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Tuning with
Tapered Friction Pegs
© Frank Ford, 7/29/98; Photos by FF, 7/29/98

For the last 300 years or so, violinists have tuned their instruments using the most primitive friction device. It's simply a tapered peg that you have to press hard into the peghead as you tune up. The violin's strings are under a reasonably low tension and well fitted pegs turn smoothly and hold well:

Many ethnic instruments, including dulcimers, have similar pegs fitted into open pegheads with two bearing surfaces for the pegs, just like violins:

Lots of dulcimers and other "ethnic" instruments have friction pegs that are rather rustic and don't work too well. . .

This antique banjo has tapered pegs made of bone:

These pegs are fitted into a soft wood peghead but the bearing surface is very thick so there's plenty of friction to hold them in tune.

Here's a Martin guitar from 1903. It has a beautiful set of ivory tapered pegs and a thin peghead:

Notice the hardwood bearing bushings inlaid into the peghead. With these hardwood bushings the friction pegs hold tightly and turn smoothly without compressing the wood, even though the neck is made of Spanish cedar which is quite soft.

This harp has steel taper pins and a very thick bearing surface:

You have to grab the harp and push hard to make sure the string will stay where you tune it. If the steel peg works loose, you can tap it gently with a hammer to seat it more tightly.



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