View Full Version : Resurrect an old set of pipes
01-30-2002, 10:52 AM
A friend of mine who is just starting out just did what I've dreamt of -- found an old set of pipes in a box marked Glasgow at a Goodwill store for $50. I haven't seen them yet, don't know who made them, but I was wondering about how they should be handled -- should we rehemp them and pop in a reed to hear the drones, or do they need to be oiled or otherwise treated before trying 'em? Are they more likely to crack if oiled or not?
It'll be awfully tempting to just put'em together and see what kind of sound comes out (I don't know the state of the bag or anything) -- is this dangerous? Can I try to fit the drones to my stocks and play them?
What should be included in an initial inspection? Look for cracks, warping, roundess of bore -- what else?
01-30-2002, 11:16 AM
A few questions - are you in a naturally humid part of the state? Any idea who made them and when?
I would examine them for cracks, true of bores, loose mounts and ferrules, gremlins or insect damage, schmutz in the tone chambers, etc.
Try to determine maker and age, then carefully oil the bores and wax the exterior with a microcrystalline wax. If they are REALLY dry, immersion in almond oil for up to a month will close small checks and stabilise the wood. After soaking, let the parts drain and swab them out with dry cloth swabs on a short rifle cleaning rod, being careful not to knock the bores.
Then rehemp, tie in, and play...but be careful if they're really old. You'll need to 'break them in' to playing if they've sat idle for many years. If you have warped sections, consider replacement - keeping the original parts as well. You may need new stocks or blowstick - not a big problem.
[ January 30, 2002: Message edited by: Iain Sherwood ]
02-11-2002, 08:02 AM
O.K. They are Hardie pipes that were stored in a basement, in a cardboard box that was originally sent in October 1981 from Hardie's in Glasgow to Boosey and Hawkes in London. They have full artificial ivory, with a Hardie blackwood chanter with art. ivory sole. The drones look to be in pristine condition -- the outside finish is shiny and fully intact, the ferrules, projecting mounts, and rings are firmly attached. No cracks apparent. The bores look true, no obvious warping or out-of-round where the tuning pins insert. There is some build-up of gunk, probably dried seasoning, at the ends of the drones where they insert into the stocks.
The blowstick is in good shape, has a now-stiff rubber check valve at the end, no cracks.
The chanter was a little bit stuck in its stock, but came loose with mild coaxing (some hemp wound into the joint to push it apart from the stock). It is uncarved, shows a little wear in the finish from fingers near the holes.
The bag seems new -- it's a small size, quite supple, a yellow, soft leather with a big T in a circle stamped on the side. The seam is covered with smooth leather, an dit has a nicely constructed leather loop for hanging when seasoning. I put my blowstick in plus stoppers and it leaked a bit -- I'll season it and see what happens.
Durham, NC is a fairly humid part of the world, somewhat dryer in the winter, but we are now fully headed toward spring. I thought I'd try Richard Mao's advice of showering with the pipes (in the bathroom) to gently moisturize them for awhile, then oil the bores lightly with some bore oil (commercial, probably mineral oil), then break them in slowly with brief periods of playing.
Any advice or comments is welcome.
02-11-2002, 08:08 AM
Oh, and I forgot: A light-colored Hardie practice chanter, maybe rosewood, also included.
02-11-2002, 08:41 AM
I am envious, for sure!
Time to visit the Goodwill Store. Gosh, I would have been shaking so much after finding those that I would have wet myself.
02-11-2002, 08:56 AM
Originally posted by agpiper:
I thought I'd try Richard Mao's advice of showering with the pipes (in the bathroom) to gently moisturize them for awhile...That's not a good idea. Here are some basic rules:
1. Too dry is bad
2. Too wet is bad
3. But a rapid change from one to another is worse.
4. It's not difficult to find out what the is relative humidity in the pipes environment.
5. Guessing is pretty bad, too.
Putting the pipes in the bathroom while you shower could raise the humidity so high, so fast that it could cause major problems.
As many have noted, cracks are caused by the wood reacting to the environment. Wood shrinks when dry and expands when wet. For the purpose of this discussion, I'll assume a fairly constant temperature.
Some pipers approach to the humidity problem is to keep the pipes in the case with a source of moisture. The source can be a commercial product such as clay or a sponge encased in a perforated tube or homemade devices such as sponges or cut apples. A potential problem with this approach is over-saturating the wood. "Water logged" wood will not have the resonance it would have if drier. Example, hold a popsicle stick like a diving board on a table and flick it. Then, soak the stick for awhile and repeat.
Same effect on the reeds.
Over hydration can change the shape of the wood. It certainly will interfere with the hemping unless the pipes will always be in a super saturated environment.
There are relatively good inexpensive digital hygrometers on the market. Radio Shack sells one. Analog hygrometers are notoriously inaccurate. Almost all of the budget hygrometers need calibration. Here's a website that shows how:
It's much less difficult to calibrate a hygrometer than adjust a reed.
You can then measure the humidity in the rooms(s) the pipes will be in and you can measure the humidity in the case. Then you can adjust accordingly. Shoot for 50% +/- 8%.
