Two Gotoh mandolin gears sets compared

The strip on the left is from a set of normal Gotoh A gears, as have been available for the last 15 or so years, with replacement ivoroid buttons from Stew-Mac.

The strip on the right is an example of a new version of those gears, which are supplied by Gotoh with different ivoroid buttons than the Stew-Mac ones I put on the older set. The new plates are no different than before, though you might notice that the button shafts on the new Gotoh gears are two different lengths, so the buttons lie in an arc. This has been an option from Gotoh for some time, and it's a nice touch and appropriate for certain headstocks.

The buttons themselves are of slightly different ivoroid material. Both are machined, not cast. 

They are different thicknesses and shapes as well:

The new button (bottom) is indeed much fatter.

The new button fits a round shaft with two flats:

The Stew-Mac button fits the older square shaft:

Since the new Gotoh buttons (which also come in ebony and toiletoid) are virtually impossible to buy retail, adapting available buttons is now a chore.

I initially hoped Gotoh wasn't switching all their gears to the round-with-two-flats shaft, as a great many after-market buttons in ebony, real pearl and ivoroid will no longer fit. But I'm afraid they have done just that. A perfectly good and user-friendly design has been changed to something less so. Dang!

The button materials are both nice, but visually different. I prefer the smoother feel of the Stew-Mac buttons. The edges are dressed nicer, and the look is more traditional.

The collar on the new Gotoh button is superfluous. I really wish they hadn't done it.

Gotoh also seems to have changed the riveting and stamping:

No comment, it's just a production detail I noticed.

And they're still using cheap looking phillips head screws and that garish industrial plating. Oh well.

Here's the kicker for me: the new gears don't turn quite as well as the old ones did. They're stiff and tight. Even before lubrication, the older ones turned like a dream, right out of the box. After some lubing, these new ones are OK, but they're really not as smooth as the old ones were. Alas, something changed in this regard.

Change is not always for the better, though the older gears could have been made better. Nicer plating, slotted screws, things like that.

Here's most of a catalog page from Gotoh. Note that they offer ebony buttons as well as ivoroid and the dreaded pearloid, which of course is stock. Anything you want as long as you order 30 sets. From someone. I wish I knew who.

Click on the image to go to the Gotoh website and see more. Don't get your hopes up about buying them however, unless you visit Roger Siminoff, who to my knowledge is about the only purveyor of Gotoh's mandolin tuners.

Here are some links to other pages on gear-related issues:

My other page about gear direction here | my page about tuner maintenance


Questions? Have more info? Please drop me a line by clicking here