Is altering peg hole sizes a must when fitting Wittner Finetune Pegs?

July 20, 2019, 1:10 AM · Wittner Finetune Pegs work great for me in that they save a lot of time and agony in tuning. Now I am getting a rather high quality new violin with "traditional" peg set. Is it possible to fit Wittner Finetune Pegs to the new violin without altering the sizes of existing peg holes with a reamer, so that the original set of "traditional" pegs can always be replaced later when desired?

Replies (17)

July 20, 2019, 1:31 AM · no
July 20, 2019, 5:42 AM · Not a must
July 20, 2019, 7:08 AM · they have to be fit with a reamer, which will mean the original pegs no longer fit, I sincerely hope you give this some second thought!!
July 20, 2019, 7:32 AM · Wittners come in 2 different sizes. The larger size is bombastic an will rarely be needed even in worn out peg holes. The thinner model is still a little bit too thick.
If you really need fine tuning pegs on your good violin, I'd rather consider pegheads, which if I remember correctly offer customized sizes. This might liw you to avoid reaming the holes, but still isn't a guarantee that your current pegs will fit in there again if needed.
July 20, 2019, 8:31 AM · You always have to ream the holes to some degree.

Measure the holes and order Pegheds or Perfection pegs slightly larger than the current size of the holes, and then ream them all out to the correct size during fitting (NOT before, if you plan on doing it yourself).

July 20, 2019, 8:42 AM · It's rare that the luthier would not use the reamer at all to fit your gear pegs. However often the amount of material removed is extremely small. Still, it's enough that your original pegs may not fit properly again. In that case you would just get a new set of traditional pegs.

Chuck Herin, the proprietor of PegHeds, claims to have installed hundreds of sets of his pegs at his shop in Columbia, South Carolina (USA). He further claims that not a single customer has ever asked him to put the old pegs back in. I mean, can you really imagine yourself doing that, knowing how well your gear pegs work?

Most importantly, do NOT do this yourself. Luthier fee for installing these pegs will be typically less than $100. Look for someone who has done it before. One bum twist with that nice brand-new razor-sharp reamer and your pegbox will require far more than $100 worth of work.

Wittner FineTune pegs are a good choice because they do not require any adhesive. Both Knilling Perfection Pegs and PegHeds recommend a tiny drop of urethane adhesive. Wittner pegs obviate the adhesive by having a tooled shaft.

July 20, 2019, 11:54 AM · But after removing the Wittners, you'll have to ream the peg hole a tiny little bit to get the conventional pegs run smooth again, since the tooled shaft leaves (very small) indentations.
July 20, 2019, 1:52 PM · You may not have to. They have the correct taper and have several diameters. I have not had to alter pegbox holes in any way, or use adhesives.
July 20, 2019, 2:29 PM · The indentations left by the gear pegs may not interfere with the movement of traditional pegs, depending on the brand of gear peg. But all this is academic since, statistically, people just don't go back to wooden (friction) pegs once they've done gear pegs.
July 20, 2019, 4:06 PM · Except me, in one of two cases. Which should not be seen as a vote against them. Actually, I pretty like them, from the functional point of view. Not so much because it makes tuning easier (which is obviously true), but because geared pegs won't slip when humidity changes, which gives me trouble during the cold season.
July 21, 2019, 2:19 AM · Thank you all very much for the most invaluable inputs.
(1) It seems a worthwhile and harmless idea to try fixing the Wittmer Finetune Pegs in my new violin without using the reamer to alter the hole sizes as a first attempt. The worst case could be that the Wittmer Pegs will not fit well to the existing holes. But then no irreversible changes are made, and all options are still left open for the next steps;
(2) I will definitely have an expeienced Luthier do the job instead of attempting it myself. Too many things can go wrong with an over-enthusiastic home-made luthier. :-)
Edited: July 21, 2019, 7:38 AM · Hopefully you have a luthier who doesn't mind being told how to do his job based on your discussions with random, mostly anonymous people on the internet. Your luthier already know that they should be removing as little material as possible with the reamer.
July 21, 2019, 8:51 AM · A perfectly formed wooden peg can fit a range of peg-hole diameters - it just sticks out more with a smaller hole and sinks in further with a larger hole - until the peg's shoulder contacts the peg box. That's when rebushing of the pegbox is required.

With a geared peg there is a very small region of the peg length that MUST be in contact with the pegbox wall. I would estimate that the leeway in peg diameter for a utile fit is less than one millimeter (1mm) - much closer tolerance needed for a good fit. I would guess that the chance of a pre-manufactured geared peg fitting a random peg hole at less than 10% no matter how well you can measure your peg holes (not all peg-hole diameters will be the same on an instrument that has significant use).

