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Rebuilding ‘50s Kluson Tuners

This month, we’ll be resurrecting some original Kluson tuners from a ‘55 Gibson ES-225T. I was able to date the tuners by referencing a few of their features. The

RESTORING AN ORIGINAL This month, we’ll be resurrecting some original Kluson tuners from a ‘55 Gibson ES-225T. I was able to date the tuners by referencing a few of their features. The bottom side of the tuner had a stamp into the metal reading, “2356766 PAT. APPLD.”

There were no markings with the words “Kluson Deluxe” over the gear cover, but they did have the second tuner posthole, which Kluson added to the gear cover design in 1953. With these distinct features I was able to deduce that the Kluson tuners were manufactured between 1953 and mid-1956.

To remove years of grime and whatever else might be growing on these tuners, I used Q-tips lightly moistened with naptha on the tuner button, shaft, cover, and chassis. While cleaning the plastic oval button, I made sure to carefully wipe away from the button fractures, to avoid packing more grime into the crevices. I used hydrogen peroxide for the final cleaning; by dipping the tuner button in hydrogen peroxide for a few seconds you can see the bubbling effect lifting the remaining grime out of those hard-to-clean crevices. We then let the tuners dry off for 24 hours before moving forward with our rebuild.

Button Rebuild
The tuner buttons were showing a medium amount of shrinkage with light deterioration from the passing of many years – they were definitely candidates for rebuilding and not replacement. If a replacement is needed, Stew-Mac sells vintage style buttons for this procedure. The formulation of plastic buttons has been improved over the years, making for a more stable, nondeteriorating button.

RESTORING AN ORIGINAL I first submerged the tuner button in thin cynoacrylate glue to the point where the plastic meets the metal shaft, making sure to keep it submerged until there were no more air bubbles rising to the surface. I then slowly removed the button from the glue, moving carefully to minimize any possible dripping.

After the glue dried, I drop-filled the deep crevices using baking soda and cynoacrylate. I then gave the tuner a level sanding; once completed, I resubmerged the tuner button in the cynoacrylate glue for a final strong and structurally even seal. I trimmed off the excess glue using a razor blade, files and sandpaper before the final buffing.

3-in-1 oil works well when conditioning the exterior metal parts of a tuner. A drop or two goes a long way, wiping with a cloth. For lubricating the gears, I like to use a more gel-like lubricant. We use our own in-house mix, but your local hardware store will have suitable options. Using a gel-like lubricant will taper off some of the looseness in the gears and give an overall smoother feel to the turning motion.

These Kluson tuners were not sold for parts but rather reinstalled on the original ’55 Gibson ES-225T. Thanks for checking out this month’s Restoring an Original.

John Brown
John Brown, of Brown''s Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by instrument builders throughout the world.