Broken tuning pin

  • Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #255522

    Dear all, a scary thing just happened to my harp. When I tighten my 5th A string, the tuning pin broke and the broken piece stuck in the tuning key.
    I would like to know how to replace the tuning pin. Should I hammered it or perhaps there is a safer approach to do that ?
    I live in a country with no harp technician so it should be done by myself.
    Many thanks before for your insights.

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    Participant
    charles-nix on #255524

    There are two parts: first, determining why it happened, then repairing it. It is hard to tell for sure, but the photo looks like you have a lever harp built at pedal tension, like a Lyon and Healy Prelude or Salvi Ana. Is that correct?

    It also looks like the tuning pins are quite corroded, with rust showing in some places. Is that correct? Is the harp in a damp location, or are you on a seacoast?

    The most common cause to break a pin is that the string is wound around the pin all the way to the neck, wedging the pin so that further movement only makes the problem worse. That would be on the other side of the neck from your photo. Is the 5A wound up tightly to the neck?

    With some of this information, we can help you get it properly and safely repaired.

    Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #255525

    Yes Charles, all of your description is correct…it’s an L&H Prelude, and yes I live in a tropical place with high density of rain with high humidity all year round…and I have to admit that the string wound too tightly near the neck…I’ve should just loosened the pin a bit, but it’s already happened so it’s a hard lesson for me.
    I’ve just found a youtube video by Peter Wiley. In that video he demonstrated that you have to hit the tuning pin with a hammer…hopefully it won’t make further damage to the neck.
    I wan’t to try it but I’ll have to wait until the string is broken, perhaps not in near future since the string just had have replaced several months ago.

    Participant
    charles-nix on #255526

    Don’t be hard on yourself–it happens. If the string is jammed tightly against the neck, the only way I know to repair is to cut the string, unwind it backwards off the pin, TAP the pin out with a small hammer. It won’t take much force with no string tension on the pin. Be sure you have a hand on the other side to catch the pin. It will come out and fall all at once, and you don’t want it to hit the soundboard.

    Then get a new pin the correct length _and_ diameter. That will probably have to be mailed to you, however, tapered pins are standard sizes. Precisely measuring the large diameter, small diameter, and length will allow you to cross match from Aoyama or Salvi, or someone closer to you than L&H. If mail from the US gets to you easily, however, you could, of course get one from Lyon and Healy.

    Now, regarding the string: you may choose to leave it alone–but it will likely be a long time before 5A breaks on its own. Each wrap around the pin corresponds to about one finger’s width of string length. You need 2-3 wraps on the pin after repairs. If you have 6 or more wraps on the pin now, it _might_ be possible to cut the string at the _knot_ under the soundboard, repair, then reknot and have enough string length to reuse the same string. You should know it will be very close at 6 wraps, and you’ll have to tie a short knot at the soundboard end for it to work. I’d recommend a figure-8 knot very close to the end, if you decide to try it.

    Not sure if this will work out, but I am sure that you can not reuse the string if you cut at the other end.

    When you do have the pin out, carefully clean and examine. If the pins are actually rusting or corroding where they go through the neck, you might want to think about replacing all the pins with some with a heavier plating. That is only a problem if the rust is causing the excess friction. There are even pins available made of stainless and titanium.

    One further thought: with year-round high humidity, you probably go through a lot of gut strings. If you talk with L&H, perhaps they have worked out a safe restringing schedule for fluorocarbon. At the same tension, fluorocarbon will be smaller diameter, which may involve lever changes, depending on which brand of levers you have on your Prelude. Yes, it will also change the sound brighter from the smaller diameter, and the harp will have to be reregulated, but fluorocarbon absorbs very little humidity from the air, and retains its strength in high-humidity environments.

    Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #255527

    Thank you very much for the detailed instruction, Charles.
    I have just ordered a new tuning pin from Lyon & Healy with a note containing the description of the string along with a new tuning key because I can’ t get the stucked broken part out of it.
    With the current situation I expect to receive it in one month.
    But I think the repair will be done after the string break on its own, Charles. I imagine that if I cut it, it will make a loud banging sound. Although I have owned the harp for more than 10 years,the sound of a broken string still terrify me.
    Yes indeed the lifespan of gut strings in a humid climate are quite short, just about one and half year. Very costly.
    This year I’m planning to have the 3rd octave gut string replaced with nylon to cut the cost. I have already test it on the 3rd octave E. I have to say that it sounds not as nice as gut string, but not so bad.
    There is a topic about nylgut and I really want to try them on my Prelude but when I went to Aquila website they sell the strings by gauge, not by string number so it confused me. Camac in France sell them by octave but the shipping cost is is quite expensive so it’s not an option for now.
    Regarding FC strings, I read somewhere in this forum that FC strings have longer longevity in humid climate but it will give more stress to the soundboard due to its higher tension. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Participant
    talfryn on #255528

    Charles some excellant advice here, Indra don’t blame yourself the pin sheared exactly at its weakest point, it’s exactly where an engineering text book would predict it to fail. Any corrosion will increase the effort you need to turn the pin, and corrosion can introduce pitting causing weaknesses which Lead to failure..So if you follow the advice given you’ll be fine.
    One point I would like to add is a don’t. I have seen some people tempted to lubricate if you have corrosion issue, DO NOT be tempted to lubricate, this could ruin your Harp for good. The pin relies on friction to keep the string tension. It is possible to clean the corrosion off pins, but you need to know what your using to clean them to be sure you don’t end up lubricating the pin and taper.
    My advice is coming here as a Professional Mechanical Engineer, as well as a harp player and amateur maker.

