Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Planetary Perfection Pegs

Written by: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

For many students and players, tuning the violin is a major impediment to playing and playing well. Traditional pegs can slip or stick. Learning the right amount of push, pull, turning and tension is very, very hard to learn. And frustrating. And expensive when you keep breaking strings. I think that some type of mechanical tuning system is necessary for students and would ease the lives of most players. I have favored using tailpieces with fine tuners built in such as the ones made by Wittner or Bois d'Harmonie.

I just finished putting the first set of Knilling Planetary Perfection pegs into one of my A. Fein/ R. Riva violins. Some things I like about them, some things I'm not in love with, some things just seem wrong.

The instruction booklet that comes with the pegs is very good. The strange part is the E and A need to be threaded in counterclockwise, the D and G need to be threaded in clockwise. The way to tell the difference is to feel how the threads work with your thumbnail. A simple marking system (discrete dots or letters) would take the guesswork out of that part of the installation.

The pegs are made out of some plastic/composite material. They feel nice on your fingers. They are not nearly as beautiful as ebony, rosewood or boxwood. They are also very plain. Many players enjoy some decoration on their pegs. I prefer Parisian eyes or mother-of-pearl and a gold ring.

The one part of the installation booklet I would advise against is gluing the pegs in with a polyurethane glue. Wow! That is a very strong permanent glue. If you ever want to change pegs, you have a big problem. That's also problematic because all mechanical pegs eventually wear out. What would you do if your pegs were permanently glued in? A small amount of hide glue will work just as well for holding power and will be much easier to remove.

I'm not in love with where the string holes in the pegs are. They are well over to the opposite side from the peg head. This sets up some odd physical strains on the strings and pegbox. it also makes it hard to not overlap strings when you are putting new strings on.

Picture of Planetary Perfection Pegs with all strings on

Close-up of where string hole is on E string

As far as the actual tuning function of the pegs goes, they do a good job. The A, D and G strings let you tune finely enough. You would still need a fine tuner for the E string. The mechanism is not fine enough to allow perfectly accurate tuning of the E string.

Whether you use friction pegs, mechanical pegs or fine tuners, the most important thing is to be able to tune your instrument. A violin in tune always sounds better than one out of tune. And it doesn't matter how you get there.

UPDATE JANUARY 14, 2021-  In the ten years since this blog post was first published there have been a few improvements. A seemingly small improvement is that the pegs are packaged with a "T" or "B" denoting whether they go on the treble side or bass side. That takes the guess work our of which side to install the pegs on.
Also, the gearing seems more refined.

The problem, for me, is that the pegs are not easily removable. So I wouldn't recommend them for a good instrument. But for rentals and student instruments they make tuning incredibly easier. Since we're still in the midst of a pandemic and many lessons are video lessons, the old method of a teacher tuning the instrument for the student isn't possible. 

ANYTHING that makes tuning easier gets a recommendation from me. Planetary Perfection Pegs work great in that situation! I can now say- I recommend them!


  1. As to the Threading on the inserts, (left/right hand threads) I think you've found that they are set up so that the string tension will try to tighten the threads, as opposed to unscrewing them. Since you don't work with a lot of machine threads, I can see where telling the two apart might take effort. Working as a tool maker, I routinely see photographs in trade magazines where the images were flipped in photoshop, and the result is that screw threads then look "left handed".

  2. I have been installing these for years and I have had to replace a couple. They come out easily, you have to grip the peg with pliers (which wrecks the peg, but it's being replaced anyway) and make sure you turn the right way, but they pop right out. They do mark the pegs now with a B for bass side and a T for treble side. They are a nice product, make sure you have someone experienced install them it is definitely worth it.

  3. I have installed several sets of these pegs on my violins and violas, so far I have had no trouble with them at all. I only use a small dab of glue on one side of the threads in case they need to be removed, that has worked just fine for me.
    Do not try using them without glue since they will eventually come loose during tuning. I also recommend getting them installed by somebody with experience unless you are a very handy person with the proper reamers etc.
    They are now also made with rosewood and ebony heads if you want something a bit fancier, but these are quite a bit more expensive.
    If you leave enough of the end of the string on, you can wind it over to where it sits in a perfectly natural position on the peg before going over the nut, no problem there either.
    I have never included an E fine tuner on the tailpiece since installing these pegs. There is no difficulty in fine tuning the E string once you get used to feel of these pegs. You have the added advantage of completely cleaning up the appearance of the fiddle at the lower end.
    The one thing to watch for on the G string is to not leave too much extra string on the peg. It could get forced into the recess "if any" at the peg hole and this will separate the string winding's thus ruining the string.
    I have installed these pegs on three violas and four violins now and everyone who has them loves them. They just make fine tuning much easier during a performance.
    In my opinion, they might be best innovation in violin technology in one hundred and fifty years. Not too hard of an accomplishment since just about nothing else has changed in that time.