The day started with such promise

It started as a beautiful crisp autumn day with slightly chilly weather at last after a month of summer weather all through March. Saw the long awaited overseas news headlines that brought a big smile to my face and figured it was a good day to fit new tuners to my guitar.

A luthier friend had found these for me and they arrived earlier this week. Squee!!!

In anticipation I’d checked the screws on the old tuners to see they would easily come out, a little birdie told me I was mad to touch the guitar seeing I’ll be using it heaps at a muso’s camping gathering over the long Easter weekend coming up. I told the birdie to fly away.

I figured it would take me an hour at most, with all the prep and thought I’d put into it. I’d checked the size of the new tuners, an exact match, the screw holes lined up, nothing was gonna get in my way. The old tuners came out easily enough, now it was time to take out the old ferrules.

They were quite tight and didn’t want to budge. So I grabbed a drift and tapped on the first one. It didn’t want to move so I tapped a bit harder.


Surprisingly I didn’t swear. I think the shock was just too much. Got on the phone to my luthier friend and chatted about the options. Here’s the glue I used.

It’s a glue I use in my other hobby, making RC airplanes from balsa and foam.

After about 15 minutes I pulled the clamp off and it was a bit high on one side of the fix so I put a spacer in on that side of the fix and re-clamped.

I’m happy, possibly poor choice of words, with the outcome. All things considered. That picture was chosen with the light at the most reflective angle I could arrange.

My luthier friend coached me on how to remove the ferrules. I took a long razor knife, the kind with the break off / disposable blades and worked it between the top of the headstock and the ferrule itself. Initially it wouldn’t even fit at all but with patience and caution I got the blade under a couple of the ferrules and slowly worked it around trying to get the ferrule up so I could work it further with a tiny screwdriver between the razor blade and the ferrule.

As it turned out, I could not get the ferrules to budge enough to proceed any further. I didn’t want to force them and make my day any worse.

So I figured the old ferrules would have to stay, I did have reservations about putting shinny new ferrules on the guitar anyway.

But the day wasn’t through with me. Sigh.

The new tuners have a slightly wider diameter shaft and no amount of coaxing, whether verbal or physical was gonna make them fit.

An old favourite saying of mine came to mind: “Don’t force it, get a bigger hammer!” but alas, it was not meant to be.

So It came time to clean up and lubricate the old tuners. I had done this once before about 8 years ago and it did make a huge difference. But as you’ll see from the pictures below, the corrosion was significant after all our coastal travels over the last 3 years. It was also the allure of 18:1 tuners that was just too good. The old tuners are 14:1 ratio.

So I got out the methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) and the graphite powder along with an old toothbrush.

I pulled each tuner completely apart, gave them a good scrub with the toothbrush, air dried them and squirted copious amounts of graphite powder on them while assembling. It was amazing how good and smooth they quickly felt. They had been very graunchy when tuning the guitar lately.

The tuners went back on the guitar nicely and it’s restrung and ready for action.

It’s been a great lesson for me and I have posted as much detail as possible in the hope that it guides some of you as to what to do / what not to do.

The picture above was taken straight on with no reflection so as to minimize how noticeable the damage is. My guess is few will notice it, yet it will jump out at me all the time.

I’m particularly thankful I didn’t try this on my more expensive guitar. It’s painful for me in that this guitar, aka Racklesnatch, is a personal favourite of mine and I never want anything bad to happen to it.

There is a silver lining to every cloud and the silver lining today is I’m pretty sure I convinced my wife this will affect the tonality of the guitar to the degree that a new guitar is definitely needed. :smiley:


:rofl: :rofl: I guess time will tell Tony.

That is a pretty good repair though. What a mare just to try and pop some new tuners on. Is th guitar quite old and that is why the tuners are a different size?

Tony, I so admire all the folk who do more than just a string change to their guitars. I am filled with mild trepidation and anxiety before commencing a string change and was only bold enough to do the most basic setup on my Epi LP. Now I am beyond anxious when it comes to just a string change on the new PRS since it has a tremolo on it …

Glad you got through this in the end and achieved a measure of success, even if not what you were hoping for.

