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Go Back   Bob Dunsire Bagpipe Forums > Great Highland Bagpipe > Technique & Instrument
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Technique & Instrument Related to techniques, to the instrument, to the components, to maintenance.

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Old 05-30-2018, 12:27 PM   #1
Matt Willis Bagpiper
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Default Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

A video on why (and how) I'm replacing all of the traditional hemp on all of my pipes for fully polyester thread, but briefly (since the video is long!)...

Being polyester, it:
1. Cannot swell with moisture!
2. Shouldn't ever rot, as it's not natural!
3. Available in a ton of colors!
4. Being finer than hemp, get exactly the fitting you want on your joints!

No financial anything here (not selling anything), just wanting to share what I feel has totally changed my approach to wrapping the joints on a bagpipe, be it highland, smallpipe, uilleann, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEm3...ature=youtu.be
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Old 05-30-2018, 12:42 PM   #2
plainspiper
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

WOW thats cool. I've been thinking of doing the same thing. Hemp drives me nuts and it seems like dental floss gets smashed after a while.
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Old 05-30-2018, 01:19 PM   #3
Matt Willis Bagpiper
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

I tried dental floss once many, many years ago (like 1998...), and made the mistake of using scented dental floss, thinking it would keep smelling nice. That was really not the case. Over the course of a few months, it started stinking terribly, like a rotting raccoon.

I also found there was too much wax for my liking.

I suppose unwaxed dental floss could possibly work, but I've heard (though not confirmed) that there are mini-abrasive particles on the floss to help remove plaque/debris from your teeth...
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Old 05-30-2018, 03:17 PM   #4
bob864
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

Since my GH bagpipes are made of wood, they swell and contract with the seasons. I suspect that polyester thread, since it has no give, might not be the best choice. But my smallpipes are made of plastic, so maybe polyester would be a good choice for them.

I was talking to a piper who everyone has probably heard of. He said, "Well, they're your pipes so do what you want, but you don't need anything other than waxed hemp."
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Old 05-30-2018, 03:28 PM   #5
Anndrah
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

The problem with nylon and polyester is that there is no give, and they are abrasive. People have broken out of jail by cutting through Ironwood bars with dental floss. Hemp with beeswax, properly maintained can last many years, has some give too.
Curious to see if the current change in marijuana laws will make actual hemp available.
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:34 PM   #6
MichiganGaidar
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

The real question is if choice of thread material should matter in a "nuts-and-bolts" way, and the answer is, as far as I'm concerned, a resounding "NO!".

Regarding seized joints:

Negligence. I'm not particularly careful or fastidious with my tenon wrapping and I have never had this occur on any of the wind instruments I own, including some of which are directly mouth-blown. Thread choice should not matter: you should know how tight you can pack your tenons.

Regarding dimensional changes in the wood:
I have a few Bulgarian pipes made from unidentified fruitwood (maybe dogwood or plum: very light and almost punky compared to ABW) - Not a single loose mount (they're just press-fitted, by the way), and I never need to change or otherwise mess with threads due to changes in how the tenons fit together. If your Highland bagpipe, made professionally from tropical hardwoods which are dense enough to sink in water, is less dimensionally-stable than a 300-dollar gaida made from God only knows what wood, the fault lies with the manufacturer, and no choice of threads will make up for it.

Regarding hygeine:

Does this even have to be addressed? That critters should be growing on your hemp is a disgrace to the instrument and the owner. Threads on my gaida get treated with sheep fat - and even they have never gone rancid on me. I only have to replace them once a year, at most, when the threads are worn out from repeated assembly, adjustment, disassembly.

In short, use whatever you like to pack your joints, but if you have to make rocket science of it, you should be concerned.
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Old 05-31-2018, 06:11 AM   #7
BGP
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anndrah View Post
The problem with nylon and polyester is that there is no give, and they are abrasive. People have broken out of jail by cutting through Ironwood bars with dental floss. Hemp with beeswax, properly maintained can last many years, has some give too.
Curious to see if the current change in marijuana laws will make actual hemp available.


Actual hemp is already available, hemp fiber has never been illegal in the US and most places.
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Old 05-31-2018, 06:35 AM   #8
el gaitero
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattpiper View Post


Being polyester, it:
1. Cannot swell with moisture!

This is one of the reasons for using hemp....airtight joints...
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Old 05-31-2018, 08:15 AM   #9
Tedley
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

Hemp thread and all hemp products were made illegal, along with the drug. Hemp fiber was not available until the early 1970's. It is sold in one-ply (half the weight of yellow "hemp") and two-ply.
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Old 05-31-2018, 08:38 AM   #10
Matt Willis Bagpiper
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Default Re: Polyester thread instead of hemp = game changer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob864 View Post
Since my GH bagpipes are made of wood, they swell and contract with the seasons. I suspect that polyester thread, since it has no give, might not be the best choice. But my smallpipes are made of plastic, so maybe polyester would be a good choice for them.
The ferrules and mounts on most pipes are made out of plastic or metal that doesn't change dimensionally with the wood, and that doesn't equate to broken pipes, so I can't see how this is any different. It's possible the polyester thread could even act like a ferrule on the end of the joint, strengthening it from splitting/cracking (though I suspect any wrapped string/yarn has that potential).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anndrah
The problem with nylon and polyester is that there is no give, and they are abrasive.
Dental floss may well be abrasive (as it's designed to remove plaque from teeth), but I am not finding any sort of abrasiveness with the polyester thread. I'll be watching for any signs of wear on the receiving end of the pipes.

With the ability to make the joint as tight/loose as you desire (since the polyester thread so much finer than hemp/linen), I find I can actually have less tension on any given joint and still have it be airtight. To my mind, less tension = less friction = less wear...

Quote:
Originally Posted by el gaitero
This is one of the reasons for using hemp....airtight joints...
Not exactly sure what you're getting at here... You quoted me discussing how polyester thread doesn't swell with moisture, which isn't related to an airtight fit.
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