Comparing Brands of Internally Geared Peg

March 10, 2016 at 07:23 PM · On my best violin I have PegHeds, which were installed at Potter's in Bethesda. On my daughter's violin I had Knilling Perfection Pegs installed by our local luthier, Daniel Foster. And I am aware of Wittner FineTune pegs although I have never tried them. Are there other brands of internally geared peg for the violin?

Is there any consensus or even individual opinion on which of these three (or more) brands of geared peg is best? Most importantly to me, does anyone have first-hand-comparison knowledge of how the Wittners compare to the others.

Replies (32)

March 10, 2016 at 08:02 PM · I'm actually very curious what the experience of using geared pegs is like in general. I hate friction pegs, partially because my arm isn't really long enough to properly grab the end of the scroll and thus maintain a solid grip on the instrument and push the peg in while it's being turned.

March 10, 2016 at 10:21 PM · I like them a lot. The Perfections are like the original PegHeds but made and sold by a licensee rather than the inventor (Chuck Herin). I've installed, in the past, about 35 sets of Perfections and one set of Wittners. No complaints about any of them. I slightly prefer the Perfections over Wittners, except that I do not like dealing with the distributor of Perfections. Among the top advantages of both is the immunity to humidity changes. Main disadvantage is in changing strings.

March 10, 2016 at 11:41 PM · A student of mine recently bought an instrument with the Knilling Perfection Pegs installed...they work wonderfully, especially as she is a smaller player and has difficulty using regular pegs.

March 11, 2016 at 12:36 AM · In response to Lyle Reedy:

my opinion regarding the "disadvantage in changing strings" is the opposite.

I have the proper Wittner winding tools, yet i never use it:

the pegs aren't difficult to turn, so everytime i change strings i never experiment any problem. The number of turns for securing the strings is not so high......

On the contrary, the process is rather quick because i have no more to be careful of how the strings winds itself in the peg tree, as in normal pegs. You can turn as you want, and it winds as it wants, and the peg stays in its place.

March 11, 2016 at 01:39 AM · I got a viola in December and I'm thinking of just driving down to Columbia SC (that's about 4 hours due south for me) and having PegHeds put in by Chuck Herin. He's done more of them than anyone.

Lydia, to tune a string, I tune down a little below the note and then you gradually tune up to match the desired pitch. (If the string is sharp you might think that you should not have to tune below the desired pitch first, but I have found that sometimes the pitch does not change with a small downward deflection in the peg, and I cannot rationalize this observation except by invoking a need to overcome static friction at the nut sufficient to hold the string momentarily, with a small tension gradient across the nut. I know that sounds weird.) The gear-peg manufacturers recommend that you push in as you would for a regular peg, but you only have to push very gently, and not even every time you tune. No more wrestling with your pegs. The action is very smooth. It is not in discrete increment like a ratchet, at least I can neither feel or hear them. When I hear violinists with friction pegs tuning, they tune down then up, then oops they missed it, so they do that several times until they accidentally get it right. With gear pegs you tune up so gradually that you just nail it every time. People who are used to the back-and-forth approach with friction pegs sometimes are initially frustrated because the gear peg tunes up so slowly that their "tried and true" method really doesn't work at all.

March 11, 2016 at 02:13 AM · I think I am only going to be able to think wistfully about geared pegs. I don't think I can risk having my violin fit for them. (I recently had it rebushed as its pegs were really not staying well, and the pegbox had been untouched for 150+ years.)

March 11, 2016 at 03:01 AM · Marco,

My comment was not so much about the number of turns as the fact that the D and A strings tend to be in the way of changing the G and E. With regular pegs you can pull them out to get the holes clear of the other strings. If all strings are off, of course, as they normally are when I'm doing it, that is not an issue. I still prefer to wind the strings in a single layer.

March 11, 2016 at 04:37 AM · Lydia you are playing a rare antique .. there are other considerations. Still, David Kim and Elizabeth Pitcairn (red violin) have gear pegs.