I wouldn’t say the tuners weren’t a different size, the external dimensions, the screw holes, the height, etc all were the same, all that was different was the shaft diameter which is tied to the inside diameter of the ferrules. The packet claimed they were genuine grover tuners. I’m not sure if they were genuine, I suspect not.

Thanks for your kind words. I encourage everyone to learn to change their strings, yet I know people who’ve played for many years who take their guitars to a tech to get the strings changed. I remember how nerve racking my first string change was.

Next time I suspect I’ll turn this over to the professionals to do.


Oh mei, I feel with you! The banality of the saying: “Never change a running system” unfortunately is often true. Too bad to hurt a guitar you love. Thank you for posting in such a detailed way. Lesson learned! :hibiscus:

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Hi Tony,
I enjoyed reading this. Lots of good to take from it :smiley:
First of all, kudos for having a go at doing something you think you should be able to do yourself, esp. with an upcoming event.
Whilst I feel your dismay when things go pear-shaped, you carried on, applied remedies and changed your approach when faced with new problems.
Cool :sunglasses:
You now have an even closer bond with a guitar you knew pretty well. You know the ferules are good and tight! and you have smooth tuner action.
Every time you look at the tiny repair that no one else can see, you’ll be reminded how this is your guitar. Think of it fondly, like a caesarian scar on a mother’s belly :smiley:
I feel sorry for everyone who is so in awe of their instrument that they want to preserve it in perfect condition and live in fear of it being damaged/worn in any way.
It’s quite an exhilarating feeling performing even minor surgery on our beloved instruments.
I would have been tempted to bludgeon those ferules out with the bigger hammer, and if necessary drill slightly larger holes for the new bad boys. You obviously made the right decision though and I’m glad it all worked out for you in the end.
Enjoy the campfires :smiley:

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I’ve got the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE. Was never quite happy with the original tuners, but after reading this I think I’ll keep them. Overall, I love the guitar. Plays better than a Martin I owned and sold upon playing this one.

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Hi Tony,
How good what you did :sunglasses:… I can well imagine the first shock :woozy_face:, but fantastically solved :man_bowing: and added a nice story for your guitar…

Proud of you … but then you close with this???

Bad Tony …Bad Tony…



Hey Tony,

Glad it turned out alright in the end. Pretty good job of it really, and may be of help to others down the track. Not panicking or stressing helps. Its a badge of honour really.
Good on ya for not swearing. I swore when I saw the picture.

Cheers, Shane

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Quite the rollercoaster but you handled it like a pro!

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Glad that you managed to turn this around. The first blip on something treasured is often the worst!

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Now that is a happy ending !

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Battle scarring isn’t it?! Definitely a journey for you but alot to learn from in the experience. The only time i’ve changed tuners I kept the old ferrules, mind you the guitar was under a year old so I figured all would be fine and luckily for me it was!

The fix looks good ultimately and the spruce up job you’ve done on the old tuners has been worthwhile regardless!

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Tony, You had me captivated from the very beginning. Smiled with your successes, smiled a little less with your obstacles, nothing a bit of glue and tweak won’t fix but the ending….well that left me in fits.
A worthwhile effort I guess if it results in a new guitar :blush:

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Ouch for all that pain, you and your guitar both. You’ll have to try to be happier that it’s fixed than that it’s got a small blemish. Oh and enjoy shopping for a new guitar! :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’m wanting to change mine so watched both of Justin’s clips guiding you through. He makes it look so easy, like everything he does………just not feeling the confidence so off to the store for me. One day.

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Oh Tony, that is such a shame, I’m gutted for you. Your guitar kind of becomes a piece of you and it kind of hurts when you damage it. I think you were very brave taking on this challenge. When the time comes it will definitely be the shop for me.

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Good on you for trying!

I hate having to buy special tools for things like this, but as you just were, I am frequently reminded why there are special tools for certain jobs.

I think you fixed up the damage and made the most of it as best you can. It looks good, but I feel for you!

Maybe if some day you decide to try again a local luthier would lend you something to press out (and in) the sleeves.

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