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Thread: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

  1. #1

    Default Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    I love, love, love my new Eastman MD305. I received it 3 months ago and can hardly put it down.

    But the tuners are meh.

    I'd like to replace them. After perusing this forum, the Rubners look like a great option to replace them with. According to the specs on rubnertuners.com, it looks like they are the same size and fit, but this is eyeballing it with a metric ruler. I didn't actually de-string, uninstall the tuner and measure the screw holes and roller bore with a micrometer.

    Has anyone done this replacement?

    Would the rubners be a significant upgrade over the Grover 309 series sold on stewmac?

    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Put a set of top-of-the-line mandolin tuners (costing ~$100 for A-style) on a bottom-of-the-line, A-style mandolin (costing ~$500)? Yes, you could certainly do that, but it's a akin like putting a Lamborghini engine in your Honda Civic. You might also spring for a James tailpiece, at $200, and a Cumberland bridge, at $60. Don't forget the McClung armrest ($50) and a Tonegard ($75). A total of about $400 worth of accessories for your $500 mandolin. All worthwhile products!

    If the tuners are brand new and faulty, you should look into returning the instrument under the warranty, assuming that you bought it new.

    Seriously, unless your tuners are truly not working, you really don't need to replace them. The chances are pretty good that you will get much smoother tuning if you lubricate the slots in your nut with graphite, and possibly also lubricate the tuners themselves, with something like TriFlo (greaseless). Nine times out of ten, that is the problem with tuning a mandolin, especially when the instrument is new -- or when you are new to the instrument.

    If none of the remedies above help, I suppose you could always look into putting on a set of Grovers or Gotohs or Schallers. These are all fine tuners. But don't spend more than $70, I'd advise. Not for an Eastman MD505. In fact, you can get some no-name "economy" tuners from Stew Mac for under $30 that work perfectly well. And the Golden Gate M-120 tuners in nickel are going for just $19 on Amazon! You can't lose with those, IMO.

    Good luck!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    I'd surely try the first steps sblock recommends before investing in any new hardware. I don't think the StewMac Econo or Golden Gate tuners would be a step up; the stock Eastman tuners are virtually identical. Wish there was a clear improvement for less than $60. New Rubners show up on Amazon from time to time; a couple months ago I bought a set for $71 shipped.

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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Grover 309's would work and not break the budget.

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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    A bit of lubrication with tri-flow, as suggested above, can make a big difference. Trying that first could save you some money.
    -Dave
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  9. #6

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Rubners for $72: https://www.rubnertuners.com/hauser-...nickel-classic
    NFI.

    Careful with Tri-flow, some of it has silicone additives.

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    I put rubners on my rigel. I believe the original tuners were gotohs. I had regular tuning instability issues, despite lubing the tuners and nut.

    The rubners are superb. Smooth, stable. Mine are aesthetically pleasing black and gold, engraved.

    Fwiw, i have mandos with Alessis (beautiful hand made and machined italian tuners) Waverly, grovers, whatever the stew mac vintage style is called (another great tuner), and gotohs, and the rubners are just as good, functinally, if not better!

    Customer service and support are superb as well.
    Nfi.

    Fwiw, be aware that in my experience, nuts, lubrication and tuner/bushing adjustments are frequently a problem, not the tuner per se. Otoh, there are awful tuners.

    As for lube, i use labelle 108, plastic compatible lube ( less likely to affect finish) a single drop on gears, a single drop in the bushing post contact area. Also, better still, teflon grease, again in small amounts. If you prefer, graphite powder also works but is a bit more messy.

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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    I have an Eastman MD305, and guys, I don't think it's the nut etc, IMO it's the tuners. Mine are stiff from new, with or without strings and with or without Nut Sauce lubricant

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  15. #9

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Thanks! Especially for the quick, thorough reply. I will try the lube. Upon closer inspection, I realize that my complaint isn't about slippage or loose gears, but rather, some of them are very tight. I don't enjoy turning these tuners. Hopefully, a bit of lube & graphite will help.

    I would like to push back a little on calling the Eastman MD305 "bottom-of-the-line." The 305 was recommended in this forum as one of the best entry-level mandolins at this price point, with good playability, solid top, and a decent tone. I couldn't be happier playing it and I love it's warm sound. I assume they keep the price down, in part, by not binding the neck, minimum inlay work, satin finish, adequate (but not great) tuners/bridge/tail-piece/soft-case and cheapo strings, etc while still producing a reasonably good sounding, playable instrument with a not-fancy but still beautiful wood grain. If the only thing I don't like about it is the tuners, it might be worth it to me to spend another $70, rather than scale up to a thousand dollar instrument. I've already hand-crafted a walnut armrest, hand-rubbed the top, and rounded the corners of the saddle. Click image for larger version. 

