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Dec 9, 2022 - 7:24:12 AM
1263 posts since 1/30/2019

Hi,
I've bought a banjo which has some Kluson "Firebird" stepped tuners in the case, with cream plastic buttons.
I don't really want them cos they're really not in keeping with the banjo which is much older. To help me sell them, it would be good to know which models / dates of Gibson banjos had them fitted, a rough idea of value, and whether to sell as a set or as singles?
Thanks in advance!

Dec 9, 2022 - 7:48:28 AM
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15129 posts since 10/30/2008

An early version was first used on top tensions in the late 1930s, but the "typical" ones date from the debut of the RB 250 bowtie Mastertones in the mid 1950s, and all the later Mastertones through the 1960s.

You'll see lots of ads for these on eBay, sold in sets of 4, 6 (for certain Gibson guitars) and individually and in pairs.

If you sell them individually, take care to observe the letter "T or "B" stamped in the underside of the "box". B means bass side tuners for banjo, T means tenor side. Bs and Ts turn in opposite directions. When installed correctly, all 4 banjo tuners turn the same direction. Apparently Gibson thought this was an improvement?

Check the Classifieds ad here and see how sellers offer them.

Make sure you include the ferrules and screws, they often get lost.

The plastic Keystone shaped buttons are important. Later versions had plated metal Keystone buttons.

A lot of banjo pickers don't like these tuners because they are 1) heavy and 2) have a very high gear ratio meaning you have to turn the button "forever" to tighten up a new string. Some pickers like them because 1) they are heavy (thought to help tone?) and 2) permit very fine tuning, and 3) they are correct for restoring RB 250s.

Gold plated Klusons go on 1960s RB 500s and 800s.

Dec 9, 2022 - 9:46:58 AM
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2088 posts since 5/19/2018
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Best to post photos of the tuners.

There are one or two variations of that particular tuner.

The earlier “boxier” variation is worth a good bit more than the ones we typically see on 50’s/early 60’s 250’s.

Dec 9, 2022 - 10:39:04 AM

1263 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Best to post photos of the tuners.

There are one or two variations of that particular tuner.

The earlier “boxier” variation is worth a good bit more than the ones we typically see on 50’s/early 60’s 250’s.


Thanks Alvin and @the_old_timer. I'll post pictures when I have them.

Does anyone have images of the "boxier" tuners and the later ones for comparison? 

Dec 9, 2022 - 10:54:55 AM
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42 posts since 5/7/2006

I have a set of the earlier ones but will not be back to take pictures for a couple of days. I will try to post them later if no one else does.

Dec 9, 2022 - 12:11:26 PM

1263 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by cmc ranger

I have a set of the earlier ones but will not be back to take pictures for a couple of days. I will try to post them later if no one else does.


Thanks!

Dec 9, 2022 - 1:45:31 PM

15129 posts since 10/30/2008

Here's a photo of the "earlier" version from a 1937 TB 7. On the right.


Dec 9, 2022 - 2:01:59 PM

1263 posts since 1/30/2019

@the_old_timer Ok, so that middle tier has rounded ends on the older ones. The ones I'm getting appear to be different to that, with corners. So probably not as old. The banjo they come with is a late 20s tenor.
Thanks for posting the photo!

Dec 19, 2022 - 9:02:10 AM

1263 posts since 1/30/2019

Here are the photos. They aren't the really early ones, but there are 2 Bs and 2 Ts. No collars or screws though.
Is it possible to say what decade they belong too?


Dec 19, 2022 - 9:15:52 AM
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15129 posts since 10/30/2008

With plastic keystone buttons, I daresay these are 1950s to very early 60s. Gibson switched Mastertones to nickel/chrome metallic keystone buttons in the early 1960s.

With the ferrules and screws missing, you may find these slow to sell. Ferrules especially. That might require buying a set of repro tuners, just to get the ferrules!

Dec 20, 2022 - 1:47:33 AM

1263 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

With plastic keystone buttons, I daresay these are 1950s to very early 60s. Gibson switched Mastertones to nickel/chrome metallic keystone buttons in the early 1960s.

With the ferrules and screws missing, you may find these slow to sell. Ferrules especially. That might require buying a set of repro tuners, just to get the ferrules!


Thanks for this. I've found that Kluson make and sell repro collars. So I've ordered some. They're £2 each. I'll pop these up on the classifieds with repro collars here when I have everything together.

Nice to know the age. I can't work out why anyone thought winding the same way was an important feature. I think it would be too confusing for my little brain!

Thanks all,

Andy

Dec 20, 2022 - 6:37:26 AM
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15129 posts since 10/30/2008

That's good news about repro ferrules! Enjoy!

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