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Help fix/replace geared tuners

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I apologize if this is not where I can post my question for help. Please let me know where it should be posted.

I picked up a Hughes Dulcimer (1981) second hand. It's an hourglass model with geared tuners and one tuner is stuck. I sprayed a little WD40 in the gear but it didn't help. I believe the tuner part that goes into the hole thru the wood is where the problem lies; after years of non-use and not being taken care of properly, the wood 'contracted' around the tuner such that it's stuck.

What can I do to free the tuner so it works?

In the event I need to replace the tuners, where can I find replacements? I'd like to use the holes already in the wood versus drilling new ones. Each geared tuner has a small screw on each side of the tuner (2 screws per tuner) but the screws are not centered; rather, they are adjacent, if I am explaining it correctly.

Are all geared tuners the same size, or do I have to worry about that too?

TIA for answering my questions.

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Virtually all tuner shaft are the same size.  The shaft of the tuner is the part that goes through the wood, and around which the string is wound.  Guitar tuners often have a plastic sleeve over the tuner shaft, but thiose can be removed.   I don't think I've ever seen the wood contract around a shaft hole, let alone so tightly that the tuner won't work. Wood just doesn't do that; the holes are drilled sufficiently oversize.   However the shaft might be bent and not turning.    The screws which hold the tuner in place -- a photo posted here would be worth a thousand words, easily, BTW...  Even money says that new tuners will require new screw holes, if that's what you're asking.  The shaft holes can be re-used without any issues.

You can get tuners in many places -- a local acoustic music shop, Ebay, Stewart MacDonald, and CBGitty the cigar box guitar supplier shop to name a few.  You need to make sure that your new tuners are the same orientation -- intended for a flat 'guitar type' tuning head, not a scroll head (the shafts are at different angles to the tuning keys.  You can expect to pay anything from $10 - $30 for a set of 4 depending on the brand and style.  Tuners intended for ukuleles work well for instruments like a Hughes dulcimer.  
 

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If you can post a photo of the tuner that would be helpful.  There are a couple different types of tuning machines used on dulcimers.  I searched for photos of Hughes Dulcimers and it looks like they use tuners designed for classical guitars, but it would be good to see your specific ones.

As NoterMan said, I've also haven't come across wood contracting and causing a tuner to lock up on an instrument with geared tuners.  I'd think it would more likely be the tuner being bent or something stopping the gears from turning.

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All the Hughes dulcimers I have seen use standard open geared tuners. I this is what you have, there should be a screw centered in the middle of the brass gear. Try loosening this screw a little bit and see if that helps the shaft to move when you turn the knob. Those tuners are fairly common. You can buy a set from Folkcraft, McSpadden, or do a search on Amazon. You'll find all levels of pricing. If you need to replace the tuner, I suggest that you replace all of them.

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A good next step might be taking the tuner off and seeing if you can learn any more about why it's not turning.    For that style of tuner, they're just held in by the two Philips screws.  

If you end up needing a replacement, I found these on Amazon, which look close, though they may not be an exact match:

https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Gate-F-2000-Acoustic-Guitar/dp/B005N61EZG

 

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Those are the really inexpensive tuners, not the ones KenL was talking about with the adjustment screw...    First step is to find new tuners.  Second step is to slack all the strings and remove them being sure to mark exactly where the bridge goes so it can be replaced correctly.   If you have to, cut the string on the tuner which isn't working properly.  Then check again to see if there's any way to get the tuner moving.  Third step would be order a new set of four tuners; best to replace all of them at the same time.  

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3 hours ago, NoterMan said:

Those are the really inexpensive tuners, not the ones KenL was talking about with the adjustment screw...

Ken's referring to the large screw in the middle of the gear. It's not an adjustment screw, but it can be too tight and prevent the gear from turning.

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Yes, the center screw is exactly what I was referring to. If the center screw is too tight the shaft will not turn. I sometimes lubricate the gear-to-peg junction with either graphite or a silicone spray. It is also possible that something is binding against the shaft where it goes through the peg head. You can check that by removing the peg. That type of tuner is easily repairable. I recently had a dulcimer come in to the shop that was knocked over and one of the little hooks that holds the peg in place against the gear was bent. I was able to bend it back in to shape and the tuner is performing fine. On the other hand, you can purchase a set (4) of tuners like that from Folkcraft for $11.99 plus shipping if you just want to replace them.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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