Name:	mando armrest.jpg 
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    "Bottom of the line" to me, describes the $100 craigslist buys I've looked at with ply tops, horrible setup, impossible intonation and crappy sound.

    Having written all of this. I realize I've never had my hands on a high-quality mandolin so maybe I should just listen and learn, LOL.

    Regardless, thanks tons for the information. This is a very cool community and I appreciate the welcome to newbs like myself.

    **Just in case, can anyone answer my original question about the fit?
    Last edited by kt-va; Apr-20-2021 at 10:44am.

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  17. #10

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by stevedenver View Post
    I put rubners on my rigel. I believe the original tuners were gotohs. I had regular tuning instability issues, despite lubing the tuners and nut.

    The rubners are superb. Smooth, stable. Mine are aesthetically pleasing black and gold, engraved.

    Fwiw, i have mandos with Alessis (beautiful hand made and machined italian tuners) Waverly, grovers, whatever the stew mac vintage style is called (another great tuner), and gotohs, and the rubners are just as good, functinally, if not better!

    Customer service and support are superb as well.
    Nfi.

    Fwiw, be aware that in my experience, nuts, lubrication and tuner/bushing adjustments are frequently a problem, not the tuner per se. Otoh, there are awful tuners.

    As for lube, i use labelle 108, plastic compatible lube ( less likely to affect finish) a single drop on gears, a single drop in the bushing post contact area. Also, better still, teflon grease, again in small amounts. If you prefer, graphite powder also works but is a bit more messy.
    What adjustments can be made to tuners? Is it the alignment/accuracy of bushing holes to the screw holes?

  18. #11

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    I have an Eastman MD305, and guys, I don't think it's the nut etc, IMO it's the tuners. Mine are stiff from new, with or without strings and with or without Nut Sauce lubricant
    That is me. So should we take off the strings and turn each tuner a few thousand times to wear it in?

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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    There have been many complaints about the tuners on these. I wouldn't think twice about replacing with Rubners. As was said they are a very nice tuner with a great company and stand behind them. If you sell the Eastman you can put the original tuners back on and move the Rubners to a new mandolin.
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  21. #13
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by kt-va View Post
    Thanks! Especially for the quick, thorough reply. I will try the lube. Upon closer inspection, I realize that my complaint isn't about slippage or loose gears, but rather, some of them are very tight. I don't enjoy turning these tuners. Hopefully, a bit of lube & graphite will help.

    I would like to push back a little on calling the Eastman MD305 "bottom-of-the-line." The 305 was recommended in this forum as one of the best entry-level mandolins at this price point, with good playability, solid top, and a decent tone. I couldn't be happier playing it and I love it's warm sound. I assume they keep the price down, in part, by not binding the neck, minimum inlay work, satin finish, adequate (but not great) quality tuners/bridge/tail-piece/soft-case and cheapo strings, etc while still producing a reasonably good sounding, playable instrument with a not-fancy but still beautiful wood grain. If the only thing I don't like about it is the tuners, it might be worth it to me to spend another $70, rather than scale up to a thousand dollar instrument. I've already hand-crafted a walnut armrest, hand-rubbed the top, and rounded the corners of the saddle. Click image for larger version. 

Name:	mando armrest.jpg 
Views:	47 
Size:	721.8 KB 
ID:	193668

    "Bottom of the line" to me, describes the $100 craigslist buys I've looked at with ply tops, horrible setup, impossible intonation and crappy sound. Having written all of this. I realize I've never had my hands on a high-quality mandolin so maybe I should just listen and learn, LOL.

    Regardless, thanks tons for the information. This is a very cool community and I appreciate the welcome to newbs like myself.

    **Just in case, can anyone answer my original question about the fit?

    I gather you would prefer the euphemism "entry level" to "bottom-of-the-line." I have no problem with the phrase "entry level," per se, but it means something entirely different from what I'd intended. "Entry level" literally means the type of mandolin that you might start with, i.e.,to "enter" the musical world of mandolins. That would make it something of a beginners' instrument, mainly for folks just beginning their journey. No doubt, some Eastman MD505's are used exactly that way, but not necessarily most of them. In fact, many MD505's are purchased as players by folks who already have some intermediate or even advanced skills, and not necessarily as a first mandolin.

