Slipping Peg

January 21, 2019, 10:06 PM · Yesterday morning I tuned my violin at home in advance of playing in our church service. The temperature at home was approx 72-73 degrees F. The temperature in the church was cooler, perhaps by some five to ten degrees.

The violin was out of its case for about two hours in the cooler air. The peg on the E string slipped and had to be retuned.

Could exposure to the cooler temperature in the church for two hours have caused the wooden peg to contract and slip? I’ve never had it happen before and am trying to figure out the cause.

Replies (31)

January 21, 2019, 10:17 PM · Absolutely. Humidity and temperature affect the wood, causing it to contract or expand. It’s not an unusual occurrence for a peg to slip or a violin need to be retuned under the conditions you described. Unless something else happened to your violin that was disconcerting, I wouldn’t be concerned.
January 21, 2019, 11:15 PM · I think humidity has more to do with it than temperature. My pegs always slip when we turn the heat on and it gets dry in the house.
January 22, 2019, 12:07 AM · Slipping pegs can never be fixed, the ONLY solution is to have expensive mechanical pegs installed and super glued in so they can NEVER EVER slip or come out.
January 22, 2019, 6:16 AM · Reductions in temperature and humidity tend to cause the diameter of a peg to shrink and the diameter of a peg hole to expand. Combined with the higher tension of an E string, it is not unusual to have the peg slip a bit if it was tuned in a hotter or more humid environment.

Lower ratio mechanical pegs can slip on a higher tension string like an E. I have never seen this happen due to changes in temperature or humidity.

Some mild inward pressure on the mechanical peg while it is tuned easily corrects the situation, just like a manual peg. It is so easy to tune with mechanical pegs that one can forget a light pressure at the start might be needed.

Higher ratio mechanical pegs do not seem to suffer from slippage.

Glue is not applied to the moving parts of mechanical pegs, and not all mechanical pegs require glue for proper installation, so I have no idea what Lyndon is talking about. The outer threads of mechanical pegs are designed so that the shaft that is contact with the peg box will naturally snuggle securely under string tension.

A very modest trimming of peg and hole and/or some decent peg dope is all that is needed to fix slippage of manual pegs in all but the most extreme swings of humidity or temperature. And in those cases, simply loosen and retune and you are good to go.

January 22, 2019, 6:31 AM · Carmen, Lyndon is either being snarky or he's had some kind of earth-splitting epiphany about gear pegs.
January 22, 2019, 8:31 AM · Thanks all for the replies. I’m disregarding Lyndon’s superglue fix.
January 22, 2019, 8:53 AM · I've never heard of anyone gluing their mechanical pegs. The threads are more than enough security.
January 22, 2019, 8:55 AM · The manufacturer of one brand recommends super gluing them in place, that alone should tell you what genius' design these pegs.
January 22, 2019, 10:39 AM · It's true that the manufacturer's DIY instructions call for adhesive. And probably people follow those instructions all the time. But luthiers can fit them without adhesive, and if you want to be absolutely sure, contact the manufacture and ask for instructions that don't involve adhesive. Wittner FineTune Pegs do not require adhesive.
January 22, 2019, 10:53 AM · I am not as dogmatic as some, but agree with the view that geared pegs should be more of a niche product for those few who may actually need them due to physical issues/disadvantages. Most violins can be properly fitted with good quality pegs, which can often even look "better", in addition to working perfectly.

As always, not intending to say geared pegs use is "always wrong", or "dumb". That I personally find no use for them doesn't mean they may not fill an specific need for someone else.

January 22, 2019, 10:59 AM · I have a set of "those pegs" that suggest adhesive on the threads during installation. I chose to carefully fit without adhesive. Three years of use including regular "cross tuning". No issues, no slipping, No problems.

That said my other two fiddles have traditional wooden pegs that do require some maintenance and do react to humidity changes.... I don't find them to be any particular challenge.

January 22, 2019, 11:50 AM · My "physical issue" is that I don't want to open my violin case and discover that one of my pegs has slipped, and I don't want to use fine-tuners at all, and I want tuning to be easy and accurate, and I don't want to use peg dope or other stuff.

I have PegHeds on my best violin, and they work splendidly. I have inspected the areas where the peg box meets the pegs, very closely using a magnifying glass, and I can see evidence that the luthier in my case did use adhesive.

So that we have full information shared openly, I asked Chuck Herin (inventor of PegHeds) about the adhesive issue, and here is what he said:

"Pegs MUST be glued in place as per instructions. The tapered threads will easily unscrew if not secured. Unwary users may force things which can split the pegbox walls."

"I have made a number of changes to the mechanism over 20 years. My first violin customer, Mary Lee Kinosian, concertmaster of the South Carolina Philharmonic, is still using her original pegs!"

Edited: January 22, 2019, 2:28 PM · "The manufacturer of one brand recommends super gluing them in place, that alone should tell you what genius' design these pegs."

While I have never needed to remove glued-in gear-type pegs myself, the better and more experiences shops seem to have no problem removing them. Kinda depends on ones level of experience and training, not unlike so many other things.

January 22, 2019, 2:53 PM · so you're pro super gluing pegs???
January 22, 2019, 3:26 PM · I don't consider the gluing of specified portion of geared pegs to be harmful, if it's done right.

Sure, lots of things can go wrong if one is under-informed or under-skilled, just like with any violin setup, maintenance or repair procedure.

