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Old 04-20-2009, 07:34 PM   #1
Shawn Husk
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Default Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

A fellow forumite was kind enough to send me along his set of Hakim Din ABW bagpipes recently and I wanted to post up a review.

I also recently saw an ABW Hakim Din chanter on ebay that piqued my interest so I bought it and wanted to give a short review of it as well.


The drones:

When the drones arrived I did an initial inspection of them to see what kind of working order they were in. The pipes came tied into a Canmore bag and had most of the original hemping on. This is a set of pipes that's been owned and used for some time, not a brand new set.

Almost all of the ferrules, caps and mounts were loose. The hemping was pretty terrible in most cases and the bag needed retied for a proper test. So I decided to do a complete tear down and rebuild - meaning: I took the pipes completely apart. Took off every piece of imitation ivory that was loose, every piece but one; took off all the hemp on every piece.

This allowed me a proper look at the wood and the turning.

The wood overall was quite poor in quality. Lots of knots and worm holes. The turning wasn't too bad, about average. Lots of little turning issues but overall decent. Every piece was threaded on, unfortunately this didn't stop the mounts from all coming loose. Perhaps due to poor seasoning of the wood prior to turning?

The imitation ivory was just plain off white, no swirls or any other distinctions. It was not finished well and was very prone to getting dirty. All of it was filthy and difficult to clean.

So I reglued all of the mounts, ferrules and ring caps, as well as the metal slides. These were a nickel alloy I believe and were engraved. Very rough, so I'm assuming they were done by a machine.

I took off all the hemp, which was a brown thread of some sort. After the glue was dry I rehemped (properly: 12" of Thermowax on dry yellow, then yellow for the bulk followed by a wee bit of yellow waxed) the entire set.

I also retied the bag.

After this I tested the bag. It was completely airtight afterwards and I was ready to test.

The pipes had Shepherd SM-90's tenors and an old red Henderson Harmonic bass.

I could not get the Shepherds working at all in the tenors. They would sound but were no where near the right pitch. So I tried various other reeds. Nothing worked except a set of Balance Tones. I had to make the BT as sharp as possible to get them to get the HD tenors up to pitch. I was aiming for 476. These worked but the pipes were tuning about halfway down on the pins.

The bass wasn't too bad at all.

With this set up the pipes were fairly decent sounding. Nothing award winning but they worked and tuned.

The tenors were not stable at all, the slightest, and I mean slightest variation in pressure and they would come out of lock with each other.

The pipe had a slightly tenor dominant sound. Bright tenors and a mild bass.


Some issues I noticed:

The tenor bottom bores were very narrow, about .280 A proper bottom bore of .325 would make the tenors quite good. They would come up to pitch and would take probably any reed you wanted to put in them. But as they are the bottoms are too narrow compared to the wider tops.

Also, the stocks are all very narrow and would benefit by being opened up to the standard 13/16ths.


So the verdict? IF you could pick up a set of these for $100 or so it would be worth it. You could fix them up and get them working, perhaps even bore out the tenors and stocks and get a decent bagpipe. The wood is fairly poor quality though so keep that in mind. I'm not saying this is Typical of HD but unfortunately Pakistani pipes do have this reputation for a reason.

I don't know what bag was with this set or reeds so that's a toss up, chances are you'd have to replace those, so add that to your costs.


Okay, the long awaited chanter review.

First of all the chanter that came with the set that was sent to me was absolutely unuseable in any way. No reeds worked in it to give any semblance of a real bagpipe tone, pitch or scale. Very rough internal bore, very narrow throat and reed seat.

Okay, the chanter that I bought direct from Hakim Din:

First of all the chanter looked quite nice. Seemed like some pretty good blackwood. Nice straight grain, really good very thin varnish type finish.

The bad news......the inside bore of the chanter was very rough, not smooth and finished at all. There was blackwood shavings and slivers in every hole of the chanter that I had to clean out. This signified to me that the wood was not seasoned properly and perhaps changed in transit? Not sure. The reed seat was very very small and really should have been bigger or at least opened up. The throat of the chanter was quite constricted with blackwood shavings.

Once the shavings were cleaned up I plugged in one of the included HD chanter reeds (one was broken and unusable, the other was somewhat useable after I tweaked it) This reed did not sound or go well in the chanter at all and I opted to try some Scottish GHB chanter reeds.

I balanced the top and bottom hands as best as I could, very difficult with the very small reed seat, and played the chanter by mouth. Fairly decent sound, a bit subdued compared to most Scottish chanters, it was pitching at around 470-476 depending on the reed I used.

In EVERY case however the F double toned. This, I believe, is a chanter design flaw not a reed issue. I was using very good reeds that worked properly in all my other chanters. The very flat double toning F was a huge issue that could not be corrected for. I perhaps could carve the F out completely to get it up to pitch and more stable but I have not touched any of the holes as of yet.

The C was also completely flat in every case.

All in all a chanter that is basically an unfinished product. I, having to clean up all the holes, throat and reed seat just to get it working....poor quality inside finishing causing wood fibers to raise up causing issues with tone and overall tuning.

The chanter did look very similar to a Naill. The bulb or foot at the bottom was quite similar. The HD had the same overall shape as a Naill but was more narrow in diameter overall. I could see how someone could be easily fooled by pictures of this chanter on the net. There was no marking anywhere on the chanter stamped "Hakim Din", there were no markings anywhere.

