Slipping Pegs help!

January 2, 2019, 6:08 PM · So... I have a new instrument, and at first the pegs were a bit too tight and then I (stupidly) applied peg compound and now, several days after applying the compound, they are far too loose.

I've never had this problem before and am not sure what to do! :( Yes, I am going to the luthier tomorrow, but would be nice to practice tonight too...

I've tried wiping the pegs and peg holes out with q-tips to remove as much of the compound as possible - has not helped. Humidity is at 47% in my home.

Replies (57)

January 2, 2019, 6:26 PM · Chalk.
January 2, 2019, 7:23 PM · Yes a bit of chalk or diatomaceous earth. Those will have both an abrasive effect and they will help absorb traces of compound that you weren't able to remove with the Q-tips. One is reminded of the story of the little old lady who swallowed the spider to catch the fly, but your luthier will be able to remove all of that crap and give you a fresh start. While you're there ask him/her about gear pegs for your instrument.
Edited: January 2, 2019, 7:50 PM · you dont stop with that geared crap, do you??
January 2, 2019, 8:23 PM · Experience IS a pretty good teacher!!!
Edited: January 2, 2019, 10:28 PM · Dearest Lyndon,
(1) Gear pegs aren't crap. Thousands upon thousands of people use them including high-level pros with priceless antique violins.
(2) I only suggested she ask her luthier about it. That's pretty tame evangelism in my opinion.
(3) You didn't even offer the OP any advice at all. Maybe you're the one with issues, not me. When is the last time you had a medical checkup?
January 2, 2019, 11:38 PM · geared pegs are crap that devalue the violin, end of story
January 3, 2019, 10:18 AM · I managed to get them to stay long enough with a few more q-tip cleanings, and extra humidification in the room. I was afraid of using DE or chalk, since the pegs were too hard to turn before. Thank goodness I am going tonight for something unrelated...

I feel like I should put the peg compound on a shelf and forget about it, experience is indeed the best teacher.

Thanks all.

Edited: January 3, 2019, 12:54 PM · I have used Hill's Peg Compound successfully; one does have to follow the directions and not overdo it. Hill's contains both an abrasive (jeweler's rouge) and a lubricant, so it can help with both slipping and sticking (sorry, Lyndon). Of course humidification is necessary in the dry season, but continued problems with pegs may indicate they were not well fashioned initially; only a luthier can fix that!
January 3, 2019, 12:20 PM · Gear pegs will solve your problem entirely, Erin. And Lyndon's incorrect about them devaluing your violin unless you've got a priceless Italian antique. (And people have put gear pegs in those too!) If I sold my violin I bet the next owner will be delighted that they are already there.
January 3, 2019, 12:44 PM · Chalk has worked the best for me, but you really need to have nicely fitted pegs or you are fighting a losing battle.

I installed geared pegs two days ago and I think they are really good with synthetic strings, especially higher tension. With gut strings I prefer regular pegs, for now at least.

In any case having a geared peg for the E string is great if you play without a shoulder rest.

January 3, 2019, 12:53 PM · Paul you are so right...I got gear pegs on both my acoustic violins a year ago and they are great. I was just trying to help someone who hasn't had the good fortune of gear pegs yet...
Edited: January 5, 2019, 10:22 AM · My teacher has geared pegs on her 18th century viola and I can see from the ease with which she tunes it that they are great.
January 3, 2019, 1:17 PM · I would love some geared pegs, but the pegs I bought were pretty expensive so I won't be changing them soon. Maybe I'll get some for my viola. Paul, do you know if they sell geared pegs that have shapes other than the basic shape, such as heart shaped or other kinds?

I was pleasantly surprised to find some geared pegs on a student's cello while I was subbing one day in a local school district. Made my life tons easier with 50 kids' instruments to tune. School instruments' pegs are notorious for being in rough shape.

