Hi folks! Before I get started, a big thanks for all the cool info and posts that I have been reading whilst lurking around here. The willingness to share knowledge is wonderful, and I thank you.


I'm working on a 1950 Martin T-15 Tiple that has spent most of it's life in Hawaii. Thankfully, it has made the trip to the mainland intact, and there is no cracking or warping present. It's in beautiful shape, except for some wear on one side.


The environment has taken a terrific toll on the tuning machines though. They need major cleaning, and then probably more cleaning after that. Also, almost all of the buttons have broken away and fallen off.


I've ordered replacement mandolin buttons from Stewmac, which are the closest thing I can find. I knew I would have a problem, though. The bottons have a 4.2 mm hole in them, while the shafts of the tuners are 3.6 mm. Too much space. The shafts also don't really have much grip on them, as you can see in the attached picture.


So, how shall I attach these things for the long haul? I don't really want to take the chance of hammering every single one of these shafts to have a wide flange while trying not to actually bend them. I am not sure what kind of adhesive to use to make this work - JB Weld actually comes to mind as strong enough to grip on the shaft, but I'm not sure how it will like the plastic of the knobs. I suppose that the Gorilla brand CA glue might do it, but I'm not really sure.


On a side note, I was surprised to discover that the screws holding the machines on are simply clipped off to fit in the shallow space that they have! Crazy! And, sadly, those clipped ends seem to chew a LOT of wood out of the way when put in and removed even once, so I might have to to a little work to keep those holes tight.

Tags: buttons, mandolin, tiple

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Your tuners should look like these:

The only round buttons you can get now, that are somewhat appropriate for those machines, are galalith ivoroid, and they come with two types of holes. Neither will work for you at all. The larger-holed ones, made to fit Schallers, are way too big, and even the other ones, made for Waverly, etc., have square holes that are still too large for your needs.

There are oval-shaped cream ones you can get that would work—they are meant for guitars—and those are meant to be pressed on when the plastic is warm and soft. But the oval shape is not quite right for mandolin buttons.

The originals were cream-colored styrene, not grained ivoroid. Stew-Mac will have those available later this year, but I doubt you want to wait.

Nothing you do to glue the buttons you bought will last or be very reliable. I'd save them for another project.

OK, both Stew-Mac and Elderly sell these:

Click here for the info.

Get ten of them, carefully drill the provided holes out a wee bit smaller than your shafts, and press them on when they're warmed up and slightly soft. No glue necessary, though a touch of CA would wick in and help out. They'll get you by until the Stew-Mac round ones come through. Dan Erlewine has a piece about this here. Remember his tuners are Klusons with a different type of shaft, and he's promoting Stew-Mac products like mad, but you get the idea.
Thanks a ton, Paul. Oddly enough, I have some of those oval shaped knobs here, waiting to be intalled on my bakelite Rickenbacker steel. It looks like it might be hard to tune with the larger knobs, I'm not sure fingers would fit in between them.

I went ahead and put the other buttons on with CA glue. I expect this instrument will simply not be used much, since the family members who want it fixed up will probably stick it in a closet and just use their nylon string tenor ukes instead. If it gets enough use that a button actually falls off, then I will just have to redo it. There's no money involved, thankfully!

Once again, I really appreciate your time.
Perhaps this is a silly question, Paul, but do you know if these buttons could be reshape to fit the rounder "mandolin" profile? My concern is that they may have voids in the material or will discolor or just melt down under grinding. I could use some like this too but I really need the smaller, rounder mandolin shape.
Not at all a silly question. I haven't tried to mess with these buttons, but injection molded plastic tends to have a nice surface and an interior like cheese. I don't have a good feeling about trying to reshape them and have a nice polish afterwards. I have some to fool with, I should try hacking into them and see what happens.

I've actually made round buttons from scratch, but it's a pain. That's why I am excited about the machines (and aftermarket buttons) that Stew-Mac has in the pipe:

Above are old Waverlys, below is a prototype set of the forthcoming copies. The final buttons will come in cream (not the white you see), ivoroid, and ebony. The cream buttons will be cheap, the ivoroid and ebony ones are machine made and still relatively expensive. But they'll be available by themselves. No pearloid!
Thanks, Paul. I've done a bit of shaping on these to clean up small dents and nicks but never reshaped any that drastically. I have tried melting some plastic binding in acetone to patch a split button but it didn't work out too well for me.

I need these for a mid 50's Martin 2-15. I got it minus the heads but already have a set that are the same style except for black buttons. There's no real rush I suppose since I still have to repair the top.

These new/old gears look good. I'll keep a watch for the buttons on Stew-Mac's site. Thanks again for the information.


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