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Support Documents - Piping Maintenance

These notes relate to synthetic bags.

  • Regularly check the bag for air tightness, particularly around the stock holders – move them around to be sure. Also check under the blowpipe stock for pinholes.

  • When putting pipes away, always remove the chanter and the blowpipe and leave the zip or back of the bag open. If necessary, obtain another reed protector for the blowpipe tenon to protect any valve that may be fitted.

  • Also avoid undue pressure on the bag when closing the pipe box.

  • These steps will maximize the lifespan of the bag and hoses.


  • If you use hoses inside the bag, regularly check for splitting along the hoses and in particular the stock cups. Kinks in the hoses are usually caused by too much pressure from the pipe box lid.


  • The granules only requires maintenance when moisture is collecting on your reeds, although it is best to dry the granules on a regular basis to prevent any chance of this happening at all - once a fortnight should be enough for most. When using Silica Gel Beads, dry in a normal oven at 90 degress for 90 miutes. If you use Zeoloite clay, microwave 3 to 4 minutes on high. In both cases, allow to cool before putting them back into the canister.

  • The most important and yet often neglected step is to blow out the dust from freshly dried granules. Blow through each section of the canister at least 3 times, tapping the canister before each time. Ensure that there are enough granules in the canister to avoid them moving around, but not so many that there is too much pressure when the lid is on – both situations will generate unwanted dust. Failure to do this will result in dust blowing through to the drone reeds and possibly damaging them. When reassembling a bag with a clamp – tighten the thumbscrews as much as you can.


  • Clean the inside bore of the chanter by using a thin soft bristle bottlebrush. For the throat and inside the holes, use something soft such as a cotton bud or pipe cleaner.

  • Irrespective of whether a chanter is wooden or plastic, never remove a chanter from it’s stock by twisting from the bottom - always grab it at the top.

  • It is not advisable to oil a wooden chanter inside or out as it tends to dull the tone.

  • Ensure any tape used is in good condition.


  • After playing in cold weather, check the drone bores for condensation. If moisture is present, dry the bores by using a pull-through.

  • Occasionally clean the bores of the drones by using purpose made drone brushes and or a pull-through.

  • Oiling drone bores - be aware that there are conflicting views as to whether to oil drones or not, but the occasional light oil can do no harm. Cold-pressed Almond Oil or Sweet Almond Oil are usually recommended for African Blackwood.

  • The age and condition of the wood will dictate how often they should be oiled. Older wood that feels dry and light could well need to be treated every couple of months until it stops absorbing oil - after this once a year should be enough. Newer pipes should only require oiling once a year.


  • The most important elements of a drone joint are the quality of the application and that the material used is resistant to moisture. While there are a few conflicting opinions as to the best type of hemp to use, pre-waxed black hemp is a good choice as it is resistant to moisture and so long as it is applied correctly, will provide a safe and long lasting joint. 

  • Irrespective of whether black or yellow hemp is used, wax the first layer with thermowax to prevent the joint slipping. All of the layers should have windings as tight and as close as possible. After each layer has been wound, tie-off the hemp and roll it flat between two pieces of wood. This compresses the hemp before the joint is actually used and will help to prevent further compression in the long-term. Never try to cram a new joint with too much hemp into its home -  stocks and tuning chambers can been cracked due to this.

  • Once the new joint gets to the stage where it is nearly tight but not quite enough, you will probably find that one more complete layer will be too much. At this stage you will have to experiment with a layer of hemp where each winding is spaced by about 2 to 3 millimetres. Doing this will allow you to get the tightness of the joint just right. Remember to roll the joint flat before trying it.

  • It is imperative not to make a joint too tight, particularly on drones with ivory or imitation ivory ferrules as they have significantly less blackwood than those with metal ferrules.

  • If a joint needs lubricating, try almond oil or cork wax.


  • These points apply to any reed, old or new.

  • Avoid exposing the reed to extreme conditions - too wet, too dry, too hot.

  • Don't lick the reed.

  • Take care not to damage the corners of the reed when handling.

  • To maximise the life of a reed, consider the use of a reed protector. This will enable you to remove the chanter and reed from the bag after playing, which will in turn prevent the reed from absorbing excessive moisture from the bag. If there is moisture surrounding the reed seat after playing, wipe it away and allow the reed to briefly air before putting the protector on.

  • If mould becomes a problem, then you are not drying enough, or you may need to place a small hole (about 1 mm) in the protector to allow some evaporation. This can be covered during hotter months if the reed becomes too dry.



  • Ensure that your drone reeds are clean and free of dirt between the tongue and reed bed. Any foreign matter could well contribute to air leakage and instability.

  • Regularly check that your drones reeds are firmly seated into the drones and that they are straight with no chance of them touching the interior of the stocks.

  • Occasionally check reeds for airtightness. Excessive leaking may suggest dust between the tongue and body or perhaps damage to one or the other.

  • Regularly check that your drone reeds are matched or balanced for stability.


Unbalanced drone reeds are a major cause of difficulty when it comes to tuning drones. The reeds should be set-up so that if you vary your blowing pressure, the drones stay in tune to themselves, even if the overall pitch varies a little. The following method is useful for balancing or matching drone reeds and assumes that at least one tenor is correctly set up with regard to strength and pitch.

  • Firstly plug the chanter stock.

  • While blowing slightly under your average pressure, stop your bass drone and tune the tenors. 

  • Once you have done this, increase your blowing to slightly above your average pressure. If the drones stay in tune to themselves, then they are matched. If the sound begins to waver, this means one drone is less stable than the other.

  • If this happens, hold the increased pressure and re-tune the drones by locating the one you have to lengthen. This is the least stable drone as it has reacted the most to the change in pressure. Refer to your reed's instructions to increase the stability of a reed. Generally you will either shorten the tongue and or strengthen the spring of the tongue.

  • Once the tenors are matched - bring in the bass drone and repeat the above steps with one or both tenors operating.

  • While it is important for the three drones to be balanced - they do not have to be perfectly matched over a wide range of blowing pressure - just a little below and a little above your average pressure is enough.

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