Removing (superglued) geared pegs. My experience and how-to.

September 3, 2018, 10:19 PM · I am a supporter of geared pegs. I think they are a tool as good if not better than other “advancements” such as chinrest or shoulder rest.
That said, I understand the worry of many to use them, as they often need some superglue to stay in place, in particular the tricky pegs: A&E. That’s why so many are reluctant to make a “permanent” damage to the violin.
I have been using them for 1 year and love them, but this weekend I decided to remove them to go some months by traditional pegs with only finetuner in E (just as part as my violin training). My challenge was, on top of taking them out:
- To do it so that they can be used again.
- Not removing the strings of the pegs I am not messing with (In order to not compromise the soundpost).
I found almost no advice anywhere about how to remove them (which I believe it’s proof that almost everyone who tries them decides to stay with them). The only advices I found were about using acetone or a solvent (not an option for me… I would not compromise the varnish), and some others’ comments about using a soldering pen in the center of the peg, so that the heat can transmit to the glue and loose it.
The best hint was a sentence by David Burgess in this forum: Hair Dryer.
Hair dryer is not hot enough to damage the wood or varnish (it does not burn hair or people, though it smells like it…), but the effect on superglue is to weaken its sticking power. It does not make it soft, it just loses strength (I’m not a chemist, so I don’t know if there’s any reaction or it’s just different expansion-contraction effect in the contact parts going on).
It is not a “miracle”. Even losing some of the power, the peg will need some wiggling and forceful (scary) turning, like a kids’ tooth. If there was very little superglue on, you can do it by hand (with a glove… the hot air is there…). If there was too much, you will probably need some plyers. For that and other things, see the “precautions” part below. Finally, don’t try to turn it from the beginning. Spend some minutes and patience wiggling the peg before trying to turn it. That way you really make sure the superglue loses the contact.
As final result, I was successful in taking them out. The pegbox is spotless. The pegs can be used again, but you can notice marks on them (the pegs are metal covered by some plastic or resin, and that plastic and resin was affected by the heat and tampering).
Not all glues are the same. Before trying anything, I recommend you to test the model you believe it was used, and glue some plastic and metal in some spare wood (plywood). Then, use that to practice how much time you need to direct the hot air and how much force you need to actually take it out without damaging that soft wood.
If you are going to need plyers, make a priority to protect the pegbox wood. I advice to take some cloth (kitchen cloth), make a hole in it and use it to protect all the wood and pegs that you are not tampering with. Only the peg you are working on, should be out through that hole. I also recommend covering the metal parts of the plyers with masking tape.
In conclusion, this is a successful way to leave the violin in its original state with minor marks in the geared pegs. This may be useful to those who decide to change the pegs model, or those who want to sell it (violins with geared pegs seem to be less valuable). For those who find in this the excuse to try geared pegs I strongly warn that superglue use in their installation, if necessary, should really be minimal. Hair dryer or not, to remove them once glued, it’s a long and scary process and how much you put, it’s the different between removing a baby tooth or a wisdom one.

Replies (31)

September 4, 2018, 1:48 AM · "violins with geared pegs seem to be less valuable"

Where did you get that impression? (Honest question.)

September 4, 2018, 1:59 AM · Another honest question - would you (anyone) mount geared pegs on a Strad?
September 4, 2018, 4:02 AM · I have read that the Red Violin has geared pegs installed instead of traditional pegs. Mr. Burgess says he occasionally puts them in his instruments at the buyers request. I consider myself a diehard purist but have considered trying them but not sure if I ever really will.
September 4, 2018, 4:06 AM · Jeff, the only person who would know is you.. And the people who watch with envy as you tune so quickly.
September 4, 2018, 5:22 AM · The tuning pegs in my primary instrument work perfectly with no issues and I can tune quickly and accurately with them. The only issue I have with them is that occasionally in the wintertime with the wide swings in temperature in my house the pegs tend to pop out, particularly in the middle of the night as the noise wakes me up.
Edited: September 4, 2018, 5:32 AM · Steve, yes indeed, Elizabeth Pitcairn had Wittner Finetune pegs installed in her famous "Red" Strad. Wittner ran ads (with pictures of the photogenic Ms. Pitcairn holding her photogenic violin, of course) for a few years. I read that David Kim has gear pegs in his violin too, and I bet he is not playing junk.

