Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pegs For Violins, Violas & Cellos- Ebony, Rosewood or Boxwood?

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

Violins4you Violin Peg Ebony One 1 With Pearl Dot Inlay / Parisian Eye
Ebony Violin Pegs with Parisian Eyes

Ebony, Rosewood or Boxwood. Those are usually the three choices of wood for pegs on stringed instruments. What's the difference? Probably not much beyond wood color and looks. But in stringed instruments, everything makes a difference. Considering that your pegs are the functioning unit on your instrument that enables you to tune, the pegs are very, very important.

Generally, I prefer Ebony or Rosewood. Ebony is the jet black wood that is most commonly used for pegs. You can see it pictured above. Rosewood, in my opinion, is a prettier wood. Rosewood is striped with dark brown and black. A very nice effect!

Rosewood Violin Pegs with Pearl Eyes 
Both Rosewood and Ebony are very hard woods. They make excellent and long lasting pegs. If aged well, smoothed, evenly circular and tapered, and fitted correctly, either wood makes great pegs.

Of course, poorly fitting pegs of any type of wood will just not work well!

File:Violin ebony pegs in boxwood from Blain Exports.jpg
Boxwood Pegs

Photo by Blain Exports
Boxwood, an evenly brown colored wood is a bit softer than Ebony or Rosewood. While the best Boxwood pegs work just fine, I tend not to use them. Ebony and Rosewood pegs seem to last longer, fit better, and do a better job.

As for all the fancy bling and "bells and whistles" that can be found on pegs, I prefer decorations that are inlaid such as the Parisian Eyes in the Ebony pegs pictured above. Fancy collars and buttons on pegs tend to come loose over time. Imagine all the vibrations running through a peg plus all the tension. Anything added on seems to loosen up. Cellists with longer hair have problems with pegs with buttons and fancy carvings. Their hair tends to get caught in any peg that is not smooth and rounded.

As in everything else with violin family instruments, there are exceptions to these preferences and other considerations. We make copies of the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius. The 'Lady Blunt' has beautiful Vuillaume style pegs. We re-create that style of pegs on our 'Lady Blunt' copies.

Vuillaume style Rosewood Pegs on Fein/Riva 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius copy 
Having trouble with your pegs? Of course we've blogged about that- Tips for using your pegs.

Visit our Youtube channel to see videos of how to tune using your pegs.

There are a few mechanical pegs out on the market. I do not recommend the Planetary Perfection Pegs.

I will soon be installing a set of the Wittner "Finetune" pegs. I'll blog about those pegs as I do the fitting.

The one advantage that mechanical pegs have is that you don't have to coordinate the right amount of push/pull (a very hard skill to learn!) in order to get the pegs to work.

We have two models of the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius available. A detailed copy and a fine model.

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