Placement of tuning pegs and positioning of string holes?

October 19, 2017, 7:36 PM · I assume the lengths of the pegs should follow the varying width of the peg box with shortest peg in the top position since it's the narrowest point and so on with the longest peg in the bottom position closest to the nut.

The pegs don't go all the way into the far side holes - pics of better instruments show the ends of the pegs at least flush with the outside of the pegbox so I got a reamer to move them in a bit and get maximum grip on the pegs. However, before I start using the reamer, is there a standard pattern of how the string holes should be positioned/aligned that I should be aiming for?

Replies (28)

Edited: October 19, 2017, 8:20 PM · I guess I never thought about it that much, but on all of my violins (before I had gear pegs installed in all of them, that is), each peg had a hole that was more or less in the middle of the peg box. The only thing that probably won't work well is if the hole is close to the side of the pegbox where the string needs to lie over the nut. Be careful with the reamer. I've always thought it should be an easy-to-use tool, but good luthiers have warned me that it's more of an easy-to-ruin-your-violin kind of tool.
Edited: October 19, 2017, 8:50 PM · The pegs don't have to go all the way through the far peg hole. All they have to do is work well, and that can be true even though they fall short of the far peg hole wall. Makers often leave them a bit shy of that far wall so they can "wear in" without extending beyond the pegbox. Enlarging the peg holes for no good reason is like burning through your inheritance. It's wise to leave that material for a later day, when it really might be necessary to shave it to correct for wear. It ain't broke, so don't fix it.

I like the string holes just a bit closer to the far wall, rather that centered. It would be hard to explain why in just a few words. It just works better when I'm winding the strings onto the pegs.

October 19, 2017, 8:59 PM · If you have to start a question with “Before I start using a reamer”...it’s probably a good idea you shouldn’t.......

October 19, 2017, 9:10 PM · If you have to start a question with “Before I start using a reamer”...it’s probably a good idea you shouldn’t.

Certainly not before doing some research and self education which has been my path of success to doing diverse tasks like soldering in a hot water heater, replacing various auto engines and transmissions and other mechanic work, installing a whole house surge suppressor etc. To suggest one should never learn to do anything new is not a mindset I regard as valid.

October 19, 2017, 9:20 PM · Enlarging the peg holes for no good reason is like burning through your inheritance. It's wise to leave that material for a later day, when it really might be necessary to shave it to correct for wear. It ain't broke, so don't fix it.

Where I see an issue besides grip on the peg is clearance between the side of the peg box and the wound string.

Edited: October 21, 2017, 6:55 AM · If you think about it you will realize:

1. The less the diameter of a peg hole and of course its peg, the less torque it takes to turn the peg - AND - the more turns you get before the peg hole diameter will get too large for that peg to work any longer - BUT you may be able to use a larger diameter peg in it, leaving the expense of rebushing the pegbox to the next owner in your fiddle's next life. (I was the "next owner" who had to bear the expense of rebushing an old cello and replacing the pegs ($500).

2. It is advantageous to place the A and D holes a bit "higher" than the E and G so the A & D strings do not touch the E and G pegs.

3. True, the peg ends do not have to come out the other side - they will eventually, but they should get some support from both walls of the pegbox - except for Pegheds and Knilling geared pegs.

4. Don't cut the "wing" (handle) side of the pegs too short or they will eventually sink to the peg shoulder during your lifetime - let the next guy worry about that.

5. With ordinary wooden pegs they will eventually sink toward the "far side" so the string hole should be far enough from that side to delay the time when you have to drill new string holes - middle of the shaft length is good. (Been there, done that!)

October 19, 2017, 11:59 PM · Its also quite possible that your reamer doesn't have the same taper as the holes, which would ruin the fit completely, and require fitting new pegs. Thats why finding a competent luthier is your best bet, its not an expensive repair, and the potential for you to screw up is great.
October 20, 2017, 1:07 AM · Its also quite possible that your reamer doesn't have the same taper as the holes

But the ebay seller assured that "is best for all fit good violin for make proper tuner hole"

How could I possibly doubt such a solid guarantee? :)

Okay it didn't actually say that.