My luthier says that he sometimes has to remove gear pegs from violins to do other types of work on the pegbox and neck of violins, and he told me that he never has any trouble getting them out. So my plan is to leave the work to him.

I would not get a hair dryer anywhere near my violin. I will ask my luthier if that's what he uses, but again, if he does, all the more reason to leave that work to him.

September 4, 2018, 6:01 AM · @Han N.: "violins with geared pegs seem to be less valuable" Where did you get that impression?

From the Luthiers who are trying to sell their work and the competitions they attend. The geared pegs are frowned upon, by many. As if it decreases the value of a good violin. That's my impression from different readings.

@Steve Jones: Another honest question - would you (anyone) mount geared pegs on a Strad? Without a doubt, yes. I am firmly convinced that Geared Pegs bring less damage to the pegholes and the scroll area that the regular pegs.

@Paul Deck: Many violinist around the World have no access to a Luthier, not just in their city, but in their country and surrounding countries. My experience can benefit those cases.

Edited: September 4, 2018, 6:19 AM · Nathan Cole repeatedly wrote here on that he uses finetune pegs on his borrowed Strad - whose pegbox had already endured countless repairs. In a thread from 2013 he wrote: "The geared pegs put no stress on the pegbox, so this should be the last repair this instrument has to see in that area. And it took much less time (thus money). As for how they work, I am thrilled. These are Wittner, by the way."
Edited: September 4, 2018, 10:36 AM · The Wittner Finetune pegs do not have to be glued in place and can be popped out pretty easily. The little notch these pegs cause adjacent to the peg hole would not interfere with the installation and use of wooden friction pegs at all.

Pegheds and Knillings thread the pegholes on one side of the pegbox and do need to be glued to prevent slipping due to string tension. I have no idea how the light threading on one side of the pegbox would interfere with subsequent use of friction pegs.

September 4, 2018, 1:59 PM · Interesting. I would have left the geared pegs in. I prefer them, and I don't see it as "training" to do it the old fashioned way. Tuning with friction pegs isn't such a skill that I feel the need to practice it. And while the other violinists are cranking away trying to hit the pitch I'm already warming up.
September 5, 2018, 7:16 AM · I'm not sure where or when I recommended a hair dryer, but if I did, I hope I included precautions about keeping the heat away from the rest of the scroll, by making a barrier of cardboard, or something like that. A hair dryer can create enough heat to blister some varnishes.

Wrapping some rubber bands around the shaft of the mechanical peg can help with getting a better grip, when trying to remove them.

September 5, 2018, 7:23 AM · Or you could refuse to let anyone vandalize your violin by gluing in pegs in the first place!!
September 5, 2018, 8:42 AM · @David Burgess: I can't find the thread, though it was clear in my mind... I seem to have mixed different people's comments. Honest apologies for missreferencing you.
P. S I recommended covering the parts you are not working with thick cloth...

@Lyndon Taylor: I'll eventually install them again in the future,especially after experiencing the null damage they do do to the violin. A chinrest, of any kind, is more aggressive to the violin than geared pegs. But for now, I want to spend a time with the friction pegs...

September 5, 2018, 8:52 AM · Carlos of course you're right -- many people are forced to DIY.

I rather liked the soldering iron idea. You might wreck the gear pegs in that process, but they're not all that expensive.

September 5, 2018, 8:53 AM · You can't fit friction pegs over superglued holes without reaming them larger, which is why an educated person would not use glue in the first place.
September 5, 2018, 12:54 PM · Superglue, of all glues, fills me with horror. It's not that wonderful as a glue and it's very hard to remove. I'd have tried the old fashioned "fish" glue first.
September 5, 2018, 9:18 PM · @Lyndon: In the process of removing the pegs, all the superglue stayed in the pegs, without any effort to achieve that. Nothing stayed in the violin. Like I said, the scroll is spotless.

I switched the geared pegs for friction ones. As soon as one geared would go out, I would put a friction one. No neeed of reaming the pegholes. Just the usual trimming of the excess peg for aesthetics and making the hole in the peg as it would fit for the particular peg. They are working perfectly.