    "Bottom-of-the-line" is a much more accurate adjective for the MD505! Eastman manufactures a large number of different types of mandolins, in several related instrument "lines," or series. They make the following series of A-style mandolins with f-holes, for example, listed from lowest cost to highest:

    MD305
    MD505
    MD605
    MD805

    They make this series of A-style mandolins with oval holes (again, from low cost to highest):

    MD304
    MD404
    MD504
    MD604

    They make this series of F-style mandolins with f holes:

    MD315
    MD415
    MD515
    MD615
    MD815
    MD915

    See the numbering patterns? For the least expensive line of mandolins with an A-style and f holes, you find the MD305. That makes it the bottom of that particular line, cost-wise. Also, it's at the bottom of the line, adornment-wise. It lacks the glossy finish of the MD505, and the back binding and pickguard of the MD605, and the select woods of the MD805, for example.

    So, for all these reasons, "bottom-of-the-line" is a perfectly accurate descriptor the the Eastman MD305 model. It's at the the bottom of an Eastman line of A-style mandolins. In fact, you cannot correctly use "bottom-of-the-line" in the way that you have, namely, as a descriptor that runs across multiple different types of instruments, derived from different lines and produced by different manufacturers. What you mean are perhaps better described as "budget mandolins." Or maybe "beaters" or "junk mandolins" or "cheaply made mandolins" -- or even "MSO's" (mandolin shaped objects).

    Anyway, enjoy your musical journey! My advice would be to save up your $$ for your next mandolin, rather than invest it in comparatively expensive accessories for the MD305. If the Eastman stock tuners (which aren't that bad!) don't improve with proper lubrication and work-in (you could use an electric drill plus a winder attachment to run them around at least 100 times each, by the way, to loosen them up), then return the instrument to where you bought it for a refund under the warranty! Don't bother replacing the tuners with something expensive, like Rubners. That's overkill, and it won't help the resale value of the instrument significantly enough.

    The MD305 is a great starter mandolin for the money, but if you continue to play and improve, you may soon find yourself outgrowing it, and jonesing for a better instrument. That's natural, and it's called MAS (mandolin acquisition syndrome). Most of us on the MC suffer from this disease.

  22. #14
    Registered User Pappyrich's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    I put a set of Grover 309's on my Eastman 305 and am completely satisfied. The posts lined up perfectly, and I did not change the bushings. The screw mounting holes lined up, for the most part. I think I had to drill one new hole on each side, but the backing plates completely covered all the old screw holes. It is a VERY easy installation.
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  24. #15

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    sblock - yep, makes sense to me. I tell the same thing to people I'm tutoring on other instruments or in the recording studio. You don't necessarily notice what's not great about a microphone or something until your skill and ears improve. A year from now I will likely be jonesing for a better instrument. I better start working on the wife now.

    Thanks for taking the time!

  25. #16
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Another vote for changing out the stock tuners. Still don't regret putting Rubners on my Eastman MDO305 (octave version). But I agree that Grover 309 would work just as well.

    But also double check the nut and saddle slots. Sometimes they might not be as well cut as folks would like.

    Oh, and unlike some others I have had good luck with the Golden Age tuners. Using them on both the A Jr. and Kalamazoo and they hold the strings in tune better than the stock on either.
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  26. #17

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by kt-va View Post
    What adjustments can be made to tuners? Is it the alignment/accuracy of bushing holes to the screw holes?
    Alignment is critical. Simply they must fit properly, not too big, not too small, nothing at an angle in order to fit.

    I will make sure that the post is centered in the bushing.
    i will make sure that all screws are snug but not tight, for alignment and engagement, on gears and worms, if applicable.

    i eyeball too, just how the post sits against the bushing and lube as necessary.

    Check too for any pressure washers, behind gears. again engaged but not tight, not cracked if nylon.

    i start all of this, btw, usually, when the instrument is unstrung. feel how the tuners work under no tension, then again once strung.

    i also try to see that the string wraps as low as i can manage on the post , in order to lessen leverage against the post and bushing.

    all little stuff. If the tuners fit properly, this is no big deal.

  27. #18
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Post hole mis - spacing is another source of binding ..
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  28. #19

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Congrats on your Eastman mando! Lot's of happy new players with that model. The one upgrade most consistently mentioned is the tuners. Pappyrich's response on Grovers is good info about a direct drop in. I have put Grover 309s on several of my builds and they are very smooth and consistent, not fancy-smanshy, but work beautifully. They're also 18:1 ratio which is helpful on mandolin. I replaced one set of Grovers with a very beautiful set of Rubners (2x+ $$) - beautifully engraved brass, ebony buttons, anti-friction washers, ect. The Grovers actually work just as smoothly.

    The Rubners listed above are almost the same price as Grovers, 15:1 ratio, German built. I can't remember what the shipping wait was, I don't think it was more than a few weeks. So it's a toss up really, either should be great. That mando is definitely worth better tuners, it may meet your needs for a good while before you feel the need to move up the chain (especially when you discover that the next step up will take you north of $2k).

