Pegheds in the classical world

February 28, 2012 at 02:32 AM · Since I purchased my newest violin, I've been back and forth about getting custom peghed pegs. I had the Perfection pegs on my old $300 fiddle and I loved them, but I'm not sure if I want them for this fiddle. My new instrument is a 2010 Snow PV 900 that I absolutely LOVE. It has nice pegs with 'golden eye' inserts. I like the idea, but I don't want to change the beautiful voice of this fiddle. I have a REALLY sensitive ear, so.........

Anyone had the pegheds installed on a high quality instrument? Have you noticed ANY change in the tone or resonance? I know my fiddle isn't a $100,000 instrument, but it's mine.

Replies (98)

February 28, 2012 at 03:39 AM · Mine sounded better because I was able to take all of the fine tuners off.

February 28, 2012 at 03:53 AM · Your violin will sound better because, on average, it will be more in tune because it will be easier to tune and you will not hesitate to make very tiny corrections when needed.

It's been alleged that changes in pegs can change the sound of your violin but I dunno. I think that's probably [nonsense].

I have Knilling Perfection Pegs on my 1890 German "back-up" instrument and I like them well enough to put another set on my "main" violin but I have decided to wait several months to be absolutely sure I like them. Pegheads are another brand that some believe are better. Finally there are Wittner FineTune pegs -- these are the pegs that Elizabeth Pitcairn put onto her "Red Violin" (the priceless Red Mendelssohn Strad). Probably that decision was extensively researched.

March 1, 2012 at 03:51 AM · If you would like a sort of 'test', you could add a little weight to the pegbox and judge whether that changes anything.

The Whittner tuners weigh about 40g, the Perfection pegs weigh about 28g installed, the Pegheads I have not weighed but they are the same internal geared design as the Perfections, just with real wood thumbpieces so I would guess that they weigh about the same.

If I remember correctly normal ebony pegs weigh about 22g, boxwood even less. There will be a range.

March 1, 2012 at 04:32 AM · Don, good to hear from you. Do you have much experience installing these? I am looking for a luthier to do a set for me. Richmond is closer than Bethesda. :)

March 2, 2012 at 03:30 AM · Hi Paul, yes I install them occasionally.

May 9, 2016 at 11:59 PM · Well, after playing football with my colleagues, and hitting my fingers straight-on with my seasonal arthritis, I've decided to give Pegheds a go. I've asked my luthier to order them and fit them for me in my violin.

May 10, 2016 at 12:21 AM · I've installed Pegheds (and other similar pegs) in 11 instruments. Finally, last year, after seeing the ease with which I tuned my cello for the past 7 years, the violinist in my piano trio had Pegheds installed in his Enrico Rocca violin (worth about $150,000 these days). He loves them.


May 10, 2016 at 01:27 AM · Pegheds! Yes!!! You will love them.

May 10, 2016 at 05:06 AM · blessings to be able to afford it. After 4 years of poverty, I mean undergraduate studies. I can afford things on research assistantship.

Bow, Pegs, Case.

May 10, 2016 at 06:36 AM · Can anyone say for certain whether removing the fine tuners and using a shorter tailpiece along with pegheds or similar with improve the tone of a violin, and if so would it be a significant difference or barely perceptible?

May 10, 2016 at 09:35 AM · Nobody can say for certain what will happen as every instrument is different.

May 10, 2016 at 02:36 PM · "Can anyone say for certain whether removing the fine tuners and using a shorter tailpiece along with pegheds or similar with improve the tone of a violin [...]"

Any such changes /could/ have noticeable effects, but if it's going to be 'improving' or not that's impossible to tell.

Of the changes you mentioned, I think changing the pegs would be the least likely to make noticeable changes in the tone of the violin. Changing the tailpiece would be the most likely to change the tone.

I would advise not making all those changes at same time. Do one first, then see what happens, then do the other.

May 10, 2016 at 07:34 PM · :) Yep. Changing the tailpiece might have a larger effect, than changing the pegs :)

May 13, 2016 at 05:48 PM · Try adding a blob of blu-tack to the scroll to hear any change in tone and response.

May 14, 2016 at 11:49 AM · Not to mention that installing peghead or similar products usually involves vandalizing the scroll to ream out the peg holes big enough for the pegheads, and that this process to be reversed back to standard wooden pegs will usually require bushing the pegholes.

May 14, 2016 at 01:18 PM · Aren't bushing and reaming standard procedures that are sometimes necessary when pegholes have worn out (typically on a very old violin), or repegging is required? In which case, "vandalizing" doesn't seem quite the right term.

May 14, 2016 at 01:31 PM · As a violin restorer, I would call making peg holes much larger than they would need to be for conventional pegs vandalizing, Bushed pegholes are sometimes necessary on very old violins, but people are buying pegheads and reaming holes out much larger than they need to be in the interest of "progress" when a professionally fit set of conventional pegs would work just as well. Also if you haven't checked bushing pegholes is not cheap, and not an easy repair, reaming pegheads is easy though, any idiot could do it, and it seems a lot of idiots are reaming out pegholes to install pegheads.

May 14, 2016 at 01:51 PM · Now pegheads come in different sizes and a larger violin shop might have all the different sizes in stock so they can use the smallest possible size for each individual peg hole, even so this almost always still involves reaming the pegholes larger than they are to start with, Unfortunately, smaller operation shops or amateur luthiers buy the size of pegheads that's larger than the largest hole in the scroll, then ream all the smaller holes out to this larger diametre needed for the pegheads to fit, this is where the term vandalizing comes into play the most.

