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Thread: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

  1. #1
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    Default Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    I have a Ratliff F4 Mandocello and the tuners have been problematic - breaking buttons, I have one tuner the button screw will not turn in, some of the pegs are very hard to turn when trying to tune the instrument.

    other than Waverly, what would be a recommended higher quality tuner for an F style head ?

    I would want to purchase in the U.S.

    not trying to start a flame throwing session - just looking for experienced opinions.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    In my opinion, the highest-quality tuners now being made for F-style mandolins are no longer Waverly (Stew/Mac), but Rubner (from Germany). They are hard to get at the moment, but more are said to be coming. See: https://www.rubnertuners.com/f-style-mandolin-new. NFI.

    The tuners incorporate Teflon-style bearings and precision machining into a beautiful package.

    You wrote that you want to purchase "in the U.S." I presume, by this sentence, that you mean you're planning on buying the item in the U.S., and not that you somehow require the object to be MADE in the U.S. Most products these days are made with materials from all over the globe. Rubner happens to be made in Germany, but it has a U.S. distributor based in Minnesota.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Rubner and Alessi are both good (superior to Wavery overall IMO). Both are rather difficult to get, Alessi particularly difficult in my experience.
    I have three sets of Rubners on hand and need one more set for builds in progress. I'm waiting for their stock to replenish so that I can get the other set. That indicates that you might have to wait, but it might be worth it. There is, at least, a US distributor for Rubner so availability is the hold up, not communication, ordering, payment, or other such problems.
    Choices of plating/finish are limited and some "traditional" looks are not available.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Thanks for the replies so far, and correct -not concerned so much with where they are made, just ease of getting them.

    nickel finish with white (false ivory) buttons is what is on there now, so anything similar is fine.

    I get the impression the tension is too high for what is on there now - hence the difficulty in turning the peg.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  7. #5

    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    @TMSweeney. I’m sure that if you have been reading this forum that the other reasons for difficult or sticky tuners have been explained, and reference links given, but just to repeat a few things:
    1. Strings binding in the nut; lube with pencil lead or other.
    2. Tuner posts jammed by bad installation.
    3. Tuner gears overloaded by item 2.
    I really don’t think that any basic tuner assembly is unworkable for the job at hand, but they can be put in wrong or damaged. So while you’re waiting for a nice new set, your old one can be tuned up, and that button glued on too! Good luck.

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    ... I get the impression the tension is too high for what is on there now - hence the difficulty in turning the peg.
    Just taking a shot here:

    My mandolin orchestra owns an older Gibson mandocello that's v. difficult to tune, even after I lubed the tuners. Haven't really had time to get back to it BUT...

    The issue seems to be interference between the windings of adjacent strings, where one string's windings "mesh in" with those on an adjacent capstan, and the tuner button can't apply enough pressure to both tighten the string and break tension with the interlocking windings at the same time. The solution, I believe, would be to "simply" re-wind the strings on the capstans with pliers to help make sure the bends are tight and the strings sitting low (these are thick 'cello strings, after all). The prior re-stringing seems to have simply let the capstan pull the string into shape, and they do not start off lying close to the shaft. A complicating issue, for me, is that some of the string holes are off center on their capstan - yuck!
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Richard 500 - you may be correct on the nut binding and I will try some graphite,

    my biggest issue is one tuning peg has the button broke but the screw won't turn so I pretty much have to replace at least that side.
    when I bought it, the seller did send and additional set, but it is the same thing that is already on there so I am hesitant to take it all apart ( I will probably have on of my trusted luthier friends do it) and simply wind up in the same situation.
    So I am willing to purchase a better set of tuners, Waverley's have quite waiting list as do the Rubner I gather.

    It is a nice mandocello and I do love playing it, so I would like to invest in it rather than replace it.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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  12. #8

    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    I also love Rubners, very smooth and also classy looking. For utility, I've had excellent luck with Grover 309s. The sets I've had are all very smooth and consistent. They only come in one style/finish, so if you don't like chrome with pearloid buttons (they're not replaceable) you're out of luck. One other tidbit, I've heard recently that Grovers have been made by Ping in China for quite awhile now, no way to confirm this that I know of.

  13. #9

    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    FYI - I received Rubner tuners for classical guitar yesterday after a three month wait. They look beautiful.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    I'm assuming they are worm under tuners. That's the first thing you need to establish because that will dictate what is available. If you're not sure take a look at the late Paul Hostetter's page here.

    If they are worm under the world is your oyster. I am a Waverly fan but I have had most of the major brands other than Alessi pass through. If your tuners are worm over you have a limited number of choices right now.

    But, if you're problem is breaking buttons then I might suggest you find a tuner model that has replaceable buttons that you can actually buy. Beyond Waverly and the occasional Gotoh's that would be just about your current choice. Nobody seems intent on selling buttons other than Stewmac and the occasional eBay seller.

