Sticking pegs?

June 9, 2010 at 07:56 PM ·

Here's a question, bordering on an embarassing one, actually. I have a lot of trouble turning the pegs on two of my violins. So much so that occasionally I can't tune the violin at my neck, and have to take it down in order to use both hands. I brought one of my instruments to two different luthiers, both of whom were able to tune my instrument no problem, and told me a peg adjustment (forgive me, I forget the correct term) was unecessary, and that I would perhaps end up with slipping pegs instead. I was glad for their honesty, however, it still takes me much more effort than is necessary to tune. I don't claim to be particularly strong in the arms, but I didn't think I was *that* weak either. Just wondering if it's worth the effort to try a go at another luthier, or if...maybe I just need to start working out more :)

The thing that makes me question this, in the first place, is that the third violin I own, an inexpensive student instrument, seems to be quite tunable... the pegs don't slip, either.

Replies (24)

June 9, 2010 at 09:03 PM ·

Go to a third luthier...   if the pegs are well fitted, he may pass some Hill compound on the pegs so that they will turn smoothly, this is the way pegs must work.

June 9, 2010 at 09:36 PM ·

My G is sticking, it's the Summer humidity swelling the pegs.

June 9, 2010 at 11:41 PM ·


no shame in putting the violin down.  I do it sometimes because I meet some terrible violins at times.  There is no virtue in screwing up your hands in the long run by making afetish of super peg turnign technique. Sure, there is a technique but thta kind of stress on the hand sis hardly good for you day in day out.  Might be worth putting up a video on you tube of what you actually do when you tune so we cna take a look but basically follow manfio`s advice and do what`s best for you.



June 9, 2010 at 11:53 PM ·

Alison, properly working pegs aren't normally a problem, unless one has a physical disability like arthritis. You shouldn't need to be a "muscle woman". ;-)

If you have one violin which tunes easily, it suggests that the problem with the other violins hasn't been diagnosed properly. There are a hundred little things which can contribute to problems, such as a peg shank diameter which is overly large, resulting in a large pitch change for a very small turn of the peg. It could also be something as simple as the way the string is wound on the peg, with the string forced up against the side of the pegbox, jamming the peg in place.

Luthiers can develop proficiency in tuning problem instruments, so their having done it easily doesn't indicate that everything is ideal.

Some of it comes down to technique though, so Buri's suggestion of putting up a video could be helpful.

One more option is that good quality geared tuning pegs are available now, which can make things much easier, with few if any drawbacks.

June 10, 2010 at 01:04 AM ·

Thanks guys, I think I will try going to someone else this weekend. Was beginning to think I was going nuts here :)

June 10, 2010 at 02:17 AM ·

I use something actually made for a guitar called a "string winder", which fits over most violin pegs, and lends a lot more leverage. First get used to using it by putting the violin down and getting a feel for it. Eventually, you'll be able to use it in playing position. Never force anything. If a peg is still really hard to move even with this, then something is wrong. It also helps to get the pegs at a good angle - more or less at a right angle to the peg box. This handy device even happens to fit on most bow screw-caps, if they are a little tight. Again, never force anything.

Any music store that sells guitars should sell these. They are only a couple of bucks - not a bad investment for the health of your hands!

June 10, 2010 at 09:37 AM ·

 Something that works for me when the peg really sticks is to release it a bit, take it a fraction out and re-insert it with a winding motion and not press it in too deeply. This is probably the art that the luthier has acquired. No use breaking the peg trying to be Tarzan or using a monkey wrench, the peg is only made of wood.

If peg grease is not a solution you will have to change the pegs, some pegs are so soft that they act like a cork in a bottle. Let the luthier fit a better type of peg.


June 10, 2010 at 12:18 PM ·

Alison, I had difficulty turning the pegs on my violin until my luthier informed me that I pressed them too hard into the pegbox. Not pressing as hard helped a lot.

June 10, 2010 at 01:15 PM ·

Alison-- It's not time to pump iron just yet. Quick test: when you apply force to turn the pegs, if they let go with a sharp "crick" or "crack" (sounds like Car Talk for violinists, doesn't it? :-)), then the pegs need adjustment, which means either a slight reaming of the peg holes, a slight shaving of the peg shaft, or a little of both. A slight resistance before the peg starts turning is normal, but it should be a soft start. After turning, the pegs normally need to be seated again with a slight inward push at the end.

I have my reservations about the practice of tuning the pegs with the left hand while the violin is held on the shoulder by chin weight. Really, this is very hard on the muscles of arm and jaw and potentially dangerous for the violin. I'm a big, strong guy, but I have no reservations about putting a fiddle in my lap to turn the pegs. If the pegs require pressure to turn, set your bow down and cradle the pegbox with the opposite hand. In other words, if you're tuning the A string with your right hand, the left hand should be supporting the opposite side at the peg box, not the neck. Much easier both on you and the fiddle.

March 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM · I just installed a set of geared pegs that work like butter and look exactly like my ebony Swiss style original pegs. No more wearing through the pegbox or fine tuners (I still run one on the e)

March 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM · I just installed a set of geared pegs that work like butter and look exactly like my ebony Swiss style original pegs. No more wearing through the pegbox or fine tuners (I still run one on the e)

March 18, 2013 at 11:59 AM · What make are they Russ?

