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  • $ Blowpipes

    Just curious: Blowpipes. Plastic blowpipes in particular. $60, $70, $100+. Just the basic ones, maybe even the fancier, tilty kind...whatever. Besides the usual "because that's what people are willing to pay," is there a reason for these things being so expensive in your view? And...really...why don't we just make them here in the U.S. and not have to worry about shipping from overseas. I wonder if someone with a 3D printer could crank these things out at a somewhat reduced cost. Couldn't somebody with some kind of machine do it? IIRC, the plastic blowpipe I most recently had had a nice little seam running down it...molded, I gather...Could a CNC machine make these things?
    "...peak performance begins with the preparation and practice phase, not in the execution phase, of a particular activity." Dr. Walter Doyle Staples

  • #2
    Originally posted by macdaddy65 View Post

    ..Could a CNC machine make these things?

    Mccallum now produces an acetyl blowstick with an internal vale. I believe it can be made up with different mounts..one to match your pipes. Until you tell,.no one would know it’s not abw.
    Price is not at all unreasonable. I sense you are seeking a new one...Mccallum is the way to go in my book.

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    • #3
      That's funny (not ha ha)...I have a McCallum ABW bp right now...nice crack the length of it....I just put some glue on it...seems to work ok...I will probably put the old electrical tape back on just to be sure. I like it, actually. Comfort wise, I am not sure I've ever had one that has fit me so well...I was just curious because I was trying to work out what makes a piece of rather simple plastic worth something close to $100. I mean, if some dude is standing there doing all this hand work on it, making it a masterpiece of plastic work, well...sure...pushing a button, though? Hmmmm...dunno...just interested where the money is in these things...
      "...peak performance begins with the preparation and practice phase, not in the execution phase, of a particular activity." Dr. Walter Doyle Staples

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      • #4
        Originally posted by macdaddy65 View Post
        That's funny (not ha ha)...I have a McCallum ABW bp right now...nice crack the length of it....I just put some glue on it...seems to work ok...I will probably put the old electrical tape back on just to be sure. I like it, actually. Comfort wise, I am not sure I've ever had one that has fit me so well...I was just curious because I was trying to work out what makes a piece of rather simple plastic worth something close to $100. I mean, if some dude is standing there doing all this hand work on it, making it a masterpiece of plastic work, well...sure...pushing a button, though? Hmmmm...dunno...just interested where the money is in these things...
        I get where you are coming from. I suppose they have to recoup the large investment in CNC machines somehow, producing products for a niche market. Plus, as you say, if people are willing to pay xyz for a blowstick, then they'll charge that, maybe more if they have a good name and reputation.

        It's business

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        • #5
          The most basic of CNC machines run to five figures, except in hobbyist grades. Then you have to learn to use them, or employ someone trained to do so. It's very much not a trivial undertaking.

          (And for what it's worth, my blowstick, which I think is the finest I've ever used, is made in the US...)
          BagpipeTechnique.net
          Tunes from Donald MacDonald

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          • #6
            I don't think they're excessive in price, being that they're one of those piping necessities.

            The last one I bought was the Big Bore Blowpipe by Ayrshire Bagpipes, for $65.

            I've got so use to the modern large-bore blowpipes that I just can't go back to the narrow restrictive old-school wood ones.

            The thing that puzzles me is many large-bore polypenco blowpipe makers use the old-school traditional size threading and bore for their mouthpieces, so that despite the large bore for most of the blowpipe's length the tenon and mouthpiece are as restrictive as the ones on old wooden blowpipes. It's not an insignificant restriction, as I've tested by blowing through the various blowpipes. Makes no sense to me to have a narrow bore for 1/4 to 1/3 of the length of the entire blowpipe assembly.

            I have one poly blowpipe that's solved this by having the mouthpiece and blowpipe in one piece with the same large bore from end to end.

            I have another poly blowpipe that's solved it by using larger-size socket and threading in order to maintain the same large bore throughout. I bought it from Kintail in 2007.

            Here are two poly blowpipes, one with the oldfashioned small-bore mouthpiece, socket, and threading, the other the Kintail with oversize socket and threading and the mouthpiece having the same large bore as the blowpipe:

            Last edited by pancelticpiper; 04-07-2021, 05:25 AM.
            proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

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            • #7
              Probably doesn't make too much sense for a start up CNC ($$$$$) or a 3D (time) printer. Still, if someone had access to a CNC machine as part of some other job and wanted to do something on the side just for fun...who knows?
              "...peak performance begins with the preparation and practice phase, not in the execution phase, of a particular activity." Dr. Walter Doyle Staples

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              • #8
                Polypenco blowpipes are turned on a lathe and bored, either in the traditional way or by CNC lathe. Thus, the labour/time involved in making one is roughly the same as that of making an ABW blowpipe. The popular Airstream blowpipes are not made of polypenco and are certainly molded. They are also generally somewhat cheaper than the turned polypenco blowpipes. Many, if not most, poly or plastic blowpipes contain an integrated valve, which further adds to the labour cost. On average an ABW blowpipe costs around $40-$50 (CDN) more than a polypenco one and is prone to cracking unless lined with polypenco or brass, which would add another $30-$40 (CDN) to its cost, more if the lining is done after manufacture. On the whole, polypenco blowsticks are a good deal and well worth their price, given that they give many years of trouble-free service with minimal maintenance and, from a distance of a few feet, are indistinguishable from ABW.
                Last edited by acadianpiper; 04-07-2021, 03:05 PM.
                Ian
                http://www.thepipersden.net

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                • #9
                  The problem with using a 3d printer is going to be getting it to seal air. It would be super easy to design and print a look-a-like blowpipe, but the structure and durability may not be there. It's definitely possible to do it. Just have to be using the right kind of filament and a solid design, but I'm sure you could actually make a decently working one provided you accounted for some kind of existing valve and such.

