Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Revamping your old ukulele tuning machines

Some of us just really love vintage ukuleles!  I get a big kick out of playing an instrument that is 50+ years old.  But one of the problems that I've encountered in my collection of vintage ukes is that often the tuning machines aren't functioning properly.  The usual culprit is years and years of sitting idly in someone's attic, closet, garage, etc.  To make matters worse, today's standard tuning machines are often to big to fit the little holes drilled into the ukes of yesteryear.

Replacing those old tuning machines can be done, but it can be quite an arduous task.  A tapered reamer (like this one offered by Grizzly) is a handy tool to have for widening up those holes a bit...and it's a much
preferred alternative to the hazards that come with trying to drill bigger holes.

find this stuff in the sewing aisle...close to fabric
But before you go spending the cash on a new tool   and setting out on a diy project that could wreak havoc on your vintage ukulele, consider some sewing machine oil!  Yep, you heard right!  This stuff has the ability to bring those old tuners back to life. 
You can pick up a small bottle of this stuff at Walmart for a buck or two. 

I recently bought a 1920's Slingerland banjo ukulele off of ebay that was in very nice condition, aside from the tuning machines.  They were impossible to turn and had some rust build up.

All it took was a generous dab of this stuff on a cloth and a little elbow grease and voila!  They are now alive and well.

all the parts that make up a tuning machine
For those of you that have never attempted to take your tuning machines off your uke, don't worry.  It's a fairly simple and painless process.  Just 3 easy steps.....

1.  Loosen and take your strings off.

2.  For geared tuners, use a small screwdriver to take those holding screws out and pull the machine through the back of the headstock.  For friction tuners, the process is similar, but not all the parts will pull through the back of the headstock.

3.  Clean up the old tuning machines and put them back on.

That's it!  Hope this helps!

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