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Thread: Replacement Tuning Machines

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    Default Replacement Tuning Machines

    I want to replace the tuning machines on my A-style mandolin with upgrades. Right now the mandolin has Stew-Mac Golden Age tuners exactly like the ones in the classifieds up for sale right now. Can anyone recommend upgrades that would drop right in to the holes as drilled for the Golden Age tuners without modifications to the headstock?

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Waverly tuners should work.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    I want to replace the tuning machines on my A-style mandolin with upgrades. Right now the mandolin has Stew-Mac Golden Age tuners exactly like the ones in the classifieds up for sale right now. Can anyone recommend upgrades that would drop right in to the holes as drilled for the Golden Age tuners without modifications to the headstock?
    I'm not a fan of the Golden Age tuning machines either.
    You are not going to find any that will have matching screw placement, but the holes for the tuning pegs will match up.
    Fill the screw holes with toothpicks and then drill new pilot holes for the new screw locations.
    Any of these Rubner tuning machines will work. They are excellent!
    https://www.rubnertuners.com/hauser-...lin%20Machines

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    Question Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Take yours off clean and lubricate them , and put them back on .. they're probably fine..
    The ones on my 90 year old mandolin are still OK..

    you can measure , and then compare ? stew mac site lists dimensions.


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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Take yours off clean and lubricate them , and put them back on .. they're probably fine..
    The ones on my 90 year old mandolin are still OK..

    you can measure , and then compare ? stew mac site lists dimensions.


    If they’re on a 90 year old mandolin, they could well be the “Restoration” version, which are OK, have a different hole spacing and are only suitable for the vintage instruments which have - e.g. teens Gibson As.

    I simply took the Golden Age tuners off my Clark and threw them away!

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    I have played mandolin for 50+ years on many different mandolins. I have NEVER replaced tuners. What is it y’all are looking for? I keep mine LIGHTLY lubricated and have had no problem.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    I want to replace the tuning machines on my A-style mandolin with upgrades. Right now the mandolin has Stew-Mac Golden Age tuners exactly like the ones in the classifieds up for sale right now. Can anyone recommend upgrades that would drop right in to the holes as drilled for the Golden Age tuners without modifications to the headstock?
    This is America and it is your mandolin so feel free to change them if you'd like. You really don't need a reason other than you'd like to change them.

    stevojack665 has mentioned filling the holes for the screws. That's not real tough, you need round tooth picks and some white glue. I used the Elmer's Woodworker's glue that is stainable. You'll need a single sided razor blade or a small sharp chisel to trim them off and you'll need a hand drill and some very small bits. In the absence of a small bit you can use a small brad in the drill chuck. Take a look at this thread and you'll see some of what you're up against. Beyond that you need to make sure the tuners are the same worm over or worm under configuration and that the spacing center to center on the holes for the posts are correct. You can also generally determine if the plate will cover the existing holes that may need to be filled. There are some decent A style tuners available. The specifications for what Stewmac sells is at the bottom of each tuner listing. Good luck and let us know what you choose and how they turn out.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; May-08-2020 at 8:44am. Reason: Fixed typo
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Exclamation Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    If they’re on a 90 year old mandolin, they could well be the “Restoration” version, which are OK, have a different hole spacing and are only suitable for the vintage instruments which have - e.g. teens Gibson As.

    I simply took the Golden Age tuners off my Clark and threw them away!

    Mine were whatever the Kalamazoo factory of Gibson bought for their 1922 batch of mandolins..

    As I've offered before .. a peghead hole drilling mismatch from perfection , and so a less than drop in fit for some premium Waverly tuners,

    caused tuner damage .. which Stew Mac attempted to repair and failing that hey replaced them,

    I put on a set of Stew Mac Elites, they were fine with the hole spacing , being less precise requiring themselves,
    and have been fine for 10 years..

    It's a Mix, Carbon A5, which doesn't need tuning often ..

    Still got the black button look the last owner may have bought the Waverlys to get..

    They did not disclose they were damaged, just featured the tuners were there..

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    In answer to why I want to change. It's a modern mandolin, I would say selling new for $5K, so it's worth doing. I took it ot Olde Town Pickin Parlor in Arvada Colorado for adjustment and the best they could do was lubricate. The issue with these tuners is the gears seem to stick or bind. They tune up, but with a little effort and definitely not smoothly at all. It also begs the question if the holes were drill properly in the peghead to start with. So I'm hoping to find better tuners I can drop in including bushings and I won't need to redrill the holes. Screws holes are eash but straight accurate peg holes and potential hole filling is another story. Obviously sending the mandolin back to the builder is an option, but one I would prefer to avoid.

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    Question Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Reasonably priced A type the standard Schallers seem fine (Less $ than the Grand Tune)
    their bushings need some modification from the front side of the peg head wood.

    stew mac sells the grommet bushing separately


    F type has the gear cut / turning direction issue worm under ,
    will be different from worm over to have the knob turn as you are used to..

