Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gibson Deluxe Tuners - A Revisit

Please note that this post is part four of four posts. I highly recommend reading all four posts in order before acting on any of the information.

The other parts are located here:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Given the amount of visits I’ve received due to the Gibson Deluxe Tuners (and why they suck) posts I made a while back, and what I’ve learnt since then, I decided to revisit the topic.

At that time, I decided the best way for me to fix the tuner was to solder it closed. This worked great and still holds fine. However, I was a little disappointed that I only found out about the “official” fix after I had already repaired mine. In this post, I’m going to actually try this fix with another tuner (which I found in a parts drawer in a local guitar shop). I’ll get onto this later.

Another thing I’d like to discuss is peg head hole sizes for Gibson Deluxe Tuners, and how you can use conversion bushings to fit normal Kluson-style tuners as replacements.

You see, Gibson Deluxe tuners are somewhat of a hybrid tuner. From the back, they look like traditional Kluson-style stamped tuners, but from the front, they look like modern Grover/Schaller/Gotoh-style die-cast tuners. The footprints (the markings that would be left if you removed the tuners) on the back of your peg head are the same as the ones that would be left by Kluson-style tuners, yet the holes that go right through your peg head are the same size as those used by die-cast tuners (10mm). So what’s the solution if you want to replace your Gibson Deluxe tuners with something OTHER than Gibson Deluxe Tuners, but without marking your guitar in anyway, or having ugly footprints left over from the old tuners? Well, it turns out that you can use Kluson-style tuners with what are known as “conversion bushings”. The ones that I have tried out and found to fit perfectly are available from Guitar Fetish (

I also wanted to talk about something else I discovered during this adventure, which is that you can easily convert a bass-side tuner to a treble-side tuner (well, apart from having to remove the back cover and fit it back on). This thought crossed my mind some time ago, but I figured it wouldn’t work, since the worm wheels would be mirror images of each other. However, it turns out they are not, in fact, mirror images at all. Let me show you...

Excuse the use of a bass guitar for this demonstration, but it's a nice clear image. As you can see here, the bass- and treble-side tuners look like mirror images of each other until you look a bit closer. You should see that the worm wheels are not a reflection of each other, but are threaded exactly the same way.

Now here is a Gibson Deluxe bass-side tuner (with the back cover removed).

And here's the same tuner with the worm gear inserted the other way around (voila – you now have a treble-side tuner).

Some of you might be thinking, “No way, that’s going to work, man. You’ll have to turn it the opposite way from the other tuners”, but if you check the tuners on your three-a-side guitar now, you’ll see that they do not turn the way you thought. As mentioned before, they are not exact mirror images of each other.

Anyway, back to the “official” method for fixing the cover back on to these tuners. I’ve heard from several sources now that this is the accepted fix for Gibson Deluxe Tuners.

We place the tuner, closed, on a solid surface, preferably held in place with something. Now we place a punch, small chisel, or screwdriver on one of the tabs, right where the arrow is pointing in the following photo (you can see the mark left by the original chisel, in fact) and give it a solid tap. Finally we do the same for the other tab. [This is called "staking" the tabs (thanks, Deuce2222).]

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is the accepted repair for these tuners. I tried it out on this tuner and so far it is holding well. It is also quicker and easier than the solder trick, so it is now my recommended method. If your tuner still keeps falling apart, or part of the tab breaks off, you always have the soldering trick to fall back on.

Finally, I discovered a long time after I repaired my first tuner why it felt wobbly. For some time I was suspicious that maybe there should be TWO washers at the bottom end of the worm gear (I only had one) and I eventually opened a perfectly good tuner to check. This is what I found:
As suspected, two washers (there's actually a third one at the other end of the gear, but that one can't fall off). The plastic washer measures a little over 0.6 mm and the metal one is just over 0.3 mm. I was missing the plastic one. I looked around and found a piece of aluminum/aluminium that was about the right thickness and drilled it out to the right internal diameter:
Then cut it to size:
Filed it:
And ended up with something resembling a washer:
And here it is fitted to the tuner. It's a nice snug fit, but does not impede movement at all.
I ended up making two of them, since the two broken tuners I had had both lost their plastic washers.

Just to add that had I still had the plastic washer on the first tuner I fixed (the one I soldered) I would've been very wary about applying as much heat as I did, so if you DO have the plastic washer, you might want to think twice about using that method.


Benjamin said...

Do just try to give it a good tap on the tab where it comes through the hole? Doesn't this push the outer casing case away from the rest of the tuner assembly?

Anonymous said...

I don't have a chisel or anything fine enough to do this. But I do have a soldering iron. I am guessing the solder trick does not require taking off the back?

It would have been good to see a pic of yours for the solder repair. I am going to try this method since I don't want to take the tuner off the guitar and attempt to hit it with something!

stu said...

Benjamin, you are right that this will push the cover off if it is not leaning against something solid. For that reason, you need to support it in such a way that it has nowhere to move.

Anonymous, do not try this trick OR the solder trick while the tuner is attached to your guitar! Both approaches would seriously damage it.

stu said...

Anonymous, I forgot to say, there are more details and pictures of the solder repair here: but now that I've done both repairs, I strongly recommend staking the tabs. If you feel really uncomfortable doing this, though, perhaps it would be better to take the guitar to a local guitar shop for repair.

Anonymous said...

I tried staking the back cap of my Schaller Gibson Deluxe machine head back on but it only worked temporarily.
Will most likely do the same again plus solder.

Like yourself I also had some wobbly somewhat loose machine heads on my Gibson Les Paul from first bought as well.

Because of the quality of these machine heads I am considering getting some Grovers or Rotomatics and just put those ones in a bag if I sell it.

Anonymous said...

I purchased a set of Gibson Deluxe tuners and installed one side. I was
just looking online for reviews and such on these tuners and came across your (4) part article.
Ironically Gibson must of had a lot of negative feedback a few years ago on these tuners for the tab issue you mention. They now come from the factory with the accepted fix you mention. The tab has been split with a punch or something.
Thought this update might interest everyone.

danmar said...

Great article and just in time! Thanks.