Titanium: the perfect material for instrument fittings?

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Tough and light, titanium is thought to be the leading material for stringed instrument adjusters and fixtures, but does the metal have acoustic benefits too? Peter Somerford investigates

From chin rest clamps, string adjusters and integrated fine tuners to endpins and even tail-guts and end buttons, the range of stringed instrument accessories made from titanium continues to grow. Manufacturers of such components often champion titanium as the optimum material, with excellent mechanical properties and a favourable acoustic quality. But such attributes do not come cheap, owing to the high cost of the raw material and the difficulties of machining it.

For players prepared to pay for it, what exactly does titanium offer that other materials don’t? One of the major advantages of titanium is its strength-to-weight ratio, the highest of any pure metal. In applications such as a string adjuster or a chin rest clamp, titanium’s combination of low density (it’s 45 per cent lighter than steel) and high tensile strength is especially effective.

Knut Tempel, who has used titanium fittings in Tempel Germany’s chin rests for more than 25 years, says: ‘When the weight of the chin rest is a major consideration for the musician, titanium is the best fittings material you can have. Because it’s so strong you don’t have to use so much of it, so the clamps look better.’

Another reason why players might choose a titanium chin rest clamp is if they have a nickel allergy. Titanium is highly biocompatible, hence its use in biomedical implants such as pacemakers and hip replacements, so players avoid the skin reactions or irritation that they might experience with nickel-plated fittings. Add in titanium’s excellent corrosion resistance…

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