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Guide to

Kluson Vintage Tuners

The first guitar tuners Fender used on their guitars were Kluson's. They have that timeless look and the fantastic Split-Shaft patent. These tuners have their fans (including me) and it is these who will give your Fender that Vintage 50´s look. The split shaft invention remains the best ones to me personally. They have pros and cons for sure.. Very easy to use and holds the string perfectly with no pin-prick sharp string ends. The original US factory shut down over four decades ago, So who makes them today? Well a few companies actually. Following up is a deep dive into the selection and brands of the Kluson style tuners.

There are two Logo´s for Kluson.
Here is the deal:

The use of the Kluson name are split between Europe and USA. WD music acquired the brand in 1994. However in Germany, a company called GÖLDO owns the license for the European market. Previously it was Rockinger who owned the license. The story here is a little vague, but Rockinger still sells Kluson branded tuners. Who is the proper owner is hard to say.
Logo's are:

WD Music USA Logo:
Göldo Europe Logo:
1954-Fender-Stratocaster-Back-of-Headstock.jpg

Over time, other brands have adapted the Kluson design and patent in their production line. They are not allowed to brand them "Kluson" and are unbranded.

Someone also told me that WD Kluson(USA), are not allowed to sell their product in Europe. Only Goldö can do that, but they are available in Europe anyway. But to me that is ok because Goldö distributes their tuners very limited.

Kluson tuners can also be bought as a plate assembly (only sold by WD Kluson). That means all six tuners comes mounted on a plate bracket that you drop into all six holes at once and take less screws to fasten them. But i prefer the good old single mount tuners. 7 screws to rule them all.

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Kluson Official WD/USA

The official issues are made in Korea and is owned and distributed by WD Music. They are packed in cool retro vintage looking boxes and they come in two variants: Deluxe and Supreme.

The Deluxe has 15:1 ratio

Supreme comes in 18:1 ratio.

They also come in staggered if you wish those and are branded with Single line & double line text or none. Quality wise they can be a hit or miss. To me, i had a Supreme tuner that went bad after just two weeks. Since they go for traditional build and remain historical accurate on design, you get wobbly tuner pegs like the good old ones. Kluson have their own website, I sent my defected tuner to their US Address but it came back to me RTS and no one answer the E-Mails. My guess is that WD runs that site, but it is only there for showcase. Anything you order on that site is probably sent directly to WD for them to pack and ship.

Gotoh Japan

gotoh Logo.png

These are, by far the best tuners you can get. And the best part, they are reasonable and won´t break the bank. Gotoh has made guitar parts since 1960 and is the only manufacturer of guitar hardware in Japan as well. Needless to say, trust the Japanese, they take pride in their work and has taken the Kluson style tuner and improved them. There are some unreal selection on these. Staggered, Adjustable stagger (HAPM), Locking or regular split shaft, how about locking tuners without the tension wheel? And what about a choice of 10 different tuning buttons.? Take your pick.

Like WD Klusons, They are separated into two versions:

SD91. - These are the basic model. You can get them in staggered or none staggered. Even the HAPM (Height Adjustable Posts) can be found on these as well. You can get locking functions on these too without sacrificing the look of them. And since they don't own the name, they are made with no branding. But sometimes if you choose lockers or HAPM, they have a nice looking stamp of their own on them.

SDS510 - These are the Rolls Royce of Kluson tuners. very sturdy posts that are wiggle free. Like its younger brother, it comes in all different combinations. They have twice the price tag usually from the 91´s, and comes with C.A.R.D inserts which are reinforced brackets that is sandwiched between the tuner and headstock to make it even more sturdier.

All SDS510 have a Stamp on their casing that varies dependable what model you get. If there is one thing i have to arrest Gotoh on, it´s the mounting screws. They are not the best quality and i heard of people who have snapped them off. But, the Gotoh´s are my pick of choice every time i want a pair. All my necks have them.

PING Wells / Fender

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Fender ceased business with Kluson during the CBS-era to get their own tuners made. At first to machine their own, but later in the 80's i believe, They outsourced the tuners to be made by Ping Wells and they are based in Taiwan. The PING tuners are used on their Mexico line but their DieCast Shallers are used on USA guitars.

