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Thread: Tuner adjustments

  1. #1

    Default Tuner adjustments

    I have a fairly new Eastman MD-505 with Schaller tuners. Several are so tight that it can be painful to turn them. How do I adjust that tension without losing the peg's ability to hold tone (as well as any mando holds tone LOL). I didn't want to just jump in with a screwdriver without getting some input. Also, I've always had Schallers on my guitars and loved them. Is this just an adjustment issue or should I be looking at getting some Grovers instead for my mandolin?

  2. #2
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Redwood City, CA

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    Something is seriously wrong. Properly installed Schaller tuners are not that hard to turn. It seems possible that the tuner posts are not properly in line with the tuner bushings in the headstock, and therefore binding in these. If that is indeed the case, then the headstock holes might need to be filled and re-drilled. This is a something of a professional job, and certainly not a small home adjustment. If your mandolin is new, you should look into returning it to the place you where bought it for a remedy under the warranty. Also, to the best of my knowledge, Schaller tuners are not 'adjustable' in the sense that a single screw setting determines the tension.

    Switching to Grovers or any other brand of tuner won't help you if the peghead holes are improperly spaced or misaligned. Also, Schallers are not inferior to Grovers, IMO.

    You could always try lubricating your tuners with a tiny amount of light lubricant, like TriFlo, but I'm doubtful -- based on the symptoms you describe -- that this will have much of an effect.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    One reason worm and gear mechanisms are used is that they are highly resistant to being moved by torque at the gear side, so instrument tuners, which are crude, low-precision devices, generally hold tuning, and are very easy to operate. Accuracy of contact isn’t a factor. BUT: if the problem is there with no string tension, the tuner is binding somewhere or the parts are just rough or dimensionally defective. So don’t be afraid to loosen that screw half a turn. If the problem is only there with string tension applied, the posts are binding in their holes or bearing inserts, which should be obvious. Again, there’s no need for very precise hole location, but if, for example, someone has used the old screw mounting holes without thinking, your tuners may be way off their proper locations. Even if the center-center spacing may be correct, nothing says the wood screw holes are the same.

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  6. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    40.1646 N, 74.2083 W

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    Hmmm, this is the second one of these we've had recently. Remove one of the hard to turn strings. Is it still hard to turn? As has been pointed out the holes the post go through may be drilled wrong or the string might be binding in the nut. What happens with no pressure on the string post, does it turn easily (not easier)?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    In my experience Schaller makes a very high quality tuner. I googled your instrument and the Eastman website indicates some other tuners which I've never heard of. You really should look to the place of purchase for warranty support. Lubrication can sometimes help but its not supposed to be needed. Some lubricants are bad for the finish. Some are bad for the wood. Some degrade the plastic of the tuner buttons. I have actually overly lubricated a problem vintage tuner to the point that the spur gear would drive the worm -- not a likely outcome but it happened. Let the dealer deal with your problem.

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  10. #6
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    In my life I've not seen tuners that could not be made to work properly (with exception of few that were plainly damaged beyond wreck by someone not-too-wise or by use of improperly installed or maintained tuners).
    Even the cheap chinese tuners use worms and gears that are cut by machines that are way more precise that our instruments really need. The problems are in 99% in assembly of the tuners themselves (rare on better tuners more often on cheap tuners with pressed plates but thay can be easily adjusted or bent to work well) or installation on instrument (by far most cases). I often work on budget instruments of local folkie players and even the chapest ping tuners can be adjusted and lubricated to work smoothly for many many years without anything more than drop of lubricant once a year. Only once I found tuners that had badly cut worm (excentric) so it was thicker on one half turn and thinner on other making every half turn hard as the worm was tight beween cog wheel's teeth. But after spinning the tuners with handdrill using grinding paste in the gears they loosened and worked well ever since.
    There are so many things in installation that can ruin even the best tuners enough for a long article.
    I told it many times that the screws are holding the tuners together and should be tight. If the tuner is tight off instruemts there are few areas that can cause that - bad gears (extremely rare) bad alignment of cog wheel vs worm (mostly on pressed plates - can be adjusted), worm shaft tight in the holding tabs (oil or bit of grinding paste works wonders) or plate jammed between cog wheel and shoulders of post - in this case loosening the screw works but is not good permanent solution as the loose screw may get lost. I remove such post and cog and reassemble without plate and measure tha gap, if the gap is just hair too small for thickness of plate I'd just take a small amount from bottom of the cog wheel either few passes on surface of fine file or sandpaper (in most cases it's the chrome plating of the parts that adds material that causes these problems) sometimes they need a shim to hold the cog higher on the post - tiny washer can be added inside of the cog (you can cut it out of thin plastic sheet or such easily and stack as many as needed)
    Once the tuners themselves turn free and smooth then it's matter of proper installation on instrument. Alignment of all holes and bushings and even the screws holding the tuners on instrument MUST be well aligned and centered (especially the countersunk ones).

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    Another issue. Although I’ve only had a couple of mandolins, and don’t see repair work, my ancient 12 string bowlback had a problem related to either materials or skimpy design. The gear wheels are very slim and one cracked. The almost invisible radial hairline crack jammed that tuner! Not wanting to toss the originals, and their nice (cast aluminum?) buttons,or get involved with trying to spec a compatible new gear, I took the gear off and brazed it (high temp silver). A little filing by eyeball was then needed, but it worked out. Several of the other gears look suspect, but are holding up. So there’s another tuner thing to inspect: those cracks are tiny, and a hand lens and strong light are needed to see them.
    It’s not a rule, but older, less consistent brasses and bronzes can age and weaken. I have the feeling that the crucible loading for these alloys was pretty much erratic and contaminated. And, of course, skimping on the expensive ingredient.

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  14. #8

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    Thank you all for your helpful input. I bought the 505 over the 305 because of the finish, the tailpiece and, especially, the tuners. The 300 series listed gotoh and Nickel economy F tuners while the 505 listed Schallers. Like I said I have Schallers on all my guitars and love them. Just wasn't sure if their mando product was different. I bought the mandolin from the Mandolin Store and really liked those folks. But I think I'll try a couple of the simpler steps here to diagnose and/or fix before thinking about shipping it back across the country for work. Again, many thanks for taking the time to educate me and offer specific, helpful answers.

  15. #9
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments

    Quote Originally Posted by glaxelson View Post
    ... think I'll try a couple of the simpler steps ... before thinking about shipping it back ...
    Hopefully, so simple and transparent as to not void any warantee.
    - Ed

    "Then one day we weren't as young as before
    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the kowin' of you."
    - Ian Tyson

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  17. #10
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.

    Smile Re: Tuner adjustments

    Peg head hole spacing may be the source of your issue ,, if the tuner set does not drop in with out resistance ,
    its probably off..

    Cure would mean ovaling the holes through the peg head a bit, to get the spacing up to standards.

    Stew mac has the stuff ..

    I bought a Mix A5 with Waverly tuners added , one bound and the last guy forced them in, damaging the part.*

    But fitting cheaper (sub $400) tuners in, tolerated the imprecision better.. (stew mac 'elite')

    * stew mac tried repairing them , replaced with new , which I then sold..

    I have several A and my 1 F with Schaller tuners so I say its not the tuner but the installation..

    good luck..

    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  18. #11

    Default Re: Tuner adjustments


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