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Question about tuning machines and sustain

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Magneto, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. I'm curious about something, and I welcome your opinions on this. I hope you don't mind taking the time to read this rather lengthy post.
    My ESP F204 bass's tuning machines are a bit undersized for the holes bored in the headstock. I first noticed this while changing strings, and the tuners MOVED on me. I thought "how can this be happening?" I removed one of the machines, and sure enough the hole was bored just big enough that the machine could rock back and forth a bit, even with the small screw in the back tight, and the front nut secure. I didn't want to overtighten the front nut, but at the same time I didn't want the machines slipping out of alignment.

    So then I decided that maybe I could use something as a thin bushing, filling in most of the play in the holes, and keep everything snug. I used plastic shrink wrap, and it worked nicely, filling the gaps without fitting overly-tight. I did this mod to all 4 machines.

    Ok.. now I'm wondering how this might effect my string/neck
    sustain. I'm under the impression that the speaking length of the string (from saddle to nut) is what matters most, but I'm no expert. Could this plastic be dampening my sound in some way. I'm noticing that I'm just not getting the sustain from my strings that I once was. Even this newer roundwound set sounds duller than the ancient strings I had removed.

    Any thoughts or info? Does the machine's metal to wood contact have bearing on string sustain or intonation?


  2. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Did you change the strings at the same time you made the mod, or did you get a chance to compare modded vs unmodded with the old strings?
  3. Josh Curry

    Josh Curry

    May 29, 2003
    Frisco, TX
    The plastic could be acting an insulation and absorbing the vibrations. This is very possible. Almost anything that comes in contact with the string or is in contact with something that could potentially absorb vibrations will affect your sound. I'm not sure what you could use if you absolutely want to remove all of the play in the tuner hole but the harder the material, the better.
  4. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    you were on the right track with metal bushings.

    you can get tuner bushings that go for 1/2 pegs fitting into 9/16 holes, or you could get a peice of sheet metal or such and make one.

    since the string is sittingacross the nut, not much vibration should be going threw the headstock, but every little bithelps.
  5. Thank you very much for the ideas. I honestly never gave it any thought when I did the mod, but now I'm thinking differently.

    I suppose I could even cut some thin aluminum from a soda can and use this if absolutely necessary, right? At least it would not rust..

  6. Josh Curry

    Josh Curry

    May 29, 2003
    Frisco, TX
    That's a tough call. Aluminum, while it is metal, is really soft. Basically, I think anything that is harder than the neck wood will be fine.