Friday, 13 July 2007

A different tuner system for headless designs

The guitar I'm planning at the moment might be the first in a series. If it turns out well and the building process is fun (the planning sure is), I expect to build another one. And probably then another. And so on. If the guitar turns out sounding horribly and/or the building is hell, I guess that'll be it. But that hasn't happened yet, so for the moment, I'm happily planning features for future models.

As mentioned earlier, I've settled for the Schaller fine-tuning bridge for the first version of the T-beam. This will avoid a number of potential problems and make the construction more straightforward. I am fine with that. For the next version, however, I have a sleek and efficient tuner design in mind.

The system consists of six arms mounted with one end on a shaft below the top flange of the T-beam. Approximately two thirds to the far end from the shaft, the string attaches to the arm (after going over the bridge and through a hole in the top flange) and is secured either by its ball end or by a screw. The latter solution will allow me to use the ball end at the nut, eliminating the need for a locking nut.

For each arm, a screw is mounted through the top flange. The end of the screw presses down on the arm. Tightening the screw results in pressing down the arm and tightening the string. If the aluminium is strong enough, the threads will be made directly in the top flange. If not, I'll insert some threaded steel or brass bushings.

The picture shows the guitar with one arm only. It is supposed to have six - one for each string.

By selecting steeper or shallower thread for the screws or various lengths of the arm, one can decide how much adjustment is needed for a given change in tuning. An obvious idea is to have a greater ratio for the thicker strings, since it takes more force to tune them.

My rough measurements say that it takes about 4 mm (0,16 inch) to tune the string an octave. That means that there is lots of room for the travel of the arm, even with a relatively thin body.

The idea goes well with using a T-beam, since it uses the top flange for mounting the arm and screw. But actually, I think it can be made as a modification for a wooden guitar as well - all you have to do is route out a cavity for the tuner system and mount it all on a steel or aluminium sheet.


billy said...


I am simply amazed! I am sitting here with some sketches discussing my guitar project with a friend of mine and I wanted to show him Travis Bean Aluminum Neck design and I hit your BLOG... whats so amazing ?? the number of similar ideas we are trying to try out. My design is different of course but there are an amazingly high number of details that are very much the same... I will check how you are doing on your project from time to time... You may want to look into Q-Tuner pickups they seem very interesting.. I am planning on using them.

Alex said...

I'm glad that you have similar ideas. When two people have the same ideas, they can't be *that* crazy, right?

Do you have a blog or website describing your ideas? I would be very interested to see them.

The Q-tuner pickups look very interesting. I've read discussions about using neodymium as pickup magnets, but until now, AFAIK only home builders have attempted it. (see e.g. Nice to see that a manufacturer offers such pickups. But besides them being generally fascinating, good looking and perhaps good sounding, do you think they are particularly useful with an *aluminium* guitar?

BTW, don't hesitate to comment on my designs. It's always nice to discuss whether things would actually work or how they could be improved.

Sam said...

I'm also interested in headless designs and I've been experimenting with alternate tuners similar to your "bar-and-thumbscrew". I have several instruments currently on the market, including what may be the only "headless" banjo (i.e. no peghead) currently available. I have also designed a headless solid body electric banjo, inspired by the Klein guitar and others, using conventional tuners, and it looks very similar to your own headless designs. Form follows function, I guess. You can see details of my instruments at and . I look forward to following your progress on the T rail headless guitar!

Sam Farris
Franklin TN USA

Alexander Gorm Øst said...

I had a look at your web sites. That's some truly fascinating instruments, you're making. The Tranjocaster seems to be a guitar that can be tuned and played like a banjo; almost the opposite of a six string banjo that can be tuned and played like a guitar (which I once considered buying because I knew I'd never get around to learning how to play banjo properly).

Why did you rotate the tuners on the tranjocaster? Aesthetics? Or is there a technical reason?

Did you ever do actual experiments with the "bar-and-thumbscrew" tuners? It would be interesting to know how well they really work.

Anonymous said...

I like the overall project, and especially the "bar and thumbscrew" tuner. If you design it carefully, you might be able to eliminate the six axles or bearings, replacing them with pivot points: it might be easier to fabricate and it might be less expensive to build.

Jon Bondy

Alexander Gorm Øst said...

Thanks! Sounds like a good idea having pivot points - it'll make everything much more simple. I won't be experimenting with the bar-and-screw tuner right away - have to focus on the guitar I'm trying to build - but I'll definitely keep the idea in mind.

Anonymous said...

Billy and Alex, the Q-tuner sounds like this:

Alexander Gorm Øst said...

Thanks for the link. Impressive sound, though I can't identify the Q-tuner with certainty.