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Dec 3, 2021 - 7:36:22 AM
53 posts since 1/25/2020

What would the experts here recommend for lubricating open gear tuners?

Dec 3, 2021 - 7:48:03 AM

14425 posts since 10/30/2008

I have settled on a little tube of white lithium grease. It looks like toothpaste. Won't melt and run and stain the wood if it gets hot. Very stable.

Dec 3, 2021 - 7:57:19 AM



2015 posts since 11/3/2016

One drop of good light machine oil on the end of a toothpick or similar .
Apply top side so it will get between the shaft & bushing then will make its way to the gear . Don't over do it .

Dec 3, 2021 - 8:04:26 AM

11915 posts since 10/27/2006

It depends. Stew-Mac says that there is a lubricant embedded in their Waverly and Sloan tuners.

Everything else? Absolutely. If the worm goes dry, it will wear out—in some cases such as vintage Waverly and Kluson tuners, you can be wearing a lap full of glitter just by removing the strings on an instrument with dry gears.

Martin says to use a light grease such as Vaseline. Others use 3-In-1 about once a year. I use that on dry gears before touching them (used to see a lot of student guitars).

Many such as the late Paul Hostetter swear by Tri-Flow or Remington gun lube with PTFE. Many others hate it. The Teflon particles bond at rest and the tuner will make a 'tick' sound as the bond is broken when you first turn the gear.
Paul Hostetter on gears and maintenance

As Paul illustrates, don't forget the eyes and under the gear on both sides of the plate. This is tricky with grease but easy with liquid.

I use 3-In-1 on new instruments as part of my setup process unless it has Waverly gears. Since it's also the fretboard oil, that's convenient.

BTW, the only function of oil on the fretboard is cosmetic—bare wood will show spotting from the oils in your fingertips and a little oil beforehand masks it. Martin and Gibson used 3-In-1 for decades till Martin found something cheaper about 20 years ago. It does not seal, protect, season (whatever the hell that means) or anything else that the marketing departments of snake (I mean fretboard) oils claim. The commercial oils are mineral based, even the lemon scented ones. Vegetable oils can rot the wood, attract insects and other nastiness. Since it's cosmetic only, the only time to reapply is if you strip off the old coat by cleaning with alcohol or a solvent or someone scratches the board with a pick.

Dec 3, 2021 - 8:28:33 AM
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424 posts since 4/11/2019

I use a small drop of sewing machine oil.

Works fine on the Edison cylinder player too!

Dec 3, 2021 - 8:50:08 AM

53 posts since 1/25/2020

I was thinking about sewing machine oil. Any drawbacks?

Dec 3, 2021 - 9:05:15 AM

11915 posts since 10/27/2006

Originally posted by Jay Ray K

I was thinking about sewing machine oil. Any drawbacks?

Any light machine oil or grease works.

Since I no longer play and the 'tick' sound of Teflon releasing never bothered me, I use Tri-Flow on my personal instruments, many of which have not been played in 13 years.

Dec 3, 2021 - 2:02:06 PM

8148 posts since 6/30/2020
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Originally posted by Knows Picker

I use a small drop of sewing machine oil.

I also have used sewing machine oil for years. The only drawback to any petroleum based lube is dust and dirt, but since instruments are usually well cared for it does not really present a concern. 

Dec 4, 2021 - 2:26:38 PM

530 posts since 5/29/2015

Tuners often benefit from being washed with Naptha or electronic cleaner. I have been able to get stiff tuners tuning freely again through this process--although not always. I then use Tri-Flow which was developed for bicycles and has the quality of not collecting dust and dirt the way other oils do.

Dec 4, 2021 - 5:53:28 PM

196 posts since 6/15/2021

I use silicone on darned-near everything these days.

As a liquid, it's most readily available in a spray can which can be messy and unpredictable. I'd love to find a little bottle or can of liquid silicone lubricant like 3-in-One.

I have a tube of the most wonderful stuff called Sil-Glyde which is a little thicker than vaseline. It doesn't run. A very tiny dab is all you need for most things. It doesn't attract dirt like most grease does.

I also have a stick of a solid compound called Slipstick. Again, a very small amount is usually enough. I think my dad bought this one in in the 1970s and he then I have used just a small fraction of the tube.

Dec 5, 2021 - 9:38:30 AM

530 posts since 5/29/2015

Most of the advice above does not mention the importance of removing the tuners to lubricate them. Excess oil is not particularly good for the wood, and if one must use silicone lubricants, silicone makes touchup and refinishing of instruments quite difficult if it gets on the instrument itself.

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