March 11, 2016 at 12:54 PM · Lyle's comment about the D and A string is the biggest disadvantage I have found (and not really that big in the scheme or things). It just depends on what little inconvenience is most distasteful or frustrating to an individual. I have only installed Pegheds brand, and with them, you can order different shaft sizes for each peg if necessary, so the need for re-bushing is usually eliminated (unless you want to). Chuck Herin puts some beautiful craftsmanship into both the mechanical interior as well as the wooden peg head. They aren't everyone's cup of tea for sure, but if a client wants me to install a set on a violin I make for them, I have no hesitation doing it.

March 11, 2016 at 02:43 PM · I have personally installed "internally geared pegs" on 6 violins, 1 5-string "violin," 1 viola and 3 cellos. 10 of the 11 were Pegheds or Knilling Perfection Planetary Pegs and one was a set of Wittners. I own the 2 reamers necessary to do the job (one violin/viola and one cello); it also helps to have digital caliper to measure the current peg-hole diameters so that you purchase the proper size pegs. The hardest part of the job is cutting the peg ends to proper length and finishing/rounding the end.

I knew I had to install these pegs in my own instruments about 10 years ago when arthritis really started to weaken several joints on the left side of my body. (I was amused to watch even professional cellists have to turn their cellos around and use their right hands to work their friction pegs.) The 80-year old violinist I play piano trios with finally had Pegheds installed in on his Enrico Rocca violin by Roland Feller.

I mirror Paul Deck's comments about how to tune the Pegheds (down and then back up) - in ensembles other people look on in amazement as you simply slip right into tune - especially on a cello. With the Wittner pegs you can easily get in tune either up or down. The Wittner ads tout their presence on the so-called "Mendelssohn Red Stradivarius."

The Pegheds and "Perfection(s)" only grip one side of the pegbox and are prevented from slipping by a touch of glue (just to be on the safe side I always carry a little tube of superglue in my instrument cases just in case a peg slips (it happened only once of the 41 such pegs I have installed). The Wittners grip both sides of the pegbox and make a small indentation into the wood to prevent slipping. The Wittners were the last geared pegs I installed and I would probably use them again if I had another instrument to re-peg. However, if it were a valuable instrument with unique pegs, I would probably have Chuck Herin fit Pegheds with my unique peg "heads" to retain the appearance of my instrument and use those.

Andy

March 11, 2016 at 08:33 PM · Andy thanks for those comments!! As coincidence would have it, my viola is now at the luthier and he is putting in Wittner pegs.

March 12, 2016 at 02:21 AM · I've used Knilling Perfection Pegs on one of my violins since 2005 and I love them and recommend them for anyone unhappy with their regular old pegs.

Interestingly though, I never had them installed on my older violin; the reason being a mixture of the pegs in it hold up perfectly, and apathy - one more thing to do!

March 12, 2016 at 12:24 PM · While using geared tuning pegs does anyone still find it desirable to use a separate fine tuner for the E string?

March 12, 2016 at 12:47 PM · Jeff, I haven't found the e tuner to be necessary. I can easily make the fine adjustment with the geared peg, and as indicated above, the violin doesn't drift out of tune for a good while.

March 12, 2016 at 02:37 PM · I don't need another tuning machine, for the E, with the Wittner Finetunes.

March 13, 2016 at 12:04 AM · Jeff yes I still have a fine tuner on my E string with PegHeds. Partly because I'm just so accustomed to reaching back for it. I could tun with just the peg, but it takes just a shade more care than tuning the other strings. Marco said he doesn't need a fine tuner, but please note that the turning ratio on the Wittner FineTune pegs is twice the ratio on the planetary pegs (PegHeds and Knillings).

March 13, 2016 at 05:30 AM · @Paul Deck:

>> "note that the turning ratio on the Wittner FineTune pegs is twice the ratio on the planetary pegs"

So, the Wittners win? ..... :)

March 13, 2016 at 11:01 AM · Mine are wittners on one violin and peg heads on another, I still don't need a fine tuner. I prefer the feel of the other over the wittners but its only a csometic thing. My luthier wasn't prepared to put the knillings in to the better violin.

March 13, 2016 at 07:32 PM · Marco, we'll find out if the Wittners win, because in a week's time I'll have one set of each -- Wittner (viola), Knilling (violin), and Peghed (violin).

