Tips – installing new tuner buttons

Got an email from a reader requesting for a tutorial on how to change out old tuner buttons. So here it is.


I got some cheapo white acrylic tuners buttons to replace the black ones on my guitar. First we gotta remove the buttons. Unscrew using a suitable jeweler’s screwdriver. I use the cheap ones, no need for fancy stuff.


Simply unscrew the old buttons.


Most tuner buttons come with two washers (one plastic and one metal) and a screw to hold them in place. But we’ll be using the new ones that come with the new buttons.


Note the order here – it usually goes like this. Machine head – plastic washer – metal ring washer – button itself – screw to hold in place.


Screw the buttons in. Tighten accordingly. Too tight or too loose won’t work.


OK, we got new tuner buttons.







Walden D710ce refurbish and setup

Worked on a Walden D710ce last month.

IMG_8005.JPGThe 700 series guitars came with solid top and back construction and I was eager to try out the Engelmann spruce top and rosewood combination. The D710ce has a cutaway and electronics. Here’s a look at the cutaway and the rosewood laminate sides.

IMG_8006.JPGI have good impression of Walden guitars and it’s a pity they have ceased operation. Fit and finish are always good for their price range, and the bolt-on neck system is quite similar to Taylor.

Bearclaw Special

Let’s start with the fretboard and bridge. They need lots of TLC and nourishment.

IMG_8039.JPGSo the dirty fretboard will be polished and moisturised with Ax Wax and 0000 steel wool.

IMG_8041.JPGClover was helping. He was ready to pounce as if he sensed that something was coming his way.

Stripping the dead electronics

This one had its B-Band preamp and later Fishman Infinity system fried so I decided to remove them all once and for all. Yes, you read correctly, the second pickup which previous owner had installed also went kaput.

IMG_8043.JPGUnscrew the unsightly B-Band preamp and remove from the inside of the guitar. Here’s a tip, use a jeweler’s screwdriver.

The badly installed endjack was also removed and replaced with a new 3-screw endjack. Matching coloured hardware of course. 🙂 

By now I have stripped off the electronic components. Guitar is noticeably lighter in weight. This paves the way for future pickup installs which is likely to be something simpler.

Nothing was cut or butchered in this project. All wires were properly detached or taped down.

Getting a good setup and action

The guitar came with ZERO relief and it was quite amazing I don’t hear much buzzing. So I added a lil’ bit of relief and went on to lower the saddle.

Action set to about 2.5mm (3/32inch) at 12th, capo on 1st fret. Nice and easy to play.

New bridge pins and fresh Elixirs added.

I also swapped out the sticky black tuner buttons with some new cheap white acrylic ones.

From this

To this

The fun part begins… You’ll now see why Clover was getting ready.

He loves soundports.

Bowie was also happy to pose.

Here’s a look at the solid rosewood back.

It does look quite handsome with the binding and cutaway.

We shall see if it stays.

Closing notes:

The solid rosewood back may have contributed to the powerful bass coming from  this guitar. Sure, it’s no Martin D28, but it’s decent and plays well with low action and zero fret buzz. One could certainly do much worse at this price range. I think the guitar retailed around $500-$700 new.

Build is really good, with the nitro satin finish. It’s not too thick and plasticky to touch and really stands out from those on poly finish.

Probably a good alternative to the various solid tops from many brands that tend to sound overly bright to some players.

Oh, the smaller kids love the makeshift soundport. 🙂





Cort Earth 70 Mahogany Bone Saddle Setup

This was the last purchase of 2017. This Earth 70 had just been put on display at the store and I happened to bring it home.

Weird looking grains aside, I’ve always wanted to try out a mahogany-top dreadnought to compare and contrast with the usual spruce-top ones.


This one comes with a solid mahogany top in open pore finish. To be honest, I find that the stain actually draws polarising opinions about the looks. Perhaps a lighter shade may work better here.


The back is a more familiar affair since it’s just a veneer. Streaky grains on mahogany laminates seem to be a staple of Cort and many affordable guitars.


Serial number starts with 17 – this means it’s a freshly made guitar.


These new chrome tuner buttons are definitely preferred to the previous black rubbery ones that come on older guitars. Good move by Cort. The pearl/abalone inlays may look very artificial, but they are quite a nice touch to something so affordable.

Bearclaw Special

We start with moisturising the fretboard and bridge. Not sure if they are made of rosewood due to the current CITES situation, but they sure are heavily stained to achieve the darker shade.


Here you can see that even without steel wool, the napkin became really dirty after wiping down.

Fretwork is good and deserves mention at this price. No rough ends and all frets sit well and tidy. Good stuff!

Rainbow helped with oiling the fretboard. This untidy boy really needs a haricut.


Bone saddle


Stock saddle was some plastic stuff so it’s best to drop in a bone saddle. We got some sanding to do to get a good action.


After several adjustments, action is sat at 3/32 inch at 12th fret. Fresh Elixirs and black bridge pins also dropped in. Can you see the wood grains in this photo? There’s a missing abalone dot on the low E and I can’t find it.


Here’s another photo where you can see the open pore finish in full glory. Also the nicely done fret ends.


