Marking tuning pins on a harp
by Robert L. Baber
2004 June 24
When tuning a lever harp, it is sometimes difficult to see which tuning
pin corresponds to which string without standing up and looking at the
pins from above the harp. As a result, one sometimes places the tuning
on the wrong tuning pin and tightens the wrong string. This can lead to
breaking the string.
To make it easier to find the right tuning pin when tuning my harp and
to reduce the chance of breaking a string, I marked the wrench side of
the tuning pins for
the C and F strings on my harp. I slid a short piece of
appropriately colored plastic tubing onto each of these pins. Now I can
see, from the wrench end of the tuning pins, which pin is for which
Below are pictures illustrating these
markers on the tuning pins of my harp. Below you will also find
guidelines for making tubing of a
suitable size from
generally available heat shrinkable material in case you cannot find
tubing of the right diameter for
I hope that you will find this idea useful – and that it will perhaps
help you to avoid breaking a string when tuning your harp.
With the wrench ends of the tuning pins
marked red (C strings) and blue (F strings), my harp looks like this:
It is easy to mark the tuning pins on your harp. If possible,
get some tubing (e.g. for insulating electrical wiring) with the same
diameter as the tuning pins on your harp
and cut short pieces to the right lengths for your tuning pins.
Each tuning pin may require a different length.
Slide each cut piece of tubing onto a tuning pin, red for C, blue or
black for F.
If you cannot find tubing with the same diameter as your tuning
- heat shrinkable tubing slightly larger than your tuning pins and
- a smooth rod with the same diameter as your tuning pins. I used a
from a wrench set in my tool box.
Pay attention to the shrinking temperature of the heat shrinkable
tubing you buy. Many types of heat shrinkable tubing shrink at
temperatures slightly below the boiling point of water. Some types,
however, require higher temperatures and, correspondingly, a suitable
hot air blower. (A hair dryer will not suffice.)
Cut a piece of tubing and slide it over the rod.
If your tubing shrinks at a temperature at or below the boiling
point of water, place the rod with the tubing into a pan of boiling
water as shown below. Let boil
until the tubing has shrunk to the diameter of the rod. If your tubing
requires a higher temperature, use a suitable hot air blower to heat a
piece of the tubing on the rod. Do not heat the
tubing on a tuning pin on your harp. That would be easier, but it would
not be good for your harp.
When the tubing has shrunk to the diameter of the rod, remove the
rod and tubing from the pan of boiling water
with tongs, a large fork, and/or a spatula. Run cold water over the rod
and tubing and slide the tubing off the rod. Hold the rod with
suitable pot holders to avoid burning your fingers.
If the tubing shrinks so tightly onto the rod that it is difficult to
remove the tubing from the rod,
Now you have pieces of tubing with the right diameter for your tuning
pins. Dry the tubing well before cutting off short pieces for your
tuning pins as shown earlier in this sequence of pictures.
- put a little soap solution on the rod
next time before sliding the tubing onto the rod and
- heat the tubing less – only enough to shrink the tubing to the
For information on the Irish Harp
Centre in Castleconnell, County Limerick, Ireland,
Home of Irish International Harper & Composer – Janet Harbison,
Unique cultural centre embracing Ireland's Harp College and Music
School with Christian Spirituality,
go to http://www.irishharpcentre.com.