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Tuner Types

Tapered Wood Tuning Pegs The first tuning pegs found on the old ukuleles were simply a round tapered piece of wood with a knob carved on one end of it and a slit to hold the string on the other end. This is like the tuning pegs still used on violins. These simple tuning devices certainly did the job, but sometimes broke.... and finding another that matched was always difficult. When wooden pegs slipped, you just coated them with rosin to get the friction working again.

Vintage Friction Tuning PegsAs you have already found, the weakest part of the vintage ukuleles are the tuning pegs with the tiny tightening screws, and the easily broken plastic tuning knobs. Part of the problem is the crystallation of the plastic resulting in cracks and splitting of the knob itself. The screws used are very tiny, and cannot take the stress needed for repeated tightening.

The good news is that all the modern friction tuning pegs are heavier and better.

The bad news is that none of the current manufacturers make tuning pegs which are a direct replacemnt of the old tiny shaft friction pegs. The only source of the vintage parts of 50 to 80 years ago is to buy a uke on ebay and salvage the parts... if they are any better.

You ask, "Can I install any of the newer friction tuning pegs with alteration to the headstock on my fintage ukulele?" The answer is "NO... you will have to drill larger holes thru the headstock of your instrument.... and you might have to make recesses for top guide bushings too if you buy the better modern tuning pegs.

Modern Friction Tuning Pegs Modern friction pegs have much heavier shafts, bigger tightening screws, better more crack-resistant plastic knobs.

As the modern friction pegs have larger shafts, generally a 3/16" hole is required thru the headstock of your instrument.

Better friction pegs also have a top guide bushing to support the tuning peg shaft, and these will require a recess for the bushing to seat.

The best friction tuning pegs also require a bottom recess, and do not depend on the friction between the knob and the headstock to hold the tension of the ukulele string, but have two friction chambers to hold the strings. Examples of this are the Grover 4's

Also available are spring-load friction pegs with thumb locking devices on them. These really do a job, but are heavy and tend to make the smaller ukes a little top-heavy.

Simple Open Geared Tuning MachinesGeared tuning machines found their way into ukuleles from Guitars. The gear system prevents slippage. In addition, the little gear train has a gear ration of about 12 to 1 making it very easy of beginning uke players to tune their instrument accuracely. Generally a simple 1/4" diameter hole thru the headstock is all that is neaded for the shaft to go thru the headstock, and the tuning machines were anchored with two tiny wood screws.

Better Geared Tuning MachinesThe better geared tuning machines also have a top guiding bushing that supports the shaft of the tuning machine. These require cutting a recess in the top of the headstock.

Enclosed Geared Tuning MachinesThe best looking geared tuning machines have the gear box totally enclosed and prelubricated. The also have top guide bushings. Miniture geared tuning machines have been developed for the ukulele to keep the instrument from seeming too top heavy for the solo players.