Piano Tuning Lever Tips *101*

First and foremost, the Piano Tuning Tip (or socket end) of a Piano Tuning Lever (AKA: hammer or wrench) is not "one size fits all" as many new to the field might otherwise believe. It is also incorrect to assume that a Tuning Lever Tip which does not fit the tuning pin properly is the fault of the tool. With these two premises in mind, here are the rules, pitfalls & explanation.
(AKA: the good, bad & the ugly)

There are 3 distinctly different types of tuning pins made for pianos (square, Square-Tapered & oblong). All tuning pins are round and threaded on the shank (or bottom of the pin). For tuning purposes however, it is the shape of the head on the pin which requires understanding and consideration. This discussion will not focus on obsolete pianos which feature perfectly square or oblong pins mentioned above, but instead, entirely on the most common style tuning pin which is found on virtually all pianos made worldwide over the last 100+ years; a square, tapered pin, as shown here:

      square-tapered piano tuning pin A tuning lever featuring a "star" tuning tip (pictured below) is required for this kind of pin.
piano tuning tips
Virtually all new pianos these days have #2 tuning pins installed in them (the size here refers to the diameter of the shank embedded in the Pin Block or Wrest Plank, not the head of the tuning pin). Just as there are different size tuning pins as illustrated below, there are also different size tuning tips to fit them properly*.
#0/0 (.272" / 6.91mm) dia.
#1/0 (.276" / 7.01mm) dia.
#2/0 (.282" / 7.16mm) dia.
#3/0 (.286" / 7.26mm) dia.
#4/0 (.291" / 7.39mm) dia.
#5/0 (.296" / 7.52mm) dia.
#6/0 (.301" / 7.65mm) dia.
#7/0 (.306" / 7.77mm) dia.

* "star" tuning tips actually range in size from "0" to "5". However, the smallest and largest are specialty tips available only through a very select number of high-end suppliers. Such tips may be required for exceptionally small pins often found on early European pianos or those instruments which have been restrung with very large pins.

Unfortunately, looking at a tuning pin won't tell you what size tip you should purchase/use. Since most people wouldn't pull the pin out of the piano to measure it with a micrometer, here is an easier and more logical way to discern the proper size tuning tip; In general, unless you have proof or good reason to believe the piano has been restrung with "oversized** tuning pins" or is pre-1900 European, a #2 "star" tip should generally be used.

** The term oversized in this case simply refers to a larger pin than the original. It is not a specific size as many believe.

As discussed above, a #2 tuning pin (the most common size found on virtually all pianos produced worldwide over the last 100 years) will invariably be the same diameter around the threaded shank, but the slope from the tip of the pin down to the eyelet may not always be so constant. This presents a particular quandary for both tool manufacturers and piano tuners in order that the tuning tip used fits properly and uniformly for accurate tuning. How this issue is approached will make a huge difference in the longevity of your tools, your satisfaction as you strive to hone your skills and most important, the ability to tune properly and succinctly. It should never be assumed that a "famous" name on the tuning tip means you have a well made tool, or even the correct tuning tip for the job. Flawed thinking and flawed manufacturing both exist - as do manufacturers for whom posess little or no experience in piano tuning or repair. This reality poses a particular problem.

To better illustrate this point, one of the most recognized and respected makers in piano tuning tools of some 3 decades ago (Hale Tuners Supply) are now long gone. Even though the namesake remains in use today due to purchase of the name only, the company who presently owns use of the once famous "brand" bought rights of its use, not the actual artifact or even the technology. Moreover, the current "owner" produces piano tuning tips which many experts argue pale in comparison to the same high standard for which was synonymous with the quality of the original company (Hale Tuners Supply).

The piano industry is ever-changing and manufacturers of professional piano tuning tools must understand tuning well enough to engage with tuners to make knowledgable and flexible modifications in design and fabrication to keep pace. Be most aware that there are currently a number of well known chain stores and Ebay postings promoting "Grover-Trophy" tuning levers. The number of complaints received about these tools not functioning at all is truly astounding. In this case, the products being made are simply incapable of tuning most pianos. Unfortunately, the sellers either don't know this (or perhaps don't care) and sell such products with little concern as to their fitness. Some just sell them anyway to drive profits over much else.

"Brand" does not necessarily translate to quality or function if the tool fails to perform correctly. To better your chances of success, source piano tuning & repair tools only from schools/companies that offer factory-warranted product. They will always be best equipped to truly understand what you do as a tuner/technician and also cater to product application better than anyone. Manufacturers who offer product guarantees have a vested interest in what they produce and a passion to strive for the best - they also tend to favor quality over profits. So, if you have a tuning tip that doesn't fit correctly, it may well be a bad tip (no one's perfect). However, it may just as well be that you are trying to use the wrong size tip or even are tuning a piano for which some pins have been replaced, malformed or even an odd size - this too is often the cause for misguided blame. The best answer for these issues, particularly for those learning the profession is to keep on hand a #1, #2 & #3 tip (and of course, a Tuning Tip Wrench to change them out). As stated above, we can’t always know what size a tuning pin is just by looking at it. And even if we do, a tip fitting one piano may not fit as well on another – even when they both have the same diameter tuning pins. In other words, the answer is to use what fits best, rather than assuming the one you now have is the “correct” size. Tuning pins are not created equal for many reasons including origination and date of manufacture. When using tools, often it is damage that occurs when using the wrong one, not success.

To take this one step further, look to the professional teachers in the industry; leading piano tuning schools. Their reputation relies on quality to instill good learning – ask them whose tools they most rely on for providing instruction to their students. Again, precision tools guaranteed to last a lifetime prove this very important point - failure in performance may well be a manufacturing issue (always contact the manufacturer [not the seller] if in doubt), but it may also be a matter of using the proper tool. Having proven assurance that a tool is made properly is the best way to be certain that it isn't what's causing you problems or damaging the piano in the process. Specialized tools must perform a specific task and therefore, should not be thought of as a socket wrench (yes, people actually have tried this with disastrous result). It is also important to mention here that lacking a "perfect fit" when using your tuning lever doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad tuning tip – although again, it does happen. Even tuning pins on the same piano can and do wear unevenly (manufacturing or a bad/incorrect tip being used in the past can cause this).

NewOctave Corporation (NOC) produces the only piano tuning tips in the world with a lifetime replacement guarantee. These tools are manufactured to an incredible .0001+/- tolerance. By taking several steps to quantify production metrics by several piano manufacturers, NewOctave GlobalTM tips are perhaps the best machined (and best fitting) tips in the world - and why they are the only tips we carry or sell. Don't take our word for it. Talk to those who know (the schools for instance).

International Piano Supply will replace to the original purchaser any NewOctave GlobalTM piano tuning tip, head, lever or repair tool which fails for any reason**, no matter how long ago it was acquired.

All NewOctave GlobalTM tuning levers, tips and heads offered by International Piano Supply are designed and produced by NewOctave Corporation in Astoria, Oregon USA.
**other than damage caused by neglect or misuse

Have a problem or question about your tuning tools? Tell us about it.
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