Waverly upgrade: replacing the factory tuners on your Martin

Issue 56 March 06, 2008

Here’s a question I've been seeing in the online forums:

Standard Martin guitar tuner


How tough is it to replace the stock tuners on my Martin with Waverly machines?”


It’s easy, and doesn't take many tools. Here’s how to do it...

Lots of new Martins ship with these sealed tuners, and many owners want to upgrade to vintage style Waverly machines with open gearing.

Waverly vintage guitar machine

After using a nutdriver or screwdriver to remove your old tuners, it's a good time to clean the peghead.

Cleaning the peghead

On the peghead face: slightly ream the holes and press in the Waverly bushings

Waverly bushings fit into the existing pegholes nicely with just a little reaming.

Reaming the string post hole

I’m using the new tuner bushing press (see description below).

Pressing in a tuner bushing

Looking better already!

Retrofit: Waverly vintage bushings

On the peghead back: plug the old mounting holes

It’s a good idea to plug the old screwholes before installing new machines, even when the Waverly machines cover the footprint of the old tuners. With a scrap of mahogany, you can whittle and sand small plugs that are practically invisible

Drill out the mounting holes to clean them up, and use a drop-fill pick to put a bit of Titebond glue in the holes.

Putting glue in the screwhole

Install the plugs, ideally with their grain oriented to match the grain of the peghead. After the glue dries, clean up the ends with a micro chisel.

Trimming the plug with a micro-chisel

You’ll end up with nice clean patches, and a touch of ColorTone stain will easily make them disappear.

Plugged tuner screw hole

Check it out!

Tuner bushing press, two views

This is a brand new tool idea we’ve been developing in our shop. We’ve just recently made it available to our customers. It's a tuner bushing remover/installer. It carefully presses out the old tuner bushing (some folks call it a grommet), without any prying or chipping away at the peghead face. Then the same tool eases the new bushing in.

Out comes the old bushing.

Pressing in a tuner bushing

In goes the new.

Pressing in a tuner bushing

With the old holes plugged, we can proceed with the installation. Use a ruler to ensure proper alignment, and mark your screw holes using a scribe. I marked my drill bit using a small piece of copper tape as a depth stop (right). It would be a real bummer to drill through the peghead!

Marking the screw hole

A different situation:

A lot of 70’s and later Martins came with Rotomatic style machines. These are the easiest to retrofit because the mounting holes line up perfectly with the bottom mounting hole of the Waverly. This makes alignment easy, but many of these guitars have 10mm holes drilled all the way through the peghead — so they may need our hex shaped conversion bushings to accommodate the oversize hole.

Waverly direct retrofit

A third example:

Some Martins have vintage style open back tuners that look similar to Waverlys, but they have slightly different specs so direct replacement is impossible. The top mounting hole is in the correct location, but the bottom is slightly off. In these cases, don’t try driving the screw in at an angle. You’re likely to strip the hole, and I've even seen cases where this caused the peghead to split! Plugging and redrilling this bottom hole is necessary.

Don't drive screws at an angle!

There you go, Waverly machines installed on Martin guitars that had three different types of factory tuners.

Three Martin guitars

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