drilling holes for tuning machines


Junior Member
so i have looked through the website a number of times to try to understand this process better, but im still a little shady.  here's my scenario:  im putting a stratocaster neck on a telecaster body.  the neck i bought has pre-drilled holes similar in shape to a colon :  after each tuning maching hole there are to little pre-drilled holes, this is done for each hole, like so –  :•  :•  :•  :•  :•  :• (sorry, im just trying to be as specific as possible...)  anyway, i have a set of schaller mini tuners that require only one screw, so it'd look more like –  •.  i will have to probably pre-drill more holes for these, but im not 100% yet whether or not the double pre-drilled holes will interfer.  if so, should i fill them up?  with what?  and as far as pre-drilling new holes, what do i do exactly?  just use a drill bit on medium?  what is the standard drill bit size for this process?  also i saw on the forum it was mentioned about dipping the screws in wax?  i know many of these questions may come off as repeatitive and "new", and im really sorry guys, but i just want to be totally certain on what im doing.  any help on this would be greatly appreciated.  i want to share with you guys pictures of the final product.  i ordered my tele body from warmoth about 4 or 5 weeks ago, so i should be getting it soon.  i got it with the neck pickup cut out for a humbucker, so it's kinda different.  thanks.
catphish_wood_dog said:
the neck i bought has pre-drilled holes similar in shape to a colon :

1.  The shape of a colon is more of a * than a :

2.  A buddy tried to make holes like that in a neck once.  When I looked at his work, I saw that he rectum.

3.  Just fill the holes with some maple dowel.  Make sure the SQUARED OFF ends of the dowel are slightly below flush with the existing finish, if the neck has a finish on it.  That way you can drop fill with lacquer or superglue, level, buff.. and make it hidden.

4.  If you REALLY cant find some maple dowel, send me a SASE and I'll send you enuf to get it done (costs you the SASE, dowel is freebie)
First thing to do is fit the tuners on the neck. You can just keep them secure and lined up by finger tightening the bush at the front. That way you can see if the pre-existing holes will be a) visible and b) a problem. If you need to fill the holes any number of options are open to you. Depending on the wood/type/finish requirements thin dowel for neatness or toothpicks and glue if it's going to be covered up.
There is no standard size for a drill bit, it depends on the tuners etc. but I find a 1/16th bit is a good start. The main thing to watch is don't drill all the way through to the front of the headstock so make sure you mark the bit.
The wax thing is all about not snapping the screw. necks are made from bloody hard wood and a tight screw can easily be snapped off putting it in. (Major drama getting it out!!) I personally just rub the threads with carnauba wax, other guys use a candle, it's no big deal just take it easy and if you find yourself using a lot of force for not much progress, you're heading for trouble.

Getting back to the neck you bought.....have you made sure it's going to fit? Warmoth strat necks will fit a Warmoth tele body despite the neck pocket being a different butt shape. Squared as opposed to curved, but you could have intonation issues depending on the brand of neck you bought.
willyk, i ordered the body with strat neck pocket specs, and it's a standard fender strat neck.  it should work just fine.  if you wax the screws, is it almost guranteed to not break?  also, how deep do you recomend drilling?  about the length of the screw?  CB, thanks so much for the offer.  i may just have to take you up on that.  thanks a lot for the help guys.  my warmoth stuff should get here pretty soon right?  my neck is out right now getting a vintage tint finish applied.  it should be back within a week or two, so once i get all my stuff together, i'm sure i'll be asking more questions.  thanks again.

Drill about the same depth as what is going into the wood. i.e. how much of the screw sticks out the back of the tuner. Waxing the screw will GREATLY DIMINISH the chance of it breaking but still go easy, there are no guarantees!
It's good to hear you factored in the neck pocket issue, you're not just a banjo player after all !!! :toothy10: :toothy10: :toothy10:
hahaha, no no no... i'm much more of a guitar player.  i just got the banjo because i liked the possibilities i guess and just thought it'd be fun, but myself, i'm more of a guitar/electronic kinda person.  also, for drilling in the strap buttons i'm a little confused.  i looked at the scale that was posted in a previous post, but i can't really figure it out.  could you help me?  i just don't clearly understand what the diameter is?  is it the thickness of the guitar?
Diameter is the measurement across the centre of a circle. So what it means in real terms is simply match a drill bit to the screw shaft above the thread. Depending on brand of strap button you are going to be using a 5/64th or a 3/32nd size bit. Don't forget to wax your screws!
...and don't forget to take your time.  Both with the drilling and actually putting the screws in.  I was a little apprehensive when i did this, after having read about at least a couple instances of screw breakage.  Making sure your pilot hole is deep enough, not too deep now, and of sufficient size around (diameter) will be your best bet against breakage. I did wax my screws,  I went to a craft shop and bought some candle making wax that had no colors or scents added (it came in a block) then I just took my screws and ran them along the side of the block and used my fingers to work it into the threads all the way around.  No need to melt the wax and dip the screw in, it would just be messy IMO. But I think the single thing I did that made this simple and pain free was when putting the screws in, I used steady pressure, but I did not try to twist the head off the screw, if you know what I mean.  Don't force them too much. 
ok, great, thanks a lot for the tips and explanations guys.  i understand it now.  also, as far as attaching my neck to the body, is there any special procedure i need to do?  put the screws in some wax?  anything?  im also gonna be putting in ferrules, and i read a previous post about installing them and heating up the holes for them or actually heating up the ferrules themselves, but my guitar has a finish on it, so idk...  lastly, would anyone happen to have an extra fender neck plate?  i bought a blank one but later found a fender one on the internet, but i was wondering if anyone here had an extra one i could buy?
Neck procedure is pretty much the same as for tuners (except use a bigger screw driver :toothy10:) Read that post again about ferrules. Whatever you do don't heat anything. You want to tap them in not burn them in. Some guys push them in with a drill press, others use a small hammer, rubber mallet, I use a small wood block wrapped in a piece of T shirt and tap them in slowly with my small Irish micrometer (hammer!) Just remember guitlouies words ....don't forget to take your time.
If the pre-drilled holes in your peghead look like the way you pictured with punctuation, then I think those guide holes above the hole the tuner shaft goes through were drilled in a Ping tuner pattern, which also matches sets of Fender logo'ed tuners that come on some higher end Fenders like the tuners in this post on eBay:


