I have a very old Martin with tuning machines that have lost some of the buttons.  The originals look like ivory but there are three missing.  I was thinking of replacing the lost ones with bone but cannot seem to find a source for material that would be large enough.  I am sure I am not the first person to have this problem but cannot seem to find the answer on the internet.  What is the excepted practice in this case?

I include pictures of the tuning machines.


Thank in advance for your help

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Ivory is the right stuff, and David Warther is your source:


He may not list pieces you need on the site, but give him a call and he can fix you up.

Thanks Frank I'll check it out

John,  The second picture seems to show more "grain" on the button than I would expect to see with ivory.  It makes me wonder if the buttons aren't bone.  Ivory really shouldn't have any pores.

If they are bone, you can often find larger pieces of bone sold by knife maker suppliers, listed under "scales."




It could be bone, I am not sure.  I just guessed that they were ivory based on the age of the guitar.  It seems that some of the buttons have already been replaced as some of the shafts are shorter then others.  There appears to be only one button that is original based on the shaft length.  The other two both sit on shorter shafts.

John,  Frank was right in that the early Martin tuners had ivory buttons.  The ivory buttons are more elongated, rather than oval.  The ones that are pictured may well be replacements for the ivory.  Let me know if you need dimensions for the ivory.




I was guessing the the one button that sits on the shaft of original length is the correct size but again I am not sure.  Please feel free to send me the dimensions for the buttons. 




If you're after real ivory, David Warther is the source. I ordered some stuff from him back in 03 that was top shelf.

If you are after the 'right look' but without paying the ivory price (or don't want the idealogical baggage associated with ivory), StewMac offers ivory-lookalike buttons, that are imported from a guy in Hong Kong who sells them direct for cheaper. Search Grover Guitar Ivory Acrylic and it will take you to the right auction. I've actually bought a set of these and can vouch for them.

John,  I have to correct myself.  I went down to the basement to check and it turns out that the older Martin buttons were oval

The first picture shows the tuners on a 2-27 that is in the original coffin case with the label inside the case. The ivory buttons are 0.700 long, they measure 0.490 to 0.510 in width, and 0.250 in thickness tapering to 0.205 at the ends.  The worm and shank length goes from 1.470 to 1.506, so there was a fair amount of variation originally.

The last set of tuners is from a 0-28 that is dated under the top in pencil "April 23, 1894."  These have the more elongated buttons that I had mentioned earlier.  They measure 0.747 to 0.772 in length, 0.428 to 0.453 in width, and 0.232 to 0.260 in thickness.  Worm and shanks are 1.426 to 1.445.

The middle picture is a tuner of the same type as the second, but with two of the buttons missing and you can see where someone was still trying to tune their guitar using a pair of pliers on the stem.

The spacer between the button and the collar holding the worm is different on the older tuners, also

Hope this is of help.




The dimensions for the buttons on the 2-27 are the same as on my guitar.  I haven't had a chance to contact David Warther yet but I am guessing he can supply me with replacement material.


Thanks for the info,




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