I've gear-pegged 14 instruments myself (57 pegs, one was a 5-string violin). I had to use a reamer on every hole. The first tool you need before ordering geared pegs is a micrometer capable of measuring your current peg diameters AT THE HOLE! Or you can have a pro do the whole job and be away from your fiddle for a week or more.

A friend of mine had Pegheds installed on his Enrico Rocca violin (a $150,000 fiddle) by the best-know San Francisco luthier a few years after I had installed Pegheds and Knillings in most of my (and family's) instruments (I would certainly not cut into such an instrument myself.) He was concerned that his original pegs could be replaced - especially now that he has stopped playing and will try to sell the violin.

I don't think anyone buys a fiddle like that for the pegs. Pegs on a well-used instrument are unlikely to last 100 years nor are original peg holes likely to get much older than that without re-bushing (I had one experience of that too).

I've since installed a couple of sets of violin Wittners too.

The pegs for violas and violins are the same (at least they work in both instruments).

July 21, 2019, 9:21 AM · I think 1 mm is an overestimate of the tolerance. Just my own personal feeling. But i will admit that Andy has more experience with this.
Edited: July 21, 2019, 12:07 PM · Paul, I'm sure you are right. I wrote "less than." I just did not want to calculate how much less, but it would be based on the angle slope of the peg shaft and the length of the "tolerant" section of the geared peg. That section is a protuberance on the Wittner that creates a small slot in the pegbox wall; for the Peghed and Knilling it is screw that threads into the pegbox wall. 0.02 mm might be a better guess still < 1 mm.

Put it this way: if the geared peg diameter is too large by even the tiniest amount it will not work and if the Wittner protuberance or the Knilling/Peghed screw on the peg gets into the peg hole by more than 1 mm you maybe into the trouble region because you want as much of the pegbox wall engaged supporting the peg as possible.

Since I was able to do 57 of these and knowing my lack of skill in such matters there must be some leeway. (I did screw up one and had to buy a larger diameter replacement peg and ream a larger hole (it was a Wittner, they are great but fitting them can be tricky!)

July 25, 2019, 5:25 PM · Hi Xi Wang,

although I have never installed the Wittner geared pegs, I would like to express my two cents on this topic.
Unfortunately I don't think it is possible to make them interchangeable with normal wooden pegs, because a slight cleaning and adaptation of the hole would always be necessary and the tolerances of a conical junction like that of the pegs with pegbox holes are really really small, and a difference even of one or two tenths in the hole diameter would already be excessive for a correct positioning and functionality of the peg.

In theory I could make wooden pegs exactly the same shaft size as the Wittners (so in theory interchangeable) but the problem is that the wooden pegs need some peg paste (peg dope) to work properly, which must be removed if Wittners are used, so a slight reaming would be necessary which would widen the hole a little, making the subsequent re-installation of the wooden pegs no longer accurate, also because a further slight reaming would probably be necessary to guarantee a perfect fit of the pegs to the holes which must be extremely precise for correct operation (I suspect that the slight raised lines present on the Wittners shaft to allow better grip could make the hole slightly uneven, requiring a further light reaming).

Moreover, the Wittner pegs cannot be installed properly if the hole is covered with peg paste, because this could cause them to slip and this is one of the reasons why reaming is required when they are installed on a violin that was previously mounted with normal pegs.

So, I think that the best option would be to ask the maker to mount the Wittner pegs from the start on your violin, providing you separately with the 4 wooden pegs set with the shaft still to be adapted (as they come from the manufacturer) so that if in future you will decide to put them on the violin you could supply them to any violin maker to whom you will ask to do the work (in case that the author of the violin is on the other side of the ocean, for example) who will have the possibility to adapt them perfectly with the maximum freedom of action, including the positioning of the hole for the string whose position is critical and must be drilled after the peg has been adapted and brought to the final size.

Edited: July 28, 2019, 7:12 PM · Hello Davide,
It is wonderful to hear from the most respected teacher and master luthier from Cremona. Your comments are in line with other feedbacks in this chain of discussion, and are most beneficial. I do believe your approach of installing first the Wittner Finetune Pegs, plus making available an optional set of traditional pegs, provides the most logical solution under the circumstances. Which ensures all options are kept open for the future.
I think Just like the Chin Rest and the Shoulder Rest, Geared Pegs will gain popularity over time. There will always be violin players who prefer to play without CR, SR, or GP. But after all, it will always be the unique sound characteristics of the violin, and the music made by great musicians on the instrument that will fascinate and move us, disregarding whether CR, SR or GP is used.

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