These brass tuners are off of a mid to later 19th century seven-string banjo.  It appears that they have not functioned for many years and are so corroded that they've turned black and are 'frozen' and won't budge.  So far I've soaked them in penetrating oil for a few days to no avail.  

I'm looking for ideas to free these up for re-use, since it's an original and rare banjo-guitar.




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Ha, these look like it!

Onewent, no ridicule meant towards the banjo! It sounds like a worthy item. I, for one, would appreciate pictures of the rest. 

It's in pieces at the moment, I'll see what I can do .. Tom

Just to follow up, after two weeks soaking in penetrating oil, and a little tapping, wiggling and machine oil, the tuners are completely free!

Now, any ideas on replacing the broken bone buttons?  These are the 'rivet' on type .. pre 1900s.


Thanks for the photos! Interesting old piece of banjology. It seems the frets end above the body, in the way of present day clawhammerers. 

How is the replacement of the tuner buttons coming along?  Have you figured out the end cap issue?

There is no way  I know to reshape the cap to allow new buttons to be passed over them and then reshaped them back into a retaining cap.  And make them look like the original unaltered buttons.

Frank, I can almost see you raising that hatchet and grabbing me by the neck like your on line picture for floating this idea out here.

What about using a razor saw to cut  the shaft at about 75-80% of its length inside the button, installing the new buttons  and gluing the 3 pieces back together with an epoxy.  The glue would also have to fill the total length void created during the cut off process. The overall length must stay the same as the other original remaining buttons on the  strip.

Maybe plan to try a few practice runs using some cheap  old brass Harmony tuners, remove the plastic buttons, square off the shafts.  This will could get you about as close to duplicating the process. These could then be mounted on another guitar and see if they would hold up under the tension of the strings.

Will epoxy bond brass and bone, fill the small voids and functionally handle tension of tuning over time?

I'm interested in the process because I have an old mandolin with a similar bone and brass combination and I see faint fissure cracks on my buttons too. 

Frank I know your mantra is do nothing that can't be undone, so in the words of Pink Floyd, " Careful with that axe, Eugene." 

Hi John, I actually had pretty good success replacing the buttons.  As others here and on banjo hangout explained, there is a tiny washer at the tip of the tuner button shaft, and the washer is held on by a slight peening of its end.  So I lightly and carefully filed a bit of the 'mushroom' off the tip, and the washer came off easily.  I took a plastic tuner replacement button and shaped it to look like the originals, and drilled, then shaped with a jewelers file the inside, four-sided hole.  After a bit of fitting/filing, the button fit snugly, so I installed the washer and peened the tip .. 

For a better look, I'm going to carve new buttons from unbleached bone nut blanks.  It's time consuming, but sort of satisfying.


The tuner looks really good. The corrosion came off nice, but still leaving a nice age.

Good job on the button, and I think the bone idea would fit this old veteran very nicely.


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