Swapping Ukulele Tuning Pegs

9 Mar 2017

Swapping Ukulele Tuning Pegs

Just a short advice note on swapping ukulele tuning pegs for others and some of the work you may need to do to achieve it

In this first picture you will see a 'before and after' on a Martin Soprano ukulele - previously Grover friction pegs, latterly Gotoh UPT's. A change I wanted to make just for the fun of it.. And really easy to do..

ukulele tuning peg swap

The UPT's look like traditional friction pegs (so suit a ukulele and don't make it look like it has ears), but contain a planetary 1:4 gear system that work like geared pegs. Same sort of weight (or at least a weight difference that is not noticeable), same sort of size. Very clever and very well made. Albeit a little expensive!
gotoh plantetary ukulele pegs

Now often a peg swap will allow you drop the new ones into the holes left by the old. You simply unscrew one and fit the others directly - a two minute job. I was asked however about the steps taken if you find new pegs don't fit in the holes left by the old ones. In fact that was the case with the move from these Grovers to the Gotoh pegs - they needed a wider hole by about 1mm all diameter. All you need to do is to widen them with the right tool for the job. I used a luthiers / carpenters reamer pictured below to do the job. Some would suggest using a drill or a rat tail file, but that is a sure fire way to cause the wood outer to split, or make the hole uneven. The reamer is on a long taper allowing you to create a variety of diameters, but in this case I needed to widen the holes to 10mm, which was the maximum on the reamer. It leaves a very slight taper (very) in the hole, which isn't really an issue in practice as the headstock is not that thick, but if that bothers you, you simply run the reamer in from the other side and repeat. Make sure you cover the back and front of the headstock in good masking tape to avoid the edges splitting and go very SLOWLY letting the reamer do the work.  Takes minutes to do.

Now this is for a hole that needed widening by a fair amount - you may find that your new tuners nearly fit but not quite - for that sort of widening you may be able to do the job with some sandpaper wrapped around a pencil. In my case though, that would have been both long winded and likely to mis-shape the hole. Horses for courses

luthiers peg reamer

Of course, if you decide to go back to smaller pegs that's a much bigger job to reverse if you want to shrink the holes, but thankfully I knew from the start I wanted these UPT pegs, so don't plan to.

One other point I am often asked about is what to do if you move from geared pegs to frictions and leave a screw hole from the geared peg. Personally, I work on the basis that nobody ever sees them anyway (as they are on the back) and ignore them myself. If they trouble you, it's a case of plugging them with thin dowel and matching the colour... This isn't an issue however in swapping friction pegs as there are no screw holes.

There are some other more complex swaps to bear in mind, like collars that require counter sinking and tuners that need a specific taper, but this guide covers the more common straight swaps.

And, why would you want to change friction pegs anyway? Well, because in many cases stock friction pegs can be awful and represent everything that people don't like about them. Good friction pegs however, are a joy. The friction pegs I replaced on this one were actually good ones already, but I just wanted a set of UPT's!

This video will tell you how cheap and decent ukulele pegs can differ quite significantly..

And of course, this process left me with a spare set of Grover tuners - Waste not want not and all that, so they were re-deployed on a Concert Ukulele - I personally don't mind the screw holes, so I filled them with the old geared tuner screws for safe keeping!

Grover friction tuners

Hope that helps!

And here's a second video talking about the UPT's in a bit more detail.


  1. Excellent detailed review!! Thank you!

  2. I feel silly asking you this, but I'm having trouble finding the info online. Aaaand you brought it up. Do you know what the standard tuners are for the Flea or Fluke? I just got a Flea soprano. I debated quite a bit about it, but your reviews totally pushed me to get one. And I LOVE it. So thank you.

    But I'm thinking that i might eventually want to upgrade the tuning pegs and figured if I knew what were in there already, it'd be easy to find out what size the holes are before taking it apart and finding out I need to change the diameter.

    Figured you might know, but if not, I'll just harass the good people at the company.

    Btw, thank you again. I'm absolutely in love with my Flea. If it hadn't been for your pushing for a beginner to get over the fear of friction tuners, I'd have probably gone with something else.

  3. I've swapped tuners on a Fluke and a Flea - and it's a bit fiddly, but achieveable The stock friction pegs are standard Grover Champions as they used to be called - not terrible, but more entry level Grovers. I swapped them out for series 4's (the ones with more parts and washers) and they just dropped in place. Now, all of that said - this was a few years ago and don't know if Magic Fluke have changed their pegs (and therefore the hole diameters). I am not at all sure that these UPT's would fit - because of the way the tuner holes are drilled on a Flea - they go through a relatively narrow headstock sideways as you know - I'd be concerned about widening them too much and losing strength. Certainly when I swapped them, it required no work though.

  4. Oh, sorry - i just saw that you have a Flea already? Take a peg out (it's really easy - just one screw and they pop out) and have a look at the hole - if you measure that, you should then easily find out what other pegs require what diameters. Grover 4s for example require a hole 5/16 of an inch.

  5. Hi Barry.
    Have you taken apart a Gotoh interplanetary friction tuner? I had these on my Kamaka which I have now sold but they were astonishingly good.

  6. Hi,

    I'm trying to do just what you did -- swap out the entry level Grovers for 4's, in a Fluke. The bushings fit fine, it's just that I can't put the opposite peg in once one on the other side is installed -- there's not room, the post won't go in at that angle. What's your secret?

  7. I find it took a bit of manipulating but they were a straight swap - but you have to kind of do the opposite ones together.

  8. Hi Baz. I'm frustrated with the factory tuners on my Martin S1, so I've decided to upgrade to Gotoh UPTs. Confirming that you used the standard-length UPT for your Martin retrofit, and not the longer UPT-L model? Also, is that an S1 in your example? Making sure I don't order the wrong length for mine. I'm reading some conflicting info about which length is best for an S1.

    1. Yep, standard length pegs for a Martin

    2. Thank you! I successfully installed the standard-length UPTs on my S1. Rockin'!

  9. I just upgraded my tuners as well using your guidance and I’d like to thank you for it! It feels good to do something so simple myself rather than take it to a luthier.

  10. I have replaced all of my Grover tuners on my various magic fluke Flea ukuleles and Firefly banjolele with Gotoh UPTL planetary tuners and they look good and work great. I used the reamer very carefully, no splits.

  11. I have a 1932-34 Martin Soprano uke that I would like switch to Gotoh tuners. My question is about taping the front and back of the headstock before reaming. Do I put masking tap over the holes then poke the reamer through the tape?
    What is your thought on affecting the value of this older uke by taking this one way trip enlarging and changing tuners.


Please leave me a comment!

Help Support Got A Ukulele

Please Help Keep This Site Going!

If you enjoy this blog, donations are welcomed to allow me to invest more time in bringing you ukulele articles. Aside from the Google ads, I don't get paid to write this blog and for reasons of impartiality a not sponsored by brands or stores. Your donations all go back into the site to allow me to keep bringing you reviews, and in the end the ukuleles acquired are given to local schools and charities.