Zither Pins for Autoharp and Hammered Dulcimer

March 30, 2018

What is a zither pin?

A Zither pin is a metal rod that is used to attach and tune a string on a Zither. In essence, it serves the same purpose as a geared tuning peg. It is simply a primitive version. Primitive, doesn’t mean inferior. This is a smaller version of what is used on a Piano. A Piano deck pin.

While referred to as Zither Pins, these are used on several popular instruments, including Hammered Dulcimer, Harp, Auto harp, etc.

How do Zither pins work?

Tuning pins have a very fine thread cut into them just like a screw. The hole for the pin is drilled slightly smaller in diameter. This gives the pin a good tight fit as it is screwed in. The threads will run about 3/4 the length of the shaft. Then there will be a string hole, and finally a squared top, meant to grab on to with a tool. There are tuning wrench made that are specifically for this. You can also use an adjustable wrench, but be careful, the correct tool grabs it from all four sides to prevent stripping.

How do you install Zither Pins?

The standard hole size is 3/16”, but it depends on the wood. Softer woods may require holes that are smaller in diameter to keep the pins in place. This may turn out to be more like 11/64”.

A #13 bit is a common all around size to use.

Zither pins are typically .198 in diameter and your hole should be just a hair smaller. You hole should be approximately 1-1/4” deep if possible.

It is a good idea to test drill a couple of holes on scrap wood first. Once you have the holes in order, tap the pin in with a hammer. You are just getting it started so the threads will grab and it can then be screwed in.

Now screw the pin in until just under 1” is protruding up. 

If you find the hole is too small, use the next size up bit and enlarge it.

If the hole is too loose, there is a relatively easy fix that works most of the time. You are going to take some thin viscosity CA (super glue) glue and apply it to the sides of the hole using something like a toothpick. Allow this to dry, then try the pic again. This will normally give a snug fit. 

Sizes and Styles of Zither Pins

In addition to sizes, there are two types of pins. The Hitch Pin, and the Tuning Pin. The names are somewhat self-explanatory. The string first attached to the “hitch pin” and then is inserted in the tuning pin. The tuning pin is the one that is turned to tune the string to pitch. A hitch pin is round and only meant to hole the string in place.  The tuning pin has a hole in it, and is square on the top, so a tool can be used to turn it.

While Zither hitch and tuning pins are fairly standard, there are probably plenty of old instruments where this is not the case. If you are replace broken or lost pins on old auto harps, zithers, etc…  measure them first so you can get something  that matches, or is slightly oversized so you can drill the hole out for the new larger pin.

Prices have come way down on pins so now id the perfect time to repair your zither. Don't forget to pickup a tuning wrench.


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