    It took me a while to find the right Schaller F tuner for my Lebeda which was different, from my A mandolins

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    The Golden Age tuners are just not good. My Collings MT came with them and I tried everything to get them to work properly. Collings and Stew Mac were great about it and sent me a new set. They also were lousy. I bought a set of Rubner tuners and they were perfect from the moment I strung it up.
    Honestly, you don't even need to fill the old screw holes unless one of the new screw holes intersects with it.
    Also, the Rubner tuning machines have been out of stock for quite a while. Great to see that they have plenty available to choose from now.
    In my opinion, they are the best you can get for $300 or less.
    You could also go with Waverlys or Alessi if you want to spend $500+. They are great, but not worth the extra $300 to me.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    ...It also begs the question if the holes were drill properly in the peghead to start with. So I'm hoping to find better tuners I can drop in including bushings and I won't need to redrill the holes...
    If this is the mandolin that I think it is, the post holes are accurately drilled. There is no need to change the bushings. Any tuner set with modern standard spacing (all but a very few) will drop right into the existing bushings.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    If this is the mandolin that I think it is, the post holes are accurately drilled. There is no need to change the bushings. Any tuner set with modern standard spacing (all but a very few) will drop right into the existing bushings.
    Agreed. Unless you change to a different finish, no need to swap bushings. And even if you do change finish to satin or chrome or whatever, it might look good to have the old bushings and new tuning machines.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Nicolo Alessi will make you anything you can dream up with holes that will be an exact match for how your headstock has been drilled so there will be no need for more modifications.

    Why all the hush hush about the mandolin? You'll get a lot more useful answers if you show a photo of what it is..........

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Nicolo Alessi will make you anything you can dream up with holes that will be an exact match for how your headstock has been drilled so there will be no need for more modifications.

    Why all the hush hush about the mandolin? You'll get a lot more useful answers if you show a photo of what it is..........
    Alessi tuners are amazing! and pricey. But if you want the best, they are it

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Mandroid #8 - they weren’t the GAs then. 1922 is more than likely to be “old” spacing. New spacing traditionally started circa. 1925 but I’m sure that most will agree that there are examples from ‘24.

    I’d agree with John Hamlett re. bushings. I kept the GA bushings on my Clark and they are fine with a set of Robson tuners. (I’m told that Keith Robson isn’t currently making mandolin tuners.)

    I have instruments with Alessi and Waverley tuners and, if price isn’t an issue, go for it. I also have instruments with Schaller tuners and there’s “n’owt wrong with ‘em”; as we say in these parts.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Tuning Machines

    My 1st 1922 A tuners had a loose shaft journal..
    so I made a shaped piece of steel to support the visible end and not crush the hole out of round,
    And reset the swaged inner side tighter to the backing plate, then put them back on ..

    Yea this is where you post questions about 'should I change my tuners ?', I did not have the internet way back then,

    So I just fixed what I had, as best I could.. and they have served me well .. ever since.. almost 35 years later..







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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    I had the exact same experience with the Golden Age tuners that came on my Collings MT mandola. At the request of Collings, StewMac sent me a replacement set - they were no better. Purchased a set of Rubner tuners and had them installed - all is good!
    1992 Flatiron F5 Master model
    2009 Weber A model Fern
    2011 Collings MT mandola
    1985 Flatiron 2M

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Any one Prep, Lubricate & wear in their new tuners with a string winder crank, before putting them on?
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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    I bought s mandolin with golden age tuners on and had to replace shortly after receiving the mandolin, as the buttons all fell off. They're junk. I used the opportunity to try a bunch of different tuners on it. To me, I think the best bang for buck are the Schaller grandtune. I've Waverly on another mandolin, but TBH with the quality of the schallers, I couldn't justify the difference in price. Schallers are amazing. But there's a few I didn't get to try, like Alessi. But I'm not a builder, or expert. Just a player who took the opportunity to try a bunch for myself.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Any one Prep, Lubricate & wear in their new tuners with a string winder crank, before putting them on?
    Why should yiu have to? Organic things - mandolins, fiddles etc. - tend to improve with age whereas mechanical things - tuners, cars and even pianos - are generally at their best when new and tend to wear out. It’s largely a matter of the mechanical things being produced down to a price rather than up to a price so hand built mandolins tend to cost more than mass produced ones - same with tuners.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Machines rotate more easily once lubricated even metal to metal bushings,,

    we talking super premium or standard cost conscious parts ?
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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    I replaced my original machines on my 1912 Gibson A1 with Golden Age and I find no issue with tuning and adjusting tuning to pitch. They have very good, if not superior quality, and for fit and function, they are a very good choice. A huge improvement over the originals and turn so smoothly.

    New strings are harder to stay in tune with the best tuners so I always pull them gently 2-3 times and retune when installing them. I think that if they are not working it is more about preference or technique not suitability for these 100 year old instruments. The ones pictured are bright nickel, which are like the originals.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Dan Brooks
    2017 Collings MT(GT), 2007 Eastman 815V, 1913 Gibson A1, 1912 Gibson A1, 1930’s Strad-o-Lin

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Quote Originally Posted by lflngpicker View Post
    I replaced my original machines on my 1912 Gibson A1 with Golden Age and I find no issue with tuning and adjusting tuning to pitch. They have very good, if not superior quality, and for fit and function, they are a very good choice. A huge improvement over the originals and turn so smoothly.


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    Just to be clear, there are two sorts of “Golden Age” tuners. The right ones for a ‘12 Gibson A are the, worm-under, “Restoration” tuners; which you have fitted. It’s the worm-over, modern hole spaced ones, which have been known to give problems.

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    Default Re: Replacement Tuning Machines

    Thanks for explaining that, Ray. I am always happy when I can learn something new about mandolins and their components. Thank you!
    Dan Brooks
    2017 Collings MT(GT), 2007 Eastman 815V, 1913 Gibson A1, 1912 Gibson A1, 1930’s Strad-o-Lin

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