May 14, 2016 at 02:29 PM · reaming, is this true?

May 14, 2016 at 02:47 PM · The pegheads don't come ready sized for the custom dimension of each peghole on your scroll, you can't fit a smaller peghead into a larger hole without bushing the peghole, so you have to use a peghead larger, sonetimes much larger than the hole is already, this involves reaming out the peghole (to make it larger) until you get it just the right size for the larger peghead.

The problem on an older violin, the pegholes are hardly ever anywhere close to the same size, one might be so large that its almost ready or is ready for bushing, others might be much smaller, the beauty of conventional pegs is the pegs can be custom sized so that a small diametre wooden peg is used on the smaller holes and a larger diametre peg used on the larger hole. This is standard practice, so when fitting a new set of wooden pegs, very little enlarging of the holes is necessary to get all the pegs fitting properly. Not so with pegheads, a set comes all the same diametre, so all the pegholes, no matter how small, have to be reamed (made larger) to fit the standard largish sizes of the pegheads.

You know if you want to install pegheads on your $500 Chinese VSO, be my guest, no great crime, but installing them on a priceless or even not so priceless antique is a travesty.

May 14, 2016 at 04:09 PM · I will discuss about it with my luthier first, she took measurements of each pegs.

The truth is that the original pegs are so worn, most of them already have two holes in them, and the pegs have been shortened so much, they look tiny. The holes are worn as well. I'd need bushing to fit new wooden pegs anyways. I will probably need to get new pegs in the near future.

My G string peg especially is problematic right now.

May 14, 2016 at 04:13 PM · Installing a new set of wooden pegs should be about half the price of installing pegheads. You only need bushing if the hole diametres are too large, being just worn does not require bushing, just a slight reaming to get the peg holes uniform taper for the new pegs to fit.

May 14, 2016 at 04:16 PM · As far as I know they don't make any mechanical pegs that you can peg shave to custom fit smaller holes, If they could it would be a very good idea, and solve most of this problem I'm outlining. The pegheads come in preset diametres and cannot be made smaller diametre, leaving no option but to ream the pegholes larger to fit the pegheads diametre.

May 14, 2016 at 04:51 PM · The mechanical pegs may require some reaming of the holes on the pegbox to fit them initially, but the flip side is that they will all but eliminate future wear of the holes, which would come from the continuing use of conventional pegs.

May 14, 2016 at 04:58 PM · Yeah they become permanent because idiots, not you David, glue them in with things like super glue, and they can't be removed without risking breaking the pegbox, call me gullible, but I have to believe no mechanical peg is going to last forever, and will certainly at sometime will have to be replaced.

May 14, 2016 at 07:04 PM · Since most synthetic glues soften with heat, colleagues have had success in the difficult cases by heating the metal "shank" on the Pegheds and the Perfection pegs, letting the heat conduct through the metal to the glued area. I think it was Jerry Pasewicz who told me that he hadn't come across one yet that he couldn't remove.

May 14, 2016 at 07:06 PM · I don't think that applies to super glue, does it??

May 14, 2016 at 07:28 PM · I remember many years ago my classical guitar teacher, who was a guitar luthier, restorer and repairer, roundly cursing a client (out of the guy's hearing!) for bringing in for proper repairs to the seriously damaged table and neck of a very good guitar that he, the client, had "repaired" with 2-component epoxy resin - I don't think "super glue" was around then.

Recently, I've noticed that some violin makers are fitting Wittner pegs as standard.

May 14, 2016 at 07:35 PM · They must have a low opinion of their ability to fit conventional pegs!!

May 14, 2016 at 07:46 PM · " I don't think that applies to super glue, does it??"

A number of sources put the softening point of superglue at around 200 degrees F.

Loctite, for instance, says that their hardened gel-type superglue can be removed with boiling water. I suppose the softening point would vary by brand and formulation though.

May 14, 2016 at 07:49 PM · Okay, maybe I should look into these instead?

Lyndon, you're scaring me away from Pegheds now.

May 14, 2016 at 07:56 PM · Lyndon, I suspect the real reason is economics. Someone has probably figured out that on a new violin at a certain market level it's cheaper to fit Wittners (which, I am informed, last and work efficiently) than to do the real carpentry to fit real, well-working pegs.

May 14, 2016 at 07:57 PM · Steven, just learn to use regular pegs like everyone else has for well on 400 years, its not that difficult.

David, is that 200' F in other words the temperature at which an explosive crack can develop in the pegbox hot????

May 14, 2016 at 08:06 PM · Trevor, I'd say there are some other factors involved as well. Conventional pegs will require periodic maintenance, and can get pretty fussy when climactic circumstances change. As far as we know right now, the three current major brands of mechanical pegs are much more stable during climactic changes, and likely to last the entire career of a player without requiring any attention.

May 14, 2016 at 08:12 PM · As far as we know right now??? What we know right now is they last ten years, after that its in the hands of fate. What we know about 50 year old mechanical pegs is that they don't always work that well as when they were new, the rest is all conjecture.

May 14, 2016 at 08:15 PM · "David, is that 200' F in other words the temperature at which an explosive crack can develop in the pegbox hot????"

