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Sep 25, 2023 - 1:44:47 PM
6 posts since 8/10/2023

I just bought an ESS Gibson that came with a set of Keith D-tuners. Although 22 years old, the banjo doesn't seem to have been played much, but I have no idea when these tuners were installed.
The trouble is they are not smooth to turn, bordering on rough. They do hold pitch and cycle through the settings as they should, but they should turn smoothly. Can anybody shed light on this pesky problem and suggest a solution?

Another annoying and similar problem is the original OEM tuners on the 1st , 4th, & 5th strings are hardly smooth. I put Waverly's on my previous Gibson, so I have come to love quality tuners. But the Keith-D tuners are highly esteemed and usually described as smooth.
Many thanks.

Sep 25, 2023 - 2:20:33 PM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)


29546 posts since 8/3/2003

I'm not sure they're still in business, but you might try contacting Beacon Banjo Co. Go here: and see if they still work on the tuners or if they have an idea what you need to do.

I had to have new washers on my Little banjo several years ago and they just mailed me the new ones and I put them on. At that time there was no charge. I don't know whether they charge now or not.

Maybe one of the luthiers on here will know what the problem is and can be of more help than I am.

Sep 25, 2023 - 2:50:15 PM

79140 posts since 5/9/2007

I talked with Bill in 2008 when I sent in my 1975 set.
He said the older ones were lubed with standard ball joint grease which turns hard and dry over time.He cleaned out the old grease and applied new synthetic based lube that retains its lubricity much longer.
He also said that the original key grips lose a bit of their installed height over years of adjusting causing resistance and should be replaced which he did on mine.

At that time I also bought his "standard" (non-twister) tuners for 1 and 4.Exquisitely smooth,now.

Edited by - steve davis on 09/25/2023 14:54:21

Sep 25, 2023 - 3:08:53 PM
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Alex Z


5624 posts since 12/7/2006

Still in business, as far as I can determine.  Check the web site that Ms. Texasbanjo mentioned.

Here is something from the FAQ on the web site"


* After several years of use, the grease may begin to dry out and the tuners become hard to turn. This can be corrected by removing the side thumbscrews and adding a little light oil such as 3-in-1 oil, sewing machine oil, or penetrating oil. Remember:these tuners are precision-made, and require lubrication. If you continue to use them when they are dry and hard to turn, you may cause internal damage. 

* If the tuners are still hard to turn after oiling, they may need to be serviced.  Beacon Banjo offers a full servicing and relubrication for $45 + shipping.  This process takes 1-3 weeks depending on the condition of the tuners.


My oldest set of Keith tuners is from the early 1980s -- we're talking 40 years.  Been serviced once.

Might be time after 22 years to get yours refurbished.

Edited by - Alex Z on 09/25/2023 15:11:18

Sep 25, 2023 - 4:15:11 PM

5321 posts since 11/20/2004

Hardened grease is the issue. I have sent sets back and have cleaned and lubed some sets. It just depends on how much you want to work or spend.

Sep 25, 2023 - 6:59:57 PM

14585 posts since 6/2/2008

A Hangout member once posted a YouTube video (now not available) showing his own process for re-lubing Keith tuners.

Short version: with buttons, screws and spring removed, soak the tuners in degreaser. Which kind I don't know. Use a syringe or other tool to pump degreaser into the body of the tuners. Work them back and forth with a button or custom-made alternative.

Once the degreaser exiting the tuners runs clear, you need to get some kind of grease into them. The member in the video used a medicinal syringe to inject a white lithium or similar grease. The Hangout member in the video used a Radio Shack product no longer available. I think I've seen Super Lube mentioned.

That's the process as demonstrated.

I sent mine to Beacon Banjo for rehab. 50 years old and good as new.

Sep 25, 2023 - 7:59:25 PM

5321 posts since 11/20/2004

Superlube sounds right but I will look if OP needs to know. I know I used kerosene to clean with, since one of the vIdeos cautioned not to use brake cleaner for some reason, thinking it was too harsh.

Sep 25, 2023 - 9:13:05 PM

12928 posts since 10/27/2006

Brake parts cleaner used to be a type of naphtha (white gasoline, dry cleaner fluid etc.). Nowadays, it's a more environmentally friendly compound, often alcohol based.

If you can take the tuners apart completely, no reason not to use it as it evaporates clean. As a flushing compound, I wouldn't use it either. 

Sep 26, 2023 - 5:06:24 AM

431 posts since 6/28/2006

I sent two sets back for service a couple months ago. Turn around was quick. I got them back the week after. They work great now.

Sep 27, 2023 - 5:23:46 PM
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79140 posts since 5/9/2007

$45 is good deal for the peace of mind and knowing they went back to where they were born.
I don't know what the button height spec is and Bill said that was important.
I suppose micing an old one and a new one would tell you,but I see it like Gramp may have by saying,"You don't have to know how to do everything especially if they can do it better than you."
And I'm sure Beacon stands by their work.

Sep 28, 2023 - 7:40:12 AM

79140 posts since 5/9/2007

It was $25 when I sent mine in 2008.
Still a bargain at $45.

Sep 28, 2023 - 3:13:02 PM

79140 posts since 5/9/2007

I wonder if Beacon uses one of those old air-driven carburetor basket shakers.

Sep 29, 2023 - 12:17:40 PM

6 posts since 8/10/2023

I appreciate the response. I liked the idea of trying a little shot of 3/1 oil through the set screw holes, so I tried it. There seems to be noticeable improvement. Let's see how that goes.
Right now I have a bigger , more annoying problem which suddenly appeared: string buzzing on a few frets. Boy, don't I hate buzz (on my banjo). The mysteries never stop.

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