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A couple years ago, my cousin gave me her old violin that she never played, and it is for sure over fifty years old. When she found it, the pegs were really loose and they will not stay in their place at all. The violin itself is in pretty good condition, just a couple scratches here and there, and apart from the pegs, the only things that need replacing are the strings, which is not a big problem at all.

Is there any way I could get the pegs to stay in their position myself without having to pay a whole lot of money to replace them?

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2  
Get some Peg Dope. –  Mark Lutton Jan 6 '13 at 22:34
4  
50 years is not old in repect to violins. Pegs are also not overly expensive, if attempts to get the present ones working fail - about 5$ per peg. –  guidot Jan 7 '13 at 9:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As Mark says, there are various products you can coat your pegs with to increase friction. Your local music shop will probably have something.

In the past I have even used rosin in an emergency but it will leave dust and mess over time.

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Here's the trick I learned from an excellent violin maker many years ago.

If you are not comfortable changing strings, take your instrument to a violin shop and ask them to show you. They won't charge you and you'll save yourself the trouble of breaking stuff. If the pegs are too small for the holes, take it to the shop and get new pegs. There's an art to making them work right. (As a side note, some student-level pegs have a screw inside the peg that adjusts the tension. These instructions are NOT for that situation. If you see a screw in the peg and the pegs don't work right, go to the violin shop.)

If you are comfortable changing the strings: Take the string off the peg, take the peg out of the peg box. Use a regular graphite pencil (#2 or otherwise) and color the part that contacts the peg box. You should have a stripe around the peg close to the skinny end and one close to the wider side, but do not color the area where the string winds. Without putting the string back on, put the peg in its spot and turn it a few times. Use more graphite if it doesn't turn well. Ideally, a little firm pressure should move it smoothly and it should stay stuck when you let go. (If the peg falls out and you can't get it to stay with its own friction, take it to the violin shop and ask for help!) When it turns smoothly and stays put, you are ready to put the string back on and make some nice music!

I do this every time I change strings, or whenever the seasons change and the pegs get sticky or slippy. It works way better than peg dope. It got me through conservatory, a master's degree, and I've been a professional violinist for a long time.

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As much as you can buy substances to increase the friction on the pegs or build them up, if they are really that loose then you're going to have a hard time getting them to work properly. Usually parts on instruments tend to be expensive (or cheap and adversely affect the sound quality), but with the case of pegs even good ones are relatively cheap (as far as violin parts go anyway!) and a new set can make a heck of a difference. So I wouldn't necessarily rule out just coughing up for a new set of pegs, it could save a lot of time and effort later (nothing worse than a string slipping hugely out of tune half way through a performance!)

However, I've often seen people have this trouble and the cause isn't the pegs themselves, but simply that they're not pushing them in enough. Pegs are tapered, with the end where the string goes thinnest, and the end where the handle is thickest. If the string is wound in such a way that the peg sticks out too far, it will inevitably slip.

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Please, please, please, be very careful what you do with your violin. If it's over 50 years old, then there is a very real possibility that it could actually be much older than you know, and you could ruin a priceless treasure if you aren't careful. The only way to know for sure is to look at the label inside.

Now, regarding the peg, there are a number of options available, including buying new pegs for the instrument. However, there is also ways to repair the peg holes in the violin by gluing shavings of wood in the peg holes to make them smaller. Very thin shavings of wood will suffice. If this is a choice, then use only " Animal Hide Glue" to carry out this repair. Animal Hide Glue is natural, and is what is used on all older violins, and most new violins even today. It's strong and durable, yet 100% reversible and will not damage the instrument further.

Another important consideration is that the owner bought the violin used. That is a tell-tail sign that the instrument is much older than its suggested 50 years. This is especially true since the woman never used, nor played it at all. That is a clear indicator that you MUST be careful what you do. Take it in, have it assessed by a professional Violin Shop. Let them examine it and give you an accurate assessment for what to do with the violin. People have found and bought old violins in antique stores and in thrift shops and have discovered their old beat up violin was a priceless antique like a "Stratavaria", many reported to be worth 10's of thousands and even millions of dollars.

The fact that the pegs were loose indicates great wear and possibly very old age. It also suggests that the original owner probably and likely used the instrument a lot, until the pegs got worn. The rest was left to time, from the wood drying and shrinking. If it's in very good condition, then it needs to be assessed and examined by a professional.

For someone to just say "Get some Pegs, Dope" is not only crude and very rude, but shows a significant amount of ignorance and insensitivity to something like this. Ignore them.

Regardless of its true age, this is something you purchased because YOU wanted it. Don't let someone bully you into doing something that you may end up regretting. If it is older than suspected, then it would be worth the investment to have it professionally cleaned, restored and repaired.

I am new to violin repair, but learned a lot over the years. I've seen very old 300 year violins that seemed impossible to repair, completely restored and made playable again. Loose pegs are a minor problem, but I am innately suspicious about the true age of your instrument. Please, let a professional look at it, ask them to tell you what you have. you will know immediately if it's a rare artifact when they look at it. Violin shop keepers have a keen eye for something rare and will start drooling, shaking and their eyes will light up when they see a collector's pieces. They will know instantly Yours, could be one of them. Good luck fixing the pegs, treat your violin as a treasure, because it already is one. It's yours, and it's already over half a century old that you know of. That in itself makes it a treasure. Thanks for sharing.

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1  
I think you'll find Mark was suggesting the OP bought some 'Peg Dope' - a product designed for this exact purpose! –  Dr Mayhem Oct 3 '13 at 23:00

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