Retro-Fitting Grover's Sta-Tite Vintage-Style Open Back Tuners
Note that the guitar used in this article is my Butt-Ugly Dread. It was purposely left without finish - only a sealer coat. This mahogany/adirondack home-made is my favorite guitar and one very intense sounding bluegrass beast!
A few years ago, I reviewed the Schaller open-back Vintage style tuners here. At that time, they were the only option for a vintage open-back look other than the venerable Waverly tuners.Well, times have changed and now there are several inexpensive options for this type of tuner. This review centers on the Grover Sta-Tite and specifically, what it takes to retro-fit a guitar equipped with the Schallers to these Grovers.
To start, I must say that the quality of the Grovers os far superior to the Schallers. The Schallers are sloppy, and they seem to grind somewhat when turning them under string tension.Note that in the original article I did on the Schallers, I said they were smooth. I tested them before they were under string tension. I believe it's the plated gear that is responsible for this grinding. A few of them also seemed to slip out of tune from time to time, but that may have been my imagination. The Grovers, on the other hand, are very smooth and feel a lot like the Waverlies. The Grovers have a nylon bushing sandwiched between the post and the plate under the gear. This has a profound effect on the smoothness of the tuner's action.The Schaller buttons are pitted and poorly finished. They have a casting flash around their perimeter that is very unsightly. The Grovers do not have this casting flash and they have been nicely polished before plating, which results in a very smooth and flawless surface.The Grovers also have an unplated gear which contributes to the smooth operation as well as a nice aesthetic look. An important feature to note is the Grover's 18:1 gear ratio as opposed to the Schaller's 14:1. This lower ratio allows for easier tuning, although one must turn the tuner more times to attain that tuning. I did not find that to be an annoyance.
The Grovers come with bushings that have a 0.3445" outside diameter as opposed to the 0.3990" o.d. of the Schaller bushings. The shafts are also different sizes. The Grovers are dead on 0.250" while the Schallers are 0.2325". This means that neiter bushing would work with the other brand of tuner. I had two choices. Plug the holes and redrill the headstock to use the hex-shaped Grover bushings, or re-drill the Schaller's round-faced bushings to accept the slightly fatter Grover shaft. This is precisely what I chose to do. Had I had these Grovers in the first place, I would have drilled the headstock with the 0.25" holes and then counter-bored the face of the headstock to 0.375" to press fit the hex-shaped bushings in.
To facilitate the drilling of the bushings, I made a little sacrificial jig by taking a piece of scrap and drilling a 3/8" hole in it. I then pressed a bushing into the hole
I then drilled out the bushing to the correct size.
The mounting screw holes line up from one brand of tuner to the other. Here you see that the job is done and looking good!
These tuners are a great alternative to the Waverlies. Their ~$25 price tag makes them especially attractive. In my opinion, Schaller needs to totally rethink their open-back tuner. When they were the only alternative, they weren't bad. Now that these Grovers are on the market, the Schaller product becomes a non-option. The Grovers are available from Stewart MacDonald