January 3, 2019, 1:42 PM · There is a place for geared pegs in the market, however I'd rather stick with friction pegs as they sound way better and are a lot easier to change strings on. Geared pegs can have some ridiculous ratios so you'll spend an afternoon changing strings. If you are having tuning problems, just slap on a high quality tailpiece with built-in fine tuners. They make some pretty ones out of wood too.
January 3, 2019, 2:06 PM · Hmm, you're right, normal pegs are easier for changing strings. The viola is getting restored, so we'll see what tailpiece my luthier puts on. He usually has pretty good stuff, so I'm sure he will do it justice. It should be done within the next couple weeks, and I can't wait to see it and hear what it sounds like.
January 3, 2019, 2:31 PM · Well, you could use a peg crank like on a guitar. It's easy to make one. Plus, wooden pegs "sound better"? What?
Pegs have no effect on sound whatsoever.
January 3, 2019, 2:40 PM · I have not tried geared tuning pegs but think it would be a plus to many prospective buyers. The older I get the more I think they are a good idea to have.
Edited: January 5, 2019, 9:26 AM · OH, COME ON! GET REAL!
How long can it possibly take you to turn a peg a few extra turns?

I just came back to my computer after changing out one set of used strings for another used set. And we all know that used strings are much harder to thread into peg holes than new strings. And the holes in geared pegs are smaller than those in wooden pegs.

It took me 30 to 60 minutes - the extra time to crank up geared pegs vs. wood pegs was probably 15 seconds per peg.

January 3, 2019, 5:34 PM · Peg DO have an effect on sound.

I have no problem with geared pegs, I perfer the Wittners to the PegHeds, and neither wil devalue the instrument.
Now, using the geared pegs to get better working pegs instead of bushing the holes, that will cost a few dollars to get out of and back into friction pegs.

January 3, 2019, 5:47 PM · When you buy a million dollar Italian antique, we can start talking about pegs affecting the sound—and doing spectral analysis to find the difference, because god knows we won't hear it.

Most instruments are hard to change by moving the soundpost. You think those little wooden things on the end of the neck do anything? In that case, you SHOULD be using magnets to press your strings down, cause your hand is absorbing the neck vibrations and ruining your sound. And take your face off the chinrest! In fact, install some magnets all over your violin and levitate it in an isolation chamber under full vacuum—without the added pressure of that pesky atmosphere, your violin should begin to perform at its peak level.

January 3, 2019, 8:32 PM · Cotton,

20+ years of violin making and adjustment have revealed things that are both common sense and weird.

The pegs DO have an effect on the sound, just as the tailpiece does, which fine tuner you choose to use, what substance you choose to use for the tailgut, and even the pieces of wood that you choose for the soundpost. It really isn't that difficult to change the sound by moving the soundpost, provided it fits and has the proper tension, but if it doesn't fit, or is too tight or too lose, yes, it is difficult. Then there is the experience part.

The accumulation of these little things are the components of good set-up. Even a decent student violin can benefit from these things. And yes, you can hear it if you listen.

January 4, 2019, 1:48 AM · I use geared (wittner and knilling) and and wooden (friction) pegs. I agree that there is a difference in sound.
I don't think that the difference is sustancial as to take it in consideration for sound improvement or set-up.

Changing strings with geared pegs lasts mere seconds more than friction ones. The turning ratio is not worth of any thought.

It is just a purism vs efficiency debate. I have uses for both philosophies and I use both kinds of pegs.

Edited: January 4, 2019, 3:08 AM · I read a lot of HiFi mags in the 70s. People were making platters out of a shellac 78 of the second movement of Beethoven's 4th symphony. They were sticking a disc of Mongolian yak felt to it that had 7.8g of rancid yak butter blended in with the fibres. They were heating it and their vinyl in an oven to 94.13 degrees Fahrenheit. And that made the record sound so much better on their $75,000 superfi. Some swore on their mother's life that the first movement gave a superior sound.

I hope you can see the point of my slightly exaggerated satire. It's neurosis. It's insecurity.

January 4, 2019, 9:03 AM · How would you switch out the pegs fast enough to make an honest comparison of the sound anyways?
Sorry, but that's baloney.
January 4, 2019, 9:19 AM · Mechanical pegs have metal parts to rattle around and vibrate, wood pegs are just solid wood, like the rest of your violin.
January 4, 2019, 11:15 AM · I haven't run across a rattle in the three major brands of geared pegs. Have you?

