Violin Information

Care and Maintenance



·  Always keep the instrument and bow latched in the case (or cover) when not in use to prevent accidental damage. 


  Never expose the instrument to sudden changes in temperature or humidity. Do not expose it to the sun. Store away from radiators or hot air vents and do not leave in a hot or cold car. Keep your instrument protected against extreme temperatures. The humidity level should be maintained in the 40-60% range, any lower and the instrument is subject to open edges and cracks. Any quality of instrument, student to professional, can crack from poor care. The bow hair can also shrink causing damage to the bow stick. Use an instrument humidifier like a Dampit® and a case humidifier such as The Precipitube®, or a whole room or whole house humidifier. I personally don't care for Dampit's as they can do serious damage to the instrument if the level of moisture is too high, but they can work without damage if used properly.

   The cold by itself usually does not hurt the instrument, it is the dryness that comes with winter that usually damages the instrument. You should not expose an instrument quickly to the cold, so do not open you case the moment you go inside, let it acclimate. Very old instruments, where the wood has dried out completely, are actually more stable, they have already cracked because of the lack of humidity control in decades gone by. Many of the new cheap instruments have not had their wood properly dried, these are the most likely instruments to crack, especially the larger ones like cello's and basses. This is one reason why it is especially not a good idea to buy the low end large instruments. 

    The sound also suffers when treated to humidity levels below or above the norm,  When the instrument dries out too much, the top of the instrument looses part of it's height and so the string height above the fingerboard is lowered. The sound post also becomes tighter which can crack the top and will certainly effect the sound.   


·  Wipe the rosin dust from all surfaces with a clean cloth after each use to avoid buildup. Do not use alcohol to clean the varnished surface as this may remove or damage the finish.  Oil based polishes should be used only sparingly and then only if there are no open edges or cracks that the polish could penetrate. Oil based products will shine, but the shine will fade as the oil evaporates. The best cleaner is no cleaner or just simple water or spit.  The best polish is one that is wax based and can be reversed.

Cleaners and polishes should be separate or you will end up polishing over the existing dirt. You always clean an instrument before you polish it. You don't want to polish dirt into the finish.

    Cleaning: Some cleaners are dangerous to use on some finishes, without trying it first on an inconspicuous spot, like on the side by the chinrest, you won't know how it will react. Most commercial cleaners aren't that effective, keep in mind that violins other than cheap student ones are varnished, this varnish is made up of gums and resins. Cleaners have some sort of solvents in them to break down the dirt; these solvents can also dissolve varnish. I once saw several inches of varnish slide off of a modern Italian violin that was left too close to a rag with alcohol on it. A Citrus based cleaner might work, but I have seen them remove varnish on some instruments. Many professional violin shops use Xylene to clean violins; this is a very dangerous chemical to breath and must be used very carefully in a very ventilated area - best done outside using gloves. It can also damage a newly oil varnished violin as it is a solvent for oil based paints. Some shops will use a liquid wax that has some form of fine abrasive additive, this does clean and polish at the same time, but can be overly abrasive. One of these is called Bril-Glow and is used commonly in the furniture restoration field.

    Polishing: Most commercial polishes contain oil - to make things shiny. If there are any open edges or cracks in the instrument, the polish can get into those spaces and make it very difficult to repair. Many professionals will use Renaissance Wax (a clear micro-crystalline wax) to polish; it is similar to a paste automotive wax but has no oils in it. Zymol Cleaner Wax or Meguiars Gold Class wax are car wax brands that I know are used by several violin shops, care must be taken to not use a wax containing Silicone.  Another disadvantage of car wax over Renaissance Wax is that they have colors in them that when dry, small bits end up in crevices especially where the top or back meet the ribs and it can look ugly.  

I would recommend that you have the local violin shop do a cleaning and polish. If after it is done, you just use a soft cloth to clean your violin before you put it away each time, that cleaning can last for years. If you are getting lots of rosin dust on your instrument each time you play, you are using too much rosin. 

So, as you can see, it really is a complicated mater and it is really best to leave the cleaning and polishing to the experts. 

If you want to clean and polish your instrument yourself here are some things to think about.

1.      Always check your instrument for open edges and cracks before you polish as doing so may prevent the proper repair of your instrument.

