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Old 01-21-2017, 04:50 AM   #1
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Default Seasoning Bellows-Blown Bag

Simple question: Is it necessary or advisable to season a leather bag on a bellows-blown smallpipe? Having lived with a leather GHB bag for many years, I'm familiar with the process but will admit to not knowing if it's required by virtue of the bag being leather or by virtue of the GHB being mouth-blown.

To the same end, is there any maintenance advisable to ensure bellows airtightness?
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Old 01-21-2017, 12:22 PM   #2
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Default Re: Seasoning Bellows-Blown Bag

I have never had to do anything on my own pipes. Here is what Hamish Moore says about his own bellows pipes:

"1. Airtightness. Never use a water based seasoning. If a dressing is needed at all then neatsfoot oil should be used either on its own or mixed with melted beeswax in a proportion of four parts oil to one of beeswax."

See Hamish's page: http://hamishmoore.org/a-way-of-thin...s-blown-pipes/

But I would not do anything unless there is some evidence that seasoning is needed.
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Old 01-21-2017, 02:44 PM   #3
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Default Re: Seasoning Bellows-Blown Bag

Originally Posted by TCulbert View Post
Simple question: Is it necessary or advisable to season a leather bag on a bellows-blown smallpipe?
It very much depends on the leather and the craftsmanship. I've had my current (Jackie Boyce) bag on for ~20 years - never needed seasoning and is perfect playing condition. The leather was double tanned, and the bag hand sewn - I have since adopted Jackie's materials and method in bag making but I take 5 times as long ...

On the other hand I've had multiple NSP cross my bench which required different levels of bag fettling due to variously:
  • poor leather quality (materials & process)
  • cracking (leather too heavy / over processed)
  • mouldy (from seasoning!)
  • failed stitching (edge closeness, thread tightness, finishing knot)
Seasoning only really works where the leather body is 'breathing' or as a stop gap when the stitching is failing. In all but a few cases it was easier & cheaper to replace the bag. Many older bags were also poorly shaped which added weight to that option.

Worth noting that unseasoned bags appear to be a more recent invention largely due to high quality raw materials - every older set (50+ yrs) has had some sort of unspeakable goo inside it.

FWIW I have seen precisely *1* bag that I eventually condemned on the basis of being worn out. The set was 40 years old and I chased down and sorted failed stock ties and 'loosened' seam stitching before finding that the air was just streaming through a large area of leather behind the drone stock.

Originally Posted by TCulbert View Post
To the same end, is there any maintenance advisable to ensure bellows airtightness?
Yes, the bellows leather is generally heavier than the bag leather and is doing more mechanical work. On traditionally stiched bellows, the seam is continuously under strain as the leather joins the cheek at a ~90deg angle. In addition to this the bellows action relies on continuous folding and unfolding of the leather along a single crease. Looking after the leather and seasoning the bellows should increase the lifespan of the bellows.

As to how and when to do this - it very much depends on how they are made and your local conditions. On my bellows which I've been playing for 25 years I have; replaced the clack valve twice, oiled leather when it looked dry (2 or 3 times) and applied an internal seasoning once (I may do this again in 5 or 10 years time).

Long term repairs to bellows leather & stitching are almost impossible - once the stiching or leather have failed, you essentially have to remake them with new leather. This is not fun - I have re-seasoned several sets of bellows to fix stitching leaks where the bag was replaced.

NB: I have no experience with nailed bags or bellows - I've no idea what the intended lifespan is nor what the various failure modes are for the alternative fixings. I can see that in theory they should be easier to make & fix - but I'm not a fan from a playing perspective (most nailed bellows are oversized).


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Old 01-21-2017, 06:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: Seasoning Bellows-Blown Bag

With bellows pipes, bags shouldn't need seasoning unless they are leaking air.
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Old 01-22-2017, 07:13 AM   #5
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Default Re: Seasoning Bellows-Blown Bag

As Rob suggests, the most important point is whether or not the leather has been tanned in such a way that it requires seasoning. If you don't know, don't do it. Some of us had to learn the hard way....
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