Lyndon, I would say "No". During the process of making, ribs are routinely heated to over 200 degrees F. Heating wood actually makes it more plastic and flexible. For example, that's how bows are bent to their curved shape.

Longer-term, lower-level heating can be a different matter, dehydrating the wood, causing it to contract, and rendering it less flexible.

Got to know what one is doing when heating wood, and not be overly eager to hang ones hat on an overly-simplistic rule or two.

May 14, 2016 at 08:24 PM · "As far as we know right now??? What we know right now is they last ten years, after that its in the hands of fate. "

No, I first started working with geared pegs in the Weisshaar shop, about 44 years ago. This was with an early design, with the biggest drawback being that one could only go about a whole step or two in either direction, without needing to release the string tension, and reset the peg.

I don't know exactly how long Pegheds have been around, but the inventor guarantees them for life (that's his life, not the life of the user, because honoring a warranty after one is deceased becomes problematic). ;-)

"As far as we know right now" is about the best we can say about anything, whether in regard to the continuing learning about Stradivari's instruments, or how the universe functions.

May 14, 2016 at 09:27 PM · Lyndon exaggerates problems he knows nothing about. I have installed about 40 sets of Perfections, all the smallest size. That size happens to fit almost perfectly the holes that I find on nearly all new and re-pegged fiddles because that is the size produced by most commonly used peg shavers. The odd hole requires a thin spiral bushing, a simple fix. I have rebushed a few but if you know how that is not such a big job. It usually takes me a couple of hours. And most people charge as much or more for installing a new set of wooden pegs as for a set of planetaries.

May 14, 2016 at 09:45 PM · I have arthritis, and cannot extend my arm as far as the pegbox very well, due to having 2 surgeries done on my left shoulder.

I have been using regular pegs, but recently, I found that I am apparently contempt playing not perfectly in tune, because it takes too long to tune properly.

Also, my bridge has been leaning back and forth + some pegs are slipping, some pegs are very rigid in motion.

I need a bit of fine tuning aid. Either from light, built-in fine tuners, or mechanical pegs.

May 14, 2016 at 09:56 PM · Lyle you don't seem to understand pegs if you think peg shavers produce uniform diametre distinct sizes of pegs. With in reason peg shavers produce any diametre peg you need from very small to too large to be useful (and ANYWHERE in between). You are right that I have no experience fitting geared pegs for the exact reasons I outline above. What I do have plenty of experience with, perhaps more than you, is fitting optimally performing wooden pegs the same way they have been fit going back to Stradivari, and I'm quite proud of that.

May 14, 2016 at 10:30 PM · "mechanical pegs are much more stable during climactic changes"

David is a climactic change an overly aggressive cadenza? Or when you smash your violin on the stage at the end of a performance?

May 14, 2016 at 10:41 PM · Stephen, I've tried the wooden tailpieces with fine tuners built in, they don't work very well, at least no where near as smoothly as the external metal fine tuners, which are admittedly not good for tone. It may be that the pegheads might be what YOU are asking for, just don't ask me to install them, I won't do it.

May 14, 2016 at 10:58 PM · "What I do have plenty of experience with, perhaps more than you, is fitting optimally performing wooden pegs the same way they have been fit going back to Stradivari, and I'm quite proud of that."

Do you use the same peg taper, and peg material which Stradivari used?

While I'm quite a traditionalist with many things having to do with violins, I also consider accessories to be accessories, and wouldn't consider the use of a chinrest (for instance), or modern pegs or peg taper, or ebony pegs, or the use of a post-Stradivari-syle bow, (like a Tourte), to be a corruption of a Stradivari.

May 14, 2016 at 11:08 PM · "The same way they have been fit going back to Stradivari". Does not say anything about using the same wood or taper As Strad, does it David?? Nor does it mean using the same exact same, antique tools as Stradivari, a peg reamer and matching taper peg shaver, yes, I'm pretty sure that's what Stradivari did also, do you have a better idea?

I do consider modern violin and fittings to be a corruption, though, and prefer to work on violins set up in their original baroque set up, unfortunately it doesn't generate as much business as my modern violins.

May 14, 2016 at 11:18 PM · "David is a climactic change an overly aggressive cadenza? Or when you smash your violin on the stage at the end of a performance?"

Holy cow, you were present the one and only time I smashed a violin on stage, way back in 1964? (Yes, I really did, at a church event, of all things.)

If not, perhaps you have me confused with Jimi Hendrix or Pete Townshend, who brought on-stage instrument smashing more into the mainstream, years later. ;-)

May 15, 2016 at 08:10 AM · David I didn't think you were old enough to hold (let alone smash) a violin in '64. But what a shame iphones weren't invented yet so we could all enjoy that moment.

May 15, 2016 at 10:28 AM · I have had my luthier fit Wittner geared pegs to all my violins : no reaming necessary, no glued required and never any problems either.

May 15, 2016 at 05:21 PM · k d, David mentioned that he started working with geared pegs 44 years ago, so smashing a violin on stage, whether as an artistic statement or by accident or frustration(!), in '64 is well within the bounds of possibility.

May 15, 2016 at 08:51 PM · Brian, that is extremely unlikely to be possible, maybe your luthier didn't tell you there was any reaming, but I'm pretty sure there was.

