Technical Library

STRINGING IX: Wrapping the wire around the tuning pin

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Stringing the 4⁠´ choir of the Singapore Symphony harpsichord

Wrapping the wire around the tuning pin…

You’ve wound a satisfactory loop, and you are ready for the next task. Your jackrail is removed to give you clear access. You want to try to match the angle of the original strings as they leave their pins up to the nut.


Remove the pin from the wrestplank by unscrewing it with the tuning hammer. (I hope you haven’t already removed it a long time ago and lost it!) Put your loop over the hitchpin, and draw the wire towards the front of the instrument.The exact wrapping technique you use depends on the type of tuning pin in your instrument. Either your pins have holes, or not.

Depending on whether you are replacing a treble or bass string, you will need more or less wire wrapped around the pin.

For those pins with holes, while some people like to, you don’t actually need to wrap any of the wire over itself. Experiment with your practice wire to find how far behind the wrestplank you need to thread the wire through the hole and commence winding down the pin. About a hands-breadth might be where to start if you are in the low part of the compass, and perhaps two or three times that in the extreme treble. Remember that your aim is to match what’s there.

Thread the end of the wire through the hole in the tuning pin, keeping a little excess proud. Holding the head of the tuning pin in your right hand, proceed to wrap close coils of wire down the pin.


The historic-style pins without holes are a little more difficult, but not impossible. You actually wind the wire on top of itself intentionally to lock it onto the pin. Put your loop over the hitchpin, and draw the wire towards the front of the instrument. Hold the top of the pin in your right hand, and wrap three or four loose spiral turns down the pin with the wire you are holding in your left. Hold this loose sprial turn against the pin with your left hand while you do the next step.

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A neat stringing on a Virginal using tuning pins with holes

It sometimes helps to have a fingernail for the hardest part: You must hold the loose spiral of wire you just wrapped on the pin with your left hand while you cross the wire over itself to commence winding down the pin, on top of the loose spiral. You must keep the tension on the string, for it you let it slacken, the loop will fly off the hitchpin and you must start again. Depending on the diameter of the wire, you need at least four or five of these close-spaced turns, maybe many more for the finer sizes. Can you see the wire kinking as it crosses over the loose wrapping? That’s good—you’re supposed to! Keep tugging the pin a little towards you each revolution, to help really lock the wire on.

The trick here is not to let go of the wire around the pin, until you have enough of the kinked close windings to hold it. This means you must hold the loose windings on to the pin while you rotate a turn with your left hand, then grab the top part of the pin and the wire with your right while you reposition and turn the whole assembly again with the left. Soon it will become second nature, and much quicker than dealing with holey tuning pins.

No matter what sort of pin you are using, when you are satisfied you have enough wire on the pin, you must get rid of the trailing end. For the square-headed zither pins which always have holes, I hope you have heeded the previous advice and not wrapped the wire on top of itself, so you will only have to deal with the little bit protruding from the hole. Keep the tension on the string, holding the pin with your right hand, and rotate the loose end of the wire with your left several times in a big circle. It should just kink off in your hand. For the historic pins, you must continue with a few additional plain turns of wire down the pin beyond the interlocked part. This helps to ensure that the wire won’t kink as it crosses over itself leaving the pin on its journey up to the nut, otherwise the string will surely break, if not as you pull it up to pitch, then sometime soon when you are tuning again.

At this point you should be above the hole in the wrestplank, but just wind the smallest tad further so the string will be sure to be under tension when you insert the end of the pin in the hole: We would hate to see you lose all the good work you have done at this stage. Tap the tuning pin down the height of its neighbours with your tuning hammer. What? You mean your tuning hammer is not a hammer? Well, use a light hammer instead, and be sure not to miss.

Check that your new string is running around the appropriate bridge pin (and back pin, if any) and nut pin, and if you removed a jack or two, replace them the right way around. You are now ready to pull your string up to pitch straight away. Don’t baby it—there’s no point leaving it below pitch for several days. Either it’s going to hold or not, so you might as well find out now. Replace the jackrail and all is done. Congratulations!

Movie thumb 2K jpeg Movie 1K gif Winding an historic tuning pin
Carey Beebe demonstrating string winding on an historic tuning pin.
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Movie thumb 2K jpeg Movie 1K gif Winding a zither tuning pin
Carey Beebe demonstrating string winding on a zither tuning pin.
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