  1. If the instrument has a lot of rosin and dirt, you should take it to the violin shop and have it professionally cleaned, keeping it that way is then fairly easy.
  2. Never use any household cleaners or wood polishes on an instrument. Only use specially designed ones for instruments. Never get alcohol near your instrument. 
  3. Don’t use a "one thing does both polish and cleaner" or you will be polishing the dirt into the varnish and it will get trapped and  polished over. The longer that rosin sits on the varnished surfaced the more it becomes part of the varnish. Rosin which is a resin, is made from the same material that goes into most varnishes.
  4. Use a small amount at a time, gently buffing in small circles in a small area with a clean dry cloth. 
  5. Once you have a polished instrument, it may be a year or so before you will need to do it again. Just wipe the instrument off with a clean, dry cloth after playing. If you are seeing a lot of rosin dust on your instrument after you play, you are using too much rosin.  


·  The back of the bridge must always remain perpendicular to the top of the instrument. Tuning at either end )from the pegs or tuners) tends to warp the bridge and if the bridge is not straightened frequently, this warping can become permanent. Ask your teacher or repairman for assistance. The warp can become so severe that the bridge can break and the force in the collapse can seriously damage the top of the instrument. 


·  The top of the instrument absorbs moisture during the summer and can puff up causing the bridge to also push up and become too high. Likewise, during the winter, the top of the instrument can flatten causing the strings to become too close to the fingerboard.  It may be necessary to have two bridges (especially for cellos), one low bridge for the summer and one higher bridge for the winter.  The E string on the violin and A string on the cello should have some protection to keep them from cutting down into the bridge.

Fitting - The bridge must be properly fit to the instrument both for safety and for sound. If the feet do not fit the instrument, the surface of the top can be damaged as well as risking the bridge falling which can severely damage and devalue the instrument.  

The cut of the bridge affects the sound that is produced. The height of the strings effects more than play-ability, it can affect tone. If the space between the strings and the fingerboard is too small, the sound will be muffled and can cause buzzing on the fingerboard or just a fuzzy sound. Also if it is too low, the tension of the strings is less because the angle over the bridge is less causing less pressure on the top of the instrument which leads to a less powerful sound. 

If there is too much height, there may be too much tension on the top causing a harsh or pinched sound. The carving of the different parts of the bridge like the wings and heart also contribute to the sound. If a certain string is lacking, an adjustment in certain areas can bring out the sound of that register. If the "blank" bridge is left without adjustments in these areas, sound quality will be affected. If the bridge is left too thick or thinned too much it will hurt the sound by restricting the wood movement if left thick or causing bad vibrations if made too thin. The feet are also critical to be fit to the body properly, if not, much of the bridges vibration will not be transmitted to the violin top.

These subtle adjustments to the bridge take years to learn how to do properly which is why when a new bridge is needed, the instrument should go to the violin shop and not the music store where they don't have anybody trained in this art. This is why it can cost $100 or more for a new proper bridge.

Often, either after some period of time or if the bridge wasn't properly made, the string groves in the bridge will become too worn.  This makes the strings too deep into the bridge and can pinch the strings causing the strings to break and the bridge to be pulled forward and warp.

For those that think it would be fun or easy to fit a bridge on their instrument, here is a link to some basic information. -  After reading this, if you still think you want to give it a try, I strongly recommend only doing so on a very inexpensive instrument until you get some experience.  A very comprehensive violin making and repair book is available from the author. 



·  Old strings become lifeless and as they get old they can go "false" and require more tension to keep in tune thus putting excessive pressure on the instrument. In addition if you have an old false string next to a new string it may be impossible to play double stops.  Replace all your strings with fresh ones approximately every six months if using the instrument 30 minutes a day. Remove and replace each string one at a time, not all at once. 

·  If you are using steel strings: place the ball end of the string into the tuner, then put the other end of the string through the hole in the peg and turn the peg so that the string winds over the peg and winds toward the handle part of the peg--it should not be forced against the peg box wall. Only stick a small part of the string (approx. 1/4" or less) through the peg. 

