This week’s tips have to do with the other part of the tuning lever: the head and tip assembly.
Tip 3: Use a Head / Tip Assembly that fits tightly
Let’s look at the head first. What good does an ultra stiff tuning lever do if the head has a lot of slack in how it fits? The answer: no good at all. Carbon fiber tuning levers are awesome, but if combined with a head that doesn’t fit well, the overall efficiency will only be nominally better than a traditional extension lever.
Ideally you want a head that will screw on the lever for the full length of the tread. Too little, and the shaft will have a lot of flex where it contacts the head. One thing that’s been popular among hammers makers is what I call a “reinforced head”. One part screws completely onto the thread, while the tip screws into a hole that’s not touching the thread hole. This provides a very firm transition of power without any unnecessary flex.
Another popular way of reinforcing the head is to wield it to the shaft. Dan Levitan’s hammer comes with this feature, and that’s part of the reason it works so well. Any stiffness in the shaft is useless without a firm transition of tuning power in the head.
What about different angles? There’s too much opinion involved in that debate to say anything concrete. Ideally, a 0 degree head would work the best; but practically, anything from a 5 to 20 degree head works well. Personally, I prefer a 10 degree head. Anything more, and I feel it’s too easy for me to flagpole. Anything less, and sometimes there isn’t sufficient clearance of plate struts, although that can be overcome by switching to a longer tip. Which brings us to our next point.
When I first started tuning, I brought a set of Schaff tips, which worked great ... until I tried a Watanabe tip. MAN was there a difference! The control that came with that tip was much greater than the control I felt from my other tips.
I would encourage you, if you’re using a cheap tip, check out a good quality one. It will be worth your investment. Bear in mind though, the longer the tip, the easier it is to flagpole, which means more time going through at the end and fixing unisons....
So you have a quality tip ... now what? Use it efficiently! As Peter Grey says, aligning your tip to be dead on with the lever is a time saver! Doing so saves about one second a pin, which translates to about four minutes a tuning. It may require grinding down the screw end of the tip, but always knowing where to drop your hammer is key to moving efficiently. As the late Charlie Huether, RPT, said, “When we tune, only about 30% of that time is spent tuning. The rest is spent on our tools.” Cutting down that extra time, by any means necessary, is part of moving efficiency.
Should your tip fit the pin tightly or loosely? That depends on your tuning style. A “smoothie” will probably like a tip that grasps the pin tightly, whereas a “jerk” will like a tip that goes down to the coil, but has a little looser grasp. Find what works well for you; then work to apply it constantly.