Home remedies for slippery Itomaki?


My Itomaki have been slipping a lot and after I cleaned the shamisen last night I can’t even tune the thing without the pegs unspooling. Any tips or tricks?

Has anyone ever tried violin peg oil or compounds? Thanks y’all!


For my violin pegs, I would use rosin on them and it would work great! Try that out!


Howdy Mr. Pants!

Rosin works really well, but it depends on how much the itomaki have worn away. On some of my shamisen, the itomaki have worn down so much that a thin layer of rosin isn’t enough to lock the itomaki in the hole.

To remedy that, I use a file and shave a small amount of rosin into a powder. Then, I pull out the itomaki a little bit, use tweezers to pinch a tiny amount of rosin powder and the feed it in the hole. Then, I push the itomaki all the way in and twist. This will push the rosin into the worn out gaps in the itomaki. Then, repeat this until it’s tight enough for you. (Don’t put too much, because it can get too tight! :slight_smile: )


I’ll give the Rosin a try!


Toothpaste worked wonders for me when my Itomakis were slipping like a lost virgin on a banana peel! Sorry. I don’t know if that metaphor makes even a little bit of sense. But regardless of that… Yeah! Toothpaste actually did work for me! It worked like a tack factory during the peak hour of the deadline rush ! I mean… It worked like a stargazing pumpkin in the heat of an argument regarding the difference between sock prices and chisels. Yup. It’s true. Just slapped a tiny bit of toothpaste into the itomaki and it’s been golden ever since!


I didn’t know they made toothpaste without the whitening part Kevin. But if your toothpaste is really golden I guess you made a bargain for getting gold teeth. Thug life.


Oh Geez… One too many shots of whiskey. I apologize folks. I stop making sense after like 5 shots or so…


A sensei without sense makes you left with I. Kind of makes sense that you’re on your own when that happens!


Sounds like Kevin was in an appropriate state of mind for the next Schoolhouse lesson! :stuck_out_tongue:

I completely forgot about the toothpaste remedy! I’ve been meaning to give that a try.


Hahaha! ShamiCamp is going to be quite the …Learning experience with teachers like Kevin! Oh the things we’ll learn!




The rosin trick ought to work, but there is one other thing you can try. When you cleaned everything, you (maybe) smoothed both peg and peghole, removing the layer of dead, rough wood cells that grab.

You can use water to raise the grain of one or both and make the surface have tooth again. If you take a damp q-tip and run it around the inside of the peghole, not so much that water is dripping anywhere, just damp, and let it dry like that it will raise the grain inside the hole. Alternately, the itomaki peg can be wetted (once again, this is not dipping or soaking, just the barest wetting) and left to dry and it will be rougher. Or dampen both and let them dry, but not while assembled, obviously.

It can be scary to wet a wooden instrument. This process can be done a bit at a time. Dampen and then pat dry (don’t rub as that is polishing) a few times. What is happening on a micro-level is the dead wood cells at the surface are swelling up with the water and then when they dry out again they dry in their swollen shape. The ring that an iced drink leaves on a wooden surface is an example of the effect.

Toothpaste is an abrasive and will make the problem worse over time, like hammering tacks into a pumpkin on the eve of its quinceanera.


plasticine can work well for some things too. for sure helps with pegs that stick and don’t move smoothly and it might help with loose ones too. really like the powdered rosin idea though!


Catherine-san, I must with respect advise against plasticine clay in this instance. It has petroleum jelly in it (why it does not dry out) and will oil the wood it touches, making it slicker and maybe degrading any finish on the instrument. Plasticine is great as “earthquake putty” here in California, to keep decorative objects on a shelf, for example, but one must be careful about what the object is made of and what the shelf is made of, or staining will occur.

Violinists have the problem of string slippage as well - experienced players know to wind the string onto the peg so that it ends up piling up against the ‘outside’ of the scroll box. This creates a wedging effect, both driving the peg deeper into its hole and making the string bear against the side of the scroll box, putting the pull there and not just on the peg. Some violinists are obliged to have their peg holes filled and re-bored or buy oversize tuning pegs, sold for just this problem.

So, besides the rosin fix, Pants-san, you might try messing with how you wind the string onto the itomaki. It may look good to have the string centered on a peg, but try getting it to spool against the side the peg box (yes, not the correct term - Senseis, what do you call it?). Either way, do let all of us know what finally works for you, please, and keep on pluckin’.


Hi Tomo. O right! Thanks so much for making this excellent point about the plasticine. I take it back! :slight_smile:
Great points as well about using the winding to tighten the pegs in and a bit of water to swell the wood. I’ll for sure be putting that in the ‘things to remember’ bag in my head.


I’m old - when I put new things in my head bag other things get pushed right out. All I seem to be left with is theme songs of bad TV shows from the '60s (“The end of the Civil War was near, when quite accidentally”…).


Wetting the itomaki peg worked great for me, thanks!

It seemed to only be a temporary fix in the end, but I might try it again later. :.)


Lately I had that problem too. I tried Rosin a few times but it didn’t seems to work anymore.

I kind of noticed on my own that the way the stings are winded could make a difference too but since the slipping was getting worst I was starting to think that maybe I was just wrong on this aspect.

Than I read Hamel san comment and found a video about slipping pegs on a violon. I really think that it is to dry over here and it might be why this happens a lot lately. I’ll give a try with humid cotton tonight or tomorrow in the hope it is the solution I needed…


All fixes will be temporary. Wetting wood swells and makes it slightly rough, but the act of twisting pegs smoothes the surfaces back down again. Rosin wears off. Ganbatte! Persevere!

Also, many itomaki are made from tropical hardwoods - most tropical hardwoods have a high oil content. When I work Rosewood, I burnish the final surface; no finish is used but a mirror-like shine is achieved. The use of such hardwoods in construction of shamisen will always create these issues. Naturally gummy woods, like pine and fir, lack the strength to be tuning pegs.

One other trick: overstretch your strings, just a bit. Tune a half or whole step sharp, leave the string stressed overnight then tune down. Yes, strings will be broken, and worn out before their time, but it can very much reduce the pull of the string when tuned back down to the correct note.


So far, my itomaki have been behaving. I cleaned out the zagane and put the rosin powder in there as well as on the itomaki themselves. Still takes a pit of pushing inward when tuning but over all they stay put.

I’m going to have to replace them soonish but the rosin helps. I used some rubbing alocohol to clean the itomaki which seemed to give them back a little bit of their grip.