Converting Sta-Tites to locking tuners
My G6118 double anniversary came with the stock Sta-Tite tuners. These tuners look great (IMO) but they weren't staying in tune very well with Bigsby usage. I also wanted the easy re-stringing that comes with locking tuners. I did not want to make any permanent mods to my guitar. I came up with a way to modify the stock Sta-Tite tuners to use the locking shafts from some replacement locking Klusons for a Les Paul. The result looks great and works great.
The only negative is the price: the locking Klusons are about $80, which is more expensive than the Sperzel or Gotoh locking tuners.
OK, the locking Klusons can be obtained from Allparts, part number TK_0735-001.
Here is a pic of one of the locking Klusons:
You can see the locking shaft that we will be removing. These are closed back tuners, so we will have to remove the back to get at the gear and shaft.
Here is a pic so you can see the locking mechanism. As you can see, the shaft is two parts that are threaded together like a nut and bolt. The string goes through the female section at the end, and the tension from the string keeps this part from turning. As the tuning key is tightened, the male part of the shaft is tightened against the string.
Once the pieces are screwed together tightly the whole assembly will turn to bring the string up to pitch. The slot in the top of the female section is so you can unscrew the parts if you break a string. You can use a guitar pick, coin, or screwdriver.
I removed the back of the case using pliers, a hammer and a small chisel. This is actually pretty difficult. You have to get aggressive with this part to get it off. I have a vice, which makes the job easier. We're only using the shaft and gear from the tuner, so you can destroy the casing and the tuner plate. Here is a pic with the back of the casing removed.
The next step is to remove the small screw that holds the gear on. This is the trickiest part of the whole operation. The screw strips very easily, and its so small that once it's stripped you can't find a screw extractor small enough to get it out. I learned this the hard way after stripping two screws and then ruining the shafts trying to extract the stripped screws. So use the proper sized screwdriver and go slow. Luckily, Allparts let me order two replacement tuners instead of having to order the whole set.
Here is a comparison pic with the locking shaft and the stock shaft. Note that the gears mate to the shafts differently. The gears are NOT interchangeable.
The next step is to remove the screw holding the existing Sta-Tite's gear on. You do not have to remove the tuner from the guitar to do this. Just unscrew the screw, slide the shaft out towards the front of the guitar, then take the gear off. These screws don't strip out near as easily as the ones in the locking shafts, but you still might want to be careful.
To put the locking shaft in place, first put the gear in place, then insert the shaft from the front. Replace the screw and you're all finished. I actually bought some upgraded little screws from the local hardware store that shouldn't strip out as easily. Here are 2 last pics showing the front and back of the headstock. Five of the tuners in the pics have been replaced with the locking shafts, and the high E tuner is still the stock Sta-Tite. Notice that the appearance is very close to stock.
I actually did this mod about 6 months ago, so I've put the locking tuners through their paces. They really work great. To me this mod was totally worth it, and it was worth the extra money so I didn't have to modify my guitar and I keep the stock look.