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sbpark

J45 Standard tuner conversion done super easy!

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Figured I'd start a new thread describing how I converted the Grover Rotomatic tuners on my J45 Standard to Kluson 3-on-s-plate vintage style tuners with white buttons. I apologize for not taking pics during the process, and the pics I did post in this thread were taken around 2am, and I'm tired and want to go to bed, but I did want to create this thread because I have been wanting to do this for years, but there seems to be limited or conflicting information out there on if it will work or not, what tuners fit, what bushings work, etc. Well folks, hopefully this thread clears things up and will help others who have been wondering the same thing!!

 

First off, here are the conversion bushing I used. The are the 3/8" conversion bushings sold by StewMac:

 

https://www.stewmac.com/Hardware_and_Parts/Tuning_Machines/Tuner_Parts/3_8_Conversion_Tuner_Bushing.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=2018-09-gp&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlcDygZW_3QIVB5RpCh2zgQPwEAQYASABEgINzvD_BwE

 

g8epdQG.jpg

 

These are the tuners I used. They are Kluson 3-on-a plate vintage-style tuners I got from Amazon:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006ZPAEU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

uMM8Ppe.jpg

 

Removing the Rotomatics is super easy, and pretty self-explanatory. Unscrew the bushing, remove one screw on the back of the tuner and the tuner pops out.

 

Seems easy from here, but there are two obstacles getting in your way if you want to do the tuner swap right. First, the washers from the Rotomatics leave what others have described as "raccoon eyes" on the front of the headstock. The next thing is the conversion bushings are just the slightest bit oversized compared to the holes in headstock, which require a little reaming, but I'll get to that later. First let's talk about getting rid of those raccoon eyes!

 

I was a little hesitant to tackle this project because I was afraid to work on the headstock, and didnt want to deal with wet sanding and finishing, possibly screwing up the headstock, burning through the finish, scratching the crap out of it and not being able to fix it, etc. Well, let me tell you, if this has been freaking you out as well and/or keeping you from tackling this project, fear not! This is RIDICULOUSLY easy. Here's what I did:

 

I used a small 1" x 1" square of 1200 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Instead of using water I actually used Meguiars Scratch X 2.0. I use this stuff around the door handles of my car because those areas seem to get easily scratched, and this stuff is amazing for removing those scratches. I've also used it in the past with great success getting rid of light surface swirls and scratches on acoustic and electric guitars with both poly and modern "nitro" finishes. Given it was late at night and Home Depot was closed, I just used what I had at home because I'm impatient and figured what the heck. So using the small square of 1200 grit sandpaper and the Scratch X 2.0 in the place of water, I gently sanded going in small circles around each hole in the pegged. I was blown away how easily and quickly the raccoon eyes disappeared. I just sanded a bit, wiped the area clean to see the progress, applied another tiny dab of Scratch X 2.0 and repeated the process until the raccoon eyes were gone for each hole. A couple of mine were pretty deep with a very noticeable ridge/indentation left by the Rotomatic washers, but the sandpaper/Scratch X 2.0 combo worked flawlessly. This obviously left the area I was sanding very dull around each hole, but fear not. Here's where the magic happens!

 

I took a clean, cotton washcloth and using the Scratch X 2.0 buffed the headstock, and after maybe 10 minutes of buffing and a couple applications of Scratch X 2.0 the headstock had a mirror shine, as nice as the day it left the factory, possibly better! Seriously, that's all you need; a tiny piece of 1200 grit wet/dry sandpaper and Scratch X 2.0 pictured below:

 

bnk6X4F.jpg

 

Now that you've got the headstock all nice and shiny and got rid of those pesky raccoon eyes, now you have to install the bushings. I watched the video on StewMac that shows how these same bushings were installed on Rich Robinson's on Gibson 335 that had Rotomatics installed, so I knew these bushings would work. As I mentioned earlier, the conversion bushings are just slightly oversized. If you attempt to muscle them in you risk splitting the headstock, so the holes need to be enlarged just the SLIGHTEST bit. StewMac makes a really nice reamer fort this task, but it costs $63.16 plus shipping. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about spending money on the right tool for the right job, but thought there had to be an equally effective way to do the job for much less. Amazon actually sells reamers with the same dimensions as the StewMac tool for $15-$20, but reviews of those reamers were pretty poor. People were complaining that these reamers arrived dull, so I scrapped that idea. Instead I ended up using 4" half-round file. A rat tail file would work just as well. I just filed the holes a little, dropped in the bushing, filed a little more, and checked the fit again, and when there was just a little bit of the bushing exposed I used a pair of channel lock pliers and a folded over washcloth for cushioning and pressed in the bushing, repeating this for the remaining 5 bushings.

 

From this point on you're home free and all you have to do is actually mount the tuners.

 

Here's the finished product.

 

Hope this helps those of you who've been wondering about this.

 

Before:

 

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After:

 

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Hj9fmoE.jpg

 

L8hlps1.jpg

 

zER9GA4.jpg

 

gG3Dch6.jpg

 

QcFT7i3.jpg

Edited by sbpark

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Rolling tuners is an easy and quick way to either improve what was put there originally or get a look you want. I would much rather deal with that than a guitar on which somebody felt it would be a good idea to fasten down a lifting bridge by driving glued dowels through the thing. Why is it always epoxy?

Edited by zombywoof

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Good work, good post, and a well done. Thanks for the insights and for taking the time to detail your effort. Looks real good.

