How a Cigar Box Guitar Tuner Works

3 gold open gear tuners

Improve your cigar box guitars by getting to know the anatomy and orientation of open gear tuners

By Glenn Watt

Ever wonder which way is up on a cigar box guitar tuner?

Would you like to learn how a cigar box guitar tuner works, how you should orient them, and why it matters?

Well, you’re in luck, my friend.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • the anatomy of a tuner
  • how you identify which direction a tuner is oriented
  • and why the orientation of a tuner is important

Plus, you’re going to get a bonus tip on how to flip an open gear tuner for a mistakenly drilled hole.

Let’s start with…

The anatomy of a tuner

A tuner has a pinion gear with a cylinder, also known as a capstan, in the middle of it.

pinion gear on an open gear tuner

The capstan has a hole in the far end through which a string is fed.

capstan on an open gear tuner

A worm gear is connected to the pinion gear.

worm gear on an open gear tuner

A tuning knob is connected to the end of the worm gear.

tuning knob on an open gear tuner

All the above is connected to a mounting plate or enclosed in a housing.

3 open gear tuners

The anatomy of an open gear tuner is pretty straight forward.

“But which way do they get installed?” you ask.

Here’s a simple explanation to identify which direction to install your tuners.

How to identify which direction a tuner is oriented

Consider the neck of your cigar box guitar.

When looking at the back of the headstock, you can see that the tuners are installed with the pinion gear on the bottom of the worm gear.

2 left 1 right hand open gear tuner

Tuners with knobs on the left of the headstock are left-hand tuners.

Therefore, tuners with knobs on the right of the headstock are right-hand tuners.

And here’s…

Why the orientation of the tuner is important

When the cigar box guitar is strung, the tension of the string pulls the capstan down towards the cigar box.

The downward tension of the capstan pushes the pinion gear up.

string wound around capstan of an open gear tuner

The upward pressure on the pinion gear pushes it into the worm gear.

The pressure of the pinion gear pushed into the worm gear creates a solid connection between the two gears.

worm and pinion gears on an open gear tuner

That solid connection allows the string to be tuned in a fine manner.

It also disallows the pinion gear to slip, helping the string to stay in tune.

And now for that bonus tip…

How to flip an open-gear tuner

Let’s say you have 1 right and 2 left-hand open gear tuners.

Now let’s say you’ve drilled 1 left and 2 right-hand holes.

That, my friend, is a drag.

Fear naught, for all is not lost.

incorrect hole for the tuner

Disassemble 1 of the left-hand tuners.

disassembled open gear tuner

Remove the worm gear from the mounting plate.

worm gear removed from an open gear tuner

Turn the worm gear over and put it back into the mounting plate so that the knob is on the right-hand side.

reversed tuning knob on an open gear tuner

Replace the pinion gear and screw.

Now you’ve got 2 right-hand tuners.

It’s true that the mounting plate doesn’t match the other right-hand tuner, but now you’ve got all 3 tuners functioning the way they should.

And that makes for a good day.

Reversed open gear tuner

There you have it.

In this post you learned:

  • the anatomy of a tuner
  • how you identify which direction a tuner is oriented
  • why the orientation of a tuner is important
  • and how to flip a tuner to fit a mistakenly drilled hole

Now armed with a bit more information, you’ll build cigar box guitars with more confidence.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it with a friend on Facebook or wherever you like to strut your new-found knowledge.

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