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Decent, Inexpensive Tuners For A First Build


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I know this has been touched on before, but things change.

I'm finally sourcing parts for a super (somewhat?) simplified version of the build I've been planning for years. Since this is a first build, and not (by far) my dream build, I'm not looking to spend a tremendous amount on parts, but I'm not wanting to go "I'll regret it sooner than later." cheap.

So, does anybody have experience with decent, but inexpensive tuning machines? I know folks have gotten good buys on eBay, but there's no guarantee that the current crop of items is as good as the previous ones recommended.

I'm hoping for:

  • Black
  • 6 In-Line (not reverse) -- I'd love 4+2, but the only inexpensive ones I've seen are from GuitarFetish, but they're chrome and not 18:1
  • High Ratio (18:1 or better, but I know I can't be too picky)
  • Locking (again, I know I can't be too picky)

There are some open-back, 18:1 Waverley Tuners that look pretty decent; however I'm not finding them in 6 in-line and black.


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At GFS,black,locking,and inexpensive.

Unlike Tim I don't think you have to pay a ton for good tuners.GFS tuners have always worked perfectly for me.These locking ones are new.

If you do buy them,keep in mind they are staggered...on purpose...this means that some tuners are shorter than others.You put the longest ones closest to the nut and they get shorter as they get further away.This is meant to help string angle on flat headstocks

If you don't like those,they also have these


Personally I would go with the Wilkinsons because it is a recognizable name if you intend to ever sell the guitar

The owner of this site(Project Guitar...Brian) also has discounted parts


Also,look around here


If none of these meet your criteria,then you are being too picky for your price range :P

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The guitarfetish tuners are surprisingly good. Hipshot makes ones that will get you everything but black (only chrome, but incredibly nice, I'm using them on my current build). Other than that, you will likely have to go more expensive.

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Totally. I was going to shout Wilkinson also. The thing is, you soon find that the price difference between a set of Wilkinsons and a basic set of Gotohs is very small. On that basis I would say, if you have a bit more wiggle room then go to the best you can afford. If cheap as cheap can be is the priority then go low.

High ratio would mean quality gearing and expense. Locking again tends to add expense. You definitely get your bang for the buck from Hipshot though.

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i had a set of the wilkinson ez locks on a guitar it was more a pita to do all the looping and crap they ended up being used as normal tuners. i dont think you need to pay a ton but you need to get good ones that wont unwind (yes that has happened to me bend a string and it goes out of tune because it acutaly turned backwards)

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Thanks all!

I'm keeping the multi-scale design and the ergo body shape, but other that that, I've dropped all the "wish list" items (headless, Lace X-Bar pick-ups, stainless steel frets, "pretty wood" for a natural finish, more than six strings, etc.). I'm looking at using the GFS Lil' Puncher XL Tele Bridge pick-ups (Vintage in the neck and Modern in the bridge) -- just over $60 shipped and I bought six of the Rondo single string bridge/saddle combos for about $40 shipped. So I feel like spending more on tuners than pick-ups or bridge hardware is a bit like putting a spoiler on the station wagon (mini-van for you young-ins). I may just have to come to terms with buying "real" tuning machines for my "compromise Realistically Thought-Out" build.


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One thing I am doing quite specifically with my current build is fitting cheap Wilkinson tuners for the time being, however I know that the mounting pattern is identical to a set I would prefer to fit on there so the option still exists. Might worth bearing in mind should you want to upgrade, or possibly even downgrade if you put good tuners on from the start.

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No experience with GFS, etc. however I assume they are relatively standard also.

Yes they are.They have tight machining and they stay in tune.

There are crappy tuners out there,but the GFS tuners modeled after the Gotoh,Sperzel,Grover,etc are not "cheap",they are just inexpensive.I had my first set on a Xavierre guitar I bought a few years ago,and I was so impressed with the quality of the hardware and electronics on that guitar I started buying a few parts here and there from GFS.Now I buy a lot of parts from them.I save money and have had no issues.

Of course I do use some common sense.I only buy the tuners that are all metal..no plastic buttons,no "vintage" looking rows of tuners...hell...those things have issues even if you buy the $100 and higher sets.

There is a lot of "snobbery" associated with hardware and electronics among guitarists and builders.I am guilty of it still and I used to be worst.I would spend over $100 for a Tone Pros TOM rather than buy a $30 one...and with good reason,because a few years ago the $30 ones were extremely inferior.

Quality has improved since then amongst certain manufacturers I assure you.I just bought a TOM bridge/Tailpiece straight from China for $20(for the both of them) .


The seller can barely type English and is very "Chinese"..always sending emails hoping I "have day good for working" and "have successful guitar"..the shipping took something like 3 weeks..but when they came in they are good,hefty,well made pieces with no numbering or lettering of any type.They are flat black,not glossy.The saddles have no burrs and the machining is cleaner than the Gibson bridges I have bought before.

Yes I am guilty of not "buying American"..but there is a small problem with buying American these days..Americans are competing with the Chinese for price and since our workers need higher wages we have to cut corners to compete...Obviously some Chinese shops are cutting corners as well,but what ends up happening is that the ones who strive for quality can produce it more cheaply than we can.

It is impossible for us to spend top dollar for American products when we no longer have the top dollar income,and what income we do have is spent on top dollar gas and top dollar food prices..so we are forced by our government's lopsided foreign trade policies to buy the Chinese products,because saving money where we can is top priority so we and our families can eat.

Stop the influx of Chinese products or increase the outflux of our own products to China to make up the trade deficit and increase our own manufacturing jobs so that our factories can once again provide a quality product at a reasonable price and I will be happy to pay top dollar for top quality.

But I will not pay top dollar for lesser quality..

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The Die/Dye has been cast. I found the Wilkinson Waverly open back tuners that (I thought) somebody here pointed out in black. They're not 6-in-line, but since they're open-back, I'll likely go with a more Classical Guitar styled headstock.

I also may have more Cherry left-over from a home furnishings project than expected, so I might actually go with a natural finish. :woohoo:


Edited by ElRay
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