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George, I agree with the kid - I think you need the bushings too if they're the threaded sort. On one of my builds I had a bushing missing, and made do with a cut down section from the end of a metal ballpoint pen (the thread was the same size) and that just about worked, but it didn't work at all until I added that bit.
On another build I've used the inline tuners from a classical guitar poking straight up through the headstock. That doesn't work either! Although it looks pretty cool and suits the look of the git, the tuners are not at all smooth in their operation, very stiff and notchy, which I assume is because they are not supported at both ends as they are intended to be so there is more pressure/friction on them where they touch the wood than there should be.
I'll not be using that idea again on future builds but will instead use tuners with bushes - it's not like they cost a fortune.
I've used the inlines like Nobby 1974 mentioned, but had no problems. I have a drill plate that I made for the holes so they are accurately spaced and lube the inside of the holes with a bees wax waterproofing paste so that may be a solution to smooth operation.