    Participant
    charles-nix on #255529

    Nylon will last longer than gut, but it will also change tune more when the humidity changes. Nylon absorbs almost 10% of its weight in water. If the humidity is always high, that would be no issue. In the southern US, we have times of near 100% humidity, and times of very low humidity, and nylon is always a tuning issue.

    I don’t have data on how much water the nylgut polymer absorbs from the air. However, you should be able to get a gauge chart for nylgut from the Bow Brand website. They sell the same material under the name silkgut.

    FC strings _are_ higher tension _if_ used at the same diameters and length as gut. Generally a harp restrung in FC uses slightly reduced diameter strings, which, if done correctly, will result in no more tension. Depending on which brand of levers L&H used on your particular Prelude (not knowing its age) some lever changes may be needed so they will correctly fit to the smaller diameter. And, a regulation will be needed.

    Note, however, that nylon strings are generally _larger_ diameter than gut at the same note, so that the tension is maintained the same. Nylon is less dense than gut. The above advice about possible lever changes and needing regulation applies equally to changing gut to nylon, but in the opposite direction. A photo of the levers would help us know and advise you.

    Participant
    charles-nix on #255530

    @talfryn: THANKS for that note. It never would have occurred to me that someone might even try that. You are absolutely right: getting oil soaked into the wood fibers of the neck will likely ruin it for good.

    Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #255531

    Thank you Charles and @talfryn, your suggestions prevent me from doing things that I will regret later. T.
    I have to admit that I’m full of curiosity but quite clumsy. Last year in an attempt to regulate a lever I almost broke it. But now I can regulate the levers by myself so it won’t chew the strings badly.
    I also learned that alter the strings with a size thinner reduces the friction when the lever engaged.
    Charles, my Prelude is made in 2003 with performance lever. Since I’m a clumsy technician I think I won’t be dare to have further experiment that will turn into nightmares unless I really have to LOL.
    I never heard that Silkgut is a brand for nylgut, so I really appreciate your information.
    I will definitely try them on my Prelude later.

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #255532

    Have you guys thought about using a nice pair of vise-grip pliers to grab the end of that tuning pin, and then very carefully unwind it to get the string loose enough to remove? From the photo, that is what I would try–there is enough of the tuning pin sticking out to get the pliers on, I think.

    Hope this helps!

    Thanks, everyone,
    Balfour

    Participant
    charles-nix on #255533

    That’s a good idea–if OP has a pair of vise-grips. The jammed strings I’ve see are usually jammed so tight that the pin won’t turn either direction, and the pin spacing won’t let a big vise-rip get in there.

    But, it is worth a try; the pin is already ruined regardless, so burring it up won’t matter.

    Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #255536

    Thank you for the suggestion, Balfour. I’ll try to use a plier first. Hopefully I don’t have to tap the pin with a hammer.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #255557

    If the string is wound all the way to the neck and is pressing against it, then you probably can’t hammer the end of the tuning pin(on the string side) to back it out. You might try grabbing the short end of string with a pair of pliers and see if you can push it back through the hole in the tuning pin, thereby loosening the string from the other end. You might be able to get that short end to back out of the hole completely to completely unwind and remove the string.

    I have seen tuning pins break like this when the humidity is high year round, and the harp has not been tuned for a very long time. I think you should try to back out all of the tuning pins completely (one at a time), clean the middle section off with a wire brush, and then re-install each one so it isn’t in the hole so tight. The one way to lubricate the tuning pin, if you have to, is with wax. You could wipe a thin layer of car paste wax on the tuning pin and let it dry. Then re-install the pin. The wax will make it easier for the pin to turn, and will protect it from rusting or corroding, but won’t cause the pin to slip.

    Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #255559

    Thank you for your suggestions, Carl.
    Right now there is nothing I can do because I still haven’t the tuning pin on me, still waiting the delivery.
    By the time it arrived I will try to loose the strings or wait until it break on it’s own.
    I wouldn’t be dare to cut the string because of the assumed loud popping sound when a string break.

    Participant
    Indra Prabowo on #257195

    Dear all,
    Finally I gathered my courage to cut my harp string and tap out the broken tuning pin.
    The process went smoothly, although quite scary.
    Now I have a new problem. The new tapered pin is very loose, it doesn’t fit to the hole.
    I think Lyon Healy has sent me the correct tuning pin size as I ordered, for 5th string A. It came with a note #1 on the package.
    Should I order a bigger size, if available, or is there any way to make the tuning pin fit neatly to the hole?
    Many thanks before.

    Indra

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