We choose to keep our house properly humidified. It's great for pipes and other musical instruments, it's great for any wood such as furniture, it will keep static electricity down. Best of all, it's great for your skin, nose,sinus, lungs, etc.
Mr. Sherwood has given some very good advice on properly handling the pipes.
Hope this helps,
02-11-2002, 09:47 AM
Tee, hee... :wink:
in my defense... I never said SHOWER with the pipes.... the ongoing showering might indeed humidify the pipes too fast...(if you do... please use Dial soap... I don't know what that means!!! :wink: )
What I actually do is run the shower hot into a plugged tub... leaving about a couple of inches in the tub... turn it off... and then leave the pipes in the room... when I leave the room... a big blast of the moisture leaves through the door... the normal air leakage and the cooling bathroom... brings the the humidity down to a reasonable level very quickly...remember that a bathroom is a relatively small room with attendant small capacity for much moisture in the air...and I renew this almost daily over the course of several months...for me it is a gentle process..
I certainly agree with John McCain when he said rapid change in moisture is baaaaaad....
I would have the same worry if you totally, suddenly immersed a "dry" set of pipes into almond oil... I would worry that the inside unfinished surface of the wood bores would absorb/swell first before the outside/sealed/finished side of the bores and "burst" the pipes.
(I seem to remember Chris Hossack's band out in the Arizona (?) desert somewhere... does total immersion of the stocks (and drones?) in oil periodically (six months?) (this was information from a couple of years ago...don't know if the practice is still extant) but it was important to do it to the pipes from the start so that the wood would not dry out too much in time period between pipe dunkings and that there was not a great initial shock... anybody here able to confirm this?)
... I do agree with short play-in periods to start with... gradually increasing in time.
At any rate... it might not make much of a difference... Peter Crisler tells the story of a 70-year stored set of ABW pipes...that when he tried to refinish the drones... had every bit of the ABW oil impregnation/resistance to finish as a new set of drones.
at any rate...
good luck and best wishes..
Life is 10% what happens to you, 90% how you react to it.
When you take control of your attitude, you take charge
of your life&#8230; Paraphrase Charles Swindoll
Richard Mao, The Peking Piper ( PekingPiper@mao.org )
Originally posted by agpiper:
..... I thought I'd try Richard Mao's advice of showering with the pipes (in the bathroom) to gently moisturize them for awhile, then oil the bores lightly with some bore oil (commercial, probably mineral oil), then break them in slowly with brief periods of playing.
Any advice or comments is welcome.
02-11-2002, 02:57 PM
Thank you for the excellent advice. Slowly but surely, we'll nurse it back to health.
02-11-2002, 03:19 PM
As they're not that old, go a head and season the bag, rehemp, and play them - you'll probably need an older pattern reed for the chanter, which I carry.
02-11-2002, 05:20 PM
Please check out http://www.iserv.net/~macleod/learning/index.html
and look under "bagpipe restoration".
I would not be in favor of introducing any moisture into a set of pipes that hasn't been played in 20 years until I'd taken every precaution to PREVENT moisture uptake.
With moisture, slow is the way to go...
02-12-2002, 01:40 PM
I've got a little disk humidifier for a humidor that seems to set the moisture level in my old saxophone case to about 50%, judged by an analog hygrometer that registered a little high in the salt-water calibration suggested by John McCain (I didn't feel right borrowing the digital one from my lab). I've put the pipes in there to stabilize them.
Steve, from your comment and website, and Iain, from your earlier comments, it seems like a reasonable course would be to stabilize them for a while, then oil the bores to reduce moisture uptake.
02-12-2002, 03:05 PM
sounds safe to me. Again, these pipes aren't THAT old, and should be able to take some gentle playing without serious problems. It's two or three hours of play after twenty years of storage that will really introduce a hoard of wet into the wood and cause problems. Oiling, light playing, careful storage in a box that will dissipate moisture gradually, these are the keys, young jedi..... :wink:
02-15-2002, 08:18 AM
OK Obi-wan and others,
The Hardies are re-hemped and oiled. I stuck a set of Eeze-drones in that I had around and, lo and behold, the drones sound. The eeze's don't fit in the reed seats very well, though. Are there other artificial reeds that would fit better in these reed seats, or should I try out the cane, as my teacher has been gently encouraging me to do anyway?
I put a Souter reed in the chanter for the moment, just to get the drones and chanter going together. You hinted that you thought there were some other design reeds that would work optimally in the older chanter?
With this very quick set up the most noticeable thing is that the pipes are fairly quiet, compared to my Naill's, for example.
02-18-2002, 07:17 PM
Drone reeds produce different tone and volume characteristics in different pipes.
You can ream out the reed seats (usually smaller in older pipes) or remove the rubber gasket and replace it with black waxed hemp.
You also might try a different reed - Wygent Duatones produce lovely sound in many older pipes :thumb: . Cane is another option - George Lumsden's cane drone reeds are excellent, as are those of several other reedmakers. You might need a longer staple chanter reed to get a well-balanced scale.
Agaim play them carefully and don't introduce too much moisture each time you play them. Slow and easy is the best way.