But it's not uncommon to have a buzz in wooden pegs, from the ornamental trim on some types.

January 4, 2019, 11:38 AM · why don'y you usually use geared pegs on your violins if they're so great???
Edited: January 4, 2019, 6:21 PM · Simply because most people are more accustomed to conventional pegs, than geared pegs. If a client requests geared pegs, I have no problem with doing that, and haven't yet seen a compelling reason not to do so, other than some frenetic arm-waving from one corner or another, about how evil they must be. ;-)
Edited: January 4, 2019, 6:44 PM · We're using geared pegs on most of the cellos that come through our shop these days. They work great, and I felt much better about using them after I found out how to put them in correctly and how to take them out. Players love them, pretty much universally.

There's no question that pegs make a difference. Probably people who can't tell the difference shouldn't be bragging about their lack of discrimination between Shinola and the other stuff and accusing everyone else of the same defect, d'ya think?

In my experience, pegs that are too slippery can sometimes be cured by taking them out and wiping the bearing surface rings (of the pegs, not the holes!) off very well with a damp paper towel, then letting them dry. That will remove half the problem and removes the slickness from the wood, which may be enough.

January 4, 2019, 10:08 PM · Do a scientific test. Get a sizeable block of wood and tie it tightly to the scroll. Record the instrument with and without. Run it through a spectograph.
If there's any difference, we can start to consider the effect of PEGS on the sound (those little bits jammed tightly in the pegbox which weigh scarcely a few grams).
Edited: January 5, 2019, 9:27 AM · When I watched a professional cellist turn her instrument around to wrestle with her tuning pegs I was totally convinced that my decision to install geared pegs in my cellos was a good one. It was after that that I decided to go ahead and install them in my violins, my son's and my granddaughter's - and then the violas.

14 installations so far.

Never looked back!!

When you know you are right, you are!!

Back in the 1970s I actually broke a peg in my father-in-law's cello trying to turn it - kind of a "greenstick" longitudinal fracture, but it totally wrecked the peg. (I was stronger in those days!)

Edited: January 5, 2019, 11:27 AM · CM: Spectrographs are laughably inadequate to the task of showing what players respond to. Don't assume everyone is lacking the same abilities you appear to indicate you are not the standard for this.
Edited: January 5, 2019, 12:05 PM · Saying pegs change the sound of a violin is on the same level as saying that diluting duck liver makes a potent cure for the common cold. It's auditory homeopathy.
Edited: January 5, 2019, 12:53 PM · I don't know much about homeopathy, but pegs certainly can change the sound of a violin.

One problem with spectrographs is that it's almost impossible to play a violin exactly the same twice, so these differences in playing tend to obscure small changes to the sound which might show up on the graph. In other words, the changes would be there, but they are buried in the differences from one playing episode to the next.

January 5, 2019, 12:41 PM · +1 to Cotton, I'm glad he's saving me from having to write all that. Next we'll be hearing about the length of string that you should have emerging from one's pegbox.

One of most famous and priceless violins in the world, the "Red Violin" owned by Elizabeth Pitcairn, has Wittner Finetune Pegs.

@Kristen, you can have whatever "heads" on your pegs you like with the PegHeds brand. The gears are in the shaft of the peg, and emerging from the shaft there is a steel stud (tenon) that will fit into a slot (mortise) that must be cut into the wooden heads. You should check out Charles Herin's web page on PegHegs. As far as I know he still answers email too. Chuck is all set up to do this mini-carpentry operation in his shop and I believe it is not at all expensive.

@Anthony, Wittner sells a peg crank that will turn your pegs in a jiffy to change a string. I agree with Andy Victor that this should be the least of your concerns, although I can understand if you are in the middle of a an orchestra performance, an additional minute or two spent off-stage could be important. You also do have to consider the number of times you think that's going to happen over your lifetime.

