ZHI Flemish Single XV rebuild

Hi folks,

My 1999 ZHI Flemish XV single is due for its 25-year maintenance/partial rebuild. Below is what I have on the list of things planned, let me know if I am missing anything else important or worth doing with the instrument partially torn apart. For reference, I’m in Minnesota USA, which has about the least harpsichord-friendly climate on earth. I have a full power&hand tool woodshop, so tools and equipment aren’t an issue.

  • Strip and repaint. The original paint had a manufacturing defect and needs to be completely removed. I’ll likely prime with BIN shellac base, paint with BM Advance, and topcoat with General Finish High Performance Satin Topcoat. I’ve used this schedule on furniture and it seems to work well.

  • Remove the bottom and inspect the innards. Since it will be unstrung and have all the action removed, and I screwed the bottom on originally (glue would never have held on that long of a cross-grain joint in my climate) no reason not to pull it apart and check on things. Is it worth being wild and crazy and giving the underside of the soundboard a hide glue sizing? I have the hide glue on hand.

  • Repair the Flemish papers and some of the other decorative items. General cleaning of the instrument. Tidy up the keyboard.

  • Other minor repairs. E.g. stripped screw holes, dings in the wood, etc. Skow hooks to make it playable in the winter and summer would be great too. Either that or I need to put jack screws in the bottom under the keyboard.

  • Restring. The strings are in rough condition, and I am starting to get slippages and breakages. Is it worth going to Rose Iron wire (or Vogel Westphalian iron), or is the difference to current ZHI Iron negligible? I need to order new spools of wire either way. I like the ZHI brass, so I’m planning on getting that. I won’t get to restringing for a few months, so wait time likely isn’t an issue. I have the stringing schedule from ZHI, which I’ll use unless someone has a better one for that instrument.

  • Replace the tuning pins. Some of the wrestplank holes have elongated over time—not sure if I didn’t drive the pins in far enough originally or something else, so I probably need slightly larger ones. Plus, I want pins with holes. The original tapered, hole-less pins were very smooth and a bugger to start the wire on. Yes, did get the hang of using them, and yes, they held strings for 25 years, but I still hate them. ZHI has tapered pins with holes that are 0.1 mm larger, and Vogel-Scheer as well, 0.4 mm bigger. I’ll try a sample of the ZHI ones to start. Worst case I put in blued zither pins. Even they are better than what I currently have.

  • Revoice. I’m planning on keeping the original Delrin jacks. They work just fine and I’m not good enough to notice the difference. I have plenty of spare tongues if need be. I may order some wood ones for the bass to see if they work a little better on the heavy strings, but likely only a dozen or so.

Anything else I am missing?

Unfortunately, I am not able to start the project for several months; I have 5 more windows to replace and 2 more walls to reside on my house first. At least that gives me time in case I need to order anything across the pond.

Thanks in advance!

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Best things in my opinion, wooden jacks for sure. I think Zuckerman makes an appropriate replacement set and registers. Definitely worth doing. Restring with wire from Birkett if you can get it, Makes a HUGE difference. And bird quill if you can get it for plectra.

All the best with your project!

Regarding your concerns about driving the tuning pins–

for ZHI pins they should be drilled down 25mm. Insert the pins only about 13mm (they are tapered). This gives you a reserve as they age. I found a No. 27 bit to be the proper fit—this is critical.

I did not know ZHI made oversize pins–if these are still the non-screw types then that is a good thing. Hopefully you won’t have to go there however.

Something funny about this.

I made my ZHI Flemish Double XV in 1997. The tuning pins supplied were drilled. A #27 drill was supplied. The pins are 53mm long. The instructions say to drill a hole 25mm deep and insert the pin so that 35mm are above the wrestplank. That means 18mm of the pin are inserted, leaving 7mm space untouched at the bottom of the hole. The tops of the pins are still 35mm above the plank and none has loosened. I have completely restrung twice over the years. There was a discussion in another thread about using a hammer to seat the pins. ZHI supply a tuning hammer with the instrument that does the trick without applying too much force.


I talked to the good folks at ZHI yesterday, and they said that their 4.2mm unthreaded tapered pins were intended as a direct replacement for their older un-holey (unholy?) pins such as mine. I ordered enough to replace all of mine and have a few spares. I had a few of their 4.0mm tapered pins on hand and as an experiment used those on some strings I needed to replace. They are holding and aren’t bottomed out, so I think the 4.2mm ones should do the trick.

