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Do It Yourself (DIY) Making and repairing of instruments, accessories, and more.

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Old 04-27-2012, 08:31 PM   #1
Steve Anderson
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Default Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

I recently acquired some bagpipe parts. Apart from not being able to identify the maker, I also noticed that they appeared to be painted or lacquered with a black substance. Underneath is a beautiful blackwood.

Any ideas why this was done or what the easiest means of removal might be? Currently using denatured alcohol and a toothbrush.

pictures of two tenor bottoms before and after

http://s923.photobucket.com/albums/a...l/Refinishing/
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Old 04-27-2012, 09:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

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Originally Posted by Steve Anderson View Post
I recently acquired some bagpipe parts. Apart from not being able to identify the maker, I also noticed that they appeared to be painted or lacquered with a black substance. Underneath is a beautiful blackwood.
You might want to have that checked out more closely: it looks more like Ebony to me. If it is, it may have been painted.

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Any ideas why this was done or what the easiest means of removal might be? Currently using denatured alcohol and a toothbrush.
I think you are doing it just fine. As to why that was done, if those ARE Ebony, that is a very dry wood, prone to splitting. ABW has a lot of natural oil in it, won't take a finish very well due to the oil, and doesn't need that sort of protection either.

My pre-WWI Lawries, made of Ebony with ivory mounts, was also painted with some sort of black paint.
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

My guess is Lawries and ebony as well. The paint could have been to mask some sap wood, or maybe they used different woods and wanted it all to match, or was mentioned, perhaps the paint was to protect the ebony from drying out too much.

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Old 04-28-2012, 01:04 AM   #4
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

IMO pipes were "painted" black because this was the colour people liked in those days; I've been told for example that most pipers didn't like reddish or brown colour of natural wood.

My two cents.
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

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Originally Posted by Ken Gordon View Post
As to why that was done, if those ARE Ebony, that is a very dry wood, prone to splitting.

Why it was done? Severalfold: I bought a few pieces as broken parts off of ebay to study how some of the early makers beaded and attached projecting mounts. I much prefer the wood appearance to the painted or plastic appearance.

It has coloring not unlike a piece of Macassar ebony in my shop.

http://s923.photobucket.com/albums/a...t=DSC00447.jpg

I have applied a few coats of shellac and will smooth it out before applying a final coat. At least the pretty brownish red lines will be visible.
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Old 04-30-2012, 04:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

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I have applied a few coats of shellac and will smooth it out before applying a final coat. At least the pretty brownish red lines will be visible.
If alcohol removes the original 'paint',
it was likely a pigmented shellac.
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:45 PM   #7
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

I agree with the pigmented shellac theory. My first set of pipes were covered with the stuff, very much like what they used to finish Blackthorn sticks with in the old days.
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Old 05-01-2012, 01:47 AM   #8
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Default Re: Black finish on old pipes -- and maker?

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I agree with the pigmented shellac theory. My first set of pipes were covered with the stuff, very much like what they used to finish Blackthorn sticks with in the old days.
If it is not shellack, which can be easily removed, other substances are more difficult to strip with solvents. I think some nitro-based types of varnish were used after WWI, and those need more aggressive stuff. Also, the black stain may resist in places, in particular on lighter strands or on the sapwood of cocuswood pipes, in which case you may feel tempted to use fine steel wool and remove the superficial layer of the wood itself. However, if your set has some kind of historical value the wood should remain unharmed. A refurb that has been overdone is irreversible, and a disgrace.
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