Bagpipe Surgery

The other day at my lesson my instructor was tuning up my drones when he noticed an unexpected breeze on his wrist. Uh-oh. The grommet for the outside tenor had cracked and I needed a new bag. Fortunately, I knew that this or something like it was coming and already had a new bag just waiting. I love the L&M Scotian bag – not only does it have the swell zipper that makes swabbing it out a simple task, but it has grommets for all the stocks except the chanter stock. This makes tying-in a breeze, also. Andrew Lenz has already posted a swell page with instructions and some photos for how to tie in a bag, so this is less of a how-to and more of a photo record of How I Spent My Saturday Afternoon.

Here’s all the stuff laid out on a table before I get to work. I’d already removed the outside tenor stock from the old bag, as that let me see the extent of the damage to the grommet. The rubber had cracked quite a bit and there was a big hole at the base of the cuff, there. There was really no way to seal that up that would be at all reliable. I looked at the base of the stock and it wasn’t gross or anything, but it did look kind of dried out. I decided I’d oil the stocks while I had them out.

Here they all are, removed from the old bag and oiled up. This is my first set and I bought it from Henderson’s. It came already tied in and they had put some soft, sticky, waxy goop in the channel of the chanter stock. It probably served as a moisture barrier as well as making it easier to get a tight air seal. I left it in there.

One thing I noticed in putting the stocks into the grommets was that it was really hard getting the lip of the imitation ivory mount through the grommet. I could get the mount started, but at the point where the mount meets the wood there’s a little lip and that was wide enough to require stretching the rubber gasket. But the gasket is rubber and it’s a little sticky against the plastic mount and it’s hard to get enough purchase to do any good. I remembered using soapy water to solve a similar problem in auto shop (mounting new tires on rims) and so I did the same here, wiping a little soapy water around the inside of the grommet and then sliding the stock through. It worked like a charm and in a few minutes the water had all dried up and I had a good seal.

Close up of the goopy chanter stock.

The next thing to do was to roll up a couple of little leather sausages to help make the seal around the chanter stock. The new bag came with a strip of leather and I just cut it in half and rolled the two halves into cylinders, tying them up with black waxed hemp to keep them rolled.

This is how the chanter stock had been tied in originally. I needed to make it look like this.

First, I put the stock into the neck of the bag and held the rolls on either side of the seam. I wrapped some hemp around the whole business just to keep things in place while I got the cord situated.

Next, I started wrapping the cord around the stock and the leather rolls, keeping it really tight. I was worried I might snap the cord, but it held.

After a few wraps, I tied the cord off and cut it. It doesn’t look as heavy duty as the old tie-in, but I played for a few minutes and didn’t feel any air leaking out around the stock. I still need to tweak the angle of the blowpipe stock, but that should be straightforward. Tomorrow I should be able to do that and retape the chanter and still get in a solid practice.

Published by pirateguillermo

I play the bagpipes. I program computers. I support my family in their various endeavors, and I enjoy my wonderful life.

Leave a Reply