I also ordered the spools of brass from ZHI as well. I put an inquiry out to Malcom Rose’s for price and availability to have wire sent over to the middle of North America. The price of a 50m spool iron isn’t too bad; I may get some and compare to the spool of .009 ZHI wire I have. I suspect it will be one of those things were one isn’t “better”, just different. Kind of like how a Telecaster isn’t better than a Les Paul, they are just different.

I don’t think I have the street cred in the harpsichord world to get p-wire but I can try :grinning:

For the record, the pins that ZHI supplied at the end of 1996 have a 4mm diameter. The machined taper starts 10mm from the end. I do not think that inserting them by only 13mm would be adequate. The 18mm figure comes from p.35 of the construction manual.


I’m going through the manual now, and I think I see some of the confusion. On p. 35 it says to leave 1 3/8 (35mm) standing out of the wrest plank, but on p. 36 it says “little more than 1/2 inch (13mm) of the pin needs to go into the block”. 35 mm out does mean 18 mm in, vs 13mm. I think that the right number is closer to 18mm (look at me using the metric system!) because when I look at the pin itself, about 6mm is taper, so if it only is inserted 13 mm, that only leaves about 6-7mm ( a quarter inch in normal numbers) of bearing, which I don’t believe is enough, especially since 3mm of that is against the soft spruce veneer.

On my instrument, I put the pins in 13mm, per p.36, pretty consistently (I was only 4 years removed from being a machinist at the time and OCD about that stuff). I believe that on some pins, the string tension pulled the pin until it was bearing on the bottom of the taper, and leaning towards the soundboard.

Andrew (both S and B),

Anyone who wants historical music wire - iron, brass, or red brass - can get it. Previously, for quite a few years while the research was underway the supply was necessarily limited. Production is now efficient enough to have a good supply so it is readily available.


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I confess that I didnt look at the text on p.36 earlier today, and I obviously ignored it when building without even marking a query against it. I wonder which units were actually used by the author (originally David Way). If metric, it would be possible that 13mm is a misreading for 18mm. I agree with Andrew S and just dont believe that 13mm is sufficient. This could well explain the problem with elongated holes.

I used metric measurements today because they make the arithmetic easier. (The pins are 53mm or 3 3/32" long!).

No doubt Carey can shed some light on these discrepancies, if he reads this! Or, as Andrew is in the US, perhaps he could call again and ask ZHI.


Hi Stephen,
Thanks for your prompt reply! What is your preferred method of contact/inquiry for your wire?

That’s great news!

Further verification is given by the 1:1 drawing. Although the pins are here only 50mm long (perhaps an earlier model), the principle of how deep they are to go is established.


For contact, posting email addresses is verboten here (wisely so). A jackrail pm to me should work nicely.


Andrew S:

It occurs to me that you might quite likely avoid having to fit larger tuning pins if you tap the present ones further into the holes. The distortion of the holes is most likely mainly on the spruce overlay, and if you get the angle right, the pins should be guided correctly into place by the wrestplank itself, and stay there!


Dear David et al

I can only try!

There were several versions of Zuckermann historic-type tuning pins since David Way pioneered them c1975 in Flemish Single V. Those first ones had no taper, were very slippery to wrap the wire around, and were rather difficult to remove. The variety which followed and lasted for more than a decade, had considerable taper over too great a length of the pin.

If those pins were not correctly installed, they gave trouble as noted with elongated holes in the wrestplank, especially in the bass where the higher tension tends to pull the pins up and forward. Yes, that is what a tuning hammer is for: Don’t be afraid to use it!

The holes drilled in the wrestplank must be intentionally angled just a few degrees back, against the pull of the strings. (I’ve seen too many instruments of even well-established professional makers which clearly had the holes drilled the opposite way!)

It is crucial that no more than 35mm of those tapered pins remains above the wrestplank surface. If less than this, there is insufficient full diameter of the pin seated in the hardwood of the wrestplank itself, rather than the softwood veneer.

All those Zuckermann pins measured ø4.1mm and the wrestplanks were drilled with a #27 bit. A smaller diameter pin was made for the 4´ and fretted clavichord, and the wrestplanks drilled with a #31 bit.

Around 1989, the Zuckerman pins changed, with taper only on the bottom few mm, a more squat head, and a grey rather than bright steel finish. I loved those, and in my opinion, they were a big improvement over the previous versions.

Pins from European suppliers are ø4mm or ø4.5mm, so until the relatively recent offerings from Zuckermann recognizing that most now want pins with holes for ease of stringing, only the larger European size could be used to replace the original Zuckermann pins.

Maybe this has been a little helpful.



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