Verdict? Would I buy one or recommend one? No. If you want a chanter project maybe, but you can get good old blackwood Scottish chanters quite often from ebay or here for $30 and those are properly made so why bother?

That's the scoop.

I will say that I was quite impressed and surprised with the HD drones overall. They could be made to work. You will have to put some time and extra money into it to get it working right but if you really wanted to play pipes on the cheap this could be one way. Of course you can get used Scottish pipes all the time for $550-$650 here in the TP, so again, why bother?

If I were going to give some advice to HD about their product this would be it:

Season your wood longer. Open up the tenor bores and the stock bores, use a better quality imitation ivory (perhaps even the Italian stuff most Scottish makers use) and redesign your chanter with a bigger reed seat and throat and correct for the funky F.

If they did that they'd be putting out a decent entry level bagpipe. Of course they'd have to include a serviceable bag and reeds and price it around $450 to be really attractive but if they could meet all those criteria they'd be worth buying.

That's my take.

Shawn
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Old 04-20-2009, 08:17 PM   #2
Steve Anderson
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

Great review Shawn. If I ever run across a set of these, I may keep them around for friends and family who want to "try to play" the pipes. That way they don't screw up my decent set.
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Old 04-20-2009, 08:31 PM   #3
countrypiper
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

So - are we going to hear from Mr. Hakim Din? Surely a reply from the maker is in order?
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Old 04-20-2009, 08:34 PM   #4
Wulls
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Husk View Post
So I reglued all of the mounts, ferrules and ring caps, as well as the metal slides. These were a nickel alloy I believe and were engraved. Very rough, so I'm assuming they were done by a machine.
The only fault I can find in your review Shawn is you cannot assume rough engraving is the fault of a machine.
Many makers use machine engraving on ferules etc with great success.
All in all I am not surprised at your findings......I had a similar experience a while ago but I elected to sleeve the drones as the wood was of such poor quality I could not get an acceptable finish so I overbored them and fitted brass tubing.
Caveat Emptor.....
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Old 04-20-2009, 11:29 PM   #5
Bill Urquhart
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

Interesting review.

Now, if I recall from a previous thread, Hakam Din knew you were going to give their chanter a serious and public review before they sent it to you, correct? If so, then one would believe that they would be sure to pick out the best of the best of their chanters, and that the review you've given would be taken as a best-case scenario if the average Joe buys directly from them.
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Old 04-21-2009, 03:06 AM   #6
Sir Edwin CBE
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

Cheers Shawn, been looking forward to this for a wee while.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:22 AM   #7
Mike S
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

Cheers for the straight shooter review. The findings are what I was expecting, alas.

As always, you get what you pay for. It really is WAY past due for the Sailkot pipe makers (if you want to call them that) to get their act together and produce some acceptable quality pipes.

Within the music instrument industry, Europe and America have long held the monopoly on intermediate to pro quality woodwinds such as Saxophones, Clarinets, Oboes, Flutes etc. Japan slowly began to build their reputation, and now produces world class examples of the same (so much so, they have put many of the former out of business). Taiwan has achieved a high standard, and now China, Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia are working slowly but surely to meet the grade with their quality control and build standards. The last are still not there yet, but they ARE trying.

Poor Pakistan is still in the stone age as far as competing in any way with the Western makers, with no indication in my mind that they intend to budge from that lowly perch.

Oh well.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:59 AM   #8
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Husk View Post
These were a nickel alloy I believe

Shawn
"Brassanickaluminum", to be precise...
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:50 AM   #9
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

I have a new student that came to me all set up with a Pakistani PC and GHB. I have no idea what brand of Pakistani pipes they are.

The PC isn't self consistently in tune at all. I play a Paki PC when playing with him so at least our notes are out of tune together. Working on getting a better PC.

Got the drones going with Ezeedrone reeds. Once I figured out there was a cane bass reed inserted into the bass drones' drone slide tenon, the drones played fine. The tenors were singing, the harmonic E produced by the tenors was very easy to hear. They tuned roughly ~470s out of the box. Basically, sounded like real bagpipe drones to me.

The leather bag it came with, we didn't even try it was so dry.

I mouth blew the chanter a while back with the reed it came with. It was a little out of tune but didn't sound too terrible, again ~470's. I'll see if he'll let me borrow them for a week or so and I'll make some recordings and post them on the blog.

As far as quality of the work: again, very poor. Ferrules longer than the wood they are covering, the blowpipe is about a foot too long, the stocks' outer and inner diameters are tiny.

It seems to me, even though the drones are fine, it isn't worth it. The variability in the quality of manufacture is too great. What is the gaurantee that you will get the same pipe from whoever your order from?

Case in point: Skye Highland Outfitters. These guys tried to get better made Pakistani pipes made to their specifications. They speak Hindi, know the culture, ruined their own Scottish/American made pipes to get dimensions. What was the result? Something about a collaboration with MacLellan?

So if you know what you're doing, you could get a set of Pakistani pipes going. But, if you know what you're doing, why would you buy a Pakistani pipe in the first place?
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Old 04-21-2009, 09:56 AM   #10
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Default Re: Review: Hakim Din pipes and chanter

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But, if you know what you're doing, why would you buy a Pakistani pipe in the first place?
For piping gigs in dust storms, horizontal rain, subzero temps, rowdy pubs, etc.
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