@Lyndon it makes sense for David to install friction pegs first since it's easier to transition from friction pegs to gear pegs than the other way around. Having said that, though, my luthier has put in more than 100 sets of gear pegs and nobody has ever asked them to be removed. He did say also that sometimes they need to be removed to do certain types of repairs, but that the removal task has never been difficult.

January 5, 2019, 12:45 PM · If you are a disciple of homeopathy, I have a copy of the original book in my small collection of rare books. I would eagerly part with it at a conservative market price.
January 5, 2019, 12:57 PM · Paul, changes from pegs can definitely be there. I think it's mostly due to differing weights of the pegs. Some violins sound better with heavier pegs, and others sound better with lighter pegs. And two people may not agree on which sounds better on a particular violin.
Edited: January 5, 2019, 10:31 PM · David I won't rule that out a priori. But I hope you won't mind if I challenge your claim by asking whether it was really tested in a manner that's free of bias and spurious effects.

For example. "Well, I took the old pegs out and put the new ones in and put the original strings back on." Okay, and you did NOTHING else? The bridge and sound post are in exactly the same place? Is it not possible that taking the strings off and putting them back on left them somehow changed for a few hours, long enough for you to declare an erosion or alteration in the violin's tone?

In science, the most important question is not what is known, but rather how it is known.

If the tone of the violin is so sensitive to the weight of the scroll, then I have a suggestion for you to improve your violins. When you fashion the scroll, create a deep 1/8" hole somewhere. Then when the violin is all set up and finished, gradually fill the hole with small snips of 1/8" lead wire until the tone is optimized. Then seal the hole off with a wooden dowel plug.

January 5, 2019, 11:34 PM · Paul, some classical guitar makers do exactly that--drill a whole and fill it with lead. When I was making guitars, it was a joke that the ideal classical guitar neck would be one that had its head sunk into a block of concrete the size of a VW. I think this is due to a specific problem where the simple answer is that more weight is better. Consequently, the last I noticed, there are quite a few classicals with very heavy necks. FWIW, what happens to violin neck/head weight and stiffness is easily recognizable if you do a lot of them. When I started the business I'm now in, it took only about three new boards before my partner understood exactly why I wanted to replace some of the violin boards that he thought were fine, and he marveled that he'd never noticed before what that did. That's because he didn't have to know--that was my job.

Sure, every violin is different, but the job of the guys in the shop is to recognize what's wrong and make it right, as efficiently as possible, from experience.

The reason people who do this work daily know what happens is because they've done the same experiment over and over, and had players tell them the same thing. No one really cares what some guy in a lab thinks, no one cares what he believes--they only know the response they get, over and over, when they make certain changes, from people who make their livings with these tools and know their instruments intimately. No you can't put things back exactly the same, but someone who's worked with an instrument for a decade or so knows how it acts in every circumstance, and will know when it changes permanently to something its never been before. Get 10 people telling you the same story about what direction things have moved in, and you MUST pay attention, if you're at all intelligent.

My mentor in this business was fond of telling me that it's ignorant to believe that you can make a change to an instrument and that there will be no effect. He said "intelligence is knowing", and I think that I have mentioned that he kept a can of Shinola in his drawer to remind himself why he had one of the most successful violin shops in history. This is the very fundamental concept of cause and effect. Recognizing these relationships is what puts someone in demand as a shop, adjuster or repairman.

Edited: January 6, 2019, 6:44 AM · Paul, those are fair questions, and I think Michael answered most of them.

Regarding your concern about other variables coming into play: One way of experimenting with the weight of the pegs, without removing the strings or bridge from the instrument, or disturbing the existing setup in the slightest, is by sticking small pieces of modeling clay in various places. One can do an A/B comparison multiple times, switching back and forth very quickly this way.

Yes, mass could be added or removed from the scroll by drilling holes, or by drilling holes and inserting lead weight, but in the business of instrument preservation, that would be considered an invasive procedure bordering on vandalism. Choosing a lighter or heavier set of pegs is not.

People have been dinking around with violins for more than 300 years, and I think you'd be amazed at how many things have already been considered or tried.

