Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peg O' My Heart

TUNING PEGS! The older, plastic buttons can just crumble in your fingers. Some of you might say, "No problem, just get out the really small vice grips and keep on strummin'!" So, what's those of us without vice grips to do?

Finding pegs with the correct size shaft seems to be impossible today. They've added 1/16 of an inch or more to the minimum size diameter available. For a wooden instrument, this is not much of a problem. For the Dixie, it's a problem that will definitely require careful consideration.
  • Do I want to modify an antique instrument?
  • Do I have access to a drill press and carbide drill bits?
  • Will the "standard" peg diameter change again?
  • What if I eventually find some original diameter replacement pegs?
I am facing the replacement of a full set because one button cracked. Many internet sales sites list sets but fail to state the diameter. "Fits most ukuleles" is not a very helpful statement.

According to an email I received from Joe at Elderly Instruments (elderly.com), "the closest tuners we have [for a Dixie banjolele] are stock # UP26.  The shaft is slightly larger, so you will need to enlarge the hole in the peghead from 0.15" to 0.19".  That is from 5/32" to 3/16" approximately.  I hope this helps." It did help -- especially the exact measurements. I bought a set of the UP26 pegs ($8.95 at the time). I have yet to use them. I keep hanging onto hope that I'll find some that are the correct size.

UP26 Peg from Elderly Instruments
  • The part of the shaft (on the left) that goes into the button, is square. This is a good design -- much better than having two sides square and two rounded off.
  • The metal rings next to the shaft are (from the top) top and bottom view of what comes with the peg, and a finish washer which did not come with the peg. 
  • The bottom of the ring that comes with the peg is made to fit countersunk into the instrument. This would work easily with a wooden banjolele. For the Dixie, you'd have to have a matching countersink hole drilled. Otherwise, this part would sit up on the Dixie and look sorta strange. Wish I could show you on a Dixie, but I haven't enlarged a hole to see this peg in place. The bottom ring is a #6 Finish Washer (available at a hardware store). I would use it in the place of the ring that came with this peg so I don't have to drill a countersink hole. Besides, what if the peg designs change and a different (or no) countersink hole is required?
  • The plastic rings are top and bottom view. This is what causes friction between the peg and the peg head. It is obviously made for a wooden instrument. The side that goes toward the instrument has raised lines which would keep it from slipping on wood. The other side is a bowl that the button fits into. It may be possible to use this piece, even though it is redundant for a Dixie, since the Dixie has the metal "bowl" built in. Using the plastic on top of the metal might look funny, but you'd have plastic against plastic for friction as opposed to having a plastic button against a metal bowl (and possible faster wear).
  • The screw has one of the heads that will allow either a flat head or a Phillips screwdriver. I always use a Phillips screw/screw driver as they are much less likely to mess the head up.

Here are the pegs from the original "Red" model and the "Black" model, side by side:
Oh, how I'd love to run into a few sets of the peg on the left. See the metal above the button? It provides the friction against the Dixie's lower friction "bowl." Metal against metal plus WD-40 equals lifetime operation. The plastic button on the right is both the friction provider and the button. The peg on the left was on my mother-in-law's "Red" Dixie when it was given to her in the 1950's. I do not think it is what originally came with that model. Since the original owner owned a music store, he may have replaced the original pegs with the best ones available at the time.

I had to replace the screws on the peg type on the left. They were flat head and totally impossible to tighten. I found Phillips head type and added a lock washer sandwiched between two flat washers to keep it rock steady on the tuning.

Side views.

You may notice that the top of the shaft (with the hole for the string), is longer on the metal friction peg.

The all plastic button/friction model taken apart.
This may be an original peg for a Dixie. The washer between the tuning head and the shaft is the #6 finish washer. They are readily available at your local hardware store. This one's original with this Dixie, so it's not shiney. The screw that holds it all together is in the button. It has a washer "built in."

The shaft on this peg has two flat and two rounded sides. You can "sort of" see it in the photo below. From the screw hole end it would look like (_) (you can provide the straight line connecting the top of the parentheses :-)

The plastic/metal button peg.

