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Thread: String Butler, solves tuning problems on LP's SG's etc

  1. #1
    Member Tweaky's Avatar
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    String Butler, solves tuning problems on LP's SG's etc

    I, like many others it seems, have been having tuning problems with the G string on my SG, so I did a search to see what people have been doing to remedy it, apparently it's a problem suffered by a lot of Les Paul owners, or basically any Gibson like guitar with a angled head stock and three a side tuners.

    It's caused by the break angle of the strings being too acute from the tuners to the nut on the D & G strings, and slightly less on the A & B strings, which causes the strings to get caught in the nut when releasing after a string bend.
    A long known design fault that Fenders and other six in line tuners don't suffer.
    Video below explains this problem well.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNpyCG32aGI


    It can be fixed to some extent with very careful nut dressing and lubrication, but it always still exists to some extent, that's why I started searching for a cure.

    Enter the String Butler, this is a small plate with 4 roller pins mounted on it, which once mounted on the guitars head stock, changes the string break angle between the nut and the tuners so it is a lot straighter, which stops the string catching in the nut after string bends.

    It seems easy to fit, and can easily be removed.
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    Below are some tech drawings of the two different types that fit different measuring guitar head stocks.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    And I suppose it wouldn't be complete without a YouTube video to show just how effective this like gizmo is in solving this tuning problem


    And a second video follow up a few months later.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPpsAGdAHKE

    Apparently the String Butler was a Kickstarter project and can now be bought from Reverb, at least.
    https://reverb.com/au/brand/dietrich-parts

    But that's not the real reason I've posted about it.
    I reason that since this a DIY guitar forum, it's not unreasonable to think that this problem could be sorted in the construction stage, and without the String Butlers base plate that affixes under the tuners, by simply placing 4 such pinned roller directly on the headstock of a LP or SG built during construction.

    I've given you the Tech drawing above that gives you the dimensions so you can work out where to place the pins.

    I intend to do just this with both my two Gibson style guitar kit.

  2. #2
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    I must say that I've never had any tuning issues on my Gibson LPs (or my old acoustic), but I like to think that I know what I'm doing with my nuts (snarff snarff, chortle, snigger). And I certainly bend my strings a lot.

    But if you do suffer from problems with sticky nuts (and talcum powder doesn't cure it), then it's probably about the same price as getting someone to set up your guitar and sort out your nut for you (though this would also get any nut slot height issues sorted). And if you are miles away from any decent luthier, then this would seem to be a decent solution (and non-disfiguring as long as you don't have vintage machine heads).

    From the DIY point of view, and trying to keep the guitar as standard looking as possible, you could probably get away with just fitting some rollers for the D and G strings as they have the greatest string leaving angles (and only add the A and B string rollers if you encounter problems). You could probably get away with a non-rotating round post, but you'd need to use a hard material so that the strings didn't cut a groove in the post over time and cause their own friction binging issues. If you wanted the strings to run in grooves, then you'd need to ensure they weren't too small so that they pulled the string upwards or downwards from its natural path (again more risk of friction and binding). Using locking tuners would give a more consistent string path than standard tuners, where the leaving height of the string from the tuner post can be variable depending on how much string you allow to be wraped around the post.

    Note that this product/general design may not solve every tuning issue; a badly cut nut can still cause strings to catch in the slot (as it does in a Strat/Tele with a straight string pull), so you may still end up needing a visit to luthier (or investing in some tools and learning to cut nuts well yourself).

    The sideways angle is actually worse on some other headstocks - especially the outer E strings on a Flying V, but you can cut a blank nut with slots at an angle to minimise the leaving angle, and my V stays in tune pretty well despite having a maestro trem fitted (though it has got locking tuners, which helps). Once you have some decent nut files and have the confidence to cut a blank nut, then a slight angling of the slots to reduce the leaving spread angle would (IMO) be a cheaper and easier way to solve any string binding issues.

  3. #3
    Member Tweaky's Avatar
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    Cutting the nut slots at a angle on the D & G strings doesn't really solve the problem, it just lessens it, so does cutting the nut away a tad at the rear and using some form of lubrication [I use NUT sauce, which is a liquefied Graphite ]

    As for staggered height locking tuners, they are fine for 6 in line installations to lessen string break pressure over the nut to help tuning stability with tremolo arm use, I use them on one of my Strat's, but they would do very little for 3 a side guitar headstocks as they would only change the string break tension, not the angle of the string leaving the nut that is at the root of the problem.

