So I really like the idea of taking non-musical parts and making a musical instrument, or at the very least, making the part yourself. Using machine heads is sort of like cheating to me and sort of kills the spirit of "this something I threw together with crap I found in my garage."
You could always cut your own Tuning Pegs...but that would require a peg shaper for the pegs and a peg reamer for the holes, which would again kill the DIY spirit unless you already had them lying around...
Now this guy is DIY all the way:
Notice that Part One is making the Peg Reamer, Part Two is using the Peg Reamer to make the Peg Shaper, Step Three is using both to male the Pegs, etc...eventually the author gets around to making the actual Banjo itself. Now THAT'S dedication!
Now I like the machine tuners myself-mostly because my local Music store replaces entire sets of tuners six at a time and normally ends up with bags of 'five plus One Broken'...I get them for almost nothing and they get properly re-purposed instead of tossed. My favorites are Mandolin tuners in the Dual strips of four or cheap Guitar tuners of the Dual strips of three- scratches can be buffed, tiny dings can be Ballpeened away and they can be separated by Dremel into individual units if need be...very versatile.
I have yet to try the Wingnut Tuners yet-but after seeing the price of the Banjo fifth-string tuners(I envisioned a complete set of side tuners with string guides for a sideways String Break from the nut) I might give it a try soon...
I understand where you're coming from, as does most everyone here, but perhaps this can be looked at another way:
Ummm...are you making your strings from catgut or sheep's intestine? Are you ripping them from a screen door, or "borrowing" them from fenceline when your neighbor / overseer / feudal lord wasn't looking? Yeah, me neither.
If you feel that machine heads are giving you an "unfair" mechanical advantage (they are, that's why they work so well), as well as not being in the spirit of "homemade," you could always go back to doing what men have done for the last few centuries, and carve friction peg heads out of wood.
You are building your instruments with just a rusty old jackknife, sitting on your front porch by the light of a kerosene lamp, and slapping at mosquitos in the Delta humidity, aren't you?
Then you can have fun trying to stay in tune. Unless they are perfectly carved like those on violins (and even then, talk to violinists about how much fun violins are to tune), you'll find yourself constantly tweaking them, especially after having played a rousing version of "Crossroads," or whatever. I have several Middle Eastern ouds that use tuning pegs, and they are an absolute bee-yotch to keep in tune. Even the really nicely built ones suffer, although not as much, from this problem. It's one of the things that gives the instrument its character
My first builds used the wingnut and eyebolt approach, because I wanted my git to "look" homemade and rustic (which BTW, it does - I build my boxes myself, as cigar boxes are difficult to come by where I live, as is decent wood, for that matter); it works, and "looks" suitably rustic / homemade. And it is homemade - I made it at home. With parts I purchased or found around the house. Easier to tune than friction pegs, but not nearly as easy as machine heads.
All my future builds will be equipped with machine heads. Why? Ease of use, and cost. Each machine head costs less or the same as the eyebolt-washer-wingnut combo.
Look at it this way: sometimes, you want a chocolate chip cookie. You can spend an hour or so, mixing batter and baking, either using chocolate chips you formed yourself from chocolate bricks, or using the conveniently packaged / relatively cheap Nestle' teardrops. You could get truly ridiculous about the homemade / organic aspect of this: buying a farm on which to grow wheat, planting, cultivating, harvesting and grinding same, so you have flour; and getting butter from the milk that you churned yourself, from the cows that you fed and milked yourself; and chopping wood for your wood-fired stove, and trading the travelling pedlar for some sugar and chocolate, and maybe a nice ribbon for your wife's hair...and then baking your cookies.
Or, if you're pressed for time, you could just rip open the Chips Ahoy or Keebler's package you hid in the pantry from the kids. Or on your stroll through the mall, stop at the Great American Cookie or Mother's outlet.
Remember, very few of us with Internet access are po' black sharecroppers...
International violin sells very nicely finished ebony and rosewood pegs, 80 cents each for ebony. That's a REAL hard deal to beat. My only comment is they're finished a bit *too* nicely, and would benefit from a little distressing.
The installation tools, OTOH, ain't cheap. Around $100 each for the reamer and shaver, which need to be matched for a "good" (read: fine, violin-quality) fit. Reamer looks to be very close to a machinist's #5 taper setpin reamer, very slight difference, but available much cheaper -- I have three that I bought at a flea market for about 25 cents each. I'll make a matching peg shaver when the need comes along.
Machine tuners for me.
I've done the. eyebolt thing. Costs more. More trouble than it's worth really.
I've done a 3 string with wooden pegs. I used the instructables as a reference and went from there. Ridiculously time consuming, hard to tune, wouldn't hold.
Besides, even old school gits had machine tuners on them!
I have tried the eye bolt and wingnut route and I really don"t like the look. On my last build I was going to use them and after seeing them on the pre-assembled guit, I changed for a set of Gitty tuners. I also thought the eye bolts added a lot of weight on the end of the neck, and they are hard for me to string. I'll stick with Gitty's tuners. I really like the new ones with the nuts on them.
I must admit I'm rather surprised the responses. In my first experiment with a diddly bow, I just wrapped the string around a bold that was screwed into end of the wood. Then I ordered some machine heads. There is no music store near me so if I want something I need to order it online. For me and what I'm trying to do with this little hobby, they just seem so out of place on an instrument with a broom handle neck, a tin box for a body, a piece of pvc for the bridge, and this rubber thing I'm using for a nut. I use a pvc t-connector for a slide and cut my picks out of a case for a nintendo DS game. I've experimented with different materials for string like broom wire, fishing line, kite string, weed eater line, and some generic "wire" I saw at Kmart, each with varying degrees of success. I'm not using catgut or sheep intestines, but if the neighbor's cat pisses on my car again, I might just give it a whirl...
I understand that a lot of you have been doing this for years and to you a machine head is as common as a screw or a nail. I know a lot of you make these things as a business or make money playing them. For me, this isn't about doing what's easy, it's about using what I have on hand or what's easily accessible and cheap and making it work. If I wanted easy, I'd just go buy a guitar and be done with it. But that's not what it's about. It's about being creative and trying to use what little ingenuity I have to make something work.
I mean honestly, you have a group here about building your own microphones for pete's sake. Do you really think a beer can is going to sound better than a real mic? Or do you think that pickup you made from a cheap magnet and wire is going to be better than anything you could get from musician's friend? Do you think that amp you made from an old radio is going to be better than a Marshall? I honestly don't know, but how awesome is it that people are trying? I think it's very awesome.
So, thanks to everyone who had real suggestions.
1 string diddley use whatever for tuner or string , More than 1 string, machine heads and guitar strings . I'd rather spend time playing than tuning . Just my opinion.