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Installing Gotoh UPT Planetary Ukulele Tuners on Vintage Martin 1T

I got a package in the mail yesterday, from Japan Post.

I've gotten a lot of packages from a lot of places, but never from Japan.

This is exciting.

I wonder what it could be?

Whoa.  It's a set of Gotoh ukulele tuners!

You may recall my adventure with putting Waverly tuners on my pre-war Martin 1T ukulele.  The Waverlys look great, and work well, but the fit left something to be desired.  To be honest, I was disappointed.

The basic problem is that the Martin's headstock is thinner than the ideal thickness for the Waverly tuners.  So the washers stuck up a bit on the top of the headstock.  It made me a little crazy. It just didn't look good.

My friend has a beautiful set of Gotohs on her harp ukulele.  Gotoh makes very fine tuners for guitars and ukuleles, and they make a planetary set that resemble the old Grovers that came on these Martins.  I checked the measurements, and found they would be a perfect fit.

Unlike the Grovers, the Gotohs have a 4:1 planetary gearing.  Yes! 

So I ordered some.  I discovered Gotoh makes all sorts of variations - different body finishes, different knobs, etc.  I wound up ordering my set from the fantastic folks at Japanese Guitar Parts.  They're the Gotoh agent for North America, and can get anything that Gotoh makes.   I sprung for the UPT-UB8-CW - chrome white with tortoise knobs.

Bottom line on the UPT tuners is that they will fit vintage Martins exactly.  With the Waverly tuners, I had to put in a wood bushing to reduce the mounting hole size to fit the tuners.  I dreaded doing it.

And now I get to drill them out.

I used a 1/4 inch bit and very carefully drilled most of the bushings out.  You may recall I made them from dowels - the wood is soft and came out easily.

The Gotohs fit a 10mm hole.  That's just about what the stock Martin hole is.

Probably no coincidence that the Gotoh instructions show them being installed on a Martin.  Hmmmm.

Then I used a piece of sandpaper glued to a dowel with contact cement to fine tune the exact hole size.

This was a little tedious, but I wanted to be precise.  I got the holes to the point where the new tuners would fit perfectly snug.

Obviously, if you have a stock Martin, the tuners will just drop right in.  You won't have to mess with the holes as I did.

With the holes done, it's time to move on to the mounting.

There's a locating pin on the Gotohs - again just like old Grovers.  You can see the pin to the right.

You press the tuner down onto the headstock from the rear and make a small divot with the pin.

Then you size the locating hole.  The hole should be 1.1mm.  Gotoh suggests using a nail set.  I don't have any that small, so I found a small brad that measured 1mm.

It worked perfectly.  The hole can't be too big - the tuner would rotate if the pin won't sit in the hole correctly.

Here you can see all four locating holes ready for the tuners to be installed.

Installation is simple.  Mount the tuner body from behind, then slip the washer and bushing on the top and tighten it up.

The locating washer is beautifully made - it has a ridge on the back to locate itself exactly in the tuner hole, thus keeping the tuner shaft perfectly upright.

Here's the uku with all the tuners mounted and strung up.

I went for the white chrome because I wanted a look like old nickel - not too shiny.  I think they look great and have a nice vintage vibe.

And the buttons.  I really like them.

I want to put some on my other Martins, and I may go for the black ebony buttons on those.  But I went a little wild on this one.

What's the verdict?

They are incredible.  Smooth, very precise, and beautifully made.  And having a geared tuner is very nice - much easier to use than the old direct tuners.  I'm going to order up more soon.  And I plan on replacing some of the tuners on my Kalas too.

I highly recommend them - frankly any Gotoh tuner for that matter.  They're just fantastic.


Post a Comment 2 comments:

  • April 6, 2016 at 9:05 PM
    Thank you for taking the time to compose this excellent article. I have a Martin Baritone Uke and the tuning pegs either slip too much, or if you tighten the adjustment screws, I can't even tune the strings. :-)

    I'm going to order some of these tuners and install them myself. Your article give me confidence to go ahead.
  • Yr Fthfl Blggr said...
    May 1, 2016 at 12:18 PM
    Great. It's very straightforward, and you should be very pleased with the new tuners. Very fine uku you have too!

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