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Pegs vs Machine tuners?   You are logged in as Guest
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Posts: 712
Joined: Dec. 26 2010
From: Ontario, Canada

Pegs vs Machine tuners? 

I'm contemplating ordering a new flamenco guitar and am trying to decide whether to order it with friction pegs, or mechanical tuners.

Have had a couple of peg heads in the past and neither was easy to use. Sometimes slipped when playing, sticking and hard to get exactly in tune, etc.

Maybe I never got the right techinique of using them? But they sure look good, and I like the traditional upright hold - which is much easier wih the lighter peg head.

Any of you aficionados out there want to share YOUR experience of using pegs versus machines? Might help me make the right choice.


Fruit farmer, Ontario, Canada
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 13:44:53

Posts: 672
Joined: Jan. 20 2011
From: Canada

RE: Pegs vs Machine tuners? (in reply to britguy

If your ordering from a luthier tell him you play traditional upright but find pegs a pain in the butt and see what kind of suggestions and recommendations he comes up with for you. There are ways the creative luthier can lighten up a neck so you can use regular style tuners and still be comfortable. If your ordering factory built you can order pegs and swap them out for pegheads mechanicals, some people like Jason M like them.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 14:07:51

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: Pegs vs Machine tuners? (in reply to britguy

Hi Britguy,

I know what you mean.
I loved the look of the pegs on my Ramirez and got pretty used to using them, but every now and then one would slip and go "bong".
(usually only if someone bumped against the headstock)

That would be a real pain in a concert situation.

There are these planetary gear things.

I believe Anders Eliasson has installed a set for a client and I think he said he didn't care for them much because of the weight.

But they look OK in the pictures.

The only other thing that bugs me about them is that they'd feel a bit "fake" for me to have on a genuine hand crafted traditional-style Flamenco guitar.

I'd rather go with regular machines myself, but I dunno..


  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 15:00:23

Posts: 87
Joined: Aug. 23 2008

RE: Pegs vs Machine tuners? (in reply to Ron.M

I have planetary pegheds on my guitar and work very well. They look exactly like wooden pegs but they are heavier. These ones I believe are a bit smaller and may be lighter but I have never used it.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 15:37:23

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010

RE: Pegs vs Machine tuners? (in reply to britguy

Should the pegs on my old Ramirez present the standard of that make and time, then you will have little fun with those.
They are badly made and dimensioned.

And there might be only little chance that preceding owners of a vintage Ramirez won´t have worsened the situation by trying to manage these dysfunctional pegs through too much force application first and consequential treatings like wrong lubrication etc. afterwards.

Here some quotes of good advice from the classical guitar fraction given to me once, of which some could be valuable for luthiers too.


"soap if it sticks, chalk if it slips"


Properly fitted pegs are a pleasure to use. Properly fitted are the operative words here. Many guitars, including some from shops that should know better, have poorly fitted pegs. The problem is often a mismatch between the taper of the holes in the head and the taper of the shank of the peg. Sometimes, especially on older instruments, tapers that are too steep to hold well are often encountered. You find this on old cheapie violins, too. Hard pushing or other forcing of a poorly fitted or otherwise mis-tapered peg can crack the head or the cheeks of the pegbox on a fiddle.
Direct wood-to-wood contact rarely works well and a small amount of a suitable lubricant may be necessary but copious amounts of soap, chalk and other goop are not a good idea. A small amount of a good peg compound like Hills or Hidersine should suffice on a well-fitted peg.
The current standard 1:30 taper (the shaft diameter changes by 1mm over 30mm of shaft length) that is used for violins and violas works well for guitar pegs. Cellos generally use a slightly steeper taper of 1:25. A 1:20 taper is often found on older fiddles that have not been re-pegged.

There are solutions. The holes in the head can be re-reamed and the pegs shafts cut to a matching taper using a matching peg reamer and peg cutter. Depending on the final hole size, new pegs may have to be fitted. The holes in the head can also be bushed (plugged), drilled and re-reamed, again matching the taper of the peg to that of the hole. Generally speaking, the narrower the diameter of the peg shaft, the easier and more sensitive the tuning will be. The way the strings are wound onto the pegs also makes a big difference. In the final tightening turns, the string should sit low on the peg shaft, close to the face veneer of the head. This gives you a good break angle over the nut. A string riding too high on the part of the shaft that protrudes through the head can have a tendency to pop the peg loose.
Get ye to a good violin shop that knows how to fit pegs. Most guitar shops know little or nothing about them.

Pegs do take some getting used to but it's a whole helluva lot easier when they work the way they should.


... both pegs and peg holes can go out of round over time. When they do the pegs only catch properly in one or two places as you turn them, and can jam really hard. It's easy to feel when you've got this problem. The solution is to dress the pegs and the holes to make them round, as well as to have the right taper.

A lot of violin makers are using a 'spiral bushing' these days. You ream out the hole a bit over size. Make a long shaving of something like maple (it helps to dampen the wood first), coat it with glue, and wrap it around a cheap peg or a plastic taper pin. Use the peg/pin to force the wet glued shaving into the hole, and let it dry. Then you can drill out the peg, if necessary, ream the hole, and trim it up.

This sort of bushing has a few advantages over the traditional sort. One is that you take a lot less material out of the peghead, so it's less intrusive. Another is that the grain of the shaving running around the hole reinforces it, so it's far less likely to split. It also shows less, so it's easier to touch up. You can use something like hard maple or beech for the bushing, so it's a lot harder and wears better than the mahogany or cedro of the peghead.


A number of makers include face grain hardwood plugs imbedded in the peghead as wear surfaces. They are totally invisible from the outside, stopping just short of the rear surface of the head and covered by the face veneer(s) on the front. Maple or beech are probably the most common woods but Ross Gutmeier told me about a Manuel Reyes flamenco that he had in his shop that had rosewood plugs.
The plugs are cut from flat or quarter sawn lumber using a plug cutter rather than just slicing off pieces of dowel. With dowels the peg hole would be drilled into end grain which would probably not be a good thing. Holes for the plugs, usually about 10-12mm in diameter, are drilled into the wood of the head, stopping just shy of the back surface (I use a Forstner bit to give me a flat bottomed hole) and the plugs are glued in before the face veneer is glued on. The peg holes are then drilled through in the usual fashion, reamed, and the pegs fitted.
It's strictly a personal thing but I tend to prefer rosewood to ebony for pegs. Really good ebony pegs are hard to find these days and even the best ebony is generally less stable than rosewood and has more of a tendency to go out of round with humidity changes, etc. The natural oils in the rosewoods also seem to help with lubrication.


I recently had the pegs on a violin refitted and they work beautifully now. Beats chalk any day. I bought some of the planetary guitar pegs from Brian Burns at Xmas and they are even better.

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 16:33:11

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010

RE: Pegs vs Machine tuners? (in reply to gemelo


ORIGINAL: gemelo

These ones I believe are a bit smaller and may be lighter but I have never used it.

He used to offer them with cork before.

But Carlos seems to think that money grows on trees.

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 16:36:31

Posts: 1590
Joined: Dec. 24 2007
From: Siegburg, Alemania

RE: Pegs vs Machine tuners? (in reply to britguy

I've had three pegheads and liked them all.
The only drawback that I can think of, is that it's a tad less practical to tune them while in concert.
Apparently there're some new pegs made of aluminium out there, that you may find interesting.

There's a vid of Amir Haddad playing a Bellido with aluminium pegheads



El aficionado solitario
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2011 16:44:39
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