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Technique & Instrument Related to techniques, to the instrument, to the components, to maintenance.

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Old 12-17-2018, 09:42 AM   #21
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Default Re: Orig or restored?

Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
Yes that's the heart of my question: do you prefer a 100 year old instrument looking just as it was when it was made? Is erasing a century of existence a good thing?
Precisely. For that reason I dislike the glossy look - but if it is only oil it won't last, fortunately. A polish of the ferrules is necessary, otherwise the oxydation process would continue. But I wouldn't overdo it.
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Old 12-17-2018, 09:58 AM   #22
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Orig or restored?

This is a deep and subtle question. My opinion is that if an instrument has an important and meaningful pedigree as a historical artifact, then it should be preserved as a museum conservator would.

If the most important thing about the instrument is what it SOUNDS like, and our intent is to play it, then it needs to be restored to the best possible PLAYING condition. That often means removing old finishes and refinishing, stabilizing or closing cracks, even swapping out parts (sometimes, it's better to play on a modern replacement part, while keeping the original intact, than to attempt an invasive and risky restoration on the original part). The conditions that performing or competing players subject their instruments to require a certain level of stability which often makes some degree of restoration necessary.

It's also the case that pipers have been modifying their pipes for as long as there have been pipes to modify. I've seen plenty of old sets with retrofitted silver, altered bores, etc. I don't think it's automatically sacrilegious to alter an old instrument, but what's appropriate (or in good taste) and what isn't is highly subjective.
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Old 12-17-2018, 11:43 AM   #23
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Default Re: Orig or restored?

I played a set of ca 1900 ebony Centers for 20 years. Every piece of wood but one had one or more cracks, though none went through. I finally sent them away to be restored. The nickel rings came back polished. The sticks and stocks were whipped and lightly varnished over. This was not invisible whipping because I didn't want any wood cut away; the whipping is clearly visible but only from up close. The pipes look good and sound wonderful. I play them with an early 1980s Dunbar Eller chanter at about 472hz. They sound far better at 472 than they did at 478 - 480.

So, I'd say restore, unless your set has no structural problems. Even then, why not have them spruced up? You've got an instrument with which to make music, and there's no benefit to have them looking like they'd just came from the rubbish tip. Do you see musicians playing dented up trumpets or Strads with varnish peeling off?
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Old 12-17-2018, 07:25 PM   #24
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Default Re: Orig or restored?

Originally Posted by Greenpipe View Post
Do you see musicians playing dented up trumpets or Strads with varnish peeling off?
Yes. And yes.

About trumpets, there's Dizzie Gillespie, who famously played a bent trumpet.

Wiki says:

"According to Gillespie's autobiography, this was originally the result of accidental damage caused by dancers falling onto the instrument while it was on a trumpet stand on stage... The constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect."

Likewise professional sax players wouldn't refinish their prized 1950s Selmers. The general opinion is that refinishing harms the tone. It certainly harms the resale value.

About Strads, they wouldn't dream of re-varnishing a Strad nowadays! Some think some of the special tone results from the sort of varnish originally used, so Strads which still have their 400 year old original varnish are prized. (The role of the varnish in Strad tone is one of those long-debated topics, with true believers on both sides of the argument.)

The aggressive modifying of fine vintage instruments is big in the Highland pipe world, but not in the general music world.

The worst examples of over-restoration... well, "restoration" isn't the word, because he didn't restore the pipes, but re-imagined them, were from a guy who is no longer with us (may God bless his soul). The wood would be turned down to create new combing, the ivory turned down to get rid of the outer layers which had darkened, and cheap-looking CNC engraved silver mounts would be stuck on, the new mounts often not fitting on the pipes well and looking like obvious retrofits.

proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

Last edited by pancelticpiper; 12-17-2018 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 12-18-2018, 11:57 AM   #25
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Default Re: Orig or restored?

I seldom have time to visit “the Bob” however this morning Andreas directed me to this thread. Here’s my two cents.

If a bagpipe is being preserved as a historical artifact, I feel that restoration should be limited to a cleaning and oiling of the surface in such a way that does not interfere with patina or character. This suggests no solvents and working with “soft” tools only to remove sediment and debris without disturbing the underlying finish. The wood should remain untouched.

If it is being restored primarily for musical purposes, then steps to preserve it as such take priority. I would still shy away from radical restorations that might alter beading, combing, or patina of the ivory and metal.

With respect to the subject bagpipe, I agree with Fritz. I will go further to say that the external oiling is critical however will not prevent cracks if the instrument is subjected to rapid changes in temperature and humidity. Should a crack occur and repair become necessary, there are a number of methods to consider, again with the “artifact vs musical instrument” deliberation.

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Old 12-19-2018, 06:59 AM   #26
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Default Re: Orig or restored?

I've had experience with but a few sets of vintage pipes, and in all cases but one I elected to just manually clean the beading and combing, polish any metal, oil the heck out of them, then liberally apply wax. The one set I had completely stripped, repaired, and refinished was in barely serviceable condition, owing to cracks, plus a little less than half of the original varnish/shellac had chipped or worn off; the significant wear only made the pipes look like they were abused. Another crack or two was revealed with the stripping, and those were all invisibly whipped, thus stripping has an added benefit. The end result was spectacular and they likely remain my best sounding (and looking) set: 1900-1920 cocus wood Hendersons. If that restoration was not undertaken I doubt they would be playable at this time; I suspect with proper care they will be playable for another 100 years. As an aside, I would never consider removal of any wood or replacement of any serviceable components.

Of those other vintage sets I elected to do minimal manual cleaning and polishing, the relatively moderate wear added, at least to my eye, a reasonable amount of character: WWI-era ebony Lawries and WWI-era ebony Hendersons.

As an aside, the WWI-era ebony Hendersons above are very similar to Fritz's set. The original varnish/shellac finish on my set is well preserved. Fritz did a very sympathetic restoration to his ebony Hendersons, as the finish looks similar to that on my set; these vintage sets were all originally very shiny!

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Last edited by HighlandPark; 12-19-2018 at 07:02 AM.
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