I would think poplar is a little soft. I would look at harder woods. Oak seems OK. I'd also think about maple (not sure, but might be worth playing with), or walnut. I've never tried making pegs from scratch. How are you going to approach them? You could make a tapered dowel with a groove, and glue the thumb piece into it, or you could carve them out of one piece.
Nope. Get the hard stuff, with closed grain. Stick with Ebony, Rosewood, African Blackwood which is a true rosewood and is dark brown.. the rosewoods have a natural lubricating factor. They feel the best. Very hard rock maple works too, and you can dye it if you want. Bloodwood, surpisingly worked great on a few banjos I made. People thought the red was super cool, I cut the pegs into a funky shape (gourd) and they were really quite hard. The general rule is that the peg should be harder than the peghead. And use one and / or two little 'lines' of Hill Peg Compound along the peg shaft, twirl it in the hole a few times, pull it out, wipe the peg with a paper towel, put it back in, ...ta da. There are many other 'tricks.'
John , I will definately do them one piece. got a idea how to taper, may work may not. Ill try
Ok Terry , I will order some wood. I know what I need is available around the Houston area,,, but this place is so dang big , gas cost way more than shipping. I wish I was in a small town.
I bet there are a bunch of tricks, Ryan and your son are lucky to be able to learn them from you.
Ive used Iroku, mahogany, walnut and oak so far... all fine except the oak which tends to stick quite a lot no matter what i do. I have one of those peg shapers from stewmac and matching hole reamer... saves a LOT of time.