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Help Topics for Banjo Players

Fifth string tuning pegs - some guidance on fitting replacements.

25/09/2013

Many banjos, particularly budget models, are fitted with poor quality 5th string tuners - and even reasonable quality tuners may fail with age & use. This guide aims to give some pointers on the replacement of 5th string tuners with a modern worm-geared type using a taper reamer of the appropriate section. Most simple friction tuners are a “push-fit” into a straight sided hole in the side of the banjo neck. Most modern banjos will a circular (more or less) hole but some types have a hexagonal hole. Removal involves gently pulling the old tuner at right angles to the neck until it is free from the existing hole. The exceptions to this are few but it’s always worth checking that there are no screws visible - there are several types of tuner that were retained on the side of the neck by one or two screws and even one type that is screwed into the side of the neck with a “locking” grub screw visible on the surface. If you are in doubt, consult a qualified technician. Having removed the old tuner, it is necessary to cut a tapered hole in the side of the neck to accommodate the “tapered spline” fitting of the new tuner. Using the existing hole as a guide, gently rotate the flat end of the reamer in the hole. Be careful to keep the reamer at right angles to the side of the neck and try not to “wobble” it up and down. The reamer is sharp and may cut surprisingly fast in some softer woods to you need to be quite careful not to over do it! You may care to have a “trial go” on a piece of scrap wood before attacking the banjo neck ............. Once the reamer is about 1/4” into the wood, remove it and start “offering up” the new tuning peg. The proceed slowly, cutting only small amounts with the reamer and keep trying the peg in the hole. Eventually, you will get to a situation where only about 2mm of the splined part is visible when viewed from the top of the banjo. At this stage check that you have the tuner itself in the correct position (the tuner should sit with the string post on the top & leaning slightly “backwards” as compared to the 5th string nut) and seat the tuner with a good hard push - or a LIGHT tap with a small soft-faced hammer. Excessive force must not be used as this may split the neck or force the 4th fret upwards causing an annoying string buzz. It sounds a good deal more complicated than it is - but the job does require a degree of care to get it right.

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