Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

Tuning keys

On this page I offer tuning keys to fit almost any harp! Scroll to the bottom of the page for help choosing the right key for your harp.

tuning key

Standard tuning key. Hand-carved handle from Scottish wood, beeswax finish, steel or brass square socket in one of 7 standard sizes from 4.0mm to 6.25mm (other sizes can be made - contact me for details).
If you are not 100% sure what size you need, select “other size” - I will send you a selection of plain sockets so you can try them and see which size fits your pins best, or you can send me one of your pins.
£45 +

tuning key

Deluxe tuning key.
Do you fancy a carved and gilded or painted handle, or silver-mounted gemstones on the handle of your key, or ogham lettering, or unusual materials (e.g. antler, bone, horn, bog oak), or a suspension loop, or a second, differently sized socket concealed in the handle end? This is the ultimate in tuning key luxury. The price will depend on the amount of work in the carving and decoration!
Base price £45 - then add options...
Carved bands add £20
Painting add £30
Gilding add £50
Scottish bog oak add £30
Scottish yew or figured maple add £10
Suspension loop add £15
Other options: contact me

Ó Catháin tuning key.
The most decadent and expensive key ever, made following the description of Ruaidhrí Dall Ó Catháin’s tuning key that was long preserved at Armadale on the Isle of Skye, and was given by MacDonald of Sleat as a gift to Echlin Ó Catháin.
“the house where Roger's harp and key were, and the heir of the nobleman took a liking to Echlin and made him a present of the silver key, he being namesake to its first owner.” (Arthur Ó Néill, c.1800)
“a key for a harp, which was fairly ornamented with gold and silver, and with a precious stone, and was worth eighty or a hundred guineas” (James Boswell, 1785)
Price, 80 gold sovereigns (£18,400 in 2018)

QM tuning key

Queen Mary harp tuning key.
This tuning key is specially made to fit the unusual rectangular tuning pin drives on the Queen Mary harp. The rectangular socket is hand-made from brass (I can fit it exactly to one of your pins if you can send me one!). A second socket is inserted into the end of the handle to fit the square drive of the 30th tuning pin. You can add extra options as above.
£95 +

L-shaped tuning levers
I usually make T-shaped keys as they are my preferred type. However any of these designs can be made with an asymmetrical handle (more like a tuning lever) if that is what you prefer. There is a supplement of £20 for a L-shaped key.

pendant tuning key

Pendant tuning keys
I have also started doing tuning keys without a cross handle at all. These ‘pendant’ keys are modelled on the earliest type of key, known from medieval times, which are just a handle with the socket in the end instead of sticking out from the side. They are not as practical or ergonomic as the other designs but they are wonderfully stylish wearable and usable pieces of jewelry.
£45 +

pendant tuning key

Triple harp tuning keys
Triple harps used to be fitted with three different sizes of tuning pin, and so they needed triple keys. These three-armed tuning keys have three sizes of drive socket. I can make you a key like this either in brass or in steel, and I can use whatever three sizes of drive you need or want. You could choose three adjacent sizes if your harp has three slightly different sizes of drive; or you could choose three spread apart sizes to be able to use this key as an approximate fit to any harp. These keys are not as ergonomic as the wooden-handled ones but they are very usable. A suspension ring can be added or you can just tie a ribbon around the junction of the three arms. My key is based on the drawng of a three-armed triple tuning key published in 1635.
£100 +

Gallery of keys: click to enlarge

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If you have ever gone out with your harp and accidentally left your tuning key at home, like me, you will appreciate having a keyring tuning key on your keyring! These little keys are small enough to carry all the time, and although they are not ergonomic to use they allow you to tune your harp in situations where you would otherwise not be able to!


Small keyring tuning key, made from brass. Two very different prices depending on the size...
4.8mm size, £2 +

Any other size, £20 +


Large keyring tuning key, made from brass, larger handle, longer shaft, better quality. A variety of sizes available. Please check your tuning pin size before ordering. You can return a key that does not fit, and try the next size.
£6 +

tuning key

Deluxe keyring tuning key
I can make you a miniature version of any of my full-sized tuning keys. The price will be the same as the full-sized version. I recommend the option of a suspension loop (add £15 to the basic price). contact me for details.

Choosing the right key

Your key should be softer than your pins, or at most just as hard, otherwise your pins will be worn away by the key. For brass pins, you should use a brass key. For old iron pins, a brass key is probably best. For modern steel pins, a steel key is a good choice (the hard steel pins will wear away a brass key).

Historical harps have tuning pin drives which taper slightly, so that slight variations in the size of the pin, or using a key that is a size bigger or smaller, doesn’t affect the snug fitting of the key.

Modern machine-made pins usually have parallel sided drives, which means you need to use a key that is a tight fit. Unfortunately, variation in drive sizes means that you really do need to try a key on your harp before committing. I am happy to send you trial keys for you to see which is the best fit on your harp.

pins and key

In the past I have found the following sizes work well:
4.25mm fits older Ardival Kilcoy harps
4.5mm fits newer Ardival Kilcoy harps, and Dusty Strings harps
4.75mm fits newer pedal harp pins, as used on HHSI Student harps.
5.0mm fits older pedal harp pins as used on older HHSI Student harps.

The closer your key fits the drives, the easier tuning will be. Similarly, it is important that the socket of the key is not loose in the handle - if there is movement inside the key it will make tuning much more difficult.

contact me to place an order.

For more information about ancient Gaelic harp tuning keys please visit the tuning key information page.