This piano tuning blog is a companion to our How to Tune a Piano Yourself tutorial. In this blog we expand on the tutorial with new information and perspectives on do-it-yourself piano tuning. If it is your first time here, visit the tutorial first.
Anatomy of a Tuning Pin
What is so special about a tuning lever? The tuning lever is the central tool of the piano tuning profession. Its primary virtue is that it properly fits the tuning pins. It is the tuning pin that that's the prima donna of this show. Let's have a look at the anatomy of the pin that demands the right tools to turn it.
The familiar part of the pin is the part that remains in view in the soundboard. It has a small hole which initially holds the string. The end of the string is bent, then inserted into the hole, and finally wound.
The head of the pin is square. However, it is also tapered slightly, and also rounded a little on the very end. This shape helps the tuning lever's socket to settle into place easily, hold tightly and release more easily than a pin that is not tapered. It also allows a given lever to accommodate slight differences in the sizes of pins among many manufacturers over the years. However, some pianos have smaller or larger pins (or replacement pins) than the standard American size, so different lever tip sizes are available. The head of the tuning pin needs to be handled with care. Careless technique or poor tools can damage the pin by rounding the square edges or bending or twisting the pin, and necessitate replacement.
The shank of the pin is grooved. The pin is not a screw, however. The grooves are have only slight pitch and are quite shallow. The wooden pin block is drilled, then the pin is driven in like a nail. The grooves allow the pin to turn to tighten the string without screwing deeper into the wood, but still hold tightly. A pin setter is used to hammer the pin into the hole. A T-handled lever or a special winding tool is used to wind the string.
The tuning pin is a carefully engineered part of the piano. It is a critical element and must be respected. A proper tuning lever will protect the pin from damage as well as give the tuner the precise feel needed to make the minute adjustments tuning requires. Respect your tuning pins! Buy them a proper tuning lever!