May 15, 2016 at 10:00 PM · Apparently you are not familiar with modern Herdim peg shavers, which can and do shave to a set diameter. I don't use them but understand the principle. And I have installed MANY Perfection pegs with no reaming at all. It is no accident that the smallest diameters of both PegHeds/Perfections and Wittners matches the wooden pegs produced by the Herdim shavers. I also seriously doubt that you have fitted more wooden pegs than I have.

May 15, 2016 at 10:42 PM · So you're saying that you can shave pefection pegs in your Herdim peg shaver, how does that treat your blades. There are no set diametres from a Herdim peg shaver, any diametre can be produced quite simply from the smallest to the largest size possible with the shaver. And yes I own and use a Herdim peg shaver, so I think I know what I'm talking about.

May 15, 2016 at 10:44 PM · My understanding is the mechanical pegs come in 3 or 4 sizes and you have to ream the holes up to the nearest larger size, there is no fitting pegs to the exact sizer of the hole unless you could put the mechanical pegs in your peg shaver.

May 15, 2016 at 10:54 PM · Luthiers don't normally ream the peghole to fit the peg diametre, they shave the peg to fit the peghole diametre, you seem to have it backwards.

You don't seem to understand how a Herdim peg shaver works, It doesn't just produce four sizes only of peg, it produces any size needed between it largest and smallest size, anything in between.

May 16, 2016 at 12:59 AM · I'm very sure you can't help me. I don't need that kind of help. I understand just fine how the 4-hole Herdim shavers work, but I never see well fitted pegs with steps left on them. Of course I don't shave mechanical pegs because they don't need it. But I also rarely fit new wooden pegs without slightly reaming the holes. When necessary I fit new pegs to the existing taper but usually the holes are worn enough to need a little correction.

When the holes are already the size of the mechanical pegs, as they often are, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REAM THEM.

I seem to remember you once bragging about fitting pegs with an electric drill, just the way Stradivari did it. Nice.

May 16, 2016 at 01:34 AM · I think I'm going to listen to my Luthier...

May 16, 2016 at 01:51 AM · You obviously don't know how the Herdim shaver works, it doesn't leave any steps in them, as the shaver removes the steps when properly used, and they're not in the area that goes into the pegbox anyway so it couldn't possibly effect anything.

Also if you think Perfection pegs automatically fit the peg holes the violin comes with, you don't know how to fit mechanical pegs either.

May 16, 2016 at 10:50 PM · OK, I've had enough of your ignorant abuse, Lyndon. One of us is leaving this forum. If you are not banished very shortly I will leave voluntarily. I don't really care which.

May 16, 2016 at 10:58 PM · I hope it's Lyle who remains.

May 16, 2016 at 11:05 PM · Disagreements on how pegs are fit does not constitute abuse, or violate terms of service IMHO

May 16, 2016 at 11:24 PM · David, have you read what Lyle is saying about fitting perfection pegs, And you're in complete agreement??? and in denial of the points I have been making, is that your position??

May 17, 2016 at 01:32 AM · No, David is saying he doesn't like your snarky know-it-all attitude, and neither do I, for that matter.

You also did this in your recent response regarding Mr. Lee's violin having wolf notes when you said that he should give it back, which points to lack of actual playing experience and judgement, as any violinist that uses their entire fingerboard knows that C-C sharp is an extremely common wolf, and that you will not find any great instruments that are 100% wolfless, no matter how slight they may be!

May 17, 2016 at 01:34 AM · I've agreed to take a few days off the forum, to give myself time to consider more respectful ways to make my observations, my apologies to any I've offended.

May 17, 2016 at 03:47 AM · My thanks for it. :)

May 17, 2016 at 05:34 AM · I am no luthier and I have no woodwork tools let alone peg reamers, but I have installed Wittner geared pegs on three of my four violins. (Ok, this is not recommended and I took my own risk. Always consult your luthiers.) Wittner pegs come with two popular sizes which happen to fit three of my violins without problems. No reaming, no gluing. But for my 1888 French violin, neither size would fit, so I didn't bother with it.

May 17, 2016 at 06:40 AM · I think I've figured out the reason for the confusion, and how we can both be right about fitting perfection pegs, I'll post about it on Saturday

May 17, 2016 at 07:08 AM · Communication is hard at the best of times, on the internet with only text it's so much more limited. I don't think Lyndon had any malicious/abusive intent; everybody conveys ideas differently and it's easy to be misinterpreted. Forgive and forget.

May 17, 2016 at 10:33 PM · Yes, bit blatantly telling something tends to go a bit overboard, e en online.

Let's all be sober before we post, 'kay y'all? :D

May 18, 2016 at 10:28 PM · David made a point above about future wear that I would like to second. That was the main reason for installing Wittner pegs on the very fine old Italian instrument that I play. The pegbox had so many old cracks and some were opening up again. The peg holes had been resized who knows how many times in nearly 300 years. Repairing those cracks would have been expensive and would probably have had to be redone every 5 or 10 years.

Putting the Wittner pegs in means no further damage to the pegbox, as well as the other benefits of geared pegs: no slipping, fine-tuner control, etc. I love them. Of course, you want to have the proper size installed, as has been mentioned before on this thread.

May 18, 2016 at 11:07 PM · That statement is really interesting, Nathan. I thought that having pegbox cracks would stress those cracks more with the geared pegs, which is a large part of why I didn't get them -- I ended up having bushings done instead. Did you find that the Wittners affected the sound of the instrument at all?

May 18, 2016 at 11:13 PM · I'm now strut between PegHeds+ lighter tailpiece v.s. high quality built-in finetuner tailepiece.

