Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peg Fitting Tutorial

I posted this video and instructions to Mike's Oud Forums a few years ago. I've gotten lots of emails lately on how to fit pegs, so here's the text and video from that post. I also added the video link to the list of videos at the right side of the blog. I've since refined my technique a bit from this process, but this will get you there just the same.

Step 1: Score the peg shaft.

In order to have a clean line when shaping the peg it's a good idea to slightly score the peg shaft right under the bead where it meets the shaft.

Step 2: Shape the peg shaft.

This is a Herdim peg shaper. They cost about $100, but it's a great tool and well worth the money if you're ever going to refit at least one set of pegs. I find it easier to clamp the peg head in a vise and turn the shaper instead of turning the peg, it also yields a smoother cut, in my experience. This particular shaper has 4 sizes, all very slighly different. I usually use one of the middle two. I've found that a larger peg shaft turns smoother, but a smaller peg shaft provides easier tuning since it has to be turned more to raise or lower the pitch. To set the taper of the blade on the shaper, put the reamer in the tapered hole (smooth side up) and slide the shaper's blade over to the smooth reamer shaft and tighten it down. Now the shaper cuts the exact same taper as the reamer. Remove the reamer by turning it counter-clockwise so the cutting edges aren't damaged. Slow down and be very careful when approaching the beads, it's easy to cut them off! Aim for a consistent pressure while rotating the shaper. The blades are very sharp and cut very smoothly. Let the tool do the work

Step 3: Ream the hole.

--Note-- If your peg box holes are too large, you'll need to ream the holes and plug them (glue them in) with special tapered plugs, or make your own with dowel rod and the shaper. If the old pegs are decent wood, you can even glue these in, just make sure they fit well. Then drill new holes and proceed.

Start reaming the hole and check the fit often so you don't ream too much. Take your time-don't force the reamer-clean the shavings from the grooves regularly, it will work better. You can also check the diameter of the large end of the peg and find the same spot on the reamer and mark it so you don't over ream.

Step 4: Check the fit and ream more if necesary.

Step 5: Burnish to check fit.

When you get to the spot you like (since the pegbox is usually tapered, the pegs toward the tip will need to go further in so all the pegs protrude from the pegbox the same amount--for a nice look) spin the peg a few times to burnish the contact area. Also feel if the peg has the same amount of resistance for the entire revolution. If it gets easy then stiff, easy then stiff, the peg is not round or the hole is not round. (If you shaped and reamed well, this won't happen). Inspect the shaft. If there are two equally shiny bands that go completely around the shaft your peg is fit. If not, you need to maybe readjust your shaper blade's taper.

Step 6: Add a little peg compound.

Rub a little peg compound (you can get this at any violin or music shop) on the shiny bands and test the fit again. This well tell you to a greater degree the accuracy of the job.

Step 7: Chek the fit some more.

You can see that the shiny bands are more pronouced and go completely around the shaft. This is what you are looking for.

Step 8: Polish the peg

I sand the peg shaft a little with 600 grit (this fine grit won't change it's shape, unless you go hog wild and spend the whole afternoon on it!) and apply a little paste wax and buff it so the shaft has a nice look to it. Not like raw wood.

Step 9: Apply beeswax

At this point the peg fits so well that it might grip too much and when turned you can hear it squeak as it turns in minute "grippy jerks". This is no good for fine tuning. We need to apply some type of lubricant for smooth turning, but not some thing that will cause slippage. Nature's perfect solution: beeswax. Put a little 100% beeswax (get from a honey producer or from a craft store, or a 100% beeswax candle--it has to be 100% beeswax, no paraffin) on the shiny bands and work it in with your finger a little. Put the peg back. Smooth, firm turning with no chatter or slippage.


  1. Jameel, it just blows my mind that a human being can make such beautiful pieces of perfection. Your work is superb.

  2. Kari, wait till you see what I post next. It's a tour de force of incredible woodworking and luthiery, and makes what I do look like wood plagiarism.

  3. Jameel,

    Great little tutorial.
    Two tool questions,
    From whom do you obtain your Herdim peg shaper and your reamers? (I'm at the beginning of the learning curve as to Luthier tool venders)

  4. Roger, Sorry for the delay. I got mine from International Violin, but many suppliers carry them.


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