How to make the best String Jig for piano tuning
Corbin Sturch, the Head Piano Technician and Technical Instructor at the University of Houston and CEO of Texas Tuners designed this string jig to test his students' capabilities with stringing, bridge notching, and technical proficiency.
As soon as I saw this Exam jig, I thought that it was the best string jig that I had ever seen.
I was thrilled to write about this model and how other piano technicians may be able to make one on their own with this short guide.
How much time does it take to make a string jig?
It took a total of 6 hours to create this custom-made string jig from scratch.
His students spent a subsequent 2 hours to complete inserting the tuning pins, bridge notching, and stringing.
Creating the First Jig
After studying several PTG iterations of jigs, this jig was based lightly off of the current PTG stringing test model, but with the ability to test further than just simple string replacement.
The jig was also made to be reusable with minimal extra work by the instructor to replace parts.
Features of this String Jig
As was mentioned before, the pin block and bridge caps are removable and made to be replaced between each use.
This makes it possible to administer multiple exams on each jig accurately and with the same conditions.
What can a String Jig be used for?
Exams and practice for the field.
At the University of Houston, there are 1st year students, 2nd year students, and 3rd year students.
Each of them having tiered tests of complexity, all while using the same string jig. This allows instructors to accurately and fairly test applied skills fairly across each level.
In the field, this jig is a great instructional and practice tool for technicians to practice these tests on themselves and practice what may also be obscure repairs that may come about in the field.
Think - bad bridge notching or cracked bridges, broken strings, removing a broken agraffe, or a failing pin block.
What is the piano technician exam like for 3rd year students at the University of Houston?
For now, both 2nd year and 3rd year students perform the same exam procedures.
In the future, a 3rd year student will additionally drill pin block holes and create a new bridge cap as part of their examination.
The string jig can be further deconstructed to suit this purpose.
What is the Piano technician Exam like for Second Year Students at the University of Houston?
The current jigs are designed to test bridge notching and stringing capabilities of students who are in their 2nd year of training.
They are given the model with no tuning pins installed.
Before the exam, pilot holes are pre-drilled in the bridge cap and it comes with the agraffes and hitch pins already installed.
In under 2 hours, it is the job of 2nd year students to drill the holes, dag the bridge, notch the bridge, insert the bridge pins, string the jig completely, and present it as if it were a finished piano.
What is the Piano Technician Exam like for First Year Students at the University of Houston?
After the tuning pins are first installed by the 2nd year students, it is unnecessary to fully remove them.
The first year students have to replace all strings on the model.
They must also perform two splices on the jig using the existing tuning pins.
How do you build a string jig?
Piano related materials and supplies
Bolduc Pin block: The pin block, bridge root, and hitch pin field.
Bolduc bridgecap material
What materials are required to make a string jig?
Cabinet grade composite wood as the base
2” & 1 ½” Wood Screws
Titebond Moulding Glue
Angle Iron reinforcement
Reference piano to properly size the jig
Protractor and squares
Bridge Pin Stencil
Here you can see where Corbin used a mylar stencil to outline a fixed point to where each bridge pin should go.
Before the bridge is notched by a student, it is painted with dag after it has been drilled for the bridge pins.
This is to properly replicate the experience of recapping a bridge.
The agraffes are screwed into the wood after drilling a pilot hole and must be positioned facing precisely the same direction.
Brass rods & hitch pins
The brass rods are glued down into place that mimics its position in a real piano.
The rods additionally sit in a filed channel to ensure they stay in the same position even in the case of glue failure.
The hitch pins are driven in oversized after drilling a pilot hole, just like a plate in a regular piano.
Exam Finished: String Jig complete
Here is a quick look at what the final exam jig looks like once the test is complete.
You can see how well everything comes together at the end with a total of 5 piano notes for this practice string jig.
The agraffes help the left string, center string, and right string look uniform, which is why it is such a neat feature to add to a simple string jig.
In the future, there will be a new altered design.
This last picture below foreshadows this future string jig in development.
In the trade of piano tuning, having a string jig on-hand like this one is a perfect idea in case you ever need to practice making splices, or attaching new strings in the field before you show up to the piano tuning appointment.
Moreover, with Corbin’s adaptable design, it can serve for practicing drilling, pinning, notching, and more!
Check out Texas Tuners for more information or to order this jig for yourself in the technician’s services section.
To learn about Voicing European Grand Pianos, check out Eric Johnson’s Masterclass.
Thank you for reading!