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Good work, sir. And kudos for changing the t-rod cover to single layer black......did the same on my J-35.......just looks cleaner.

 

Agreed, it looks much better with the 1-ply black truss rod cover. Gives it a more classic look for sure.

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Agreed, it looks much better with the 1-ply black truss rod cover. Gives it a more classic look for sure.

Hi mate. Where did you get the TRC? I'm after one for my J-160E.

Cheers

Rick

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Looks really nice. How many screw holes did you have to drill? Maybe a better question is: did any of the rotomatic holes line up?

 

None of the old screw holes lined up, but they all were covered by the new tuners. I had to drill 4 tiny pilot holes per side for the new tuners.

Edited by sbpark

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Thank you very much, this is a very interesting thread as I am thinking about replacing the Rotomatics of my SJ should I bond with the guitar not because they are bad but because I need a set for my Les Paul Classic.

 

Generally speaking which is the best Kluson clone around?Gotoh? The ones I tried on the 60s J45 were very smooth and the white buttons was aged, unlike the ones on my Sheryl Crow signature.

 

For the holes, I assume the 50s SJs had single deluxe ones, in this case would the hole for the Roto work?

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Generally speaking which is the best Kluson clone around?Gotoh?

 

WD Music Products bought the Kluson brand name and all their old designs. I have them on my 2008 and 1965 J-50 and they're great. The ones I put on the 1965 guitar look identical to the originals, but they have improved the design somehow (I assume a higher gear ratio?) and the new ones operate much better than the originals. Here's the Kluson page on WD's website.

 

https://www.wdmusic.com/kluson.html

 

These are the "single line" 3-on-a-plate version with off-white buttons that I put on the 1965 J-50.

 

https://www.wdmusic.com/kluson_3_plate_plastic_button_nickel.html#2449

 

They also come in a cool vintage style box. :)

 

kluson.jpg

Edited by Boyd
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Thank you Boyd, are the WD Klusons those used on Gibson CS models? I ask because the Klusons on my Sheryl Crow are not that great (I toyed with the idea to replace them many times) and those used in my '97 Les Paul plainly awful, that was the reason why I was thinking about the swap...installing the Rotomatics on my Lester like Jimmy Page's number 2.

Edited by Alex_78

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Thank you Boyd, are the WD Klusons those used on Gibson CS models? I ask because the Klusons on my Sheryl Crow are not that great (I toyed with the idea to replace them many times) and those used in my '97 Les Paul plainly awful, that was the reason why I was thinking about the swap...installing the Rotomatics on my Lester like Jimmy Page's number 2.

 

 

Rotomatics are good tuners, but they look out of place on acoustic Gibsons. The weight and mass of Rotomatics is less noticeable on an eight-pound Les Paul than on a four-pound J-45. Having said that, My ES 335 has keystone individual Klusons, and they look just right on that guitar, and work ok if not great.

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Thank you Boyd, are the WD Klusons those used on Gibson CS models?

 

Sorry, no idea - I have never even seen a Gibson Custom Shop guitar in person. :)

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Great Job SB!

 

Dude you know that I have been wanting to do the same to my J45 as well. I think that you gave me the inspiration and the confidence to tackle this same project. I have been worried about screwing my guitar up, but your explanations are great and I feel that I can do it.

 

I wish that Grover made a drop in single tuning machine with the white button to replace the rotos. I guess that would be to easy though.

 

Looks great!!!

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If the buttons are all that you dislike, you can get plastic replacements in several styles. I got some pearl ones from StewMac (I think) that looked nice. In fact, the first time that a friend saw my J-50 the first thing she said was “I really like the tuners”. :) But after awhile I replaced the rotomatics completely, I just find everything about them ugly.

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If the buttons are all that you dislike, you can get plastic replacements in several styles. I got some pearl ones from StewMac (I think) that looked nice. In fact, the first time that a friend saw my J-50 the first thing she said was “I really like the tuners”. :) But after awhile I replaced the rotomatics completely, I just find everything about them ugly.

 

Different buttons, in my opinion would be like putting pearls on a pig. Sure, the buttons would look "better", but you'd still have those big, gaudy tuners with hose giant washers that just dont look right on a J45. I'm fine with them on my D35, but just can't get into them on a J45.

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WD Music Products bought the Kluson brand name and all their old designs. I have them on my 2008 and 1965 J-50 and they're great. The ones I put on the 1965 guitar look identical to the originals, but they have improved the design somehow (I assume a higher gear ratio?) and the new ones operate much better than the originals. Here's the Kluson page on WD's website.

 

https://www.wdmusic.com/kluson.html

 

These are the "single line" 3-on-a-plate version with off-white buttons that I put on the 1965 J-50.

 

https://www.wdmusic.com/kluson_3_plate_plastic_button_nickel.html#2449

 

They also come in a cool vintage style box. :)

 

kluson.jpg

 

These are what I used. I got them off Amazon. So far they are great. They turn smooth, and I really like how the buttons aren't a stark, blinding white like other 3-on-a-plate tuners are. They're a more of a cream color and blend with the rest of the guitar better.

Edited by sbpark

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Excellent Job SB! [thumbup]

 

Have you noticed a big difference in tuning stability from the 18:1 ration Grovers to the 12:1 ration Kluson's?

 

None at all. They obviously feel different, and the Rotomatics are a little easier to dial in, but they also have a much bigger button. I have nothing against Rotomatics. I have them on a '75 D28 and a new D35. They just dont look right on a J45.

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