Chalk or talcum powder on tuning pins?

What do you guys put on your tuning pins, chalk or talcum powder? I’ve
seen both recommended, but do they really serve the same purpose?
Doesn’t one make them easier to turn, while the other on the contrary
gives a better grip in the hole?

Thanks.

The instructions for my Hubbard kit (late 1980s) said to coat the pins in talcum powder and, in humid weather, to apply talc to your hands also; the reason given was that any moisture introduced into the hole via the tuning pin could cause squeaking when the pin was turned. (The kit had zither-style tuning pins, not historically accurate ones.)

I prefer nothing. For historical pins, it’s the taper that secures them. And you can bang them down with the hammer part of the tuning hammer! No need of abrasives or lubricants. And with zither pins, if the hole is the right interference fit (maybe not all amateur builders acheive it) then no need for talc or chalk either. Talc on the hands would be to absorb moisture - you don’t want the pins rusting in the hole, which happens, and is bad.

Partially related, I am always puzzled by violin peg soap. Most of the famous ones are heavily guarded secret recipes even though there are only a couple of things in them. Why they puzzle me is that they allow the peg to turn more smoothly and freely, but at the same time hold in it exact place with quite a lot of grip. Seems like a contradiction to me!

Dear Dennis et al

I spend a lot of my life tuning instruments, so it’s important to me that they be as easy as possible to tune. I find it useful to use a little talc on the lower part of the pin.

As Andrew mentions, the tolerance of hole to pin is very important, and it’s not only amateur makers who might get that wrong. However, it’s not the taper which holds the pin in the wrestplank, but the full diameter of the pin. The taper does make it much easier to remove the pin, compared to a cylindrical pin. Tuning pins will commonly rust, especially just the few mm as they enter the acidic oak of the wrestplank but are still exposed to some atmosphere.

Regards

Carey

You may want to try tailor’s chalk.

Whatever the theoretical correct answer to the question of this thread may be, I can report empirically that over a period of 20 years I have never applied talcum powder or chalk to my tuning pins and they have always turned smoothly. That they have not rusted may be due to care not to expose them to conditions of high humidity.

David

I use talcum on my hands and a touch the pin. I also use a thin, small paper shim in the hole. All my pins behave exactly as I like: a good secure fit, but no tendency to stick tempting one to just twist the top of the pin.

I remember when Don Angle restrung my Dowds with brass. He used talcum on his hands, perhaps the pin. But what struck me most was how he had this boyish joy about it all, and created a little cloud of talcum dust as he patted his hands together, grinning broadly. Miss that guy.

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For quite loose pins, one fix we use to is to cut a 3mm wide piece of 800 grit wet and dry paper and insert that with the pin. This acts as a bushing and also gives just the right amount of grip. Better than plain paper shims I think.

Piano makers, from the videos I have seen of Steinway and so on, wear cotton gloves when stringing to absorb hand moisture, and so that no talcum gets in the instrument! But then they use machine devices to form hitchpin loops and so don’t need the fine finger control harpsichord builders require for that.

Now I now why your Dowds we have heard on your video recently sound so superb! What a marvellous man he was.

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Many thanks to all for the sound advice!

Back to this thread! In the workshop now: a Dowd double, restrung by Don Angle in 2002 as noted inside. Talc on pins as said, very useful info. Came from Paris, has always lived in Provence, where it’s rather dryer. Much played.

So, some of the pins turn by themselves now. Customer wants a restring, ok, and thinks bigger pins are the solution, but they’re already 4,5. ( 4 mm on the 4’ which tunes nicely (less often … ?)
Some chromed 5’s have already been hammered in, uurgh, tight!

I think 5 is big and gives less tuning accuracy, also will need to redrill the holes, and as was mentioned on this fine forum, some dimensional variations are to be expected on new pins. A small sample of the original 4,5’s measure between 4,46 and 4,49. Blackish, could be Vogel too. A mention was made of measuring and arranging them accordingly, yes indeed.

Here’s the plan: remove pins, clean talc off, & reinsert with a little violin pin stuff from GEWA, which I’ve used often. Sandpaper shims if necessary. White oak wrestplank.

Any comments or thoughts on this? Hardly worth raising dust really, so here’s a Q:

Although the bottom (14mm) is made of poplar the scantlings are made of pine, the bentside too. That explains the Weight! It’s painted so I can’t make out if it’s a glued laminate or solid wood.

Q :Anyone familiar with Dowd’s bentside making methods circa 1980?

Thank you! Thomas

04870 St Michel l’Observatoire

(33) 04 92 76 60 81

As a violin player as well as harpsichord player/maker I never heard of
anybody using violin peg soap on a harpsichord. For violins it’s for
making the tuning smoother when the pegs stick, due to inevitable wear
or bad taper fitting and mostly because of weather conditions, etc. A
harpsichord tuning pin will turn nicely and stay put if it fits the hole
properly. No need for this.

As an aside, peg soap has been made by various manufacturers since the
19c but the recipes are very closely guarded trade secrets. I read that
only two people at Hills knew the formula. Nobody really knows what is
in them. There’s quite a lot of discussion about this mystery on violin
forums. Most likely they are a type of rosin combined with chalk. It’s
very interesting stuff because it has to perform two contradictory
functions at once - allow the peg to turn easily, and yet then make it
grip tight when in position. I find it fascinating. I use the Götz
Wirbelsiefe.

Le 26/08/2022 09:14, TwM via The Jackrail écrit :

[JacquesRéelle] JacquesRéelle
https://jackrail.space/u/jacquesréelle TwM
August 26

Back to this thread! In the workshop now: a Dowd double, restrung by
Don Angle in 2002 as noted inside. Talc on pins as said, very useful
info. Came from Paris, has always lived in Provence, where it’s rather
dryer. Much played.

