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Aug 17, 2019 - 8:23:55 AM
419 posts since 1/24/2014

What are some tricks to tighten up a 5th string friction tuner? I’ve tried placing felt under the button. The banjo in question is an old turn of last century cheap Lyon and Healy. It doesn’t have a 5th string but, should it have one? If the skin has no rips or tears is there any reason other than looks to replace it.




 

Aug 17, 2019 - 8:36:55 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14391 posts since 3/27/2004

(1) Nothing that I know of is effective at increasing the holding power.  Sometimes going to a lighter string gauge can cause less problems with it slipping.

(2) Mostly yes.  If you're not concerned about esthetics you can add a tiny brass slot head screw which gives you the ability to adjust height or let the string lay on the fret. (My preferred setup...).  You can also install a spike there if you just need something to keep the string from slipping sideways.

(3) No.  Play it until it breaks, but it may outlast you.

Aug 17, 2019 - 4:54:33 PM

12120 posts since 10/30/2008

It looks like the old 5th string pip got broken out with some fingerboard wood. The small screw advice is good.

If you can tighten the head, play it! It looks cool.

Tightening the screw that goes through the tuner button is the "usual" way to increase holding power. Instead of felt, try a homemade leather washer or a tiny rubber O-ring, if you still suffer slipping.

Good luck.

Aug 17, 2019 - 6:59:11 PM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

Thanks gentlemen for your help. I’ll try the O-ring and see how it works. I may just see how it does without a nut, screw etc. Can always add the screw or spike later. I need to purchase a tailpiece, I’m guessing a no knots would be appropriate for this banjo? The head seems to my untrained eyes and ears to be rather tight now. Like you Dick I believe it looks kind of cool. When I posted about possible buying this banjo people were posting about replacing the head. Thought maybe there was something I was missing.

Aug 17, 2019 - 7:24:48 PM

hbick2

USA

167 posts since 6/26/2004

I have found that sometimes the screw on old friction 5th string tuners has bottomed out. It may be from the button flattening somewhat. If you tighten it as much as you can, it's still not holding the string. If you take the screw out and cut a slight bit off of the end, it might solve your problem. It has worked for me before.

Aug 17, 2019 - 7:47:24 PM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

It is bottoming out. I’ll see if I can cut it or find a shorter replacement.

Aug 18, 2019 - 7:38:02 AM

6042 posts since 8/28/2013

Are you completely certain it's the tuner button? Sometimes, 5th string tuners loosen in the neck and that's what actually slips.

Lots of old banjos used a round head wood screw for the pip.

Your head should be okay.

Aug 18, 2019 - 7:48:59 AM

99 posts since 4/1/2016

Deering Goodtimes use a spike for a pip. Might look better than a screw. 

Aug 19, 2019 - 2:12:53 AM

96 posts since 7/14/2017

A crinkle washer (a kind of very thin spring washer) can help with friction tuners. I use them a lot on cheap ukulele tuners and they make a surprising amount of difference. If necessary, add a plain washer for the crinkle washer to bear on. Your screw might not be too long if you try this, and it's cheap enough to experiment.

Aug 19, 2019 - 2:14:52 AM

96 posts since 7/14/2017

I've checked up and a crinkle washer might be called a wave washer in the US. Either way, eBay should provide you with $1 worth.

Aug 19, 2019 - 5:43:05 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14391 posts since 3/27/2004

Belleville washers provide strong spring force in compression spring applications and can be doubled up to increase spring force or stacked 2 or more alternately for longer range of compression distance.  Normally you don't see anything used other than a thin fiber washer or occasionally leather because friction tuners require as much mating face to produce ...er... friction.  In the case of a fifth string tuner the washer is used under the string barrel capstan.

The same principal applies to planetary tuners that start to slip, and many overlook that when trying to keep their tuners from slipping under pressure,

Belleville washers... what they are and how they are used.

Edited by - rudy on 08/19/2019 05:45:49

Aug 20, 2019 - 4:19:14 AM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

I’m going to remove the tuner. I’ve tried a shorter screw, and the Oring, neither did anything. I’m assuming the best course of action from what I’ve read is to use a soldering iron & heat it up. Then pull it out with pliers.