I am trying to get rid of a wolf on C~C#, as well as tuning issues.

May 19, 2016 at 01:04 AM · I have gear pegs on two violins and a viola. I'm under the impression that they're not that hard to remove if need be.

Lyndon made a few arguments that I'd like to address -- calmly if that's okay with everyone.

First of all, if your traditional friction pegs work well and you're happy with them, or if you're a purist who can't imagine a newfangled thing in an antique violin, or someone who can't abide the slightest encroachment of the luthier's reamer in your peg box, then fine! Enjoy your friction pegs!

I have never experienced this business wherein a shop only keeps one size of gear peg and installs that in every violin. Every time I had a set installed, they were the next size up from the measured peg holes, and I was told it would take an extra couple of days because those had to be ordered. Only one of the installations required any use of the reamer -- on a 19th century violin.

Normally "super glue" refers to a cyanoacrylate formulation, whereas the gear peg manufacturers generally recommend urethane adhesive, and then only if they feel it is needed. The pegs are designed with some fine scoring or threading that seats them into the holes, so only a very small amount of adhesive should be necessary. And if adhesive is to be applied, my guess is that a touch of the reamer helps prepare a fresh wood surface for even application of the adhesive and a stronger bond.

Are there luthiers that flaunt all of the manufacturers' recommendations, who ream out to a ridiculous size, etc? Well maybe so. But ALL violin repair work can either be done well or poorly. And I bet it's much easier to botch a friction peg fitting than it is to botch a gear peg installation. On the scale of DIY to Morel, gear pegs are closer to DIY than friction pegs.

What Nathan Cole said about stress on the pegbox makes perfect sense to me. Friction pegs hold in place by *static* friction. To turn the peg, the static friction must be released. That little "pop" that you hear when your peg releases is the result of a shock wave that is felt keenly by the surrounding material, and over a long time it could well add up to real damage, especially if there are already cracks in the pegbox.

What I see whenever I show up to a community orchestra rehearsal is that half of the players can't tune their own violins. Seriously -- half. Somewhere along the line their teachers told them to get rid of fine tuners, and what they're left with is pegs that don't work, probably because the instrument spend 10 years in the case at some point without the pegs ever being turned. Many of these folks are older people, and it's either stressful on their hands or they're afraid of breaking a string. So it's not uncommon for me to tune three or four other violins besides my own. I don't mind that, it's a chance to say hello and how are you. But these people would play better, sound better, and enjoy the violin one hell of a lot more if they just put gear pegs in their violins. Once and done!

May 19, 2016 at 01:20 AM · Thank you for the summary Paul. I think you are 100% correct on all points. Geared pegs are much easier on both the hands and the violin.

May 19, 2016 at 02:37 AM · Except the part about not having to ream the pegholes to professionally fit geared pegs.

Note the part in the directions where you are directed to ream the pegholes, only have the work done by an experienced luthier, and the really crazy part; glue it in with polyurethane glue, that's Gorilla glue. Gorilla glue your pegs into the violin?? On an expensive antique, insanity!!

May 19, 2016 at 06:01 AM · Steven, try a different tailpiece to help with your C-C# wolf! After my own experiments messing with tailpieces now I'm a believer that they can affect things to a noticeable level! ;)

May 19, 2016 at 11:36 AM · I agree the manufacturers generally recommend reaming the peg holes. My guess is because they need to write instructions that will work even if the owner decides not to follow their other instruction, which is to have a qualified craftsman do the install (which I would never do). But I would think one point of having a luthier do the installation is because then they can use their own judgement about whether the reamer is needed at all, which I suspect it may not be with quite young instruments. Every luthier I've ever hired has been very conservative about removing ANY wood from ANYWHERE on the instrument. Lyle Reedy says he's done a bunch of them without ever reaming, and I believe him. It's a testament, really, to how well these things are designed.

Gorilla Glue is just a brand name for a urethane adhesive. Lyndon, I can easily see why the application of a synthetic adhesive to an antique instrument would be objectionable to you. Should one want to revert to standard friction pegs, presumably the residual adhesive inside the peg hole would have to be removed somehow, and with a urethane, probably that means taking it off with the reamer. I think if I had a priceless antique that I wanted to fit with gear pegs, I might ask the luthier to find a way to do it without any adhesive. I would be very curious to learn if adhesive was used on Elizabeth Pitcairn's violin, for example (or on Nathan Cole's violin or David Kim's violin, presumably these are fine instruments as well).

By the way I did not find that gear pegs changed the sound of any of my instruments. They're not precious antiques but I still didn't hear any change.

May 19, 2016 at 11:50 AM · Paul, Elizabeth Pitcairn's violin is advertised to be fitted with Wittner pegs and they do not require glue.

Pegheds and Knillings fasten only to the head side of the pegbox with a thread that really needs glue to avoid slipping. Wittners are firmly attached to both sides of the pegbox and and seated with a small protrusion that does make a tiny notch in the wood of the pegbox. At least that's how these things worked when I did it.


May 19, 2016 at 12:26 PM · Returning for a moment to friction pegs, is it always wood against wood? I, and most other violinists I know, apply a modicum of "a composition for pegs which have ceased to turn smoothly" (I quote from what it says on the little container of a little stick of the brown waxy material I keep in my violin case) to pegs that start feeling a bit stiff to turn. How does this peg wax work? I suspect it has useful thixotropic properties, which means its viscosity drops when stress is applied, as when turning the peg, and becomes more solid when the stress is removed, thus preventing the peg from slipping.