I have one peg that sticks - I've put on peg dope (hill) but it seems to be no better. Now I wonder if its the opposite problem - the peg is slipping so I have to use a lot of pressure to get it to stay - and then of course it sticks.

Mechanical pegs look raaather attractive right now...

And Ross - did you have to modify the violin peg box at all to put them in? Thats something I won't do...

March 19, 2013 at 03:37 PM · Elise, if the pegs have knobs (heads) that are custom/wood, instead of just regular standard black-plastic lozenge-type knobs, then they are probably Pegheds. Pegheds claims to be able to put any heads onto the steel "drive shaft" of the gear assembly. I am dubious about whether that connection would be secure over a very long time, but apparently it works.

My understanding is that ALL of the gear pegs require at least slight reaming of the peg holes because the mechanical assemblies are molded plastic and they do not come in an infinite range of sizes. The part that fits into the peg hole is then subtly threaded or grooved so that it cannot slip in the hole. That would suggest to me that additional reaming would be necessary to go back to wooden pegs. So, if that is not acceptable to you, then you should not get gear pegs.

I have Knilling pegs on my less valuable violin but have hesitated to put them on my "good" violin, partly for this reason. However I suspect I will get over it and go for the gear pegs because they really do turn like butter and they do NOT slip. Do you ever open your case to find a string that has slipped and now you'll have to tune it every five minutes while you practice? That does not happen ever with gear pegs.

March 19, 2013 at 09:14 PM · I have Wittner geared pegs fitted to two of my violins. The gear ratio is 8.5:1. They are NOT glued into the peg hole and if I ever wanted to go back to wooden friction pegs then there would be no problem or dramas....but I never will go back to ordinary pegs now !

March 20, 2013 at 12:32 AM · Brian,

Okay they are not glued in. Maybe that is optional (mine are glued in with a urethane adhesive).

But something must keep them from slipping in the hole. So are they beveled, or grooved, or threaded? And did the luthier apply his reamer *at all* when installing them?

March 20, 2013 at 12:56 AM · I replaced my pegs with Perfection machine pegs. I will never go back to traditional pegs. While my fellow players in the orchestra struggle with tuning I efficiently and easily tune. Also they stay on tune. If Stradivari had machine pegs he would have used them. Being a slave to old technology is not smart, even Stradivari constantly experimented.

March 20, 2013 at 12:59 AM · I replaced my pegs with Perfection machine pegs. I will never go back to traditional pegs. While my fellow players in the orchestra struggle with tuning I efficiently and easily tune. Also they stay on tune. If Stradivari had machine pegs he would have used them. Being a slave to old technology is not smart, even Stradivari constantly experimented.

March 20, 2013 at 01:38 AM · Old thread revived but discussions of peg problems are always timely. I have had very good results with Hiderpaste. Also, the above comment on not pushing the peg in too far is good advice. I have learned this the hard way.

March 20, 2013 at 03:30 AM · While on the subject of geared pegs, I would like to hear some discussion on whether the E string fine tuner can be eliminated by the use of geared pegs.


March 20, 2013 at 05:33 PM · Paul : the Wittner geared pegs have four very fine ridges running along the axis of the peg. These ribs engage with the inside of the peg hole to prevent slipping.They are simply pushed in firmly. The geared pegs come in different sizes so you can order something close to the peg hole size of your violin. Consult the Wittner website for full details. I should imagine a small amount of reaming would usually be required to ensure a good fit.

Alan : The Wittners have an 8.5:1 gear ratio so you could eliminate the fine tuner on the E string if you so wished. I cannot comment on other brands of geared pegs as they use a different gear ratio.

March 20, 2013 at 10:31 PM · Paul,

Glue is optional. I've only used it once. My experience is with Perfections (30+ sets)so far. I have a set of Wittners but haven't decided which fiddle to install them in. Whether the holes need reamed depends upon the size of the holes. I've installed many sets which needed no reaming, but these were either new fiddles or had recently had new pegs. Many luthiers these days use a particular brand of peg shaper which makes the pegs all the same size. I make the pegs in my new instruments smaller than that for a couple of reasons and so when I've installed Perfections in my own fiddles I've had to ream the holes. I've also had to plug and redrill a number of pegboxes because the larger Perfections are more expensive. A little reaming is almost standard even when just replacing wooden pegs, so it's not a great crime. That's why so many old fiddles of all levels clearly show bushed holes.


You don't need an e string fine tuner with Perfections, but many people prefer them. They make the use of loop-end strings easier. I also have requests to keep fine tuner tailpieces, in part because of the ease of changing strings. I asked a girl once why she had an e fine tuner with her Perfections. She said so people won't ask why she doesn't have one.

March 20, 2013 at 11:27 PM · I have two violins, one has Knilling Perfection Pegs, but I play the other one more frequently. So I am used to reaching back for the e-string tuner. When, on occasion, I pick up the other violin, I find myself always reaching back for an e-string tuner that is not there!! And when I do tune with the peg it does take just a bit longer than the other strings, but I think with these pegs the gear ratio is only about 5 to 1. So the answer is that you might not need an e-string fine tuner but you just might want one anyway.

March 21, 2013 at 01:01 AM · The machine pegs eliminate the need for a fine tuner on theme string.

March 21, 2013 at 01:03 AM · Meant the e string. Dang spell check.

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