·  If using a synthetic gut string: when possible, put the peg end of the string through the ball end of the string (forming a lasso) and put this lasso around the prongs of the tuner. This will prevent the breakage of strings at the tuner (lassoing the string is not necessary on most violin E strings or steel strings). If you have a tailpiece with the built in tuners, it is not necessary to lasso the string. Continue as above with the installation at the peg end. It is always a good idea to put graphite (pencil lead) in the nut groove when changing strings to aid in the smooth passing of the string over the nut.

See Strings and Accessories page for a detailed description of string brand characterizes and string identification.

         Reasons Strings break - Strings today are manufactured to such high quality that it is almost impossible for a string to break without help. The following is a list of common locations where strings break and their cause.

        1. Breaks at fine tuner: the string was installed incorrectly and the tuner sides are pinching the sides of the string causing it to break. See the instructions above for proper installation of soft centered thicker strings.

        2. Breaks at the tailpiece slot: the string was installed into a tailpiece whose slots are too tight for the string and is pinching the sides of the string causing the string to break. Have a repairmen adjust the width of the slot for proper clearance. 

        3. Breaks or unravels at bridge: the bridge slot is either too deep or too rough and the string is being pinched. Have a repairmen adjust or replace the bridge. 

        4. Breaks or frays in the playing area: the string can wear from considerable use-- some players change their strings as often as every 4 to 6 weeks due to the amount of playing time. The more you play, small amounts of the metal are worn away and the string gets thinner and can start to fray or break. An uneven fingerboard can also cause this wear, have repairmen resurface the fingerboard. Sharp fingernails or acidic skin can also eat through the metal jacket of the string.

        5. Breaks at the nut: like the bridge, a rough or too deep notch in the nut can cause fraying or breakage of the string. Have repairmen repair or replace the nut. Excessive tuning from improper fitting pegs (they slip often) can also cause breakage.

        6.  Breaks between the nut and peg: In almost every case, this breakage is caused by tuning the string too high. This is the weakest part of the string, where it goes from metal to thread wrapped, and an over-tuned string puts too much force on the string; strings are only capable of being tuned a couple of notes higher than they are pitched. On rare occasions the grove in the nut is so deep that it catches the string and the only section of string that is being tightened is between the nut and the peg. 

        7. Breaks where the string meets the peg: especially on the E and G strings, the string can get caught between the edge of the peg box wall and the hole for the peg. Be sure to properly wrap a string onto the peg so that the last winding does not forcibly press against the peg box wall.

        8. Breaks in the winding's on the peg: if the string hits the bottom of the peg box, it can be worn through. Be sure to properly wind the string without numerous layers over top of one another. If the string still hits, than the instrument should be taken to the repairman for more space to be added under the peg for proper clearance. 


·  Guard against tuners touching the top of the instrument because they can seriously damage the wood or varnish. If the tuner becomes loose it can also rattle--see the section on buzzing below.


·  Normal tuning can cause pegs and peg holes to go out of round, this causes slipping and must be fixed by a repairmen. Pegs can dry out causing, sticking, and can usually be corrected using Peg Dope.

See the next section on the technique for applying peg lubricant.

I strongly recommended that "Peg Drops" or blackboard chalk not be used as they can freeze a peg in place and cause permanent damage to the peg box when an inexperienced person attempts to free it. In a pinch, a small amount of sidewalk chalk could be used on slipping pegs. If you are ever unable to free a peg from the peg box by simply turning the peg by hand, do not attempt to free the peg with extra leverage, take the instrument to an experienced repairman. Over 95% of the broken pegs I see are caused by too much force being applied to the peg. Applying excessive pressure can also cause cracks to the peg box or scroll. The amount of time or cost for a repairman to free the peg is negligible when compared to replacing a peg or repairing damage to the scroll or peg box.

See Fitting Pegs below to get an idea as to what goes into the proper fitting of pegs and why you should leave it to the professionals.

CRACKS AND OPEN SEAMS: no-one should attempt to do these types of repairs without proper education. A very comprehensive violin making and repair book is available from the author. 

·  Check your instrument regularly for cracks and open seams.  In any quality of instrument excessive dryness can cause both cracks and open seams, so humidify your instrument with an instrument humidifier and, if possible, a case humidifier--this is especially important in the winter when the heat in your home will dry out the air.  Have your repairmen glue open seams and cracks as soon as possible so they do not get worse. Do not polish an instrument that has open cracks as this may make any future repairs very difficult. A dependable shop should never charge you to check over your violin for cracks & open seams or for that matter any other needed repairs.


