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Old 02-01-2017, 01:23 PM   #1
Pppiper
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Default Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

Hi there,

I'm wondering people's thoughts and experience with having plastic drones in a pipe corps, particularly in a grade 3 or higher setting.

According to what I've read in some places, plastic drones can react more severely to changing weather conditions. For example, tuning up when it's overcast, and needing to play when the sun decides to come out, I've heard that plastic pipes might be prone to going out of tune faster than their ABW counterparts in the circle.

Also, would it be lubricous for a pipe band to consider having matching plastic sets made up, similar to the rather common practice of band chanters? Certainly this could be a cost-effective way for a band of beginners, but what happens as the group progresses?

I've heard many good things about some of the plastic pipes that are now on the market, and with blackwood starting to become a problem with CITES and whatnot, I'm partly wondering "where do we go from here?"

Has anyone ever noticed any higher-grade bands playing with plastic drones?

Thanks to any and all.

Cheers.

Last edited by Pppiper; 02-01-2017 at 01:27 PM. Reason: forgot a thing or two.
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:32 PM   #2
SebastienLove
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

Don't bother with buying a band set of plastic pipes, not worth the money. Will be a pain in the butt selling later on when the band gets better.
Instead, encourage members to get their own pipes. Plastic or not, doesn't matter, as long as they can produce a steady sound. If someone is unable to buy their own, maybe get a few band sets of cheaper blackwood pipes (I currently play a set of my band's 1970-74 chalice top kintails my band baught back in the day). Something like some dunbars or mccallums would do. But I'm talking about maybe 2-3 sets of them, not a whole band set.
I don't think any higher grade bands (grades 1-2) have ever allowed plastic pipes in the competition circle. By that time it's an expectation that everyone plays a great sounding set of wooden pipes, be it blackwood or some other type of wood.
At the moment, obtaining blackwood is no issue. They were moved up to section II of CITES. Same level as cocobolo, and as of now, cocobolo is still easily obtainable.
My experience playing plastic pipes (dunbars and pipers choice) is that they aren't too bad. I recommend staying away from the pipers choice pipes (their chanter is actually ok, but the drones were terrible). The dunbars poly drones had an ok sound, but not great (their blackwood pipes and current chanters are amazing!). NEED a very good moisture control system for any plastic pipes.
I played the dunbars when my band was in grade 4 (we're currently grade 3). They served their purpose, but wooden pipes will always be the better choice. When I switched to my current blackwood kintails, the upgrade in tone quality was instantly noticeable.
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Old 02-03-2017, 07:36 AM   #3
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

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Originally Posted by SebastienLove View Post
Don't bother with buying a band set of plastic pipes, not worth the money ... When I switched to my current blackwood kintails, the upgrade in tone quality was instantly noticeable.
Thank you so much, all very helpful insights.

Basically, I'm thinking of working with some local educational institutions on starting a piping program, and I'm trying to hash out the logistics. I'm a long way off from being ready to submit proposals, but I figure it's never too early to start thinking down the line.

As much as possible, I'd like to find a reasonable way of bringing in youth in an affordable fashion. Hence my wondering about the feasibility of using plastic pipes, as they would be less-prone to damage from youngsters, and could be easily recycled.

As you say, maybe having some on hand for beginners might not be a terrible thing, but it seems clear to me that if this were to happen, we'll need to find a way to helping kids get their hands on a real blackwood set before too long.

It's unfortunate, as the average cost for a "starter" blackwood set seems to be somewhere around the $1,200 (US) range, whereas with plastic, the cost is nearly half. It is what it is, I suppose.

I'm spoiled, as I've mostly only ever played on blackwood instruments (except for chanters, it was a while before I bought my first ABW pipe chanter). So your comments really help fill in some of the blanks for me.

So thank you again!

Cheers!
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Old 02-03-2017, 08:01 AM   #4
BGP
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

Personally, if it were me, for a bunch of youths I'd go with plastic. It can take quite a bit of negligence and abuse compared with wood.

However, I have very little experience with poly drones.
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Old 02-05-2017, 02:22 AM   #5
Zummerhaus
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

Took plastic pipes (Dunbars) along to a grade 2 band, was asked if I had blackwood drones (otherwise they'd supply me with loaner pipes).

Then again, I feel a LOT of the piping world is backwards thinking - as far s I'm concerned, my poly pipes give me comparable or better tone than my blackwood set. I do think cane drone reeds help a chanter sing (but I also play really easy reeds, so top hand can sound thin at times).

Poly:
- incredibly robust, no stocks etc cracking
- Dunbar=lifetime guarantee, no idea of McCallum etc
- little heavier, wood will absorb a little moisture so watertrap must work
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Old 02-05-2017, 07:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

We have a youth band in my area and the kids play ABW pipes. They are owned by the band and get assigned to pipers. AFAIK, the pipes survive the kid piper exposure pretty well.

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Old 02-05-2017, 09:25 AM   #7
Jim Fogelman
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

I was the teacher of the local high school pipe band for several years. All we had were Blackwood drones that survived many years of playing and abuse (same ones from when I was a student and even before). It's all in making sure they know how to take care of the instrument.

Granted, if we were going to buy new sets, I would have gotten some poly Dunbars for the lower cost, increased durability, and ease of disinfecting (you HAVE to disinfect school instruments; kids are disgusting creatures).
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Old 02-05-2017, 01:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

I think plastic/poly/delrin/acetal pipes can (with proper reeds) sound amazing, and the workmanship of many of the makes of these is top notch. I also love how nearly indestructible they are. But....

I can only speak for the relatively extreme climate my pipe find itself in (Texas summers), but my issue with plastic pipes in the pipe band is they move in and out of tune at a different rate than blackwood and cocobolo pipes.

If there's a set of plastic pipes, I simply find myself tuning those pipes more often and to a larger degree than the wooden ones.

That's been my experience...
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Old 02-07-2017, 01:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Fogelman View Post
SNIP
Granted, if we were going to buy new sets, I would have gotten some poly Dunbars for the lower cost, increased durability, and ease of disinfecting (you HAVE to disinfect school instruments; kids are disgusting creatures).
Disinfecting school ( and rental) instruments is required by law in some states.
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Old 02-07-2017, 01:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: Plastic (delrin, poly or acetyl) drones in a pipe corps

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Originally Posted by Klondike Waldo View Post
Disinfecting school ( and rental) instruments is required by law in some states.
Seems like that would necessitate replacing the bags. Probably all the hemp too.
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