The pegs are relatively simple to see, assess and understand. Quite simply they are the main tuning part of violin family instruments.
They are usually made from one of three woods: Ebony, Rose Wood Box Wood, of course, like anything, there are exceptions.
The peg shaft is tapered to allow the peg to tighten with light pressure as it is turned, tuned. This helps them to remain seated tightly enough not to slip. If the reamed holes and peg shaft do not match perfectly then tuning or holding its tune will be hard to do.
It would seem logical and straight forward that any instrument with a matching hole and peg would work. However, there are things that happen in the fitting process that are influenced by the tools, wood, weather conditions and technical ability that can make pegs problematic.
In simplest terms, a well fitted and lubricated peg tunes smoothly. A poorly fitted peg is uncomfortable challenging to work with.
There are a few things that prevent pegs from working well:
- If the hole in the peg that the string goes through is too close to the peg box wall on the thinner end then the peg will not be able to seat tight enough to hold its tuning.
- Sometimes either the grain of the wood, a blunt peg reamer or technical ability creates an egg shaped shaft. This makes tuning irregular with spots that don’t seat well enough to hold or it causes the tuning to only hold in specific positions. Depending on how severe the case and how much of the peg protrudes on the peg head side, it will probably need to be replaced with a new one.
- When pegs are really tight and do not turn easily (or at all) this can be remedied in different ways: one, is to use a pencil by Colouring in the visible contact areas. Two, you first apply good old fashioned soap to the peg and there after chalk to regulate it from over slipping. Third would be to buy peg dope from a music shop and apply that in the same way as using a pencil.
In our working view, the pencil method is the simplest, cleanest and easiest by far. Once you have pencilled on the contact areas replace the peg and turn it a few times until it turns smoothly and repeat until perfect.
- More especially with Boxwood pegs, sometimes the peg holes create indentations on the peg that cause the peg not to taper into the hole fully because of an edge that prevents it, meaning that it won’t fit tightly enough to hold its tune. To overcome this will mean either filing it down lightly or giving it a go in the peg shaver to even out the surface.
- In the case where time and use has warn down the holes and pegs, whereby they go too deep and no longer hold that, of course, means that the pegs need replacing.
- Seasonal weather changes also have an impact on pegs. They are after all made from wood which means that cold, hot, dry and wet weather changes influence shrinking and swelling, respectively.
In the below video we show you how to look for the mentioned problems and how to overcome them as far as possible, until you get a chance to have a luthier correct it for you.