·  The sound post is the heart and soul of the instrument and must be adjusted as the instrument changes with weather conditions. It is not recommended that the musician attempt to adjust their own sound post- an inexperienced hand can cause serious damage to the inside and “f” holes of the instrument. Always release the tension of the strings if the sound post falls.

Fitting - The sound post, like the bridge, must be properly fit and located. When fit properly, all of the posts top and bottom surfaces will be in complete contact with the top and back of the instrument. Less than 100% contact will mean a loss of vibration and loss of sound as well as possible damage to the top or back. The length is very critical, too long or too short and the instrument could be damaged from the plates being pushed up or sunk from the tension. The location will greatly alter the sound characteristics of the instrument. Too close to the bridge will make it sound harsh, too far will make it sound sluggish. Too far to the upper or lower string can adversely affect the brightness or darkness. Some of this is taste of the player, but in the end, the repairmen needs to know how to make these subtle adjustments.


·  The bow hair should always be loosened after each use to preserve the proper sweep and straightness of the stick. Do not touch the hair with your fingers, as it will pick up the oils from your skin making it hard to rosin and interfere with the sound. As with the strings, the hair should be changed approximately every 6-12 months. As hair gets old, it stops producing a clear resonant tone and the rosin tends to not adhere to its surface. It becomes brittle from drying out and the hair itself wears. Hair may also stretch or shrink with the weather. In the winter, the hair can dry out and shrink due to too little humidity.  If the hair does not tighten it can be from stretched hair or from a broken internal part.  

I do not recommend cleaning the hair with any liquid. Some people do so with alcohol, this can speed up the hair drying out and can turn any rosin to a sticky, gooey mess. Others wash hair with soap and water, this might be ok if it is done extremely carefully. However, if the wood plugs inside the bow gets wet, this will loosen the hair and it could pop out. The hair can shrink from drying out after being washed, potentially causing severe tension on the stick and even possibly breaking off the head of the bow. 

Some issues that old hair can cause potentially damaging the bow:

*The hair can shrink from dry weather, potentially causing severe tension on the stick and even possibly breaking the head of the bow off. 

*The stick can wear at the thumb position if the hair has stretched, wear to the stick can cause severe breakage. 

    *A number of broken hairs on one side can cause the bow to warp, repairing this requires heat and that is a potential for serious damage.

 Protect your instrument and bow, humidify your case and instrument.  

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Some Repairs That You Can Do In An Emergency

Some of these repairs are for emergency use only and a repairmen should look at the instrument as soon as possible

1.     Pegs slipping- there are several reasons for pegs slipping 

     A. The pegs do not fit: no matter what you do you cannot get the peg(s) to hold. To tell if this is the case, take off the string and see if the peg wobbles in the hole, if it does - get professional help for the instrument. 

      B. The string hole is too close to the peg box wall. When the string hole is too close, the peg cannot be pushed in far enough to hold tuning. Solution: pull the string off, take the peg out, and drill a new small hole in the peg (appropriately sized to match the string thickness) and set the string back in place. 

      C. The peg may just need to be lubricated. - A little Peg Dope put directly on the peg where it rubs in the peg holes will do wonders for both slipping and sticking pegs.  Do not use blackboard chalk as it contains too much oil. The wood will be effected and the peg can seize in the hole (in a pinch, sidewalk chalk may be used). Peg Drops are a commercial product that contains both alcohol and melted rosin and you never want to put rosin on your pegs, melted or dry not to mention that alcohol is dangerous for many varnishes. I have seen serious damage to instruments if they are used.

Note: Some shops use "LAVA" brand soap as a peg dope. I am not advocating it as it is controversial. However, I have used it and have never found a problem. Some individuals that probably have not actually used Lava soap for an extended period in order to make an educated decision, advocate against it simply because in contains a small amount of pumice.  In using it for 35 years at Weaver's violins and at my own shop, even on expensive instruments, I have never seen any excess wear.  If you are concerned, just get the Peg Dope but you may also need something else to use if they start to slip too much. Neither is expensive but Peg Dope has to be purchased from a violin shop vs. Lava soap which can be purchased at most hardware and grocery stores.