Aug 20, 2019 - 5:27:33 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14391 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by britcarfan

I’m going to remove the tuner. I’ve tried a shorter screw, and the Oring, neither did anything. I’m assuming the best course of action from what I’ve read is to use a soldering iron & heat it up. Then pull it out with pliers.


Tips on removal from one of our top banjo docs:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Technique/Banjo/Gear5thPeg/gear5th.html

Aug 20, 2019 - 5:57:40 PM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

So I looked at removing the tuner tonight. Noticed a sliver of metal stuck between the tuner & neck. Could it possibly be there to hold the key in position?


 

Aug 20, 2019 - 6:25:50 PM

99 posts since 4/1/2016

Probably a shim to tighten it. A thicker shim might work.

Aug 21, 2019 - 5:37:11 AM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

I managed to get the tuner out last night. Is anyone familiar with this style? Doesn’t look like any I’ve seen on line.
I understand how tightening the screw on the other tuners causes them to tighten. I’m not sure how it works on the 5th string tuner though.

Aug 21, 2019 - 5:39:43 AM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

Photos didn’t upload




 

Aug 21, 2019 - 5:56:19 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14391 posts since 3/27/2004

I'm unfamiliar with that one.

Looks like the outer sleave has a fin on one side and that portion is designed to remain stationary in the tapered neck socket hole.  The portion with the string's outer capstan most likely fits against the inner portion of the sleeve with a matching taper.  The screw should pull the two sections together and form the friction mechanism.  It looks like the inner portion is inserted through the tapered barrel and riveted at the end to keep it in place.

Least that's my best guess. cheeky

Aug 21, 2019 - 6:07:14 AM

52179 posts since 12/14/2005

IF you are going to cut a bit off of the machine screw, DO get a nut to thread up there first, THEN cut and polish the end. And as you take the nut off, it will push tiny bits if the thread into PERFECT alignment.
Otherwise, you risk upfucculating the screw, forever.

Aug 21, 2019 - 6:07:37 AM

52179 posts since 12/14/2005

IF you are going to cut a bit off of the machine screw, DO get a nut to thread up there first, THEN cut and polish the end. And as you take the nut off, it will push tiny bits if the thread into PERFECT alignment.
Otherwise, you risk upfucculating the screw, forever.

Aug 21, 2019 - 9:12:01 AM

6042 posts since 8/28/2013

It looks to me like the tuner button is deteriorating (it looks cracked along the mold line). That could be part of the problem.

From earlier photos, it also appears that the tuner was driven deeply into the neck, which could mean the slipping has been going on for years and someone, probably mistakenly tried to solve the problem by pounding the tuner in. It could also mean that the tuner may still be loose in the neck.

If this banjo was mine, I'd probably start by replacing the tuner button, perhaps adding a fiber washer (not a rubber o-ring) or shortening the screw using Mike G's method, and possibly doweling and redrilling the hole for the tuner so that it doesn't go so deeply into the neck.

Aug 21, 2019 - 10:42 AM

74 posts since 8/25/2009

I have a couple of prewar open back banjos (that's pre Spanish-American War :) with patent pegs (marked patent applied for in the year of 1894). I used to "field strip" them annually, removing the pegs, and applying furniture wax to the wood, and 3-in-1 oil to the threads of the hooks-and-nuts and the screws at the top of the pegs. The fifth string pegs had a spline (about 1/8" thick and 1/4" long) on the shaft and a matching 1/4"x 1/8" groove cut into the hole it went into to prevent it from rotating. I always found they went in with very little pressure and I never had one fall out. I did notice that the splines had acquired a "kink" where they came out of the wood of the neck, presumably from the tension of the strings.

Aug 21, 2019 - 7:49 PM

419 posts since 1/24/2014

George the button is cracked. I hadn’t noticed until you commented on it. The part of the shaft that goes in the neck measures about 1/2” & the hole is about 1” deep. I believe my best option is to plug the neck drill it & buy a new tuner.

Aug 24, 2019 - 2:33:07 PM

61 posts since 9/30/2009

Since you have the tuner apart, I find it useful to hone the surface of the barrel where it meets the metal insert. By smoothing the mating surface, I find I get smoother action and better grip. I take the barrel and gently use a circular motion to hone it on a sharpening stone.

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