Edited: September 5, 2018, 9:31 PM · Carlos wrote, "In the process of removing the pegs, all the superglue stayed in the pegs." So you're saying there was no residue of glue in the peg holes? Remember that's not likely to be immediately visible. Lyndon makes a good point that if you go from gear pegs back to friction pegs, you may have to ream out to the extent that the adhesive penetrated the wood. I don't really know how deep that would be, maybe not very far. Tens of microns maybe? Now, if Carlos says his friction pegs work just fine without doing that, then I'll take him at his word. Let's see how they work in a month or two, after there's been some wear against the glue-penetrated surface of the peg holes.

Any future gear pegs that I have installed will have to be sans glue. If that means using Wittners, so be it.

September 5, 2018, 9:39 PM · Yes, all the glue stayed in the peg, which was actually a problem because it made them difficult to take out when they were loose (the smallest part of the peg, having the glue still attached, would be too big for the peghole... I had to spend many minutes trying to unstuck it from the peg.

Like I said in the beginning of my post, anyone can see if this way will work with them and their brand of glue. Take some wood or plywood, use one drop (you don't have more on the peg!) to stick a similar material (hard plastic). Let it cure and eventually try the hair drier with smooth but firm pressure of the other hand, wiggling the item. See how it goes out. If you don't get the glue out, or if it damages the wood, don't do it on the violin. If every time you try the result is succesful in removing the glue without damage to the wood, then take your precautions and go for it if you want to remove the pegs and don't have a professional available.

September 6, 2018, 9:03 AM · if all the glue stayed on the peg the glue wouldn't stick, would it??
September 6, 2018, 10:56 AM · Well good luck Carlos. Sounds like a sticky situation.

I guess you know this as many do. Just in case though, here goes- if tuning the old way, turning the peg the opposite direction just a little before turning it to a higher pitch is easier than trying to tune higher directly.
Also, if the string is slightly high you can sometimes stretch it into proper tune instead of using the pegs. This only works for tuning that is slightly off.
I also have peg lubricant.I seldom use it. Works well in small amounts for those especially stubborn pegs. Lyndon will probably disagree.......

September 6, 2018, 11:03 AM · I've removed them without damage to the violin, without a problem. The peg is not really reuseable after removal.
You do need to ream out the old glue, and I have a shit reamer for such purposes, before you put new pegs back in. If the holes are very large to start with, I always tell the customer that if they want them removed that bushings are required in order to put friction pegs back in. When they ask how much that costs, they usually are happy with the geared pegs and learn to live with them!

Bottom line:If you know what you are doing, they are easy to remove, but spare yourself the torture of trying to use the removed pegs again.

September 6, 2018, 12:54 PM · As I described, the way I did, the pegs are reusable and the pegholes don't need reaming. The hot air separates the whole of the glue from the wood, staying in the peg.

Thanks Timothy. Practicing that. I use some soap for the creaky ones and they are smooth and stay in place. Up to now, it's being less hassle that I remembered. So far I'm happy.
Just to close this topic, I shared my experience (not theory) in case in the future someone searches for a how to do it, as I couldn't find a clear advice on that anywhere else. This procedure worked for me.

September 6, 2018, 1:10 PM · I think that Lyndon's fears about these pegs are much overblown. While I don't personally have a great deal of experience with them, many high-level professional colleagues do.
September 6, 2018, 1:42 PM · Carlos,

No, the superglue penetrates the wood, it is not removed and it is not just on the surface. It can not be completely cleared.

Edited: September 6, 2018, 1:50 PM · David, if your high level professional colleagues are super gluing pegs in I would suggest they are not high level at all!!
Edited: September 7, 2018, 4:08 AM · Yabba yabba yabba.

Methods for dealing with mechanical pegs, and "superglues", are pretty widely known in the high-level pro restoration/repair community.

September 6, 2018, 4:34 PM · Does super glue occupy a special place in your heart???
Edited: September 6, 2018, 4:45 PM · I haven't had heart surgery yet, nor have I had adhesives used in any sort of professional surgery on my own body, to the best of my knowledge.

I've used superglue a couple of times to close cuts, so I could keep working without putting blood stains on a violin. ;-)

September 6, 2018, 5:48 PM · CA is just like any other tool. A time and place for it, times and places to not use it.
September 6, 2018, 6:03 PM · Installing mechanical pegs is definitely not a time to use super glue, I can't believe I'm having to say this.

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