      D. Pegs also dry out due to too little humidity during the winters. Protect your instrument; humidifying your case will offer the best protection against the pegs drying out. If you live anywhere above Georgia in the US, the dryness that winter brings can cause pegs to slip; it is also the changes in humidity more than just the dryness that causes the strings to go out of tune. This will be most noticeable when you open your case, if the strings are loose.  If you are pushing in the peg as you tune it up and it is still not sticking than one of the previous reasons is why.

2.     Buzzing- 

A buzzing sound could be caused by any one or more of the following:

  1. loose fine tuner hardware - tighten
  2. bottom of fine tuner, touching the top plate - back it off the top
  3. finger tapes on fingerboard. These act like guitar frets and buzz easily - remove or replace tapes
  4. loose chinrest hardware - tighten
  5. Chinrest is missing its cork padding - replace cork
  6. string falling apart; loose winding - replace string
  7. chin rest that is rubbing against the tailpiece or saddle - move chinrest over 
  8. end of string at the  peg hitting peg box wall - re-wrap the string
  9. shoulder rest buzzing against the back of the violin - raise shoulder rest
  10. loose mute - push back towards tailpiece in get a different mute 
  11. loose wolf eliminator - tighten screw
  12. the string bridge protectors are behind the bridge loose on the strings - slide up over the bridge
  13. buzz caused by an object in the room buzzing in sympathy with a certain note; sometimes can be mistaken for a buzz in the instrument
  14. buzz caused by player's personal effects, jewelry or a button, etc. - remove jewelry 
  15. string grove on the nut is too deep, causing open string(s) to buzz against the fingerboard
  16. string groove in nut is mishaped and the string is buzzing in the groove
  17. a glue seam that is open
  18. crack in the instrument somewhere
  19. a bump in the fingerboard
  20. a loose fingerboard
  21. loose purfling
  22. loose bass bar on interior
  23. loose tailpiece fret
  24. loose interior lining
  25. top or bottom interior block improperly fit or poorly glued
  26. sliver of wood on top or back that didn't get properly glued during a repair
  27. dirt in the points of the f holes causing a reedy buzz as the parts rub together 
  28. something loose in the instrument
  29. loose sound post or loose sliver of wood on sound post
  30. loose collar or pin on decorated pegs 
  31. a dribble of glue on the inside
  32. damage from wood worm
  33. loose bass bar and plate
  34. on a cello - problem with endpin cork, ring, tip or screw
  35. a label on the inside of the instrument can come loose

Aside from making sure it's not a simple problem (#1-14), you should take it to a violin shop and have them examine the instrument, as only a luthier can do any but the simplest repairs.

In an emergency I have instructed people to do the following being extremely careful not to damage the instrument. If you don’t feel comfortable with this type of work, do not attempt.

     A. At the nut-the string has worn a groove in the nut down to the fingerboard. Remove the string and put a drop of Crazy Glue in the groove and add a pinch of Baking Soda. Continue until it has been built-up enough and then, using a small round file or sandpaper wrapped around a small nail, smooth out the groove. This is a temporary solution as it is not hard enough to last very long. You may also not be able to smooth it out enough and the string may be damaged in the process.  In a real emergency, a thin piece of leather or compressed cardboard like a matchbook case can be slipped under the trouble spot. If in a real hurry, use a small piece of a business card placed under the string to lift it up.

     B. The string buzzes all the way up the fingerboard. The bridge is too low or the fingerboard is warped, also check the string winding's. If you suspect the bridge is low, take a piece of compressed cardboard like the kind that comes inside a new shirt or from a matchbook cover, cut a couple of thin strips and place them under the bridge feet. Care must be taken to not let the sound post fall--a little light pressure on the top of the instrument above the post should suffice. 

      C. A woody sounding buzz.- First check the chinrest and make sure it is not touching the tailpiece. Next check all around the edges to see if they are tightly glued. If you find an open spot, put a slip of paper in the opening to stop the rattle. Also check to make sure there is no buildup of funk (most likely a hardened rosin residue) in the "f" holes at the points. Use a business card to carefully clear the debris. If it is hard like varnish, do not attempt to fix as you could chip the varnish on the top which might require an expensive touchup. 