    PS- Stew Mac's shipping is quite high, you can find 309s cheaper with free shipping on Reverb.

  29. #20
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    I'm sure a top of the line individual mandolin is a wonderful thing, but I suggest there's a strong case for having a less expensive instrument (of any kind)sorted as well as it can be, whether it's your only mandolin or one of 6 or more. That sort of instrument has a lot of possible uses. You can take it to the beach, and BBQs, on hikes, leave it in the car in reasonable weather, and leave it on the table in a busy bar while you do whatever you have to do in a bar. I've seen bar tables collapse, pints of beer fly through the air (with and without a glass), a PA speaker and stand fall into a table, and many more mundane potentially instrument damaging events. Do you really want to take your $8000 and up pride and joy anywhere near that?

    I also don't believe in playing any instrument that's not 'sorted' to play as well as it can, considering the basic construction etc. That's why my 305 has a Tone-Gard and an armrest, and now a Cumberland bridge waiting to fit - after which there's only the tuners left to fix. If I buy another mandolin of a better quality, I'll keep the 305, because I may play it more due to practicalities!

  30. #21

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by kt-va View Post

    **Just in case, can anyone answer my original question about the fit?
    The Rubners have a small flange around the very bottom of the posts; you'll need to counterbore the holes a tiny bit to allow the plate to fit flush. And I think you'll need to drill one new screw hole, but the plate covers the old hole. Enjoy!!!
    Last edited by Peter Kurtze; Apr-22-2021 at 10:23am.

  31. #22
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    Rubners for $72: https://www.rubnertuners.com/hauser-...nickel-classic
    NFI.

    Careful with Tri-flow, some of it has silicone additives.
    It also has PTFE, the “forever chemical that is a carcinogen! I wish members would cease recommendations of Tri-Flow.
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  32. #23

    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    FINALLY -- Tri-Flow getting some bad press on this forum! That's a new one! FOR YEARS, America's go to lube in a squirt can was WD-40, but the mere mention of it for instrument repair on this forum brought all kinds of criticism and the instantaneous recommendation of Tri-Flow as the hipster's lube of choice, instead. Hee hee hee, or maybe jeesh!

    NFI in either product.

    Kinda makes ya wonder what Gibson used 120 years ago? I'm guessing 3-in-1 oil or the equivalent......

    a minor pet peeve of mine, thankfully stopped just short of a rant.

  33. #24
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    It also has PTFE, the “forever chemical that is a carcinogen! I wish members would cease recommendations of Tri-Flow.
    Hate to disagree (sorry!), but PTFE (poly-trifluoroethylene), also known as Teflon (R), is NOT a carcinogen. Where did you get that information from? You should not spread disinformation and scare people, in my opinion. Read the MSDS's (Materials Safety Data Sheets) first.

    PTFE is generally considered to be inert and non-toxic, and gosh, it's even FDA-approved! There used to be some concern over earlier versions of Teflon-coated cookware (no longer manufactured), not because this contained PTFE, but because it also had trace amounts of PFOE (pefluoro-octanoic acid). That compound is no longer present in cookware sold in the U.S. Besides, PFOE is not found in Tri-Flow lubricant.

    And what's the main ingredient of Tri-Flow lubricant? Well, it's not Teflon (PTFE) -- that's constitutes less then 3% of Tri-Flow. In fact, it's petroleum oil. There's also some paraffin oil and various naphthalene oils, plus other minor organic compounds, like amyl acetate. These same, common crude oil-derived are also found in household things like 3-in-ONE oil, as well as in WD-40. In fact, all those petroleum-derived oils are much more carcinogenic than PFTE, if ingested. But you don't ingest them -- ever! Instead, you apply a thin film of them to the tuners. You don't taste that film. Actually, among the most toxic things found in common spray lubricants are the propellants used. You're better off buying the stuff that comes in drip bottles, instead.

    Anyway, the application of small amounts of lubricant to mandolin tuners (and JUST to the tuners, not to the finish or wood) does not constitute some kind of health hazard. It's not hazardous if you use 3-in-ONE oil or WD-40, and it's not hazardous with Tri-Flow, either. They're all acceptable, and so is graphite powder. But if you are worried about messy graphite powder getting everywhere besides on the tuners (which is all-too easy), then I say you're better off using a bit of liquid lubricant dabbed on with a swab or rag, and worked in. Using Tri-Flow is just fine.

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  35. #25
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rubner tuners on Eastman MD305?

    Burning it in a lined fry pan . (or solid fuel booster section gaskets on the challenger space shuttle)

    Cant be healthy .. Passive just sitting there, or suspended in Triflow chain oil Not ingested.. less of an issue ..
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