March 13, 2016 at 07:55 PM · I had put Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces on all my instruments (also because of arthritis) before I discovered geared pegs, so I have not only E-tuners but all-string tuners on all my instruments as well as the geared pegs. Sometimes I use the fine tuners but they are not essential.

One more thing I should add. If you plan to retune a string for scoredatura playing in the "middle" of a movement , the need to tune the Pegheds "upward" can be a problem.

Andy

March 18, 2016 at 04:42 PM · Andy, yes, if you're retuning a string to a different note, you've got a lot of turning ahead of you.

Well, I have got my viola back from the luthier with Wittner pegs. The work was done by Patrick Toole in Roanoke, Virginia. He does excellent work. They turn *beautifully*, without needing any pushing-in. The only thing is that they look a little different from traditional pegs because the head of the peg is kind of chubby. From a distance (say, from audience to stage) it's probably not noticeable, but truthfully they are not as handsome as PegHeds. Thus if you are concerned only with functionality, then Wittner FineTune pegs win. If you are equally concerned that the peg should have an elegant and thoroughly traditional appearance, then I would say PegHeds win. One additional cool feature of the Wittner pegs is that they are not glued in, so if you want to replace them at any point (although I don't know why you would), then the luthier can pop them out by pushing strongly on the other end of the peg with some kind of tool.

March 18, 2016 at 07:51 PM · Paul, are the internally geared pegs by any other manufacturer glued in? I was under the impression that they aren't, otherwise the makers wouldn't be talking about the reversibility of the installation.

March 18, 2016 at 10:05 PM · The instructions specify gluing, but I did that only once. The only one that has ever come loose, to my knowledge, was glued. That customer simply tightened the peg and went on. If the fit is correct, glue is not needed.

March 21, 2016 at 05:06 PM · They all are either threaded (very finely) or have some other surface feature (protrusions, etc.) that should allow them to hold just fine without any glue. However as Lyle indicates, I believe the instructions from the manufacturer include using an adhesive. I rather suspect that this precaution is intended for the DIY folks who are not likely to have the knowledge or skill needed to prepare the pegbox for a perfect fit. (Anyone can ream out peg holes, right?) And since the barrels are a plastic material, that's not going to be hide glue. I am only an end-customer on these and I would welcome more input on this whole subject from craftsmen who have installed them. My craftsman, Patrick Toole, has done many many installs of the Wittner FineTune pegs, that's one reason why I chose them for my viola, because he has experience with them, and I don't think he used any glue.

March 21, 2016 at 07:56 PM · Thanks Lyle and Paul, that answers my question a couple of posts back.

March 21, 2016 at 09:46 PM · Paul, I don't remember about the Wittners (I've only put in one set of them) but the barrels of the PegHeds/Perfections are not plastic. They are anodized aluminum and are pretty rugged, which is still not a reason to glue them. Besides, the recommended polyurethane glue does not stick that well to either the aluminum or the maple, in my experience, and a little excess can make a substantial mess.

March 21, 2016 at 10:46 PM · The section of the Knilling Perfection Pegs that you cut, are certainly plastic.

March 22, 2016 at 01:18 AM · Right. But that is not the barrel, which is screwed into the peg box. You wouldn't want to glue the plastic part if you want the pegs to work.

March 22, 2016 at 08:00 PM · The solid, plastic end of the Pegheds/Knillings does not quite touch the peg hole - but even so, you definitely do not want to apply glue to that end.

Andy

March 22, 2016 at 08:17 PM · I guess i would need to see one of these things close up without being inside the violin to know exactly how they work and what they're made of. it makes sense for the barrel to be aluminum, it needs to be strong.

March 23, 2016 at 05:20 PM · Paul, you should be able to find a detailed explanation together with drawings in the patent literature. The detail will almost certainly be more than what you would find in the advertising brochures or even in the "owner's manual".

[edit added]

A couple of relevant US patents,

Peghed: US5998713

Wittner: US7816594

Hope this helps!

March 24, 2016 at 12:51 AM · Cool, thanks!

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