Photo 3 — Photo courtesy of

Next, set the tuners on several layers of newspaper and spread the paste on the metal with a small, soft brush. Don’t apply paste to the buttons, but otherwise smother the tuners (Photo 3). And don’t forget the screws, which you can immerse in their own little puddle of paste. Now let the tuners and screws stew in the paste for several hours. For “some patina left,” a period of about five hours works well.

Photo 4 — Photo courtesy of

After marinating the tuners, put them under warm running water to wash off the paste and then dry them with a soft cloth. (To avoid losing the screws down the sink drain, simply rinse them in a jar.) Photo 4 shows what the tuners look like after soaking for about five hours in the vinegar paste.

If you elect to make them shiny, you can take the short route: Apply some toothpaste to a soft cotton cloth (an old t-shirt works great), drip some water on the tuners, and polish them until they shine. Alternatively, you can also use a soft toothbrush for this or a Dremel tool with a soft polishing bit. Rinse the paste off under running water and enjoy the new glory.

Photo 5 — Photo courtesy of

Another excellent and easy option is to use a silver polishing cloth—just rub the tuners gently and you’re done. If you’re working with brass, be sure to buy the cloth intended for silver because the type made to clean gold doesn’t work as well. Photo 5 shows what our project tuners look like after two minutes of polishing with the silver cloth.

We’re almost finished now. If you have non-metal buttons, buff them with a clean piece of cotton anointed with toothpaste. With little effort, the buttons will look like new.

If you want to protect your tuners from new tarnish, you can use some wadding polish like Eagle One Nevr-Dull, a popular treatment for bikes and cars. Nevr-Dull creates a protective barrier that will last a very long time. Simply rub the tuners with the wadding polish, let them dry for a minute, and wipe them off with a paper towel.

Lube up. The last step is to lubricate the tuners again to ensure they work properly. The professional solution is Teflon-based oil like Tri-Flow, but you can also use chainsaw or machine oil. But stay away from cooking oil; it won’t work properly and will eventually turn rancid. Yuck.

Photo 6 — Photo courtesy of

Place the tuners on clean newspaper, drip the lubricant onto the exposed gears (Photo 6), and turn each shaft several times. Wait for a minute and then repeat the process. Let the tuners sit on the newspaper for a day, then wipe off the excess lubricant with a paper towel. Your tuners are now ready for decades of service.

Next month we’ll explore the Fender Mustang—one of the most underrated guitars ever—so stay tuned. Until then ... keep on modding!