      D. A metallic sound. Check the fine tuners and make sure they do not touch the top of the instrument. If there seems to be a lot of play in the threads of the fine tuner screw, remove the screw and apply candle wax, Lava soap, bees wax, or crayon to the threads and reinsert. Also check to see if the little plastic tube that comes on some strings is loose behind the bridge. This plastic tube is a protector for the top of the bridge and should be placed as such. 

      E. Most times the fingering tape applied to the fingerboard causes buzzing. The fingerboard has a slight curvature to allow the strings to vibrate. With tapes applied, this curvature is compromised and the tapes act like a guitar fret.  I prefer to use a Silver Sharpie® Metallic marker to apply dots between the strings as this does not impede the strings from vibrating. The Sharpie® marks can also be applied and reapplied if needed much easier and removed with less damage to the instrument than tapes.  See fingerboard markings for more info. Another common problem with fingering tape is that the adhesive breaks down and the tapes actually shift or slide, causing the student to play out of tune. The Sharpie® marks do not in any way hurt the surface of the fingerboard. 

If buzzing still persists it could be a number of other things - see a repairmen

Some other repairs you might be able to do in an emergency

     3.     Your Fingerboard falls off. Loosen the strings-In a pinch wet both gluing surfaces with warm water, put together and clamp or tape the edges (on the unvarnished portion of the neck) for as long as possible. Tune up the instrument at the last possible moment and remember to loosen the tension again when you are done. Do not attempt to reglue or use glue on the instrument, the wrong type of glue will cause damage to your instrument and cost you more when your repairman has to remove the glue and repair/replace your fingerboard. See your repairmen as soon as possible and when not using the instrument, loosen the strings. 

  1. Eyelet in bow is stripped. Remove bow screw and pull frog off stick. Being careful not to get the hair twisted, reinsert the screw in the eyelet and pinch the side of the eyelet with a pair of pliers. This will compress the threads and give you a few more days of use. You can also stick a thin piece of paper in the eyelet and re-thread the screw-this will take up some of the play in the threads. Be very careful not to damage the underside of the frog.
  2. Hit too many strings while playing. Your bridge is probably too flat. Put pieces of tape on the bridge under the string until it is high enough to work properly. As soon as possible, see a repairman.
  3. Sacconi tailgut has stripped its threads. Re-thread the brass nuts onto the tailgut-pinch with pliers and burn the ends. Finish by adding a drop of Crazy Glue to the threads.

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Repair Prices

REPAIR PRICES (2017) - a rough guide to help you decide if it is worth fixing an instrument up. Bear in mind that this list is what my old business charges and other stores may be lower and many are higher. I am no longer in business and so I can not do repairs for you, these are just guidelines.  Accurate estimates of repair costs can only be done with the instrument in hand. You want a violin shop that does all the repairs in house. Many problems may not be noticeable to the untrained eye, so take your instrument for a trained evaluation and estimate.      


Instrument Repairs



Fit Standard Bridge



Fit Professional Bridge



Reset Soundpost



New Soundpost



Install Tailpiece Gut (Sacconi)



Reglue Fingerboard



Resurface Fingerboard



Glue Loose Seam (each)



Install New Nut or Saddle



Adjust/Shim Nut



Install new Endpin (standard)



Refit/Adjust Current Pegs

10.00-20.00 ea.

15.00-25.00 ea.

Fit New Peg Set (Standard Ebony Set of 4)



Install Customer Supplied Strings



Install Strings Purchased at Lashof Violins



Fit Wittner Finetune Peg Set

130.00 vln/140.00 vla


Clean & Polish



Written Appraisals




            These are just a basic guideline of costs. Individual estimates are necessary on any varnish touch up, crack repairs, neck grafts, and repairs requiring the instrument to be opened.

