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Tony Raven
#1 Posted : Saturday, January 28, 2017 2:28:59 PM(UTC)
Tony Raven
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PREAMBLE

They're given various names: tuning heads, machines, even button gears. They've been around since the 1700s, created in response to the ever-troublesome violin method of maintaining string tension; wood-on-wood friction pegs -- acceptable in civilized conditions with some degree of stability for temperature & humidity -- were troublesome for wandering minstrels & casual players alike.

The geared design received a big boost in the middle 1800s, as machinery improved that could carve gears with greater precision, & as popular demand rose for instruments that could be played with relatively little study (specifically guitar, banjo, & mandolin).

Though instrument manufacturers often crafted their own small parts in-house, some -- particularly builders of acoustic instruments -- found greater efficiency in focusing on the wooden components & relying on venders to provide metalwork. After managing a Harmony machine shop, John Kluson opened his Chicago company in 1925, likely profiting from the rise of Midwest instrument factories such as Harmony, Kay, Washburn, & Gibson.

Predating Kluson was Albert Deane Grover, son of a Boston piano maker. In the 1880s, the younger Grover was well-known as a banjo player, composer, & teacher. He soon launched A.D. Grover & Son to realize the mechanical improvements he made to his beloved instrument; before his death in 1927, he had taken more than fifty patents.

As with anything else, improvements in metals & machinery benefitted musicians. For instance, the Grover Sta-Tite open-frame tuners are still with us. The design is much-copied: current Waverly tuners are unabashed copies of classic Sta-Tites, albeit with much better modern materials & technique.

Eventually the gears were covered with little sheet-metal canisters -- persisting as the "Kluson style" -- which greatly reduced the amount of grime and grit attracted to the gear lubricant.

Mid-century, the next step was to cast-metal bodies, entirely sealed. This kept the gears lubricated for a substantial number of years. More importantly, the casing allowed much tighter tolerances in the gears -- not having to compensate for contaminants or corrosion in actual conditions -- which in turn almost eliminated backlash & made them much more precise in use. Grover called the design Rotomatic. The overall look persists as the "Grover style" and is likely the most commonly used design today.

Another advantage to the Rotomatics (the more recent, at least) is that the frictional resistance between the two gears can be adjusted simply by tightening/loosening the screw that retains the tuner button. This allows the musician to find a personally acceptable balance between allowable play in the button as opposed to "stiffness" of turning the button.

Edited by user Saturday, January 28, 2017 4:03:30 PM(UTC)  | Reason: -

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Tony Raven
#2 Posted : Saturday, January 28, 2017 3:49:39 PM(UTC)
Tony Raven
Rank: Guitar God

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THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM
Nobody has done much to track ANY of the foregoing. Authoritative sites (e.g. Vintage Guitar, Blue Book) ignore it.

In the previous post, I outstripped Wikipedia, pulled in info I'd got from now-defunct sites, & added in scraps I've accumulated since like 1971. Here's all the relevant W'pedia entries:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_head
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gr...r_Musical_Products,_Inc.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._D._Grover

I've got all sorts of stuff in my head. For instance, when I had a Grover catalogue from ~1973, I was curious how they wound up making -- no, I am not pulling your leg -- a flaming baton. Only when the Internet came along did I get an answer:
Quote:
Dorothy Ann (Dottie) Grover was the drum majorette for the Syracuse University marching band from 1950 to 1953. Grover twirled throughout high school and won a state championship before she was recruited to twirl for the Syracuse University band. During her time at Syracuse University Grover performed at football and basketball games as well as other sporting events. In 1953 she twirled at the Orange Bowl, Syracuse University's first televised football game. Grover held the position of drum majorette until she graduated in 1953. She was also an active member of Theta Chi and often hosted chapter events. In 1950 she was voted Sweetheart of Sigma Chi and Darling of the City of Syracuse. She also posed for the September 1950 issue of Look Magazine as Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.

Sadly, no mention of the GMC baton.

But it does make sense, in retrospect. Grover had grown by expanding into manufacture &/or distribution of essential supplies for school bands & orchestras, & acquiring smaller companies along the way. Catalogue M-68 shows full-page displays for Sterisol mouthpiece germicide; corks & felts; carrying straps; case handles; & case hardware.

HOW I ARRIVED HERE
Hitting my teen years in the early 1970s, I came to associate cast-body Grovers with quality, & never quite reconciled myself to tin-can Klusons -- in part from negative associations with the Fenders of the era.

Unlike most manufacturers, even the most basic Rotomatics were sold as having a lifetime guarantee -- no gotchas, no fine print, but their choice whether to repair or replace. And in 2011, having bought a used guitar with busted-up Rotos, I decided to go ahead & give it a try. Two weeks later, I had a new sealed pack of Rotomatics in my mailbox.

Two decades later, as detailed in another thread (http://forum.frugalguitarist.co...9--Midnight-Special.aspx), depressed by divorce, I bought myself a nice cheap dreadnought, which eventually wound up with a used Grover set because that's what I could get.

Trying to get a little info about these tuners led to me digging for Grover history. Many disconnected bits are scattered around in the above link, & in two more, where I rave about (respectively) my adventures seeking info on the white-knob tuners, & why it's worthwhile to ensure you get REAL Grovers.
http://forum.frugalguitarist.co...--Grovers.aspx#post15784
http://forum.frugalguitarist.co...rom-China.aspx#post12319

Edited by user Saturday, January 28, 2017 3:52:28 PM(UTC)  | Reason: -

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