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Thread: Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

  1. #1
    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

    A friend of mine just came into a vintage Gibson plectrum guitar, and asked me to help him with the ID. From the FON and features, I identified it as a 1936 PG-1. When I was looking it up, I was surprised to see that there is no mention of tuners of any kind in Gruhn's Guide To Vintage Guitars. It got me wondering about the banjo tuners. I "think" that Gibson used banjo tuners on all the pre-WWII tenor and plectrum guitars. I've seen a couple of post-war tenors with regular guitar tuners. Can anybody fill me in? Thanks!
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

    They indeed used banjo tuners on many of their pre-war tenor and plectrum guitars, but not all of them. I believe that guitar tuners were standard on TG-00's, at least during some years. Banjo tuners are common on TG-1's and the occasional Nick Lucas tenor. Plectrum guitars were made in smaller numbers. I do not see them often enough to make any conclusions about what might have been standard for any particular plectrum model.

    Also, it was common for Gibson specs for many models to vary considerably during the 1930's, depending on the year, what parts were in stock on the factory floor when a batch of instruments was ready to be strung up, and/or the whims of a manager.

    I have been watching the increasing popularity of tenor guitars with interest. Not too many years ago, nobody wanted them.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-11-2021 at 5:54pm.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

    Hi John,

    According to:
    Vintage Guitars Info's Gibson Vintage Guitar General Info,
    Specs, and Serial Numbers
    .

    Gibson started using Kluson Deluxe tuners in 1947.

    "During the 1950's and 1960's, Gibson used Kluson tuners almost exclusively. There were some exceptions; starting in 1959 you could special order Grover tuners instead of Klusons on many mid to upper line models including the Les Paul Custom and J-200 models. By 1969, Gibson starting using tuners with the "Gibson Deluxe" name on them, but these were actually made by Kluson... Again Phillips head screws started to be used at Gibson in 1939 (the phillips head screw was original patented in 1933). Prior to 1939, all screws should be slot style."

    So it appears your assumption of banjo tuners until Post-WII (1947) is accurate.

    A lot of info for identifying "Vintage" guitars: Martin, Gibson, Epiphone, Fender, et al: http://www.guitarhq.com/index.html

    Best of luck,
    Huck

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    They indeed used banjo tuners on many of their pre-war tenor and plectrum guitars, but not all of them. I believe that guitar tuners were standard on TG-00's, at least during some years.
    Yep,

    Here's a 1934 with banjo tuners and a 1937 with guitar tuners

    So my previous statement is obviously wrong.
    Last edited by Huck; Jun-11-2021 at 6:06pm. Reason: correction

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    Default Re: Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

    While very the guitarhq website is quite useful, it is not 100% accurate, especially about smaller details.

    And for instruments built between 1930 and 1946, no factory was 100% consistent about what they shipped, because of the effects of the depression and WWII on the availability and expense of materials.

    And Gibson was never a paragon of consistency in the old days. One example of this is the L-00 guitars. During the 8 or 10 years these instruments were built, the necks changed from 12 frets to 14 frets, and a few 13 fretters have been seen. During some years the standard finishes were black, while in other years, sunbursts were standard; some had back binding, others did not, bracing patterns varied, and at least 2 different styles of Kluson tuners were used.

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    Default Re: Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

    Several years ago, I owned and restored a 1930-ish TG00, which had it’s original Grover banjo tuners( the lower grade ones). That TG00 was the early style, not the later L00 body size.

  8. #6
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Banjo tuners on Gibson tenor and plectrum guitars

    I struggled enough teaching my slightly dyspraxic brain to restring on the mandolin's waverlies, without adding banjo tuners to the mix
    But I honestly prefer the aesthetic of "normal" tuners - always like to hear the history though and confirms my assumptions on things
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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