Courtesy of Lashof Violins 

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Fitting Pegs


The fitting of violin tuning pegs is one of the things that needs to be done by a professional. I am including some basic instructions here so that you realize what must be done to properly fit a violin peg. In addition to needing specialized tools, costing several hundred dollars, if not done properly, it can lead to damage to the violin or at minimum pegs that won’t hold at all. Even when done by a professional it takes time and care and cannot be rushed. The pegs must be tapered at just the right shape a little at a time by turning them inside a specially made peg shaver, which resembles a fancy pencil sharpener. The taper of the peg is very crucial so that the peg will create the proper friction in the hole to stay where you put it and neither keep pushing in or want to pop out.  The holes in the peg box are prepared by using a reamer with the same taper as the shaver to gently expose a clean smooth surface of fresh wood.

As you will see below it is not an easy process. It takes a lot of practice to learn to do this properly. 

Tools needed to fit a violin peg

  • Peg shaver
  • Peg Hole Reamer
  • Sharp knife
  • Ebony Pegs
  • Pencil
  • Saw with very fine teeth
  • Drill and 1/16” drill bit
  • Fine file
  • 150, 220, and 320 grit Sandpaper
  • Bench vice

1.   Insert the reamer into the peg hole and turn it gently to remove enough wood to create a smooth properly tapered surface. Do not use force with the reamer to avoid damaging the maple and creating a misshapen hole or cutting too much. Only remove enough to create a fresh hole.

2.   Secure a new ebony peg in the table vise. Use a utility knife to carefully score (make a line, not a cut) the peg below the decorative ring. This will help the peg shaver to create a clean edge and not chip the decoration.

3.   Insert the peg into the peg shaver and rotate it while gently pushing in creating the correct taper on the peg. Select the hole in the shaver that will create the perfect size taper so the peg will slide through the hole on the violin neck and extend the correct distance (12 mm from the head). The hole may need to be adjusted slightly larger. Continue the process of tapering the peg, checking the fit often, until you have the perfect fit between the peg and hole.

4.   Insert the peg into the hole and use a pencil to mark the end of the peg on the backside of the scroll where it should be cut and shortened. Insert the peg into the vice to secure it. Cut the end off of the peg at the pencil mark with a fine saw. Use a fine file to round the end. Sand the peg end with increasingly finer sandpaper with a slight curve to the end of the peg.

5.    Mark the placement for the string holes with a pencil (approximately halfway between the sides of the peg box walls). With the peg in the vise, use a drill to create the string hole on each peg. Sand the edges of the hole lightly to remove any burrs (a small mouse tail file can assist in this process). Apply a coat of Peg Dope to the peg where it rubs the holes so that it will both turn with ease and stick where you want it to

Here is a link to peg fitting with pictures.

A more comprehensive work on peg fitting is included in Violin Making and Repairs for the Novice available from the author.  

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Bow Rehairing

Bows need to be rehaired on a regular basis. The hair is horsehair and is made up of protein. This means that it can absorb air and dry out especially during the winter. The longer the hair is 'off' of the horse, the drier it gets and the weaker it gets. When you have your bow rehaired, use a shop that does a lot of bows, so that they go through the hair quickly and replenish their supply regularly.  Also if they do a lot of bows they have the experience no matter what they encounter. As the hair dries out and the hair gets older, it is harder for the rosin to stick to it. It used to be thought that the hair had burrs that held the rosin and sort of plucked the string as it was drawn over it. We now know with the use of high powered microscopes that it does not have burrs.

If you play 30 minutes a day, you should rehair your bow at minimum once a year.

The process of rehairing a bow is not that complicated, and many of the tools can be made or purchased cheaply. The difficult part is to do it well. Someone has to practice on about 100 bows before they get moderately good at it. The difference between a good and a bad rehair is as little as 1/16" in hair length.  A bow also needs to be rehaired differently in winter vs. summer.  It is also difficult to keep the hairs from getting crossed.  So unless you have a big pile of bows to practice on, let the professionals handle it.

 A comprehensive work on bow rehairing is included in Violin Making and Repairs for the Novice available from the author.

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Bow not Tightening

Its one of several reasons:

 -The hair is too long either from stretching or from being rehaired too long

 -The plug in the tip or frog has come loose
 -There is a problem with the threads on the bow screw or eyelet                             -The bow screw isn't aligned properly with the eyelet in the frog     
Somehow your bow screw got switched with a different one that has shorter threads.      

