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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 11-10-2018, 06:42 PM   #1
Chicagopipes
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Default Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

I've suffered a setback, of sorts.

After having difficulty over the last couple weeks, trying to figure out why things weren't quite working right, I discovered today the cause of the problem.

A leak.

Straight down the side of my blowstick.

So I have 3 questions:

1) Is it worth the expense to have a blowstick repaired, if it can be?

It hadn't been bumped, dropped...nothing. Just 5-15 minutes of playing at a time, 5-6 days a week since September. Cracked almost from top to bottom. Don't know when it started, but it couldn't have been that long ago. Maybe just in the last week. I know it didn't used to be there. But today, it's CLEARLY there. Was at a rehearsal at my teacher's house and was just having to blow like crazy to get things going. I knew something was off but couldn't put my finger on it. I never figured on, "Well, because you've got a seven-inch crack down the stick, silly."

The set is a 1955 Alexander/Charlie Wicks/Starck. Stamped "Alexander," made by Charlie Wicks, who'd been a maker for Starck, so they look very much like Starcks.

I'm assuming that even if it's worth the expense to repair it, I'd guess that's a process that involves weeks, if not months, to send off and wait. Which brings us to -

2) Were I to send it off for repair, where's/who's the best place to have do it? Any idea what that will cost?

In the short term, I need a blowstick, so that brings us to -

3) What's your favorite replacement blowstick?

I'd already been considering something like the Airstream Tilt, ironically, or the McCallum or RGH versions. I'm 5'8", and the current (cracked) blowstick, with mouthpiece, was right about 10", although I possibly could've gone a little shorter.

Or, if I'm looking to keep the feel of the original set, am I better sending off the cracked one to an outfit who can take the catalin mount (so it still matches) off the cracked one and mate it to a completely new ABW blowstick?

Thanks, in advance, for your input.
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Old 11-10-2018, 07:40 PM   #2
Rooklidge
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

In Chicago? send to Donaldson or Dunbar for a sleeve repair or to have a replica made. Should a be a pretty quick turnaround time for you. Any standard stick will do in the meantime.
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Old 11-11-2018, 06:23 AM   #3
Jay Close
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

For a classic historic instrument, it's worth the expense to have the repair. But for everyday play, I often use a plastic blowpipe that reproduces the old one. Being plastic, I can often use a wider bore without compromising strength, and that is an advantage. Any maker or restorer ought to be able to handle either requirement. Good luck!
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Old 11-11-2018, 06:24 AM   #4
Toxpert
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

The cracking occurred from residual moisture swelling the wood inside the blowpipe.

I have a set of early 1900s pipes of which this same cracking occurred. I had the blowpipe sleeved with brass. All the stocks were also cracked...these also have been sleeved.

I went the route of sleeving these pieces to provide a permanent fix and maintain the use of the original pieces while keeping intact the beading and combing. Blowpipe and stocks are now fully functional. The external cracks are barely noticeable. I have no problem with air restrictions with the sleeved blowpipe...the internal diameter of the sleeve is larger than the original wood I.D.

Other alternatives you can evaluate are invisible whipping and possible repair of cracks. Repairing cracks sometimes works and sometimes not.

Last edited by Toxpert; 11-11-2018 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 11-11-2018, 09:49 AM   #5
Paul M Burke
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

Wrap a bit of insulation tape around it. Will be okay for years.


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Old 11-11-2018, 10:43 AM   #6
el gaitero
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

A good syn blowstick will cost you North of $100. A good repair job similar.
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Old 11-11-2018, 10:50 AM   #7
magsevenband
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

To me, nothing looks cheesier than a beautiful set of well adorned Pipes with a cheap black plastic blowstick or end fitting...get the original repaired or at least a new fitting made to match.
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Old 11-11-2018, 01:09 PM   #8
Mainebagpipes
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

FWIW, on an older set of pipes I'd be inclined to get the original blowstick repaired, and maybe find a plastic one for everyday playing. As to makes for plastic blowsticks, I'm using RG Hardie ones on two pipes (the tilt version with one set of pipes, and the non-tilt version with another). They're nothing to write home about, but they're fine. I like the tilt version better than the non-tilt version. I have the McCallum extendable blowpipe with my McCallum pipes as well. It's also fine, but I prefer the integrated valve on the Hardie. I don't have an Airstream, but I've tried the tilt version on a friend's pipes. It also seems fine, but I like slightly more resistance.
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Old 11-11-2018, 01:17 PM   #9
el gaitero
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

Quote:
Originally Posted by magsevenband View Post
To me, nothing looks cheesier than a beautiful set of well adorned Pipes with a cheap black plastic blowstick or end fitting...get the original repaired or at least a new fitting made to match.

Totally agree. Nothing worse looking IMO than knurled knob adjustments etc with cheesy glossy black mouth piece and mismatched mount on an otherwise venerable set of pipes.
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Old 11-11-2018, 02:00 PM   #10
Toxpert
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Default Re: Favorite blowstick? And worth it to repair a blowstick?

Not all synthetic blowpipes look bad.
I recently picked up a set of early Kintails missing original blowpipe and blowpipe stock cracked through. Rest of set is in excellent condition.

I contacted Rick at Dunbar and commissioned a poly blowpipe and stock to be made with aged Catalin projecting mount and ferrule he was able to find.

This new blowpipe and stock will blend nicely with the set and will provide the next owner a robust avoidance of future blowpipe and stock failures.

IMHO, Dunbar beading and combing of their polyproducts looks identical to Blackwood.
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