But PING to me are fine. For the price they do exactly what they should do. Not the top of the heap, but they operate without problems and keeps your guitar in tune. Apart from PING, Gotoh also supply Fender with Vintage tuners. If you are changing faulty tuners on your Fender Custom Shop, you have to use Gotoh tuners because that is what they use for their guitars, which is why they stock and sell them. (PING tuners is not quite right to use on a $5000 guitar. So they use Gotoh, and they been using them for years)

Not long ago, Fender simply sold Gotoh SD91 No-Line in their own packaging. Today they do the same, except the standard issue Gotoh now goes under the PURE VINTAGE line and has a Single Line with "FENDER DELUXE stamp. They sell locking and staggered tuner too from Gotoh, but these are No-Line unbranded and packaged with Fender labels. But otherwise, the exact same SD91 if you were to buy standard GOTOH's. On the Fender site, they do not state what is PING and what is Gotoh. Only the price tag tells them apart. Can be confusing but they are as follows: 

Fender PING Standard: #0047912049  / (GOLD: #0053276049 )
Fender PING Road Worn: #0997201000 (These are just Reliced Ping Standard)

Fender PING ClassicGear #0990802100 (2-Pin If you replace Schaller Standard)

Fender Gotoh Std: #0992074000 (PURE VINTAGE) "FENDER DELUXE" single line / Leftys

Fender Gotoh Staggered #0992074105 (American Vintage 2+2+2 Stagger) / No Line

Fender Gotoh Locking: #0072272049 (Coin Lockers  ( No Wheel) / ( No-Line Branded)

Fender Gotoh Gold: #0992040200 (Also has Gotoh Standard in this listing)

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Kluson Göldo Germany

This company owns the licence to the Kluson name in Europe. However, there is no German engineering behind these because they are in fact made by Gotoh Japan. Essentially the same tuner as SD91 more or less. So, if you lust for Gotoh quality and require Single Line or Double Line Kluson Branding, these are the only ones that have them, So, Best of both worlds. Goes for the same price as Gotoh's.

Only downside is they don't exists with the many optional choices the regular Gotoh has. These exists only in 6 even-height splitshafts and no staggered versions is to get. But they do have the top-lock locking versions (Without the tension wheel) 

However, they can be quite elusive and very hard to find. Even in Europe. Göldo is not the best on distributing their hardware compared to the wildly available Gotoh`s. But after much looking, you can easily find these at Thomann that keeps them pretty much in stock.

Wilkinson Logo

Good old Trevor Wilkinson even has his own Klusons. We can say that Wilkinson is most known for his Tremolo units, but he makes pickups, tuners and other stuff as well. There was a debate that Gotoh also make these, but i highly doubt it because they come cheaper than Gotoh's. Wilkinson usually licence factories around Asia for his hardware. Sometimes made in Taiwan, sometimes made in Korea. You never know. No stamps on these, but they do sport double line that says WILKINSON / DELUXE, but they are pretty OK tuners really given their price. I would compare them to PING tuners if any. Comes in either chrome or nickel.

You can find these on Amazon. But these are the cheapest you can get and i would not recommend them really. The tuner button is, believe it or not, made of plastic. Sounds disastrous and prone to twist easy off the tuning peg. There is no marking or stamps on them either. Comes in other colours and even left handed orientation as well..
Spend another $10 or two on some proper Gotoh's instead.

If you know what is good for your guitar, i would avoid these.

Harley Benton Logo.png

These have been on the market since 2012. These are made by Harley Benton which is owned by Thomann Music in Germany and can be bought from there. Harley Bentons are mostly famous for really closing the chapter on cheap and shitty guitars by offering affordable guitars for low price with amazing quality, also for their hardware. On their tuners, all 6 did have a small skip or indentation in the gear when you turn them, but hardly noticeable. The post was LESS wobbly than SD91 Believe it or not. I was quite taken back on the quality of these. Not bad at all Thomann, Not bad at all. I was gonna sell them off once i was done testing them, but i vouched to keep them actually.

They make two version of these. One has metal heads, the other has plastic heads (Like the Dopro) They come fairly cheap at £17 from Thomann, which is good bang for the buck.

Faber Logo.png

Recent discovery. Faber has existed since 1948 and i never crossed paths with them earlier. The reason is probably because they are mostly known to make Gibson aftermarket parts of great quality. They have a US online shop as well. However, never tested these yet, but sometime in the future ill order a set from them.
For the price, i am quite curious to how these will be. Another Gotoh license product?
The tuners comes with FABER DELUXE stamped in line on them and comes pretty much as standard outfit. No staggered or special versions exists but they do have gold and even aged gold. Possibly the only who offers aged gold out of the box.  

