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JCHungerpiller

Stuck Pegs

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Last night a member of my group had a violin peg get stuck...really stuck. Plan was to take it to a Luthier. I was wondering the usual methods a pro would use to unstick a peg without breaking it or the pegbox.

Thanks JC

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I quickly free a stuck peg by striking its small end a sharp blow with a small hammer. I hold the peg box in my hand, supporting the area around the stuck peg as well as I can. The hammer I use for this has a head about an inch long. Often I can't get a clear shot with the hammer at the peg end that I want to hit because the other pegs are in the way. In this case, I hold a short piece of wooden dowel (an old soundpost) against the peg end and strike the dowel with the hammer.

This always works and is so quick that I don't charge for it.

Other people on this forum report success using a hair dryer or light bulb to gently heat the peg, which causes it to dry out and loosen as it shrinks. This would take a little longer, but avoids the trauma of a hammer blow.

I have seen stuck pegs broken by people who try turn them with a wrench or pliers.

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GMM22   

Hammering is dangerous, although I do not doubt it can be successful for some (it has always failed me, probably due to not using enough force due to fear of damage). I recall a violin some time ago that had all four pegs jammed up in a way that defied all logic. To put it in perspective, over time I moved the pegs out a quarter inch and they were still locked up.

In the past, I've tried all of the heating methods usually mentioned, and without much success. I developed my own idea that has worked very well, and while it is comparatively slow, it is a very low risk solution.

Mechanically speaking, one desires the peg to reduce in size while leaving the peghole unchanged or larger. To this end, insert an ice cube in a sandwich bag and apply to one or both ends of the peg. Prolonged application will draw heat away from the peg and create an advantageous temperature differential (more simply, shrinking the peg) allowing one to then twist free. Wood is an insulator so it takes an adequate amount of time to draw enough heat away. As well as shrinking the peg, there is another beneficial effect at play related to a reduction of the coefficient of friction with lower temperatures.

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I have used the hammer approach several times, always successfully and with no damage to the pegbox or pegs (except that I have to support the pegbox on a solid surface and have sometimes marked the cheek).

What I stumbled onto that works 100% and is easier than the hammer is an automatic center punch. I cut off the point and usually use a plastic cover (a spot of leather glued to the tip should work) to keep from marking the end of the peg. The punch is available at most hardware stores at prices ranging from about $3 to about $20 US. The impact strength is adjustable and the spring can be replaced with a lighter one if needed.

The first time I used one was on a 1/4 size fiddle with a broken peg. Nothing to get hold of and I didn't really want to drill it out. Then I remembered the center punch, which popped it out easily. Haven't done it any other way since.

Lyle

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"I have to support the pegbox on a solid surface and have sometimes marked the cheek"

I always hold the pegbox in my hand, rather than resting it on a solid surface, to avoid this problem -- or something worse like breaking the pegbox.

The automatic center punch is a great idea. I'll have to try it.

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Thanks, Matthew. How'd you dig that up? Actually, it looks like more of a handicap than it is. Of course, there are things I have to do differently than most people but you probably don't really want to hear me play. Making is easier in many ways (than playing) but steadying a hand plane is tough. But it's still all fun.

Lyle

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I love the center punch idea, Lyle!!! I was taught to use a hammer

and dowel and it has never failed me and never damaged anything,

but this is genius. I might just have to drive a peg into a beater

fiddle until it's stuck just to give it a shot. I was also told to

wrap the whole fiddle in a thick towel if you use the impact method

in front of (or in earshot of) a customer. It deadens all of the

harmless noise, making it less traumatic to the owner.

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Vibration is what defeats a "machine fit" which is what this is. The small hammer approach is correct here. An exact fit is what keeps the tuner from turning smoothly - another anomoly in the wonderful world of violins. Use peg dope to create enough imperfection to make the tuner perfect. Start with using dope only on one side.

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Rothwein   

quote:


Use peg dope to create enough imperfection to make the tuner perfect. Start with using dope only on one side.

Are you recommending using it only on one side of the pegbox, that is to say on the contact point at either the head end or the narrowest end; or just applying it on say half the surface of the peg at both contact points and working it in?

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GMM22   

"Vibration is what defeats a 'machine fit' which is what this is. The small hammer approach is correct here."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vibration or impact of some kind is also frequently the source of injury, and a violin is less compatible to overcoming a machine fit than say a machine. I would not have bothered to press further if it were not for excessive comments suggesting that hammering is the only correct method.

I think an accelerometer would reveal that hammering on a violin scroll could cause transient vibrations that are an order of magnitude greater than anything encountered in routine handling or playing. I cannot imagine preferring to hammer on say a three hundred year old master violin of delicate build with perhaps multiple repairs and scores of cleats if a gentler method presented itself.

The correct approach is the one that is effective and least invasive for any particular person performing the operation, hammering, cooling, or otherwise.

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I'm saying use the dope only on one end - and damaging 300 year old masterpiece comments can't be faulted or correctly responded to because it's like any advice, as careful as you'd hope to be in offering advice there's always a way to peg the meter with suggestions of dire consequence. But I'm going to stick my neck out further and say that if you're playing a Strad that you paid 3 million for then you already know the right guy with the hammer.

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GMM22   

There's no dire warnings as this thread makes it apparent that hammering works for many, and if you were able to convince me that in three hundred years no one ever broke, loosened, or marked something by using a hammer to remove stuck pegs I would agree that it is of no value to consider any other ideas.

However, most opinions on MN are volunteered to be part of a larger body of knowledge that encompasses the many ways any given problem can be tackled. It is unusual to see someone assert the correct way to the exclusion of all other ideas, even those that they have not tried, or have you actually tried ice?

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GMM22   

"An exact fit is what keeps the tuner from turning smoothly - another anomoly in the wonderful world of violins"

"I'm saying use the dope only on one end"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think this claim is in contradiction to conventional wisdom. However, I could be wrong, and since I am interested in all things mechanical, can you provide a better explanation of the actual mechanics behind this theory?

Why is it beneficial to use peg dope only on one end? Can you elaborate?

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I'll stay away from the stuck peg thing except to say that I use other methods than have been mentioned... Never tried ice. Interesting thought.

As far as peg fitting goes, I believe I recall Melvin mentioning a lute maker (?) who fits there pegs so that they are loose at the small end. While I can't really say I leave the small end loose, my own experience is that pegs really don't work well at all (they cause all kinds of trouble) when the small end is tight.

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GMM22   

Saying a certain approach is the correct method might be construed as exclusion or diminishing of other methods. Perhaps I misread. Anyways, it is a small matter.

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I've tried the ice and for me it's too tedious to try to shrink a small hard ebony peg surface when the usual culprit is the peg box. Warming the whole area gently with a hair dryer on low heat works better for me. But that's only if tapping the peg on the small end using an old soundpost for a drift (supporting the pegbox with a firm grip) doesn't provide immediate results. My 'hammer' is a 1X2X9 inch piece of fir.

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GMM22   

The culprit cannot be one any more so than the other, but granted, it could be considered tedious. By the way, I have it on authority that Bald Cypress from the Natchitoches Louisiana area (when harvested at a half moon in January) makes the best peg hammers. Apparently, the pegs will also put up less resistance to the blow if you can correctly pronounce Natchitoches at the exact moment of impact.

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