Advice on antique/vintage guitar tuning keys, as in not breaking them!

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by gururyan, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. gururyan

    gururyan Member

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    I have a friend that approached me a few years ago with the classic "old car in a barn" story, only it was "great-grandpa gave me his old guitar" instead. He does not play guitar but figured I'd enjoy checking it out. So I did. I told him what it was, what it was roughly worth, not to sell it...ever (unless it was to me of course), and to take care of it. He has heeded my advice and lets me borrow it anytime I like for as long as I like. Well, I've asked to borrow it once again after almost 2 years. Believe it or not, I was the last to string and tune it and after all this time the guitar was still in tune except for one string which required about a quarter turn to bring back to 440.

    Anyway, the point of my post. As you can see, the tuning keys are still intact and in great condition. My concern is that I want to record some slide with it and am dying to take it up to Open A. My reluctance is in the fear that the keys could shatter/explode under the torque it would require to get there. I am not going to have that on me, no way. So, how can I safely retune the guitar without risking a broken key? It think that the flathead screws (as seen from the rear headstock shot) are connected to the cog/gears they pass through. My thought is that if I actually applied the torque at that screwhead with a flathead, I could take lots of the stress of the key and basically use two hands to turn both the screw and the key (mainly the screw) together to safely bring the tension up to Open A.

    Is this the right idea?

    For those wanting more info on the guitar itself and some pictures:
    I'll have to dig up my old information that I figured out for it, but I think it was somewhere between a '28 & '36. I used to have all this and pics on here but I think it was all lost in the great TGP crash of whatever year that was. Anyway, I'll take some new shots of it and whatnot this weekend.


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  2. gururyan

    gururyan Member

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    Ok, here are some old shots of it when he first loaned it to me...before I even took off the "vintage" strings (actually they disintegrated in my hands as I unwound them).

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  3. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    no dice. turning the screw to the left will just unscrew it out of the tuner, while turning it to the right will cause the key to bind up and not turn at all.

    a few drops of light machine oil on the metal-to-metal sliding surfaces while loosening the keys should allow them turn easily, judging by their clean condition in the photos.
     
  4. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Agreed. Plus I'd say you'd be more likely to slip while trying to coordinate your tuning hands, and run the screwdriver across the back of the headstock.

    The buttons and metal look in good condition, so it's best just to make sure they're lubricated. It should be just fine, but of course to throw in a disclaimer, stop turning if anything feels wrong.
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    If you're seriously worried about it and want to preserve them, the best thing to do is remove them, keep them safe and fit a set of repros to the guitar for actual use. If you're really worried, remove the old ones by cutting the strings, not unwinding them.

    But to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't worry. The keys look to be in good condition and with lubrication on the gears I don't see a risk. The condition of the rest of the guitar is not good enough that if one did break it would significantly devalue it anyway. You can replace individual keys if necessary.

    Play it as it was intended and do whatever maintenance it needs when it needs it :).
     
  6. gururyan

    gururyan Member

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    Those are my thoughts, but since the guitar is not mine I have to respect it and treat it with utmost caution. I mean, the owner loans it to me to play, not gawk at it. I'll try the lube suggestions and just stop if it feels wrong. I strung it up last time and tuned to standard with no problems so I'm sure I'm just being overly cautious.
     

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