The other thing that makes tuning a problem is friction building up between the string and the notch at the peg end, causing the string to "stick" when tuning. Leaving aside the problem of the contour of the string not matching the contour of the notch, a problem which should be addressed by a luthier (a simple enough job), the answer is to apply soft pencil lead - I use 3B - to the notch when fitting or changing a string.

[Edit added May 24, 2016. Re David Burgess's comment of 23 May, 2016 concerning the effect of mass added to the scroll, I remember in my classical guitar days that if I held the neck too tightly (death-grip syndrome) it would slightly mute the sound; likewise, if I gripped the scroll when strumming the open strings there would also be an observable muting effect. This guitar was particular resonant, with a fine tone. I think similar arguments can be adduced for the violin.]

May 19, 2016 at 03:39 PM · Andrew -- right!

I had Knillings put in the old German violin by a local luthier, Dan Foster, who did a nice job even though it was his first (and only) set of gear pegs to install (he retired shortly thereafter). He used the reamer (he said very minimal removal was all that was required), and he applied urethane adhesive.

I had PegHeds put in my 2006 Topa by Potter's, and my recollection is that they told me they did not need the reamer (next time I see Dalton I will ask him), but they did use adhesive.

My viola was fitted with Wittner FineTune pegs by Patrick Toole of Roanoke, Virginia. He claims to have done more than 100 gear peg installs, almost all using Wittners. (He used to work in a shop in New York where that was one of their bread-and-butter services.) I just talked to him on the phone. He said that preparing the hole with the reamer is always necessary ("99% of the time", which now makes me wonder whether that was done on my Topa violin with the PegHeds, or whether that's something special about Wittners). He used the reamer on my viola, but not any adhesive. Patrick said Wittners do not require adhesive. That is consistent with what Andrew said.

Still, if the Wittner peg is held into place by tabs on the shaft that cut tiny notches into the pegbox, then if you do return to standard friction pegs, do the pegholes need to be reamed out to the depth of the notches? I'm wondering whether that's shallower or deeper than the typical penetration depth of urethane adhesive.

Trevor, if there is static friction at the nut, gear pegs, which turn more gradually, sometimes have to be turned a little more to release that friction. I've experienced that with all of my instruments. It's a weird sensation to turn a peg and not hear ANY change in pitch, but I swear that's what I've heard a few times, until the friction releases.

If it were not for the static friction at the nut, wouldn't it be impossible to "tune" the strings (toward higher frequency) by pushing on the strings in the pegbox, as you see kids doing these days? (I was taught not to do this, but it's yet another "trick" that people use to overcome bad friction pegs.)

May 19, 2016 at 06:00 PM · Paul, since you have three brands of geared tuning pegs is there one which you prefer and seems better than the others?

May 19, 2016 at 11:11 PM · Jeff,

I think for performance the Wittners are the best. If a truly natural appearance is important to you, then PegHeds also perform very well but look much more traditional and elegant.

See this link:

May 19, 2016 at 11:30 PM · Thank you. I have been considering getting a set of geared legs for a while although the only complaint I have with my current pegs are they slip a few times a year with drastic temperature change in the winter time.

Maybe I will call Mr. Reedy and make an appointment for Lyle to install tthem on my violin.

May 20, 2016 at 12:21 AM · Jeff, I have not have any trouble with either Knillings,Pegheds (which are the same design) and Wittners. However, I have had some slippage with the Peghed design (on two pegs of the 41 I have installed - one installation was on a 5-string violin). Pegheds give a very positive tuning going up in pitch, but not so much going down so you do best just "sliding up to the pitch." In fact if another fiddler is paying attention to you when you do it they will be amazed!

The Wittners have not slipped and have a more positive tuning sensation going up or down. Their turn ratio is half that of the Pegheds, or 1/8 that of conventional pegs (i.e. 8:1).

I have watched experienced violinist, violists and cellists - even professionals - struggle to tune their conventional wooden pegs-players of all ages. As such people age and get arthritis symptoms they either need to get such pegs or switch to a really top quality integral-tuner tailpiece (like the expensive Bois d'Harmonie). If they don't, and play in ensembles, they eventually piss off the rest of us.

And now-regarding conventional wooden pegs, the right way to make and fit them is with the minimum diameter that is structurally stable; this will minimize the torque required to tune the string. The smaller the diameter of the peg the lower the friction resistance in the peg hole and the lower the torque of the string tension on the peg. These two forces balance, so the peg will have the same tendency to de-tune - but will be easier to tune.

I started tuning wooden pegs in 1939. I have purchased and used all kinds of paste and liquid peg dope - all pegs eventually get hard to handle and all people eventually get less competent to handle them. I say "3 cheers for modern improvements!" I can't imagine anyone wanting to change back from geared pegs, but since the nicks in the Wittner pegs to not extend the full depth of the pegbox wooden sides, they should not affect tuning replacement wooden pegs, and good luthiers can completely hide the "defect."


May 20, 2016 at 01:26 AM · When you buy a brand new bench-made violin, wasn't the reamer used fitting the pegs in the first place? If so then I don't see why the reamer is considered so evil.

