Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Tuner Swap


Recommended Posts

As I mentioned in a post last week, I decided to swap out the tuners on my 2010 J-45 standard. The Grovers worked fine, but I wanted to try the Waverly model because I think the J-45 looks best with white/ivory buttons, and I like the look and light weight of open-back tuners.


The swap was a big success, and it proved to be a fun and not-too-difficult project. I figured I'd share some pics and highlights of the procedure in case any other novice/wannabe guitar techs want to undertake it.


First, the "before" picture. Nothing to see here, just some chrome Grover Rotomatics. Taking them off was pretty simple, just a tiny philips screwdriver and an 8mm socket wrench. The tuner then pops out with a little pressure from the front of the headstock. Some take a little more pressure than others: my 5-year old daughter was playing about 6 feet away, and almost took a flying Grover to the noggin, so be careful where you're pointing when you push them out! [blink]


post-38859-074844300 1346080984_thumb.jpg


Now, the first "nekkid" pictures. I dunno if the tuners were installed at the factory before the finish fully cured, but you can see quite a clear impression in the finish from the Grovers on the back, and (less so) from the little washer/flange/grommet thingies -- technically speaking -- on the front.






Next was the diciest part of the operation: drilling screw holes for the Waverly tuners. The Grovers only have one screwhole, and the Waverlies have 2. And the Waverly screws are a shade chunkier and longer than the Grovers, so I also needed to expand the original screwhole. It took a 5/64 bit, but of course the scariest part was lining up the holes so that the tuners would sit straight -- nothing like dropping a wad of cash on nice tuners and then installing them crooked! [crying] I did a couple of dry runs where I installed the Waverlies with one screw, used a straight-edge across the tuner posts so each tuner sits in a straight line with the one across from it (I also could have installed them parallel to the edge of the headstock, but I think this way looks better), and marked holes with an awl. I put tape around a 5/64 bit at a length just less than the screw length, so it would not drill through the headstock, and gasped at the first bits of mahogany sawdust that came out of the hole. I had to press hard with the drill (and make sure I had awled a good starter hole) so the bit wouldn't dance.




After that, it was smooth sailing, other than having to go to Home Depot for a small-enough flat-head screwdriver to work with the Waverlies. I poked the tip of each screw in a bar of soap to make them go in smoother. I was relieved when I had the tuners installed and confirmed that they were straight! You can see that the marks on the back from the Grovers are essentially 100% covered up by the Waverlies. The front rings are still visible because the Waverlies have a smaller flange/washer thingy, but hardly noticeable.


post-38859-003944600 1346082555_thumb.jpg


And here's the finished product. After stringing her back up, I am happy to report that the new tuners have created significantly increased sustain, clarity and balance. Just kidding, they're tuners! [flapper] They work great, I think they look terrific, and the guitar is noticeably lighter and hangs a bit more balanced, especially when playing with a strap button on the heel. And, of course, it was a lot of fun to get to take apart my guitar (sort of) and put it back together again. post-38859-077882300 1346082719_thumb.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just remember that there is nothing sacred or magic about the screws that come with these tuners. I keep a variety of small-size nickel-plated screws in lengths between 3/8-1/2" (10mm-12.5mm)for projects like this. On a Gibson with a tapered headstock, for example, the 1/2" screws that come with a lot of tuners are too long. All the screws are doing is stopping the tuners from rotating and/or falling out: they aren't actually carrying any significant load.


You can buy these screws from stewmac.com and others.


For future reference, the ideal lubricant for screws is wax, rather than soap. Real soap contains water-soluble alkaline components that can react with some fastening materials and finishes. You can either use candle wax, or specialty wax-based lubricants you can buy at any good tool shop. Their primary use is as a drill bit lubricant when drilling metals, or on hacksaw blades.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, all. I appreciate the feedback. It may be awhile before I get the nerve up to generate sawdust on a guitar again, let alone on my J-45.


EA, I was thinking about how I might make the ivoroid buttons look a little more yellow, like the rest of the binding on the guitar. Hadn't occurred to me to use shoe polish for that!


Nick, thanks for the heads up on the soap -- hadn't heard that. As it stands now, I'll probably just leave the screws in place since they're buried halfway into the headstock. And I noticed what you're saying about the screws not bearing much weight -- the tuners are held pretty solidly in place with just the friction of the post in the hole, not to mention having a string holding it in place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...