    I agree that you could probably get away with only having three pinned rollers, if not just two, if only for the fact that string bending on the A string is seldom a problem, I think the designers might have only included it to keep the look of the String Butler symmetrical.

    As for a DIY permanently installed DIY equivalent device that would do the same job as the String Butler, so far I have come up with the idea I'll explain below.
    It would need two different sized diameters of metal tubing, model makers Brass tubing would fit the bill [see link below for example], the first just large enough to have a screw pass through it's center to act as a axle, the second tubing just large enough to fit over the first tubing, but cut slightly shorter, put some teflon grease between the two tubes, then screw them both down using a small brass washer just large enough to cover the largest outer tube to keep it in place, instant vertical rolling string spacers.
    Since it would be the Teflon grease that is stooping friction, you could patina the brass any colour you wanted to before installation [I'd wax the inside of the outer tube, before applying any patina finish so it doesn't effect the smoothness of the roller, just melt the wax off by standing the tube in boiling water afterwards ]
    https://www.hobbytools.com.au/metal-tube-round/
    Last edited by Tweaky; 22-10-2017 at 08:45 AM.

  4. #4
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    I'd still argue that if the nut is well cut, then there aren't any inherent tuning issues with a LP headstock.

  5. #5
    Member Tweaky's Avatar
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    Well obviously there is, otherwise so many people wouldn't be having the same problem, and such a product wouldn't exist.

    There is a well known video of Wes Montgomery berating the fact that he can't get half way through a song without his Gibson L5 going out of tune.

    After finding that with very careful set up and choice of tuners and vintage style tremolo block, I can setup a Strat without any need for string trees holding down the B & E strings, and that will stay in tune after horrendous dive bombing and pull up abuse with the whammy bar that would equal any locked Floyd Rose setup.

    Yet a fixed bridge Gibson can give me problems just from releasing a string bend.......it's not the setup, it's just a basic design fault, and it's always going to be there unless you lessen the string angle from the nut to the tuners on those problem strings.

    Sure you can lessen the problem a bit with the way you dress and lubricate the nut, but never entirely.

    And the owner of two Gibsons, a Tokai SG, and two Gibson style PG guitar kits partially built, I'd have the problem sorted once and for all

  6. Liked by: Bass Guy

  7. #6
    Member Tweaky's Avatar
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    A bit of progress with the DIY String Butler like rotating string trees.

    I went to Hobbyco in Sydney's City center on the way home from work the other day, basically to see if I could find two lengths of Brass tubing that one could fit with precision, within the other.
    After measuring my Gibson's, I found that to emulate the strings trees used in the String Butler, they would need to be at a height of 10mm, sans base plate used with the String Butler, as these string trees would be direct mounted.

    The idea is to have a inner diameter Brass tube cut to 10mm height, screwed down to the headstock, but before it is, it has a outer diameter Brass tube surround it, cut to 9mm height, so the inner works as a Axle, and the outer rotates around it, the strings rest against these outer tubes.
    A simple Brass wood screw, with a head large enough to hold both tubes in place will do the job.

    Well I found what I needed very easily.
    Hobbyco- stock numbers are with #
    https://hobbyco.com.au/
    Both lengths of Brass tubing came in 36" lengths [which is enough to make at least 20 sets of 4 string trees ]
    Stock #1148 7/32 x .014 Brass tube -use this as the inner axle- cost was AUS $9.95
    Stock #1149 1/4 x .014 Brass tube - use this as the outer casing which the string will rest against - cost was AU $11.50

  8. #7
    I know this is a super old thread, but I'm trialling a solution /alternative approach on my Epi Junior. Just tackling the main offenders g and d string using a normal F style string tree

  9. #8
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    Couldn't Gibson just drill the holes for the G and D tuners closer to the center of the headstock?

  10. #9
    Mentor fender3x's Avatar
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    That is a great idea. I hope it works and can't really see any reason why it won't. Simple, looks good and cheap.

  11. #10
    Mentor JohnH's Avatar
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    I actually really like the way that looks
    #001 (LP-1S) [finished - co-runner up Nov 2018 GOTM]
    #002 (WL-1)
    #003 (MPL Megacaster - semi scratch build) [finished]
    #004 (ST-1 JR - Arachnoid Superhero build) [finished]
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    Junk shop acoustic refurbs (various)
    'The TGS Special'

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