The Bagpipe Project

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Copyright © 2000, all rights reserved

ASF 2005


One of my long term goals has always been to learn to play the Great Highland Bagpipes. On the occasion of the new Millennium, I decided it was time to do something about it. As I go down the path of discovery, I will informally document and photograph the journey. I will endeavor to add links to the text as I go. Additionally, all the photographs on this entire site can be selected to download an 800x600 dpi version of the same image. I captured most of these images using a Kodak DC280 Digital camera. This is a work in progress. Aren't we all? If you have suggestions, drop me a line.

Getting Started

I started out with a simple "How do I get started" message on the newsgroup and was quickly thrown a virtual life ring by Kenton Adler, the host of "Pipers-L: Discussion forum for Great Highland Bagpipe" LISTSERV repeat list. Kenton helped again with some excellent advice on securing a reputable instructor through his friend, then Pipe Major Rod Weeks, of the Elliott Bay Pipe Band.

Tyrone Heade

Rod directed me to his Pipe Sergeant, Tyrone Heade. At the time, Tyrone was Seattle's only full-time bagpiper and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer did a nice article about him. I quickly secured a spot in a newly formed beginning piping class. Since then, Seattle now has a second full-time piper, Jori Chisholm.

Shortly after starting lessons, Tyrone was fussing with my hand position on my polypenco Naill long practice chanter. He decided the blow pipe was too short by several inches. I looked at it and decided I could turn an extension for it on my lathe. I used a small piece of ebony I had and it worked fine. It also started the wheels spinning....

Combining Hobbies

Shortly there after, with Tyrone's assistance, I ordered a blackwood long Naill chanter from Murray Henderson in Scotland. It arrived and I used the ebony extension on the new practice chanter. It was a great improvement over the plastic PC. However, while the wood was nice, the finish on the chanter didn't measure up to my woodworking standards and I didn't like the look of the delrin top on top of such a beautiful piece of wood. I picked up a piece of blackwood and turned a replacement top section, reed chamber and extended blow pipe. I used copper for a ferrule and finished it with dewaxed shellac. It came out very well and I decided to refinished the chanter body itself to match the new top. Since then I have made several more and my current one sports an imitation ivory mount between the reed chamber and the blow pipe.


practice chanter

Tyrone was impressed I could turn my own parts and suggested I consider turning my own drones. I couldn't tell if he was pulling my leg or not. With this little nudge I started investigating pipe making. I found several good Internet articles on pipe making, corresponded with three different pipe makers, and talked to two more. The information I gleaned from them combined with my woodworking skills and formidable confidence were enough to get me to commit to the project.

Did it work?

What does it sound like?

24 July 2000
Yesterday evening, after my piping lesson, my instructor and I put three layers of waxed gut on the pin and put Tenor Drone #1 together. He had a new cane reed of questionable origin and fitted it to the drone. He mouth blew it and thought it was a little quiet and it didn't have quite the overtones he was listening for. He thought it sounded like a drone that had been oiled recently. In fact it had. The oil has not cured yet. We tried a second cane reed and he liked it better. Next he pulled one of his 1914 Lawrie tenor drones from the stock and mouth blew it. The Lawrie was a little louder, and had more "presence". He blew my Henderson copy again and said, "You know, this sounds like an old Henderson drone". I was elated.

This is an MP3 file I made last night. Keep in mind it is with a non-broken in cane reed, was not tuned to a particular pitch, and was mouth blown for about 20 seconds by someone who has never struck in a stand of pipes. I was suprised how stable it was but what the heck do I know?

Music icon

28 Jan 02

It's been a while since I did any updating here. I have had several requests for plans for my pipes now that I have made a couple of sets. Below are Adobe Acrobat plans for Stocks, Tenor Drone, Bass Drone, and Blowpipe. If you print these on 11x17" paper at full size, they will scale accurately. As always, I'm available for questions. These were modeled in Rhinoceros and 2D projections were exported to AutoCAD. I added title blocks, dimensions, and line weights in AutoCAD and printed them as Acrobat files.

PDF LogoStocks

PDF LogoTenor Drone

PDF LogoBass Drone (revised)

PDF LogoBlowpipe

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