Help! My tuning machines sound like a jet!

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Nuno A., Nov 12, 2002.

  1. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    About a month or so , my G and D tuning machines start to make a really scratchy noise when tuning the bass......
    I put a little bit of oil (i guess the one used to clean electric stuff , not sure since the can is gone in the trash).
    Worked ok for a week or so, now the noise is worst and every time im tuning my bass i hear these horrible scratchy sound...sounds like the all thing is gonna brake.
    Any suggestions???
    thanks in advance.

  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    It's possible that one of the gear wheels might be stripped.

    BTW, trumpet valve oil is a very effective lube for open gears.
  3. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    Thanks Christopher....
    I'll try to find trumpet oil and see if it works.....
    I would really like to know the opinions of our house luthiers....

    thanks again
  4. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    While I couldn't be convicted of being a luthier in a court of law, I would also suggest you check out the other ends of the machines, if the shaft is binding in the wood- assuming it's not a metal-on-metal sort of grind. You need to narrow down where the sound is coming from to determine what action to take, but lubrication is certainly a good first step.
  5. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    a non-luthier friend of mine who does setups on new basses recommended lubricating tuning machines with olive oil via an eyedropper. i thought i'd ask about this before going ahead with it. good idea?

    still waiting to hear from luthier types about their preferred lubrication (you know what i mean)...

    sean p
  6. I like olive oil on salads and have been known to use it as a lubricant when rubbing down varnish with pumice stone, but for lubricating metal gears - NO. A light machine oil will work fine, but only use the minimum amount that will get the job done (hide that eye dropper).

    Getting back to basscrazy72's problem, you need to determine what is causing the problem. More oil of any kind is not the answer. If you can't determine what is causing the problem, take it to a bass luthier.
  7. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I use a tiny ammount of white lithium grease -- tiny ammont!!

    Good stuf does not attract dirt as bad as some other types of grease and last a long time over a year at least.

    Smear a little on your finger and wipe it where the worm gear and regular gear mesh. Then wipe the extra off, no matter how little you use there will be extra that oozez out when you work the tunner a little.

    Remember that you don't really crank the tuners except when changing strings.

  8. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    i was planning on de-tuning the strings one by one and re-tuning to work the lubricant into the whole gear. is that on par with what you expert-types do?

    sean p
  9. Normally, a small amount of lubricant on the worm gear (only) will get the job done.
  10. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I thought about what would be a good lubricant for tuning gears, and I think I'd be tempted to use wax. You don't need a super lubricant, as you're not dealing with a high speed drivetrain. You're dealing with something that turns at most a couple of rpm (with a crank) a few seconds a day. Wax won't drip and run, and it's easily removed. If I wanted to get fancy I'd drip in liquid Boesheild, which is wax dissolved in a vehicle, but just rubbing on paraffin wax would probably be as good. Thoughts?
  11. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    My guess is you have wood shafts and they're binding in the holes. If so, the fix is to remove the machines, file out and lube the holes.
  12. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    If they're wooden, I use graphite on the tuning pegs of a violin. I like the wax idea for the gears.
  13. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    The Solo is correct IMHO. A wax or oil will swell the wood parts of the tunners[notice how many posts spell it that way?] Arnold hipped me to a cool graphite product that is a dry powder and comes in a little squeeze bottle-works wonders on wood pegs. A friend told me about a special lube made for bike chains-it's viscous and supposedly will maintain presense longer than a thin oil. Haven't tried it yet-it's on the list of things to try.
    Sounds interesting for the metal parts. Anyone know anything about this?
  14. Calling basscrazy72! Calling basscrazy72!

    Are those tuning shafts wood? If they are, Arnold's ESP is off the charts today.
  15. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    Sorry for my late computer once again decided to let me down for a while...anyway.
    The problem is already fixed...1st of all the tuning shafts are not in wood....they are metal...
    I took off the tuning machines, shafts, everything and cleaned every single piece....
    the amount of dirty on these things was amazing...i just cleaned and lubricated them with a regular machine oil....the noise is gone and i can tune my bass again without almost having an heart atack...
    Thank you all for your comments......

  16. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    The dry powder graphite in a squeeze tube is what I use. It's actually for lock tumblers. Just a little dab'll do ya. The stuff in the spray can has something else in it to make it stick. I wouldn't use it - 'cept on bike chains.
  17. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    i ended up passing on the graphite stuff at the hardwear store in favor of some white lithium grease, a la mr. joe taylor. de-tuned the strings one by one, noting where the worm and gear meshed and applying grease on those tines. wiped everything off after a few good cranks back and forth.

    it's a little goopy (hell, it's grease) but i didn't have to worry about dribbling. machines work smoother and quieter.

    the only trouble is the darn obligato A didn't like being drug back and forth over the bridge and caught it's winding. :rolleyes:

    sean p
  18. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    Graphite there too. And on the nut. Sorta smear it in with your finger. Wouldn't recommend the grease.
  19. Personally, I wouldn't use grease and I would be very careful using graphite. Any grease that I've ever tried has a habit of drawing dirt and dust and over time turns into a mess that you have to totally disassemble the machines to clean the gook off. Also, Its amazing how easy it is to ruin an expensive white tux shirt when you rub up against machines coated with dirty grease or graphite while taking off your bass cover.

    What ever you decide to use, please use as little as possible to get the job done. Unless the machines are of really poor quality, they need very little (if any) lubrication to work properly.
  20. Grease is unnecessary on the gear teeth themselves, and is rarely where the problem lies in binding, noisy metal machines.
    Usually the problem is where the pinion fits over the tuning shaft, the stackup of dimensions can leave little clearance where the tuner plate is. The offset thrust from string tension on the shaft can cause scuffing, scoring, or burrs to pick-up on the tuning shaft shoulder, the inside and outside faces of the tuner plate, or the inside face of the pinion gear.
    This necessitates disassembly of the tuners and some judicious polishing with emery cloth. A little lithium grease or machine oil on reassembly is called for, and will not seep out or be exposed to hands and clothing.