That's a #6 finish washer and a #3 flat washer. The same washers and screw works for all the original pegs on the Dixie's we own.

Here's a closeup of the metal friction piece above. It has a slot where the button fits:
The button "nestles" in the slot you see.
Here's a third type peg from the third model we own (played daily by my wife, so I won't be able to show things taken apart).
These have been trouble free. They have flat head screws with a washer built in. This model of the Dixie had no paint, and I don't know if it ever had any. I suspect a former owner cleaned it and removed any paint. The chrome on this one's pristine. Except for the head, the whole banjolele looks new.

So, my experience has been three different pegs on three different Dixie's.

I'd be interested to hear what type pegs you have. Photos would be great. Maybe we'll get to the bottom of which pegs are truly the original. As I type this, our fourth (and possibly final) Dixie is in transit. It looks to be in very good shape. Maybe it has a fourth type of peg? We'll see.


  1. Wow Great Site thanks for all the information on the tuning pegs. I just got one of these as gift from a close friend, amazing. It has 3 black tuning pegs, that look very much like the ones in your last photo.

    It also has 1 white tuning peg, thats cracked and broken. I have contacted Marvin Walker however he only has the white ones, interesting really. Oddly enough this Dixie came with colored strings, very much like the ones you tried to dye with kool-aid. Its actually how I found your site, looking for colored Dixie strings. WOW!!! Are you psychic or did these strings come standard on the Dixie. Would love to discuss this with you more. For now I have uploaded some pictures of mine to my blog for reference, see them at http://soulysolar.mudventions.com/?p=611

  2. Thanks for the info on your new Dixie! I had not heard about ShapeLock, but it sounds interesting. I saw one of the new 3D printers the other day which it seems would have no problem "printing" one of the pegs. It's interesting that your black ones have held up. I wonder if that has to do with the type of plastic they're made from -- or if they're newer.

    Have you taken the neck off to see if it has holes where the aluminum was poured into the mold? I think the later models had those holes filled (but you can still see the outline of the hole).

    The "coloring by koolaid" worked, sort of. The color is very faint. There are colored strings for sale at http://www.guadalupecustomstrings.com. I haven't tried them yet, but would think that the monofilament would be worth a try. I have to wonder about the fiber core -- if they'd be too thick. You can email me direct at bobby at bpmusic dot com. I'd like to see what you end up with :-)

  3. I recently aquired a dixie banjolele with one good tuner. I wasn't able to find new pegs that fit either so I got the holes drilled out. So, I now have a tuner that i could sell if anybody needs it. Email me at ashtonw@hotmail.com if you're interested.

  4. I would be interested to hear if anyone has reamed out or redrilled the holes on a Dixie headstock to take larger tuning pegs. Wondering if any problems were encountered, how the whole project went, any tips, etc.

    1. Get a professional machine shop to do it. Make sure to take the new pegs with you. They'll measure them to make sure they're the advertised size. Tell them the Dixie is chrome plated aluminum. They can drill it out on a pro drill press at the proper speed and size.

      Good luck!

    2. Which pegs did you use? Just picked up a Dixie on EBay and it's missing a white peg, so thinking of doing the upgrade.

    3. Kurt, I have yet to replace any tuners. Even the cracked looking ones have been holding up. I /think/ the Dixie original pegs were white, but don't hold me to that. I wonder if you could use white pegs and blacken them with some dye (or a black magic marker)?

  5. Just finished doing a replacement with Ping P2698 pegs that I picked up from Amazon (think they're the same as the UP26 item at Elderly?). Found that I only needed to drill out to 11/64 for them to fit - hardly any cuttings when running the bit through on my drill press. Used the white rings on the upper side and the natural socket on the back of the head. Had to trim the screws about 1/8" to be able to tighten up correctly (Dremel worked good for cutting screws). It looks great and holds well.

    I now have three "originals" available if anyone's interested.


  6. If you still have one of the original Dixie banjolele tuners, I need one to complete the refurbishment that I'm doing. Contact Jamesbfarber@gmail.com