If the Schallers don't cover those guide/retaining pin holes, it would be a lot easier just to get a set of Pings or Fender logo'ed tuners (the Pings used to come in black-gold-chrome, the Fenders in chrome or gold) and just go with those.

willyk said:
....don't forget to take your time.

Yeah man definatly take it slow installing the ferrules, ive chipped a nice paint job in the past installing those babys. It still keeps me up at night just thinking about it...  :sad1:
thanks again guys... i'll definitely go slow on the ferrules, shouldn't be a problem.  -jackthehack, thanks for the suggestion, but i already bought a pack of tuners, so i'm a little reluctant to buy another one.  like i said earlier, im gonna wait until i get my neck back from being finished and then see if the tuners and the pre-drilled holes don't work together.  the neck sounds pretty easy as well, the only thing im not sure about is getting it set up with the action and all.  i was going to take it into my local music shop and have a guy take care of it, but i would like to know how to do it myself.  im gonna be using .10's almost always...  is it all in adjusting the bridge?  im just gonna be using a standard tele bridge with six grooved saddles if that helps any.
There's a bit more to a set up than just adjusting the bridge. You have to set the neck up as well. The truss rod might need tightening or slackening, the pocket might need shimming. All sorts of stuff MIGHT need attention to get your guitar right. If you have never done a complete set up before I would definitely try to find someone to show you how it's done. There are books, magazine articles and of course websites, but even the wealth of talent on this board can't replace hands on experience so looking over someones shoulder is the most valuable  help you can get. Take it to the guy in the music shop and tell him you would like to watch and learn. If he won't do that, hit him over the head with your banjo and tell him WillyK said he was a prick. :doh:
hahaha, ok, thanks a lot man.  he's a pretty cool guy, so i think he'll be alright with me watching.  i already thought of doing that, but i wasn't sure what the process consisted of and whether or not it would be easy for someone who had never done it.  i'll definitely take it over to him.  thanks a lot guys, ill let you know when i'm finished, and i'll be sure to post pictures.
willyk said:
If he won't do that, hit him over the head with your banjo and tell him WillyK said he was a prick. :doh:

Then make him pay for the banjo... saves the the ebay hassle  :dontknow:
just got my body today.  it did not come with pre-drilled holes for the pickguard.  i've got to drill 8 separate ones myself.  i am definitely going to use the wax-screw technique when installing the screws, but any tips on drilling the holes?  how about grounding the bridge?
Dont be in a hurry. Make sure the pickguard is positioned correctly. Fit as much stuff on there as you can i.e. neck, bridge ,control plate, to give yourself as much visual reference as possible. Then drill one hole and put in your (waxed) screw. Check the positioning of the pickguard then drill another hole on the opposite side. Once you have two done the 'guard won't go anywhere so you can just drill the rest at your leisure.
Grounding a tele bridge is easy . Just run a wire from the control cavity through the hole under where the bridge is going to sit. I just strip back the wire about an inch, tie a knot just behind the stripped bit and pull  the wire back through the hole till it catches inside the little depression in the guitar face. That way the bare wire makes the grounding connection with the back of the bridge and you don't have to worry about the ground wire pulling out.
Again mate, take it slow. You have all the time in the world so use as much as you need. :icon_thumright:
Buy THIS book:

It's written by Dan Erlewine, the "Guitar Player Repair Guide." You don't have to buy all the tools he tells you to,  that depends on which jobs you're really interested in. However, at the very least it will point you in the right direction regarding more info. Just BUY it, O.K.? It will save you a whole lot more money in the long run than it will cost you.
stubhead, my good friend actually has that book, so i'll definitely be looking at it.  thanks for the pointer. 
willyk, thanks again, like always.  you are a ton of help man.  i can't wait to get it finished, but i am pretty patient, so i won't rush it.  just found out that i ordered the wrong ferrules though.  hahaha.  sucks.  oh well.