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Thread: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

  1. #1

    Default tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    I have a vintage bowlback mandolin dated 1895. I was trying to tune the last string and I heard a snap sound, and the string got loose. The key is not turning the peg. According to a mandolin builder sounds like a tuning gear snapped a cog tooth or two. Looking for replacement tuners.
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  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    From the outside they may look similar to other tuners but inside they can be totally different. You need to get it apart to see what the actual damage is and honestly, it's not going to be an off the shelf item. Post a picture of the broken piece and you might get lucky.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.

    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    restore rather than replace,, maybe find a hobbyist machinist to replicate the gear..

    have to take it apart rather than just take pictures

    Maybe hire a luthier to take over the job?
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  4. #4
    Registered User
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    Jun 2020

    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    Remove the plate and look.
    Even a 120 years ago, luthiers didn't make the tuners themselves, they bought them from others, so the tuners could have been used on other instruments as well. Maybe just the broken part was used in other tuners looking differently from yours.

  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    Did you remove the backplate and look at what is going on? It could be a broken gear or possibly just the screw that tightens that gear was loose enough that the gear slipped. Take off the plate and check.

    What make mandolin is this? It looks American and I am guessing Martin or Vega. My ex-style 6 Martin had a similar plate and my Vega Pettine models both have that type of tuner. What make might help if you need to replace the tuners. Even more important is the spacing, diameters and height of the string posts. Also, it looks like those tuners have different lengths to the button posts to contour to the shape of the headstock. All this may complicate things if you have to find replacement tuners.

    On the other hand, if you just have to find a replacement gear, you might be able to find one on another set that would work. Probably be much cheaper than hiring a machinist to recreate one.

    Make sure that you measure very carefully. I have piles of bowlback tuners as do a lot of collectors and luthiers. However, it also looks like your mandolin is an upper-end one from the ornately engraved tuner plate, pearl buttons, and the post collets (or whatever you call those things).

    Anyway, more information always helps.

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  7. #6

    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    Angelo Mannello, New York.
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  9. #7

    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    It could also be that the actual tuner peg came loose from the shaft it is on. You have to take it apart.

  10. #8
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC

    Default Re: tuners for vintage bowlback mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    ... Maybe hire a luthier ...
    The longer a luthier has been around, the more likely he/she is to have an odd piece in their parts bin. Assuming that you can identify the issue as, say, a broken cog tooth, it shouldn't cost anything to make a bunch of phone calls (as opposed to simply asking "please fix my mandolin").

    BTW, including geographic area in your user profile tends to elicit suggestions for nearby help. Someone good might be nearby, but folks won't suggest if they don't know where you are.
    Last edited by EdHanrahan; Oct-09-2020 at 11:50am.
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