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?


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.



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.


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.

1 Like

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.

1 Like

Many thanks to all for the sound advice!