Tuning keys

I make slightly rustic custom hand-made tuning keys (sometimes called a tuning hammer or tuning lever).

My keys normally use a machined clock-key socket shaft, fitted into a hand-carved wooden handle. I can supply you with a bare socket, or I am happy to make a key specially to fit your harp. The price will depend on the amount of work that goes into your key, and there are many different choices!

Socket Options

The socket needs to fit your tuning pins. It is important that you get the right size, because a loose socket makes it harder to tune, and also wears away the tuning pins as well as wearing the socket. My chart shows the sizes I have available.

If you are not 100% sure what size you need, I can lend you a selection of plain sockets so you can try them on your pin drives and see which size fits your pins best. Or you can extract and send me one of your pins.

NumberWidth across flatsWhat each size is good for
104.75mmNo.10 sometimes fits the modern blackened steel pins but is often just a bit too tight.
4.8mmThis is the size of the little brass radiator keys which are a perfect fit on modern blackened steel pins. But their shafts are very short.
115mmNo.11 is a slightly loose fit on the modern blackened steel pins used in HHSI Student harps and similar.
145.75mmNos. 14 to 16 are the sizes I usually use for old Irish harp tuning pins with the big square drive heads. No.14 is on the small size and may not fit all traditional wire-strung Irish harps.
156mmNo.15 is probably my favourite size for the fat tapered drives, and a no.15 key should fit almost all traditional wire-strung Irish harps.
166.25mmBecause these pin drives are tapered, you can use a size up or down equally as well. A no.16 pin will fit all traditional wire-strung Irish harps with large square drives, but may be a bit over-size for some harps with smaller pins.
lengthened brass socket – standard brass clock-key – standard plated steel clock key

The simplest way to get a nice socket is to use a commercially produced clock key and pull off the shaft. Clock keys come either in brass, or in plated steel. The cost of a plain clock key is £10.

The brass keys have shorter shafts; I can lengthen and shape the brass socket by silver-soldering an extension onto the shaft. The cost of the extended and shaped brass socket is £40.

Whether you use brass or steel is partly preference. A brass key on steel pins can cause wear or even splitting of the socket; a steel key on brass pins can chew or damage the pin drives. This is more of a problem with the small modern machined drives than with the larger tapered traditional wire-strung Irish harp tuning pins.

It also depends which sizes are available – I can’t always get all sizes of brass and steel, especially in the larger sizes. Let me know what you are looking for and we will discuss the options.

As you can see from my photo gallery I like to have fun coming up with novelty sockets. I have done two- and three-ended sockets for different sized pins. Please enquire for price.

You can use the bare clock key on its own as a pocket or keyring tuning key, or you can pull it apart to fit it into your own handle. I also have very short 4.8mm brass radiator keys available for £2 each; they can be used for keyring or novelty keys.

I made a photo-essay on how I make a tuning key.


I can make you a complete tuning key by fitting one of the sockets (above) into a hand-made handle.

I make my handles from pieces of local wood, hand carved in a rustic style. Once you have chosen what socket you need, I can make a handle and fit the socket into it. I fit the socket into a hole in the handle, and pin and glue it to make sure it is solid with no movement.

My standard handle uses a plain wood (Irish birch, Scottish walnut), and is made so that the key is a T shape. A T shaped key like this costs £40 plus the cost of the socket of your choice (see above).

I can also do a long handle to make the tuning key L-shaped. I can use exotic woods or other materials; I have Scottish and English bog oak, Irish yew and oak, Scottish cherry, plus other logs which I have scavenged or found. I could also use something like horn or antler if you took a notion to that kind of thing. I can add carved or gilded or painted bands. I can add a suspension loop or silk ribbons. Please ask for prices.

How to order:

Send an email to shop@simonchadwick.net, or phone or text me, telling me what you would like.

Please note: postage is charged extra. Click here for payment information.

If you are not sure what you need, still get in touch and ask me. There is no commitment to place an order; just call or email and see if the price and description is really what you are after. I am happy to recommend other sellers who might have what you need.