May 20, 2016 at 01:33 AM · Thank you Fox,

I wasn't really exploring the tailpieces, because, it seems that the "high quality" ones are already over $100, at stores online, and I thought, maybe I can just get a high quality one with finetuners, and not need the geared pegs, and, get rid of the wolf.

May 20, 2016 at 02:57 AM · I've installed Knillings planetary gear pegs. You would have to be very lucky to get them properly fitted without some reaming. The hole must be widened enough so that most of the threads disappear into the hole when the peg is lightly pushed in. You then twist the peg body nearest the peg head and screw it until finger tight.

Once a string is tuned up to tension, the peg body will usually want to be screwed in a bit more to finger tightness.

I've not used glue and the install is very secure. But the reamed hole is just big enough to require bushings should one want to revert back to friction pegs. I would consider glue that can be softened with application of a hair blow dryer.

Installation is not a job for someone without the proper tools and woodworking experience. Besides the careful reaming required, a fine toothed saw, like a wood coping saw, is a must to trim the narrow end of the peg back to the pegbox. You also want a collection of fine sandpaper to contour the cut end and polish it back to its original luster.

The pegs heads are finely crafted plastic and are indistinguishable from well made black wooden pegs unless you examine them very closely.

I could not detect an obvious weight difference between a wooden peg and these mechanical pegs. If you think small weight changes in the scroll box will have a noticeable impact on a violin's tone, then you are WAY too emotionally invested in a hunk of wood to be objective. >grin<

These things let you tune with the lightest of touch using a thumb and one finger. Because of the gear reduction, you have fine control over the tuning, but not as fine as well-made tailpiece tuners. So you still have to start flat and work systematically up to tune.

I believe the current brand of mechanical tuners use a 4:1 reduction ratio. If they would increase that just a little bit, that would definitely make tuning to within +/- 2 cents a trivial feat for even the most arthritic of hands.

May 22, 2016 at 03:23 PM · OK I've taken a few days off from serious posting to let things cool down a bit.

I must admit if you are fitting mechanical pegs to a new Instrument, chances are the 4 peg holes are small and fairly if not completely identical in diametre. (not so for antiques, my specialty). If you are fitting mechanical pegs PROFESSIONALLY, you will chose the smallest dimetre peg that is slightly larger or the same in diametre as the friction pegs, so it is not outside the realm of possibility that you won't need to ream the pegholes, or only ream them slightly, this is not the crimes I am talking about.

My principle opposition is to amateur peg fitters, that chose a large size of mechanical pegs and then ream all the holes a lot larger to fit the mechanical pegs, this is what I was referring to when I said "vandalizing the pegbox"

As to not needing to ream the pegholes for mechanical pegs, it depends if you want to fit pegs PROFESSIONALLY or just stick them in the hole and say you're finished, quite possibly having the pegs heads and ends protrude from the pegbox different distances, not uniform measurements.

When I professionally fit a set of friction pegs, I carefully measure from the pegbox walls to the rings on the pegs, somewhere between 15 and 16mm with a tolerance between all four pegs of plus or minus .25mm. And on the other side of the pegbox the pegs stick out 1-2mm from the pegbox walls.

To have similar professional tolerances for fitting mechanical pegs in a similar way (so that all the pegs heads stick out equally in distance), slight to moderate reaming of the pegholes is necessary almost all of the time, pegs don't just fit themselves, at least not to professional standards. That's why the expert quoted above by Paul Deck said reaming is necessary 99% of the time.

Gluing mechanical pegs into the pegbox is in my opinion a crime, the number one commandment of the violin restorer is make no repair that cannot be reversed. Mechanical pegs are not everyone's favourites, at any time in the violins life a purist like me might want to return your violin from mechanical pegs to friction pegs, this needs to be easily possible, and not incredibly difficult(as when idiots glue in the mechanical pegs) I've read over and over you do not need to glue in the mechanical pegs if they are fit properly, If you don't know how to fit them properly, I suggest retirement for your obsession with mechanical pegs, and leave them to real professionals.

Why is reaming bad?? Because every time you ream a peghole you are one step closer to making the peghole to large to the point where it needs bushing, also large reamed out pegholes even after busing come closer to the edges of the pegbox and make the pegbox weaker and more likely to have catastrophic cracks develop. The Onus on reaming pegholes should be do the absolute least amount of reaming that will enable you to professionally fit functioning pegs.

The number one rule of fitting pegs is you make the pegs fit the hole, not the hole fit the pegs, unfortunately this is not possible with mechanical pegs you have to ream the hole larger to fit the pegs, which is a step in the wrong direction IMHO.

May 22, 2016 at 07:51 PM · Lydia, the Wittner pegs were installed at the same time as some major work (top off, etc) was done on the instrument, so the instrument sounds much better now than before. But I didn't have the benefit of a simple before/after.

Were you thinking that the installation of geared pegs would stress the cracks more, or the operation? Because once they're in, the gears move inside the hollow tubes, which stay stationary. That's why Robert Cauer wanted to put them in.

May 22, 2016 at 10:27 PM · I'd heard that the larger diameter of geared pegs cause more stress. Also, that their different weight can sometimes impact the sound.

May 22, 2016 at 10:40 PM · How the pegs attach at their other end to the tailpiece is known to effect the tone (fine tuners sounding worse than no tuner etc.), I find it hard to believe that with the mechanical complexity of the mechanical peg it can be every bit as good and equal tonally to a solid wood peg.

Seems to me there are a lot of mechanical parts to move around and potentially vibrate than with a solid wood peg.