January 22, 2019, 3:35 PM · So there you have it, its alright, go ahead and super glue your pegs because David says so!!
January 22, 2019, 3:46 PM · Interesting question. Last night was rehearsal for the youngest orchestra in the program where my wife and I volunteer. Here in NJ the temperatures outside were in the low single digits and I'm the designated tuner for the young musician's instruments. Some of the instruments spent the day in the parent's car because that is where they put it on rehearsal days. More than a few instruments had all pegs go loose. They had to be tightened and tuned, some of them had the strings come off the peg (I'm so glad I have a small set or pointy tweezers that allow me to get in a 1/4 size peg box and re-insert the strings. Of course, almost all of the instruments went out of tune once or twice during rehearsal.

I told a lot of parents that they should not put instruments in the car all day long but their defense is that they have to go from work, pick up the young musician from school/activities and bring them to rehearsal and cannot get home ahead of time. I was fortunate not to have an opened seams or cracks like I had last year during similar weather.

FWIW: I left my instrument at home and just brought my stuff for tuning (tweezers, chromatic tuner, spare battery, spare strings, needle nose pliers with wire cutter for adjusting string length, and peg wrench). Needless to say I was busy - really busy.

I can relate to the frustration with the slipped E-Peg but, from my perspective it's rather minor and it happens to just about everyone.

January 22, 2019, 4:45 PM · Lyndon wrote:
" So there you have it, its alright, go ahead and super glue your pegs because David says so!!"

I'd rather have readers go by what I actually said, than by Lyndon's mischaracterization of what I said. ;-)

January 22, 2019, 5:27 PM · @Lyndon "The manufacturer of one brand recommends super gluing them in place"

Lyndon, could you post a quote from that manufacturer's manual or other instructions where he specifically recommends "super glue", please? If a geared peg manufacturer said that then I'd be really worried - super glue used in wooden structures such as violins surely cannot be removed without doing serious damage.

I've re-read David's posts and note that he does not mention "super glue", but only "glue", which would be an animal glue commonly used by violin makers and is easily removed with a hot knife.

The great thing about the violin is that it can be completely disassembled into its component parts (are they about 70 in number?) with little more than that hot knife and then reassembled into a perfectly functional instrument.

January 22, 2019, 6:15 PM · Thanks again for all replies. I’m not inclined to want to use any type of glue on the pegs. What I will do going forward is to minimize the time the violin is out of its case...particularly if a temperature or humidity difference is noticeable from where I came from.
January 22, 2019, 6:46 PM · Chuck Herrin, pegheads, calls for a drop of polyurethane glue, but he has also been quoted as recommending super glue

January 22, 2019, 8:58 PM · I think that the Knilling I bought asked for a drop of polyurethane in the union with the wood. So I did and later I was able to remove them without fuss, and without damage to either the wood or the peg.
Currently I alternate between geared pegs and traditional ones. Geared pegs are terribly useful when I play with gut or unstable strings (I live in tropical weather with extreme variations of humidity from inside to outside). So if I am using those strings, I see no problem on installing the geared pegs and with other strings I put the wooden ones (I prefer the look).

Geared pegs are one more tool in the box, not a substitute. They are a very good solution to some problems. And yes, one can use peg dope, remake pegs, etc. One can also tighten a screw with a knife, but there are tools specific for that, and even for each kind.

Edited: January 22, 2019, 11:21 PM · "Lyndon, could you post a quote from that manufacturer's manual or other instructions where he specifically recommends 'super glue', please?"

The instructions Chuck Herin sent me today call for cyanoacryate or polyurethane adhesive. In other words, super glue or gorilla glue, respectively. You put ONE TINY DROP of superglue into the peg hole once you've got everything sized and trimmed and set.

Edited: January 23, 2019, 4:34 AM · I consider this to be similar to using "Loctite" on metal threaded fasteners. It doesn't prevent them from being removed, but reduces the chances of them coming loose accidentally.

I have regular contact with some of the best restorers in the world, and haven't heard of any harmful effects IF DONE PROPERLY on the geared pegs where it is recommended. Sure, one could cause a disaster if they don't know what they're doing, but that is also true for just about any repair or setup procedure. That's the main reason why most of us in the trade advise against do-it-yourself violin setup and repair work.

Edited: January 23, 2019, 9:36 AM · The very first thing it says inside Chuck Herin's installation instruction pamphlet is "Professional installation required."

Wittner FineTune pegs don't need adhesive, but they do not look nearly as nice as PegHeds either.

February 10, 2019, 5:02 AM · In my youth I had two devices for pegs:chalk and soap.
Hope that might help.
February 10, 2019, 7:54 AM · Alain, ditto. Also how you wind the string on the peg affects stability, as close to the peg wall as possible without touching it.

I installed the Wittner pegs myself because I like to learn violin maintenance on the side and found you can fit them almost as "loosely" as friction pegs and they still work fine. This way I can quickly change them back to regular pegs whenever I want to - just a light push and they are out!

February 10, 2019, 8:48 AM · After alternative early experiences with superglue I have learned to buy the brands that come with a brush that allows me to apply it carefully and sparingly. Gorilla brand of superglue "Brush and Nozzle" covers all options and is good stuff! I have never found a superglue bond to be difficult to break - the stuff is super because it is super-fast!

My first experience with regular Gorilla Glue was a real shocker - that stuff expands like a balloon upon drying - I would never consider using it to stabilize Pegheds (or Knillings).

February 10, 2019, 10:52 AM · Amateurs using super glue on their violins, what's wrong with this picture!!!
February 11, 2019, 9:33 AM · You know, Lyndon, a lot of your posts seem to be rather unprofessional... I don't think that's very good for business.
Edited: February 11, 2019, 9:40 AM · I wouldn't say Lyndon is unprofessional. Sometimes he can become strident in his exasperation. He is a purist and it's good to have purists around. They help you define the borders of sanity. I think he's right about amateurs putting super glue on their violins. On the other hand he would likely say that professional luthiers should not be doing so either.

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