Callahamlogo.jpeg

I am not sure about the tuners that Callaham sells. They only say : "The best tuner we have found for vintage builds and retrofits"

They state themselves that they make all hardware themselves except tuners & jackplate. They Retail for $40.00 and i have no clue who makes them. On my local used market, a guy sold a full kit of Callaham hardware with Tuners. but there were no stamp or markings.. According to this thread. They are Gotoh´s.

Grover Logo.jpeg

Don´t get your hopes up too much over these. Grover is most famous for their roto-matic for Gibson and Les Paul type guitars as well as other brands. But again, they have not made parts in USA for 40 years since all their stuff have been outsourced to Asian factories. What you do get are nice looking tuners with GROVER DELUXE in double line on the casing.

But these are just PING tuners rebranded. BUMMER!!! You will not upgrade your Mexican Strat if your are looking for that. You will only pay $20 more for branding, but its the same Taiwan produced tuners that Fender puts on their Mexican line. All stamped "P.W" on the back. So that is basically it.

Hosco Logo.png

Hosco is most known for luthier tools like files of good quality and seems to be making a move for the parts market too. These are called SD91... Sounds familiar? Well they are another company that is having Gotoh making tuners for them.  So far, no locking or staggered yet. Debuted in 2024 and Philladelphia Luthier and Tools where the first to offer them. Comes only in plain old fashion Kluson standard post and arrives in Nickel, both new and aged, or as Gold. Priced around $40.

TonePro Tuners

Tonepros Logo.jpeg

Tone Pro's had a licensing deal from WD for a short while some years back to make the Klusons. This is why they carry the "Kluson" branding on the casing. No longer available. They were made by Jin Ho factory who also makes Wilkinsons. These pop up from time to time on Ebay and Reverb. I never have encountered these or tried them, but word on the streets says they were very good quality. TonePros is not known for making bad quality products neither and is most known for Gibson Parts. They are very distinct in look since the casings are all squared compared to the more known Square/rounded ones. The housing are also Die-Cast which distinguish them even more.

Also made with Ivory buttons.

No-Line, Single-Line, Double-Line Whut?

The "Line" terms has nothing to do with the technical side of Klusons It is purerly only appearance -
See, they have come branded and unbranded since the 50's . On your end, the branding is only if you are replacing the tuners on a reissue guitar or an original vintage one  to keep it vintage-correct, or if you are to build a year-specific guitar. 
But one is free to choose to put on any "Line" if you like tuners with a little more finesse on the looks.

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Timeframe: No-Line vs. Double line vs Single Line

No-Line:

  • Telecaster: 1951 - Mid1956

    Stratocaster: 1954 - Mid1956

Single Line:

  • Telecaster: 1950 / 1956 - Fall 1964

  • Stratocaster: Mid1956 - 1965 Stratocaster (Overlap, possibly due to depleting their stock of No-lines)

Double Line:

  • Telecaster: Fall 1964-1967 (replaced for F-Tuners during CBS-era in 1967)

  • Stratocaster: Fall 1964-1967 (replaced for F-Tuners during CBS-era in 1967)

WHAT KLUSON DO I HAVE?

The larger manufacturers usually have stamps behind on their casing. Some do not. If you have a set of unknown origin, you can often ID them by taking one tuner off and look on their back of the casing.

ID Markings are shown on the table at the bottom.

For original Kluson tuners you may go HERE

About Japan and Korea vintage tuners on Tokai, Fernandes and other early 70´s and trough 80´s. Strat copies, The east got their Klusons made locally. There is a very nice thread HERE about the subject.

If you have questions or know of other makers, let me know and i will look into it.

INSTALL TIPS: For installing these, i suggest you head over to Gerry Haze who has a good tutorial on them. Read HERE Remember to measure what bushings you need. I know Fender necks are drilled in all sorts of sizes. Get a digital calliper for the job. A calliper is so handy for so many things on guitar service and other stuff. Gotoh factory packaged tuners comes usually with both 8.8 and 10 mm bushings. Most usually comes with 8.8 standard. If you are changing out a set of locking tuners for Vintage, You most likely need 10 mm+ bushings. So do find out and order at the same time as you order the tuners, or there will be more waiting for you. One thing you CAN do if your bushings lacks just a tiny amount to fit snuggly is to cut small strips of copper shielding tape or aluminum tape and wrap it around them to increase the diameter of the bushings. No more than maximum 2 wound turns.

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