May 23, 2016 at 01:38 AM · Lyndon,

If you have not actually tried planetary pegs, then your speculation is just misinformation.


Pegs induce two types of stress into the pegbox: a compressive stress and a torsional (or shearing) stress.

Since the string tension does not change between geared and solid pegs (it is strictly a function of the string make and the note to which you tune it), then the compressive stress on the peg box would be slightly smaller than a conventional wooden peg because the surface area of the hole is slightly larger with the geared pegs than the wooden pegs.

Also, the shear stress is smaller with the geared pegs because the strings wind around a narrower spindle which induces a smaller turning load than the thicker solid pegs.

If the planetary gears were loose enough to vibrate, then they would be loose enough to cause the string to slip. The string crossing over the nut before attaching to the peg isolates most of the vibrational force before it reaches the peg.

What little vibration does reach the peg is not enough to overcome the frictional load of the gears and the peg head because of the way the gears work. It takes very little force at the peg head to turn the string spindle. But it takes a lot of force at the spindle to turn the peg head.

May 23, 2016 at 02:00 AM · Sorry but your "science" is lacking, larger diametre pegs actually put more potential strain on the pegbox because the edge of the pegs are that much closer to the top of the pegbox and the other pegs, making cracks more likely to develop in the shorter space. IMHO

Until someone actually does some double blind playing tests recording friction pegs vs mechanical before and after, we may never know if mechanical pegs hurt the sound. One thing is for sure, confirmation bias proves that no one will admit they hear any difference after the time and effort involved in fitting friction pegs.

May 23, 2016 at 02:39 AM · Rather than submit to an "anything is possible" mentality, I'd like to know whether anyone can propose a reason WHY gear pegs might affect the sound of a violin. Is it the mass of the pegs? Are gear pegs really all that much heavier? And if lighter is better in that region of the violin, why don't makers hollow out the scroll? The void space could be plugged and it would not show.

By the way the term "planetary peg" may not be the best term here because I was told the Wittners have a different mechanism that is not "planetary."

May 23, 2016 at 03:49 AM · It's because the pegs aren't solid, like wood ones. Just like the sound is compromised with fine tuners on the tailpiece, because the fine tuner has parts that are not solidly connected with slight tendency to move and vibrate, hence the superiority of not using fine tuners unless you have to, like on the e string.

May 23, 2016 at 09:20 AM · Paul, when difference in sound is noticed, I think it's primarily due to the mass (weight) difference. Pegheds are heavier than wooden pegs, and Wittners are heavier still. One can add temporary mass to a pegbox with wooden pegs (by sticking on some clay, for instance), and get much the same change.

Whether the change is desirable or not isn't something on which there can be universal agreement, because it will vary between instruments, and the sound and playing qualities which the player prefers.

One theory is that more mass at the pegbox provides a more solid termination for the end of the string, so less energy is wasted moving a part of the violin (the pegbox and scroll) which doesn't radiate a significant amount of sound.

It seems like every time I think I've reached a solid conclusion on matters like this, I run into a series of exceptions. LOL

May 23, 2016 at 01:00 PM · Lyndon,

"larger diametre pegs actually put more potential strain on the pegbox"

Do larger diameter pegs ACTUALLY put more strain on the peg box, or do they POTENTIALLY put more strain in the peg box? You see, there is the issue. I can make the exact same claim as you anytime you decide to dress a peg hole to correct an runout problem. Or do you modify the peg to fit an out-of-round hole?

Geared pegs come in incremental sizes that require an expansion of the hole by FRACTIONS of a millimeter. No different than redressing a worn hole to fix sticking solid pegs. And, the hole will never again wear once the mechanical peg is installed.

On my last install, the thinnest section of the peg box was the A peg. It was 6.3mm from hole to peg box edge. After the install, it was 6.1mm. That's about a 3% thickness reduction and a much larger decrease in the shear load on the hole due to the thinner spindle on the geared pegs.

Here is a question for you. Out of all the violins you have seen with peg box cracks emanating from peg holes, how many were due to geared peg installations? ... That's what I thought.

May 23, 2016 at 01:02 PM · David I agree it's complicated. I'm not ruling anything out. But nor will I be satisfied without at least some kind of putative mechanism.

I don't think the "sticking on some clay" or "dab of blue-tack" type experiments are directly comparable because those materials have viscoelastic dampening properties that differ significantly from wood.

I have one of those electronic tuners that clamps onto the scroll. The clamp is cushioned with thin foam. This device does not noticeably change the sound of any of my instruments. On the other hand the function of the device proves unequivocally that there is at least some vibration in that region of the instrument.

I wonder how much of the vibration that is felt in the scroll comes via the strings wrapped around the pegs in the pegbox and how much comes via the nut and the neck.

And as for the "superiority of not using fine tuners unless you have to, like on the e string," if you have gear pegs you don't need ANY fine tuners at all, although to be fair, many if not most violinists who have gear pegs do still use an E fine tuner.

Edit: Krisztian (below), seriously? We're not talking about those kinds of tuners. We're talking about the little pitch adjusters that attach to the tail piece.

May 23, 2016 at 07:55 PM · I think its rather presumptuous when installing mechanical pegs to assume no one is ever going to want to change them or return to friction pegs in the life of the instrument.

May 23, 2016 at 08:07 PM · One CAN replace them, or return to friction pegs.

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