                  ​​​​​​TIME is also a major factor in 3d printing. It takes nearly forever (several hours) for something so big to be printed, so there's that constraint as well.

                  I'm with you on them being expensive, but it's a niche market, and not many people are out there looking to buy them, so they have to sell them for a lot in order to be worth it to produce them.
                  Don't ask my neighbors about my piping skills. They don't know...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by acadianpiper View Post
                    Polypenco blowpipes are turned on a lathe and bored, either in the traditional way or by CNC lathe. Thus, the labour/time involved in making one is roughly the same as that of making an ABW blowpipe. The popular Airstream blowpipes are not made of polypenco and are certainly molded. They are also generally somewhat cheaper than the turned polypenco blowpipes. Many, if not most, poly or plastic blowpipes contain an integrated valve, which further adds to the labour cost. On average an ABW blowpipe costs around $40-$50 (CDN) more than a polypenco one and is prone to cracking unless lined with polypenco or brass, which would add another $30-$40 (CDN) to its cost, more if the lining is done after manufacture. On the whole, polypenco blowsticks are a good deal and well worth their price, given that they give many years of trouble-free service with minimal maintenance and, from a distance of a few feet, are indistinguishable from ABW.
                    AcadianPiper
                    You are correct that the Airstream blowpipes were once injection molded but currently this is not true. Airstream blowpipes changed the manufacturing of their blowpipes from injection molding to cnc turned acetal rod in 2017. The bore through the mouthpiece threads are 7/16". The smallest part of the blowpipe is 3/8 where the flapper sits on but is only 1/8 long. To tell the difference look for parting lines on the injected parts.

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                    • #11
                      To put some numbers to it:

                      Kintail poly blowpipe with large threads: .36 inch bore all the way.

                      Unknown one-piece blowpipe/mouthpiece: .356 in bore all the way.

                      Hardie MaxiStick: blowpipe .375 inch bore, mouthpiece .3 inch bore. (With my blowpipe & mouthpiece 1/3 of the length is restricted.)

                      Vintage Lawrie blackwood blowpipe: .26 inch bore.
                      proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CalumII View Post
                        The most basic of CNC machines run to five figures, except in hobbyist grades. Then you have to learn to use them, or employ someone trained to do so. It's very much not a trivial undertaking.

                        (And for what it's worth, my blowstick, which I think is the finest I've ever used, is made in the US...)
                        I would suggest taking a sketch to a jobbing shop with CNC capabilities and order a batch, but then you need to find a market.
                        It would not surprise me if outsourcing is not used in the piping industry.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by KBAGG View Post

                          AcadianPiper
                          You are correct that the Airstream blowpipes were once injection molded but currently this is not true. Airstream blowpipes changed the manufacturing of their blowpipes from injection molding to cnc turned acetal rod in 2017. The bore through the mouthpiece threads are 7/16". The smallest part of the blowpipe is 3/8 where the flapper sits on but is only 1/8 long. To tell the difference look for parting lines on the injected parts.
                          Yes, you're right. I guess I was looking at one of the older ones. This fact makes them an even better deal than they were before!
                          Ian
                          http://www.thepipersden.net

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                          • #14
                            TBH, I can't figure out why pipes are so cheap (relatively speaking) compared to other instruments. For example, a bass or guitar from the Fender custom shop will run you more than a top level set of custom pipes (without silver, natch) and those are just a couple of slabs of wood (basically) and some electronics.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by macdaddy65 View Post
                              Just curious: Blowpipes. Plastic blowpipes in particular. $60, $70, $100+. Just the basic ones, maybe even the fancier, tilty kind...whatever. Besides the usual "because that's what people are willing to pay," is there a reason for these things being so expensive in your view?
                              A big chunk of it is tied up in the overhead and materials cost. Delrin/polypenco, acetal, and nylon rods aren't cheap in terms of cost for rods of appropriate diameter. Yeah, there's only one bore in most of them, but you still have to at least lathe-turn the cylinder down into a cone, probably thread a tenon for a mouthpiece (though one maker skips this and just has a friction fit mouthpiece), do some combing on the help tenon (airstreams don't have this last I knew), and then you get to the decorative parts. Do you want combing and beading, a mount, a mount in a different material, etc.

                              Even if you're doing molded and/or thermal-set plastic, you have to make the mold, maintain the mold, have the technology and materials for the injection molding process, and you eventually have to remake the mold after X number of uses.

                              After thinking about those steps and the time involved, there doesn't seem like there would be all that much profit in a blowpipe. And that's before you do any integrated valve designs (so theoretically just a flapper and the flat face to seat the flapper).

                              And, an even more pertinent part of the equation, how often do you buy a blowpipe? This isn't something like a reed where you as the manufacturer have a reasonable thought in future sales. You might sell two or three to the same customer over the course of years and years.

                              Sounds like more of a passion-project than anything else.
                              Jack

                              Serving Jello with a ladle since... forever

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