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Thread: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

  1. #1

    Default Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    I recently acquired a gorgeous 1915 Gibson F4. I love everything about it but the beautiful Handel tuners are very hard to turn when tuning. It almost feels like I might damage them when tuning. I read somewhere Gibson changed at some time from the “under” gear style to the “over” gear style because of tuning difficulties.

    Is this something I just have to live with because of the design? Can I lubricate them to make them work better? Or should I just take it to my guitar tech?

    Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    Often, a drop of 3 in 1 oil on each of the bearings and one under the star shaped gear will work. It can also help to loosen the screw that holds the gear and run it back in so it is just snug, not very tight. You'll want to do that anyway so you can get your oil drop to flow between the gear and the base plate.

    I wouldn't take Handel tuners to just anyone for service. They are old and sometimes a bit fragile. It's best to take them to someone who has a lot of experience working on old instruments.

    In my experience, most of the tuners on 1910's Gibsons can be made to work reasonably well if the shafts aren't bent. Tuners from the 1920's often are nearly impossible to loosen up once they get really stiff.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    Sounds like there might be hope! I’m on the Central Coast in CA so I might be able to find a good vintage repair shop up North, maybe Santa Cruz. Thanks for the input.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    Call Gryphon in Palo Alto. They are highly qualified to work on antique instruments.

  5. #5
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    I just recently had a similar mando with similar tuners in the shop. The tuners had been oiled over the years and the accumulated oil had hardened to something kind of like chewing gum. I took the tuners off of the mandolin, completely disassembled them. soaked them in detergent and water, scrubbed with a soft toothbrush, and finally had to use a little naphtha to get all of the old grease off. I put them back together, lubed them with Triflow, put them back on the mandolin and they are much improved. There are a couple of tight places when turning a couple of the keys, but that is between the worm gear and the plate., That part can't be taken apart without "unriviting" them so nothing short of that can be done. It is a manufacturing flaw and it's not too bad, so I consider these tuners to be functioning as well as can be expected.

    This type of thorough cleaning and lubing cannot be done with the tuners installed on the mandolin, and if you don't have full confidence in your abilities it might be best done by a luthier, clock maker, or other crafts-person who deals with small mechanical things.

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  7. #6

    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    Thanks. I appreciate the advice. It looks like my next step is to get it to somebody who’s competent with vintage instruments. I found an article, Paul Hostetter, on the web that also describes cleaning the tuners, similar to what John suggested. I bought it from Gryphon so next time I’m up north I’ll take it in and see what they think.

  8. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    You mentioned the late Paul Hostetter's tuner maintenance page and that is the first place I'd start. I'm sure the folks at Gryphon would be happy to get them turning for you as well. Paul was a Cafe member and a friend to many of us.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    Thanks everyone for the advice. Yes, I wish I had known Paul Hostetter like some of you guys. I got to know him vicariously after I bought a SCGC H13 a couple of years ago. There’s lots of internet lore related to his involvement in its development so I got to know of him through that. Lots of fantastic people in this community!

  10. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    I have heard over the years (possibly from Paul H) that 3-in-1 Oil is not ideal for tuner lubrication since there are particles of graphite(?) or something else suspended in the oil and that, as John Hamlett noted above, Tri-Flow (used for bicycle lubrication) is much better.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Aug-10-2020 at 7:56pm.
    Jim

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    Dan Scullin dscullin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    Agree with Jim. 3 in 1 oil, if used injudiciously, can soften the wood around the set screws for the tuners and cause problems unseating the screws.
    Dan Scullin
    Louisville, KY

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Sticky Handel Tuners on a 1915 Gibson F4

    I would agree Tri-Flow is a much better lubricant than 3 in 1.
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