Pickguard was gone as usual. 🙂 I’m still undecided on that weird looking stain on the top.


Brownie hopes this one stays in the family. He likes brown guitars. Maybe that’s because his name is Brownie.

Closing note:

The Cort Earth 70 is a no-frills entry level guitar to the world of hog top dreadnoughts. At $219 retail from Swee Lee, you won’t burn a big hole in your pocket.

It’s early days to fully appraise its tone because the guitar needs more time to forget that it’s wood and metal and start to become a guitar. 🙂 I’d probably need to have a few more beers to strum it hard enough and run it in.

On hand, it does appreciate a lighter touch and sounds much better with a pick than with bare fingers. The usual cliche comments such as “dark”, “mellow” or “bluesy” don’t strike me yet because the dreadnought body means that the guitar is still very loud and direct. If anything, it is still as loud and brash as any spruce top dreads I own.

Time will tell if this one stays.

Note: Special thanks to the Swee Lee staff, both online and at the store front, for their help during this purchase. Awesome service from the team.



Cort Earth 70 Bone Saddle & Setup

Did a setup on a Cort Earth 70 in Vintage Burst finish.


It’s a simple, entry level guitar – solid spruce top and laminate mahogany body. Should be a fun guitar for a beater or campfire. 🙂


We need to do a bit of sanding on the scooped bridge because it has some rough edges to it. Not sharp enough to cut anyone, but feels a lil’ rough at some spots. Those bridge pins are also plain hideous. They will go for sure.


So I used 1500 grit sandpaper and Ax Wax to sand down these spots. Be sure mask off the top before sanding.


Next we gave the frets and fretboard some TLC with Ax Wax and steel wool. All nice and shiny now. Fret ends are quite well-done.

Bone Saddle


Time to drop in a bone saddle on the guitar. We got plenty of sanding to do because the action seem pretty high while on the plastic saddle.


I also added a new set of bridge pins and of course Elixir strings.


The pickguard was gone as usual but I must say that this one has the nastiest glue residue. I wasted so much time on it! Maybe it’s a way to get back on Guitarbear who has taken off countless pickguards. 🙂

The burst finish does grow on you…

And here’s a look at the streaky mahogany back.


In case you’re wondering why no kids were around to assist Guitarbear, they went for a Christmas photoshoot at the other home.


But thank goodness Guitar Inspector was around to help. 🙂 He resides in my No.1’s gig bag, working hard to inspect all Guitarbear’s gear.


Closing note:

Several readjustments were needed because this guitar has a really lousy neck angle that requires plenty of shaving off of the saddle. This is not a good sign. Low saddle with so-so action = Meh.

Tone is quite standard on this one. It’s loud and bright from the solid spruce top, and the soft-V shaped neck is quite nice too. But the low saddle and nonsense action is just off-putting.

I had previously worked on an identical model but it didn’t require such drastic lowering of the saddle. This shows that no two guitars are alike and the inconsistencies can be frustrating.



Yamaha DW-5S bone saddle & JJB 330 pickup installation

Worked on this old Yamaha a couple of months back.


Owner wanted to put in a bone saddle and install the JJB 330 passive pickup for his vintage piece. The DW-5S is a 90’s model which was made in Taiwan. It has a pretty standard solid spruce top with laminate rosewood body.

Let’s work on the pickup installation first.

Preparing the hole for end-jack

We gotta drill a 12mm hole for the generic end-jack. Remember to use tape to prevent chips and cracks.


These days I drill a smaller pilot hole first, then work upwards from  3-6-10 and finally 12mm. It’s faster and safer this way than using a step bit.


Some sanding to do especially on the inside because there could be splinters. I use a small file for this purpose.


Okay, we got the end-jack nicely done. The dust and all can be cleaned up later.

Mounting the transducers

It’s time to get some cardboard to make a jig.


I marked out the spots along the saddle line where the transducers will be with X. This gives a very clear idea of where the correct placements should be – between E/A, between D/G, and between B/e (but slightly closer to e).


Reverse the anchoring bridge pins and use some blu-tak to stick on the transducers. Now we have a really useful jig for mounting them. Do many dry runs to ensure you get a good sensing of where to place your hand. You’ll mess things up if you miss or drop those anchoring bridge pins. Finally, apply gel superglue on the shiny sides of the transducers and stick them in.


It’s all good when you see this. This means everything is nicely in place. I still prefer to hold the entire assembly in position for a minute or so as the glue dries.

Fitting a new bone saddle


The guitar came with a badly fitted saddle. It was too short and could moved along the slot. No worries, Guitarbear can adjust a bone saddle to fit properly. It’s important to mark out the string positions in order to get a good fret radius.


OK, we have a nice smooth bone saddle installed. Fresh Elixirs installed as well.

Bearclaw Special

Time to pamper the guitar with some TLC. Fretboard and bridge to get some lemon oil and Ax Wax. Edward was assistant today.


Gave the guitar a good clean and polish after the soundcheck. IMG_7464

Some parts of the finish have become cloudy but that’s the way it is with some older guitars if you didn’t do due maintenance.


Scotty was happy to pose with the old guy. 🙂