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Bagpipe Maintenance Part 2 Andrew Graham

This service of the bagpipe should be carried out when required, probably bi annually, but replace hemp on joints as soon as it becomes worn. It should be done on a new set of pipes, brand new or second hand, and will probably take 2 or 3 days if taking your time.

1 Remove cover, cords, all drones, chanter, reeds, blowpipe. Separate joints, remove all hemp. Wash cover and cords by hand.

2 Check all wood has no visible cracks. Use brushes to apply small amounts of almond oil inside bores, smaller amounts to outside. Allow the oil to seep into wood.

3 Re hemp all joints with yellow hemp and beeswax. Make the hemp 4 strands thick and apply wax. Wind hemp tightly and make a snug fit with single strand of waxed hemp.-NO KNOTS-.If too tight then apply a drop of almond oil. Check frequently as the hemp will settle overtime and joints will become loose, add hemp a little at a time when this happens.

4 Bag has to be airtight.
Check that the stocks cannot move in the bag. If any movement then retie.
Place corks in drone and chanter stocks.
Blowpipe and mouthpiece should have 3/8" bore and valve should not restrict passage of air in any way. Blowpipe should be tight in stock but not too tight as it will expand as the hemp takes on moisture. Blow into bag and fully inflate, get the bag as tight as you can, find a quiet spot and listen very carefully for air escaping. If bag deflates or if it doesn't stay tight for a few minutes then season the bag with airtight seasoning. Pour 1/2 tin of seasoning into the bag and inflate bag, the seasoning may be seen to be escaping from stitches or around stocks, especially on a new bag. This may not be a problem if the seasoning seals the gaps and prevents air escaping. Leave the bag fully inflated for about an hour then leave bag to allow seasoning to settle overnight, then check bag tightness again, if still leaking change bag.

For synthetic bags the process is near enough the same, but don't use seasoning of course. Clamps should be tight and unable to move, and electrical plastic tape should be used to seal stocks. Follow manufacturers instructions. The bag must have no leaks.

5 If using synthetic drone reeds follow reed makers supplied instructions to the letter. Cane reeds should not take much air and not double tone too much. When inserting reeds leave a short bit of hemp loose and catch this loose hemp in stock, this will ensure that reed will not fall into bag if it comes out of drone seat. Insert drones to stocks and blow drones on their own, tune drones and check they are not taking too much air, if arm is going in and out drastically and it is too difficult to keep a 2:1 ratio then the chances are the bag or joints are leaking air so check these again, then check the reeds may be taking too much air. Try moving the bridles on reed down to shorten blade, make slight movement to bridle at each adjustment.

6 If using a new chanter reed it should be slightly strong to begin with, maybe even popping off the drones. When blowing in squeeze the reed just above the hemp, squeeze with finger and thumb, the reed may take some weeks to settle.

7 All the time checking for any escaping air from bag or joints.

8 The reeds have to have as much of the available air going through them at a consistent pressure throughout a performance. Aim for a 2:1 ratio of blowing:squeezing. Count fairly slow 1 2 when blowing into the bag and 1 when taking a breath.


Wood chanters are very fragile and will break very easily so take care.

Plastic should be removed like this aswell, get into a habit of holding at stock end.

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