>There seems to be a feeling that a major problem with tuning
>"historical" flat-headed pins is getting the tuning hammer on the right
>way (read: at all). Obviously on square or star-headed hammers used for
>modern piano pins or zither pins, the hammer will go on in any of a
>number of orientations, and this is apparently the advantage asserted.
Not my argument, at all. I find that a little attention paid will land the
hammer on the flat-head pin with little trouble. I did just have an
unfortunate experience in a particularly dark church loft with a 3
split-sharp/octave harpsichord (not mine so therefore not second nature to
me) with all the other musicians and choristers assembled and yammering.
All things considered, it went slower than it needed to and the flat-head
pins did not help. And the advantage of the star tip is not that many
orientations are possible, but that as a result, one may keep one's hand
position fairly constant, thus speeding the job by obviating the need for
the extra processing overhead necessary to pre-orient the hammer especially
in dark and confused conditions.
My quibbles are more subtle and _not_ tied to the historical accuracy or
lack thereof of the several schemes. The thinner pins with flat heads and
relatively smooth barrels are what were used - no question. I have made my
own such and used others and can easily be persuaded by the informed
customer to do so.
Among other things, I have trouble with the disparity of blade thicknesses
between different makes (& runs) of flat-head pins. This makes it
necessary to keep several different tuning hammers on hand at any time.
Otherwise, allowed to drop lightly to a firm grip, the hammer may slip down
so far on the blade that it is gripping the pin on a very narrow portion of
the land thus decreasing the mechanical advantage of the hammer/pin
coupling and increasing the strain at the interface, all-in-all robbing the
scheme of some of the resolution claimed for it. Now, if you argue in
return that one should not do this but maintain by your own efforts the
hammer at a more advantageous level, you have added a level of muscular
effort, by grosser muscles (located certainly in the upper arm and perhaps
even in the back), that increase the noise in the signal perceived by the
tuning hammer handle and which can easily decrease accuracy. In short,
tuning, like many things, is a sum of all its parts. The more you add, the
more tiring it becomes.
Unlike most other aspects of harpsichord design, I am willing to jettison
the original tuning pin scheme for the ease to be found with the zither pin
and star tip. I am convinced that outside of the feel-good aspect of
knowing that you are wearing an authentick hair shirt, the gain in ease
more than easily overwhelms the loss in historical accuracy. I've been in
the biz since '64 and have been tuning all that time. My Richard has
flat-head home-brew pins that are a delight to use _except_ when wielding a
tuning hammer. Don't get me wrong - they dont grab or ratchet or let go -
they behave. They're great for re-stringing, though, absolutely ideal, in
fact. Why some of those suckers have been in and out of their holes
several times since I made the instrument in '74 (when I was young and
idealistic in the craft and willing to make the leap of faith) and still a
tight as the day they were first put in. Still, tuning it is not my idea
of a good time. So much so that when I made my follow-on in 1981 (a 5-8ve
French ravalement double) that the specs changed from flat pins, wood
jacks, delrin plectra (Richard) to zither pins, wood jacks, feather
plectra. I never regretted the change. Feather plectra do really amazing
things to the playing of the instrument in ways that tuning pins most
certainly do not.
Who last night had to re-tune a double in a full hall between First Night
performances while giving pitches to a traverso, violin and gamba, happy
all the while it was an '87 Dowd with square pins. I played a noel by
Dandrieu "Carillon, ou Cloches". Neat stuff even if somewhat a frippery.
(I even used the 4', Rebecca.) Morel, Leclair & Telemann rounded out the