Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

What is the best way to keep wooden tuning pegs from slipping?  I have a beautiful Mize dulcimer with rosewood tuning pegs.  However they slip out of tune easily. 

Also who would be best in TN to retro fit something like that with more modern tuning keys?

Thanks for the advise.


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Back of this when i played exclusively on dulcimers with wooden pegs (1968-1995), I'd use a very litte bit of fiddle rosin to keep them from slipping. Of course rosin was what was on hand as I've always played with fiddlers. If the pegs stuck I'd tap on the small end with a little hammer to get it out of the hole. Then push it back in only hard enough 'till it held.

Some people used graphite to keep them from sticking. Some folks swore by peg dope, wich is available at music stores. It supposedly keeps the pegs working if they slipped or stuck. I played dulcimers built by two North Carolina builders, Ed Presnell and Tad Wright. They both worked fine. It is also important to keep your dulcimer in the proper humidity. If it's too humid the wood absorbs moisture and swells. My personal opinion would be not to convert a Bob Mize dulcimer to geared pegs. Once you do, it's hard to go back. Now speaking as an old coot: If geared pegs are necessary to tune an instrument, why don't they replace the wooden pegs on all those fancy violins. Good luck.

Yep i have used a tiny dab of crumbled or powdered rosin on pegs that slip too much too.  Just a tiny bit!  But nowadays I like to use one drop of "Peg Drops" (google the brand name)- which is a liquid that I believe contains rosin as well.  That works really well for me!

I fully agree with Maestro Pedi (Hi Don!).  I would not convert a Mize dulcimer from wooden pegs to other tuners.   Converting that dulcimer will seriously impact it's resale value. Buy another dulcimer instead.


It's a simple matter to adjust wooden peg holding ability as Don & Lisa have said.  I own a vintage 3 string with violin pegs, and it tunes at least as accurately as my mechanical pegged dulcimer, and just about as quickly once I learned how to properly tune with them.  As Don said - if wooden pegs are such bad tuners, why do violins continue to be made with them.

Violins with steel strings usually have fine tuners, those with nylon or gut strings seem to do just fine with the friction pegs. Nylon/gut seem more forgiving than steel, since steel has very little stretch. A slight turn and steel jumps from flat to sharp. But a big part of the tuning problem is experience-we get good at what we practice. In time, I believe any player can get the feel for friction tuners. I eventually got pretty good with the 5th string peg on my first banjo, but over time it would loosen and need the screw tightened. After a number of years I had had enough of not knowing when it would jump out of tune and had it replaced with a geared peg. Violin pegs are tapered to fit a tapered hole, 5th string pegs on a banjo are straight, and require tension on the knob to stay in place. They are a lot less stable than tapered pegs, in my experience. Try the peg compound and see if that helps.

I can't recall seeing fine tuners on a fiddle, just on school violins. Any fiddlers care to comment?


Thanks everyone for the recommendations.  By the way I really didn't want to convert the pegs because I love the way they look, (especially if you were going to any type of living history project or reenactment).  And yes as I have noticed I am in with you all who have more than one dulcimer.  three of something is a set,  anything else is a collection as they say.  So now I have a collection.

Thank you


Thanks again to everyone the Peg Drops worked almost immediately.  I was very  sparing witht them as the bottle had a warning about care of varnish or finish of the wood but it still helped the wooden pegs hold almost from the first.

Carol I'm very happy to hear that.  Every time i have wooden pegs on an instrument and they refuse to work well for me, I have found that Peg Drops makes the pegs behave very nicely- just one drop does the trick every time for me! 

If only more folks would try that rather than immediately changing the wooden pegs out for mechanical at the first sign of trouble.


Paul- all the old-time fiddlers I know have fine tuners on their fiddles...and I do know many fiddlers. 

I know of people who used a little chalk rubbed on the the peg when it was slipping and it help hold it in place.

You can check the roundness of the peg and hole by cleaning the peg and hole. Then coat the peg with white chalk. insert the peg and turn 360 degree and remove the peg. tiny bits of white chalk will be left in the hole of the peg or hole is out of round. If it is out of round you may need to use a reamer and peg shaper to get the peg and hole back in shape so it's a good fit again. But these are not cheap so you may want to find a Luther who can re-set up you head.


Cleaning may help also as oil from your skin gets on the peg, and can cause them to slip. Just use warm water and a little disk soap to clean with and don't soak the pegs.


Once the shape of the hole and peg are true you can use the other items to help keep the peg from moving. Due to the nature of the peg/hole they don't stay in tune long violin player have been know to re-tune between songs.

thanks again for a great dicussion.... i learned quite a bit!


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