Tele Build Blog, Part 2: Prepping the Headstock for Tuners

Last time I installed the neck of my Telecaster project, but not a single piece of hardware was attached. The time has come to take a crack at the tuners. It’s in my opinion that the best way to install the tuners is as the first piece of hardware. That way you can loosely fix some (old) strings to the bridge and move it around to get the best spacing possible. On this body that’s a possibility since the holes that were pre-drilled for the bridge attachments allow for some movement.

The headstock has holes drilled for vintage Kluson-style tuners with an 8mm shaft. I don’t like those tuners, so I bought a set of regular Grover-style tuners (made by Kluson, ironically enough).

I reamed the edges first. It’s incredibly difficult to make an 8mm hole into a 10mm hole because the drill bit will move around and never really be centered. Hence I reamed the holes so the drill would move less and be centered more than without.

By taking  a straight edge and positioning it next to the tuners you see how slanted each one is.

By slanting the tuners while holding the straight edge in place, you can adjust them to be all in line. Even though this guitar is supposed to be a ‘beater,’ that doesn’t mean I can accept slanted tuners. But aesthetics aside, it’s also to make tuning easier. The space between the tuner buttons is so small: equal distances just make simple sense.

With an awl I press a little pilot hole for the drill bit in the wood, so the bit won’t wobble around. It’s tempting to press deep so drilling is less necessary (or not at all), but don’t give in to the temptation! Your screw will snap in two, guaranteed!

I took a drill bit thick enough for the screws I have. I used a 2.5mm bit for this tuner set.

Here you see the drill bit with a bit of tape to mark how deep I can drill. It’s very humiliating to drill through the other side…

The holes are drilled; the point of no return has been passed!

I inserted the tuners, everything fixed and drilled.
This is my way for installing tuners. Whenever I have to change tuners I try to find tuners that share the place where the tuner screws down. If that proves to be an impossible task, I get a tuner with a completely different screw location, so the two holes don’t overlap. And if I’m really lucky, I can find a tuner that covers the old pilot hole as well! But that’s a rare occasion, unfortunately.
Next time I’ll take a crack at assembling, but the hardest part (besides wiring) is already done!

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  1. Good work! I like your tips and easy directions. I just finished a DIY Tele with body by Saga. Bought a Fender Squier custom neck on ebay. I have played for 50 years, have quite a nice collection, and the logical next step was to build my own guitar. I like your post and pics. You are right on the mark regarding ‘go slow’ as I had to incrementally increase my drill bit size to enlarge some holes, otherwise the wood cracked or splintered.

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