    Tuner issues aren't always caused by the tuners. If the holes aren't in the right place then the tuners will have issues no matter what.

    You need to know the orientation. By the way, there doesn't appear to be any lack of availability on Waverly F style tuners. The Stewmac site shows the availability unless it's a different combination than I looked at.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    I generally find mandolin tuners on most mandocellos to be difficult, stiff, holes too small for large strings, and too tight spacing for my hands. That is why I always use Waverly guitar machines ('gotta buy two sets and split them up, but still cheaper than their mandolin machines) and make sure that I build the headstock slightly larger to handle them. Problem solved.

    Alessi will make worm over or worm under, but the gear direction will change due to his supplier only having one choice for worm gears. Here is a set of worm over he made for me for a 1927 F4 (snakewood buttons!). From an engineering standpoint, worm over is sooooooooo much better than worm under because it pulls the gears together as tension increases rather than separating, but we all know how that argument worked out during the 20th century....
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Thanks currently they are worm under, I am currently using 0.70s on the C, fits in the peg hole without too much fuss.
    was looking at Schallers?
    not too expensive , not too cheap ?
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    I've installed Rubner, Schaller Grand Tune and Stew Mac Golden Age F and A tuning machines on 4 instruments fairly recently.

    The Scaller's have performed the best (on my Eastman mandocello), followed by Rubner, then Golden Age. I have Grover and Gotoh on two other instruments that have been trouble-free for over 10 years so far.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    thanks I went ahead and ordered the Schallers, hopefully when they arrive I can post the results!

    Thanks to all for their very valuable and friendly advice
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    The Schaller grandtunes are good, I just don't like them because I think they're ugly and the gear ratio is so high (18 to 1?) that it takes forever to tighten the strings. As it turns out, the only set I've used went on a mandocello, and said ratio works out well for the high string tension of the 25" scale.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    The Schaller grandtunes are good, I just don't like them because I think they're ugly and the gear ratio is so high (18 to 1?) that it takes forever to tighten the strings. As it turns out, the only set I've used went on a mandocello, and said ratio works out well for the high string tension of the 25" scale.
    I wouldn't want to replace strings during a performance but they must be wonderful for keeping the instrument in tune once they are tight. Maybe some sort of cordless gizmo one could keep in their case would solve the issue. Not much you can do about ugly.
    Richard Hutchings

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    I've tried them all. My two current mandolins have grandtune schallers and rubners. I prefer the ebony rubners.. Gorgeous looking and easier to keep in tune. The rest of the high end bunch are overpriced in my opinion, and no better in quality.
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    well my luthier friend came to help me install the Schallers, and wouldn't you know it the sleeves are just 2 microns larger, so he had to take it back to his shop to get them to fit.
    Luckily I have a spare Goldtone mandocello that I have had in the case most of this winter, and wouldn't you know it trying to tune the lowest C - the damn button split, wasn't turning hard- it just split, I can't win.
    I have an email into Goldtone to see if they have spare buttons, these are the black ones with top screws.
    sigh
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Post a picture of the Goldtone tuners and one shaft without the buttons.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Click image for larger version. 

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    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Those look like Mini tuners. How about a picture of the back of the headstock. If they aren't all on a plate then you may not want mandolin tuners.

    Never mind, don't need the picture. I went to their website. Those appear to be copies of Gotoh SG-381 mini tuners with the 45 degree screw and small black oval button. I bought a set for a guitar recently. The guitar originally had Korean Gotoh copies, I replaced them with the genuine item with the smaller oval buttons buttons.

    Gotoh buttons may or may not fit them but the quality of the plastic may be higher. I don't know if anyone sells them singly, I bought a set of 6. I was able to purchased these off Amazon from a seller I've been buying from for years on eBay.

    My set had nickel buttons (they are metal) and I don't know if anyone is selling the buttons only or in that case single tuners if you choose to replace them totally.

    It looks like LMI might have black Gotoh buttons made from horn.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Mar-03-2021 at 7:21am.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

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    It looks to me that you have excess string winding and it has locked against the ferrel.
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    could be, never was a problem before, anyway Gold Tone did respond and is sending me a few - so plus one on customer service for Gold Tone!

    This was of course and hour after I ordered the Gotoh buttons from LMI, mandocellos, always keep it interesting.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
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    Default Re: Quality tuners for F style - opinions welcome

    received two free buttons from Gold Tone, fit like a glove, kudos to Gold Tone for awesome customer service!
    I went ahead and ordered 8 spares direct from Gold Tone.

    On the Schaller's, my friend decided a better press would be justified so patience is a virtue for me at this time.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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