So, some of the pins turn by themselves now. Customer wants a
restring, ok, and thinks bigger pins are the solution, but they’re
already 4,5. ( 4 mm on the 4’ which tunes nicely (less often … ?)
Some chromed 5’s have already been hammered in, uurgh, tight!

I think 5 is big and gives less tuning accuracy, also will need to
redrill the holes, and as was mentioned on this fine forum, some
dimensional variations are to be expected on new pins. A small sample
of the original 4,5’s measure between 4,46 and 4,49. Blackish, could
be Vogel too. A mention was made of measuring and arranging them
accordingly, yes indeed.

Here’s the plan: remove pins, clean talc off, & reinsert with a little
violin pin stuff from GEWA, which I’ve used often. Sandpaper shims if
necessary. White oak wrestplank.

Any comments or thoughts on this? Hardly worth raising dust really, so
here’s a Q:

Although the bottom (14mm) is made of poplar the scantlings are made
of pine, the bentside too. That explains the Weight! It’s painted so I
can’t make out if it’s a glued laminate or solid wood.

Q :Anyone familiar with Dowd’s bentside making methods circa 1980?

According to a French maker who worked for him (or rather for Von Nagel)
for years in Paris, the bentsides were laminated. So were the
wrestplanks, according to him. And the lids.

What you mean by scantlings?

Thanks for the info, laminated then. There’s slight ungluing from the hitchpin rail and the liner underneath to fix , good to know what’s beneeth.

Scantlings : case sides. Perhaps not actually: just checked with the great god google, means ‘measurements’ in shipbuilding parlance. Hmm, wondered where that came from? Back to the OED.

The discussion mentioned peg soap earlier. Having tried it once on tight pegs for a secondhand inst, the soaped pegs subsequently turned easier without slipping. Not historical, for sure.

That’s what’s so great about this forum, you’ll always know when you’re wrong: now that’s scientific, innit!

T

04870 St Michel l’Observatoire

| Dennis
August 26 |

  • | - |

Le 26/08/2022 09:14, TwM via The Jackrail écrit :

[JacquesRéelle] JacquesRéelle
https://jackrail.space/u/jacquesréelle TwM
August 26

Back to this thread! In the workshop now: a Dowd double, restrung by
Don Angle in 2002 as noted inside. Talc on pins as said, very useful
info. Came from Paris, has always lived in Provence, where it’s rather
dryer. Much played.

So, some of the pins turn by themselves now. Customer wants a
restring, ok, and thinks bigger pins are the solution, but they’re
already 4,5. ( 4 mm on the 4’ which tunes nicely (less often … ?)
Some chromed 5’s have already been hammered in, uurgh, tight!

I think 5 is big and gives less tuning accuracy, also will need to
redrill the holes, and as was mentioned on this fine forum, some
dimensional variations are to be expected on new pins. A small sample
of the original 4,5’s measure between 4,46 and 4,49. Blackish, could
be Vogel too. A mention was made of measuring and arranging them
accordingly, yes indeed.

Here’s the plan: remove pins, clean talc off, & reinsert with a little
violin pin stuff from GEWA, which I’ve used often. Sandpaper shims if
necessary. White oak wrestplank.

Any comments or thoughts on this? Hardly worth raising dust really, so
here’s a Q:

Although the bottom (14mm) is made of poplar the scantlings are made
of pine, the bentside too. That explains the Weight! It’s painted so I
can’t make out if it’s a glued laminate or solid wood.

Q :Anyone familiar with Dowd’s bentside making methods circa 1980?

According to a French maker who worked for him (or rather for Von Nagel)
for years in Paris, the bentsides were laminated. So were the
wrestplanks, according to him. And the lids.

What you mean by scantlings?

| JacquesRéelle TwM
August 26 |

  • | - |

Scantlings : case sides. Perhaps not actually: just checked with the great god google, means ‘measurements’ in shipbuilding parlance. Hmm, wondered where that came from? Back to the OED.

Frank Hubbard (1965) uses the term ‘scantlings’ in a way which might have led to this usage.

Le 26/08/2022 11:16, Lewis Jones via The Jackrail écrit :

Frank Hubbard (1965) uses the term ‘scantlings’ in a way which might
have led to this usage.

So, what we call éclisses in French.

Le 26/08/2022 11:16, Lewis Jones via The Jackrail écrit :

Frank Hubbard (1965) uses the term ‘scantlings’ in a way which might
have led to this usage.

He gives the following definition in his book. In other words, he
doesn’t seem to mean the case sides but their thickness.

Scantlings
The thickness of the parts which make up the case and frame of an
instrument.

There seem to be three English usages for ‘scantling’: 1) The word is “a variation of scantillon , a carpenter’s or stonemason’s measuring tool”, or template 2) the measurements taken with this tool, 3) mostly in the plural: the pieces of timber of small size cut according to measurements with the tool. It’s etymologically linked with French ‘échantillon’, which usually means ‘sample’.

Quite right, it was Hubbard, I mixed up a way to describe an object with the object itself. Jargonizing! Is this how a vacuum cleaner becomes a Hoover? Back to Dowd’s pins ‘n’ bentside now…

| alvisezuani Lewis Jones
August 26 |

  • | - |

| JacquesRéelle TwM
August 26 |

  • | - |

Scantlings : case sides. Perhaps not actually: just checked with the great god google, means ‘measurements’ in shipbuilding parlance. Hmm, wondered where that came from? Back to the OED.

Frank Hubbard (1965) uses the term ‘scantlings’ in a way which might have led to this usage.