January 6, 2019, 7:12 AM · I like Micheal Darntons last post as it accurately describes what has been my experience that any minute change to setup is noticeable, such as swapping out a fine tuner on the E string or the use of the E string sleeve or removing it, yet I can understand people being skeptical over tuning pegs affecting sound. There is so much controversy on sound subjects such as playing in, carbon fiber material, and projection that sometimes I do not want to read any more on it and just depend on my ear and intuition of what is better.
Edited: January 6, 2019, 8:35 AM · Heavy Pegs?
What are we talking about here?
I just weighed a Knilling and an ebony peg it might replace:
Ebony: 4.8 grams
Knilling: 7.0 grams

For 4 pegs in a pegbox this amounts to a difference of 8.8 grams - 0.314 ounce.

By the way this extra Knilling planetary peg was courtesy of Chuck Herrin of PEGHEDS when I needed an extra peg for a 5-string violin. Not only did he send me a peg FREE but he sent me two pegs (with different heads) to be sure to match the 4 that I had already bought on ebay. (I had already been a multiple purchaser of Pegeds for cello and violin from Chuck.)

Edited: January 6, 2019, 8:54 AM · Let me make sure I understand what y'all are saying. Gear pegs (that is, heavier pegs) always causes worse violin tone for Michael's customers, who have told him this over and over apparently. Meanwhile David says sometimes it's better with heavier pegs and sometimes worse. What did I miss?

David your modeling clay experiments sound very interesting. Just remember its viscoelastic response is much different from that of wood.

Michael it's amazing that guitar makers have been adding lead here and there. But then the head needs to be as heavy as possible? Seems to be a different story for violins, right? Not trying to be a pest here, just trying to get the real story from those with experience.

Edited: January 6, 2019, 9:43 AM · Paul: I didn't say that about violin peg changes. In fact I don't remember mentioning violin pegs at all.

The guitar example is a special one. I personally think that it works on guitars because the curve on what's wanted in a modern classical guitar doesn't align with what the guitars themselves are, in a direction that is helped by adding neck weight. That's an unusual situation.

I said pegs make a difference. I didn't say good or bad. Everything depends on the instrument and the player--probably more on the player. I could make some generalizations that help me know what to do, when, but I have refrained from doing that here, since the discussion has simply been about whether there are differences or not. Also, when I have that discussion there's usually a lot of hand waving, which my keyboard doesn't allow. :-)
Further, there sometimes are reasons to make compromises that don't involve tone at all. A speculative example would be a player who's recovering from a serious wrist/hand problem but still needs to play to survive.

On this whole concept: most restorers prefer to make radical changes in instruments between owners. People bought their instrument for specific reasons, and may not like the changes, even ones that most would perceive as positive. When I do something that is going to make a change, I always discuss with the owner what the results are going to be, so that they know what's going to happen. Even then, it's hard to relax until you see the owner's response to what has happened. As much as possible, I try to do things in ways that I can incrementally back out, but so far I haven't had to.

I can't say often enough that it is a professional's obligation to understand cause and effect, to be able to efficiently arrive at solutions to problems without floundering around, and to be able to work with owners to achieve what they want, not what the adjuster wants.

Edited: January 6, 2019, 11:46 AM · Quote:
"Heavy Pegs?
What are we talking about here?
I just weighed a Knilling and an ebony peg it might replace:
Ebony: 4.8 grams
Knilling: 7.0 grams
For 4 pegs in a pegbox this amounts to a difference of 8.8 grams - 0.314 ounce."

The Wittners are heavier yet, but yes, 8 grams added or removed from various parts of a fiddle can make quite a difference. An entire bass bar only weighs about 4 grams. An entire top is usually under 60 grams, so an 8 gram change would be over 10%. A sound post.....

