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Pufpastry 03-04-2015 02:08 PM

Cleaning up old pipes?
I've searched the forum and not found anything that really answers my question.

I've got a set of old Henderson pipes, no cracks but they're filthy. They need a good cleaning before they can be oiled and polished etc.


Here are my questions three:

1. What can I use to clean up the wood that will not damage it? They're fairly dry and I don't want them to crack. Some of the old bag is still stuck to the stocks, any tips on removal?

2. How do I bring the chanter, blowpipe, and stocks back into playing condition?

3. Looking for a good, wax based, polish. Any recommendations?

HighlandPark 03-04-2015 03:18 PM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?
If you're restoring a fine old set of pipes (like your Hendersons), ones that are quite grimy (like your Hendersons), there is some strong utility in employing the services of an expert restorer. Things like cracks, etc. will be revealed and fixed. On our side of the pond it would be Dunbar Bagpipes, Thomas Doucet, or Ringo Bowen, if he has the time. My instructor had her '48 Robertson's restored beautifully by Kintail on your side of the pond -- there are likely others who will chime in.

That said the steps for a basic cleaning/restoration are simple, maybe not easy. Rick Pettigrew at Dunbar has a great description here of what he does for restoration, not coincidentally, another lovely set of Hendersons. My Hendersons, similar to yours, are currently in his hands.

Pip01 03-05-2015 05:09 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?

While in no wise do I wish to bring in to question any
of your craftsmanship skills, tools, materials, workshop
space... and security... or available and dedicated time...
alas... were I in your (quite enviable :) spot... I would jump
in to that boat with Highland Park... and find an excellent
restoration shop (and Kintail will do nicely)... and leave it
in their well-proved and capable hands...

I say this for the same reasons that I do not make my own
chanter reeds... or design... build... and then fly... my own
helicopter... :)

There are soooo many extremely miniscule matters that
can so easily be overlooked... and remain un-treated and
un-corrected... (such as a very small crack inside a tuning
chamber... or a stock)... that can later so easily and quite
irreparably... cause damage to a fine vintage set.

Having the set that you have... I would think that the wait...
as well as the expense... (what ever it may prove to be)...
will be more than well worth it.

What 'ere your course... please do let us know how it all
falls out...

Best o' Luck with it!!



Leong 03-05-2015 07:32 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?
Didn't the last person who asked for help here and provided feedback on Kintail, complained about sending pipes over for restoration only to be faced with a one-sided (his) email communication. I seem to remember he only got back his unrestored pipes by getting someone to physically re-possess the set. Search for the thread - no-one would want to see a repeat performance.

Smjprogrammer 03-05-2015 07:50 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?
My Hardie's where almost as bad as those pictures. All I did was put each piece on my lathe at the lowest speed, and lightly soaked a cotton ball with Milsek Musical Instruments (Oil). Pushing it into the combing to wipe out any dirt. I went through 14 cotton balls doing this, but when you are done you want to wipe the rest off the pipes going the direction of the combing. This is done by hand with a microfiber cloth. By the time I was done it looked like I had purchased a new set of pipes. Most pipe makers offer this same process under the name restoration. They claim they redo the lacquer/varnish when all they are doing is a general maintenance.

Pip01 03-05-2015 08:24 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?

Didn't the last person who asked for help here and provided feedback on Kintail, complained about sending pipes over for restoration only to be faced with a one-sided (his) email communication.

I seem to remember he only got back his unrestored pipes by getting someone to physically re-possess the set.

Greetings, Pufpastry, Leong & All,

I only mentioned Kintail by name because it had been
previously mentioned (even though I have always had
excellent... as well as quite pleasant... dealings with

But... and alas!!.... somewhere... in HRH's great United
Kingdom... there has to be at least one or two... and if not
a dozen or so.... well thought of... good craftsmen and shops...
willing and able to take on such... and dependable ... in their

(Any here... know of such?)

That would obviate having to send the set across the water...
and, thereby... saving time... international postage...and possible
extra taxation...

And again... what e're your chosen course... the very Best of
Good Fortune with it!!

Regards to Pufpastry, Leong, and to All,


LloydB 03-05-2015 10:00 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?
Are the mounts imitation or are they ivory?

just another factor to consider, before shipping
them out of country.

HighlandPark 03-05-2015 10:11 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?
Looks like my instructor was lucky with her restoration by Kintail (~ three years ago)!

Looking forward to seeing the cleaned up and restored Hendersons.

Pufpastry 03-11-2015 02:17 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?

Having spoken to multiple, highly experienced, pipers and a few makers the consensus is as I expected.

They need oiled (happening as I type) thoroughly, left for a bit to season, then stuck on a lathe to get rid of the stubborn dirt. The ivory will also be buffed at the same time. They will then be played in. For those that don't know what I mean by that, think of breaking in shoes. They need played lightly for the first month or two (10 mins/day) and then the playing time can be slowly upped to the point where they are just as strong as any modern set.

The only reason I posted in the forums is because pipe makers are notorious for saying "Oh, that job is far too difficult, let me do it, for a fee of course." but I appreciate that this is not always the case. Still tracking my progress, they'll be going in for the cleaning job in about a month or so. I will continue to update this thread if you're all interested. Do keep posting replies, I like seeing the different opinions people have (in piping, nobody agrees about anything...), but do be aware, I am working with advice given by people that have done this stuff before whom I trust completely.

EDIT: The mounts are all real ivory. Does anybody know where I can go to get legal documents for it (so that if I were travelling, I wouldn't get them confiscated...). I know that you can get documents to verify that the ivory predates the ban and is legal; just don't know where...

Thanks for all of the replies! :thumb:

Jay Close 03-11-2015 06:44 AM

Re: Cleaning up old pipes?
The "then stuck on a lathe to get rid of the stubborn dirt" part is what would have me worried. A lathe can speed the clean up, but, if done with a heavy hand, finish and wood will be removed.

Be conservative and ask questions of your restorer. Also, be advised that not all bagpipe makers are good restorers. Quality restoration requires a different mindset than manufacturing.

Best of luck and enjoy your "new" classic Henderson.

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