It's a good point to check - an eyeball alignment check looks like the taper is correct, I'll check with a digital caliper at points along the taper to verify they match the peg.

October 20, 2017, 2:48 AM · I recommend doing a trial run on a similar sized scrap of wood first. Keep in mind, removing even a tiny amount of material from a tapered hole can have a dramatic effect. Tapers are funny that way.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 2:51 AM · The way you check the reamer is position it in the hole fairly loosely(a snug fit) and then see if there's any play when you bend it back and forth, If there's any play, the reamer is not the right fit for the hole.

Most new violins will have the same taper as a new reamer, I think its 1/30. Older instruments rarely have the modern taper, unless they've been re fit. Old taper often was 1/20 or thereabouts.

October 20, 2017, 2:53 AM · For minor adjustments like this don't turn the reamer forward with the cutting edge, but turn it backwards so it acts like a scraper, much easier for fine adjustments.
October 20, 2017, 3:13 AM · For minor adjustments like this don't turn the reamer forward with the cutting edge, but turn it backwards so it acts like a scraper, much easier for fine adjustments.

Sounds like a plan - but my original question - is there a particular way the string holes in the pegs should be arranged?

October 20, 2017, 3:26 AM · in the middle
October 20, 2017, 4:21 AM · OMG, Lyndon and I agreed on something. :)
October 20, 2017, 4:22 AM · Doesn't admitting that draw questions to your reputation??
Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:06 AM · Well, anyone can get struck by lightning. I do wonder if the switch from 1/20 to 1/30 reamer is the reason why contemporary violins aren't as good as Italian antiques. After all the pegs are critical to the sound of the instrument.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:25 AM · Well they do sound better than mechanical pegs!!
October 20, 2017, 8:41 AM · Haha that's totally rubbish and you know it.
October 20, 2017, 9:08 AM · Actually there's no doubt that a simple wooden peg offers less chance for vibration than a mechanical peg, how much of a difference that makes is debatable
October 20, 2017, 2:20 PM · Make sure the pegs are tap tuned to the string they are adjusting for maximum resonance ;-)
October 21, 2017, 5:05 AM · I have considered having the mechanical tuning pegs installed and have previously asked Paul Deck some questions as he has tried all of the brands out there and used them for some time. But, even though the pegs are above the nut I think they might have a minor detrimental effect to the sound which is why I have not bought them.
Edited: October 21, 2017, 5:55 AM · In my experience the "mechanical tuning pegs," whether Pegheds, Knilling, or Wittner, have no detrimental effect on anything. I've installed them in a dozen instruments.

Following my experience a friend had a set of Pegheds professionally installed in his Enrico Rocca violin (a $150,000 instrument). Wittner ads for their pegs celebrate their installation in Elizabeth Pitcairn's "Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius."

October 21, 2017, 5:35 PM · Maybe mechanical pegs will be a must have at some time in the near future. I thought recently that Mr. Burgess has said he has installed some in his instruments per buyers request.
October 21, 2017, 6:42 PM · Slightly too much pressure and the reamer will take a lot out quickly. And, if held even slightly off center it will oval the hole. So be real careful if you choose to do it yourself. I would suggest if the pegs are gripping well, leave it alone.
October 21, 2017, 7:09 PM · I know that I've said, in these pages, that if I ever commissioned a violin from David Burgess that I'd ask for it with gear pegs. Actually, though, he should probably try to talk me out of it, because if I didn't end up buying it then he'd have to change them. And everyone knows that when you change the pegs the sound of the violin becomes totally different.
October 25, 2017, 2:03 AM · The only way that the pegs can affect the tone is by their mass; same for the scroll. Are geared pegs heavier than wooden ones?
October 25, 2017, 5:12 AM · Generally, yes, but some violins sound better with heavier pegs than with lighter pegs.
October 25, 2017, 5:32 AM · I know a folk violinist who with advancing years got fed up with the difficult accessibility of the A-peg when changing strings so he swapped he E-string onto the A-peg and the A-string onto the E-peg. Problem solved.
He is careful not to let anyone else play his violin without prior warning!

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