January 6, 2019, 12:11 PM · Has anyone determined how much energy of the vibrating string is damped by the nut and how much continues to be transferred to the peg, the string anchor point? If the peg is absorbing a significant amount of the vibrational energy, then maybe the mass (inertia) of the peg has a measurable effect on the sound.
Edited: January 6, 2019, 1:34 PM · Tom, my crude theory is that there's not much point in wasting energy, vibrating parts of a violin which don't emit much sound. One theoretical way of doing this would be to make these parts so massive, that vibrational energy is more reflected back to the parts which are really efficient sound radiators, than absorbed elsewhere. This kind of fits in with Darnton's observations of guitar necks, and the metaphor about encasing the heads in concrete.

Granted, there are all kinds of ways to mess with this theory, and a lot depends on what most pro violinist are accustomed to, and like, which will generally trump theory.

Despite the plethora of experiments and ideas, and all the analytical tools we have access to today, it's easily arguable that we haven't managed to advance very far from what was sorted out by a very few makers, 300 years ago.

January 6, 2019, 1:11 PM · That's the theory I go on as well: any vibration not making music is wasted. Movement in the neck is wasted sound, basically--vibration that could go to ears rather than to the player's left hand. An interesting point on this: beginners and less experienced players often say they like a violin that communicates with them via vibration, especially through their left hand; I rarely hear this from old pros who have focused themselves on how to maximize things for the audience. Functionally, I have heard better players refer to this as an instrument having some backbone, or resistance, against which they can press (as opposed to being weak or compliant, maybe).

I myself, as an admittedly bad player, like this kind of thrilling buzz of experience and it took me a while to understand what having this "feedback" steals from the listener. If you're playing for yourself, however, it may be something important and valid to you that I am not going to insist you have to give up. To quote me, "and to be able to work with owners to achieve what they want, not what the adjuster wants." This kind of thing is what I try to tease out of people I'm doing work for, so I don't ruin their violins for them.

January 6, 2019, 1:48 PM · Perhaps the heads of the violin pegs should start out relatively massive so that they can be carved down to remove mass until the violin's tone has been optimized. I'm picturing the following:

Violinist: My violin needs better tone.

Luthier: Well, the most obvious thing to try is to insert a small piece of lead into your pegbox. If that fails I'll look at your sound post.

Edited: January 6, 2019, 2:30 PM · Paul, you have some neat ideas, but you are still well behind where many violin makers and restorers are. Tungsten is much heavier than lead, and doesn't have the potential toxicity issues.

Uranium is slightly heavier than tungsten, but carries toxicity issues which are probably much higher than lead.

January 6, 2019, 3:38 PM · David, osmium is the densest of all natural metals, about twice the density of lead, so could in principle be used as a substitute in some applications.

Unfortunately, there some drawbacks. Osmium is one of the rarest of metals, and is slightly on the expensive side at about $1000 per oz. Any dust produced during machining the metal will oxidise in air to produce the extremely toxic osmium tetroxide dust which interestingly is volatile at room temperature. Osmium is another on my list of metals (including the radioactives and beryllium) not to be dealt with except in an ultrasafe laboratory environment.

January 6, 2019, 6:44 PM · Osmium is too expensive and its compounds are toxic, so I would not use that. Tungsten is nice and dense but it is not nearly as workable as lead. The lead that you put into the scroll ... one does not need to be touching it all the time (or ever).
Edited: January 6, 2019, 8:34 PM · Tungsten powder can be mixed with various types of glue, and simply brushed of dabbed into place. If it's a water soluble glue, and if removal is later desired, it can be removed with water. Doesn't get much easier than that.
Edited: January 6, 2019, 7:47 PM · That sounds messy. How much tungsten relative to the mass of glue solids? Just wondering what the final density of the dried composite material will be.

But back to the question: Do you actually recommend this to your customers seeking tonal adjustments?

January 6, 2019, 8:42 PM · No, as one of the tools in the experimental arsenal for people in the trade. As I mentioned earlier, my first choice for varying the mass of scrolls on traditional instruments would be lighter or heavier pegs.
January 6, 2019, 8:47 PM · I wonder if they make pegs out of depleted uranium. LOL
January 7, 2019, 10:49 AM · If they could, some member of the SCVMA would have already tried them...

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