to see if the new tuners improve the tuning stability.

    This is the type of job I like. Roughly 40 minutes from start to finish. Required one small screw driver, a bit of dexterity - mostly for rewinding strings around the shafts, and patience. Thank you Stew Mac!
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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  38. #23
    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

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    Here are pictures showing the new tuners in place on the 1917 A1.
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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  40. #24
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    Nice!
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson A Oval Tuning Machines

    I've heard through the grapevine of a very reliable source that Stew-Mac will be offering worm over gear bump ends plain and engraved for the GREAT old Gibson's of the post Loar through the early 40's! Also Kluson will be doing this as they showed their mark on A models to the great F-5 of the depression and pre-war years! "Just heard this so within a year?"
    We'll see I guess but that won't stop my emails to them every month about making these bump end worm over gear tuners for mandolins! LoL!!! I forgot to ask if it's Waverly or Golden Age but either one is fine but I'm speculating its Golden Age tuners!

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