Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to refurbish several sets of pipes. I’m not talking about refinishing them or repairing damage or anything like that, simply taking a set of pipes that had been sitting in a case not being played for a while and getting them in playable condition. To me this means a bag that’s air tight, joints properly hemped, not too loose or too tight, valve working properly, ferrules cleaned up and not falling off, drone reeds set for efficiency and not shutting off unexpectedly.
When working on sets of pipes that someone else has been playing and maintaining, I look at things others may not even notice. There are obvious things like hemp choices and other stuff which gets mixed in there like Teflon tape or dental floss but also things that border on voodoo that’s been passed down through the ages…
Many of these things might be proven and useful and if you’ve been in the pipe band world long enough or been to Winter Storm classes, you’re likely familiar with some of them like using a paper clip inside a cane drone reed, but others are questionable.
Right now, I’ve got four sets of drone reeds I’m going to be testing in my pipes, a set of blue Croziers, two sets of EzeeDrones, one with inverted bass, and a new set of Selbies.
The Croziers had a small slice of electrical tape on the bass tongue and I’m certain it was placed there in an attempt to fix a perceived problem or achieve some goal. I know that putting wax on the tongue of a cane reed adds some weight to it and probably fixes some issues but I’m betting this small piece of tape either had a negligible effect or none at all.
On one of the sets of Ezee’s, there was a dental band typically used as a bridle on chanter reeds, placed over the standard bridles on both tenor reeds. It’s possible this could help remedy an issue on the spot but if an original bridle needs to be augmented, it’s time to replace the reeds!
Working on someone else’s pipes and rummaging through their case is a bit like cleaning out someone else’s desk and it provides a glimpse into their personality. What are some of the weird things you’ve seen done to pipes or hiding in pipe cases?