           Take your bow to a violin shop, not a music store and they can figure it out and fix it for you

If you can't tighten the bow enough, about 1/2" between hair and stick in the center, then either the hair has stretched out or one of the small wood or plastic plugs has given way on the inside. It is also possible if the hair is new that the person that installed it made it too long, if the hair is fresh, it might be able to be shortened. If the hair is more than 6 months old, it is probably time to get new hair anyway. As hair gets used, besides stretching from use, having been left tight by mistake or high humidity, it gets brittle and also gives a poorer quality of sound. If it seems to take more rosin than it used to, it is also time to get fresh hair.

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Bow Bugs

If your bow hair seems to be getting brittle and seems to be breaking while you play or a number of hairs are hanging loose when you open your case, then bow bugs have infested your case. If your case has bow bugs, you will need to have the bow rehaired professionally, and you or the luthier will need to clean and disinfect your case. Then you should follow some easy steps to ensure that they don’t come back. 
Bow bugs, also known as carpet beetles and bow mites, can be members of several species of the Dermestidae family, in the larvae stage. They are fairly common, even in clean homes, and they love to eat bow hair, animal glues and wool. It is important not to store your bow in an unopened case for long periods of time, because bow bugs do best in dark, enclosed places.
Getting rid of them 
1. Vacuum your case thoroughly, at least twice (or have the violin shop do this). 
2. Leave your case open in a well -ventilated, bright area for a day or two. 
3. Take your bow to be rehaired professionally. If the hair isn't yet broken, be sure to tell them about the bugs so they can take steps to protect the other bows and cases. (They won’t think you’re bad for having bow bugs; they've seen many before.)
Keep them from coming back
1. You can try putting cedar chips or moth balls wrapped in cloth in the case, but nos. 2 and 3 below are most important. Don’t use an insecticide spray; the residue could damage your instrument and bow. 
2. Make a practice of periodically leaving your case open in a well-ventilated, bright area.
Keep your case open when you practice.

What They Are...
They are small and they like to live inside your instrument case. Entomologists call them dermestids, members of the Dermestidae family of beetles and stringed-instrument players know them as bow bugs.


What They Do...
Bow bugs love to chew on bow hair, so if you open a case after it has been sitting for a while and find that the bows hairs are loose or randomly broken, you can guess that the bugs have been active.  In addition you can sometimes actually see the tiny bugs—or at least their casings. They are about an eighth of an inch long and often brown or reddish brown in color.

As they mature, however, they shed exoskeletons that can be seen inside a case. 
Occasionally people will come in and complain about a bow rehair that they recently had done, because the hairs are already loose. And often we have to say, ‘It isn't the rehair; you've got bow bugs.’ You can see the evidence of them in all the crevices of the case, however, such situations are rare, because active players don’t generally have the problem. The insects don’t like light and prefer to make their homes in cases that have been stored, not opened, for long periods of time. Sometimes players are embarrassed when they find evidence of a bow bug infestation in an old case, but the problem is not unusual and bow bugs are likely to be hiding even in the cleanest of houses. 
They’re all around us; they live in carpets, insulation, closets, and under the bed where there are dust bunnies. It’s the larval stage that does the most damage, and they’ll eat whatever is available to them.

What You Can Do...
Luckily the insects don’t infest ordinary homes in large quantity, although it doesn't take many to do damage to your bow. If bow bugs do get inside your case, you can get rid of them by following a few simple but important steps. First, remove the instrument and bow and check them carefully for any trace of the live creatures.  Next, if you plan to use and not store the bow, have it rehaired. While the case is empty, vacuum it thoroughly, using a narrow crevice nozzle to get into every nook and cranny. Then leave the case open in strong (though not direct) sunlight for a few days. In most cases, these actions are enough to wipe out the problem, although some people battling severe infestations have been known to try pesticides, such as powders or insect strips. And there is, of course, another way to make sure a case is clean: get a new one. Many players who have salvaged a long-neglected instrument and bow want to buy a better case to store them in anyway
But if the instrument is going to go back into storage, we tell people to clean [the case] out and not to even bother to rehair the bow, then it’s less likely the bugs will go back in there, because there’s nothing there for them to eat. 
Bugs that eat bow hair are certainly a nuisance, but fortunately they are little more than that.

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