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A B C
D E F
G H I
J K L M
N O P Q R
S T U
V W X
- The generic name for the plastic called
delrin (in the US) or polypenco (in the UK.) It is used
for any turned plastic bagpipe part except art. ivory ones.
- Botanical name Dalbergia melanoxylon.
The best and most commonly used wood by far for making bagpipes
and woodwind instruments. It grows in East Africa. It varies
widely in color, from brown or purple to very dark brown,
and can be heavily streaked or of uniform color.
- An early plastic resin, invented in 1907.
It is a combination of carbolic acid and formaldehyde. See
catalin. Visit about.com
for more information about Leo Hendrik Baekeland.
- Specifically, the larger drone that sits
next to the piper's head. In general, any part that has
to do with the bass, e.g. "a set of drone reeds is
two tenors and a bass."
- A narrow convex shape formed on a part.
Beads are found on projecting mounts and often where ferrules
and ring caps meet wood. They are also usually found between
the combs on the wood, as in combing
- The shape in the bore at the top of the
three top joints. It is shaped like an upside down bell,
getting wider as it rises to the top. It ends with the bush.
Short for African blackwood. This term has
also been used misleadingly to imply African blackwood.
blowpipe or blow pipe
- The part of the bagpipe that sticks out
of the blow pipe stock, and to which
the mouthpiece is attached. The piper blows through it to
fill the bag.
- Another name for the blowpipe.
- The long hole through the center of each
piece of the bagpipe.
- The mount, whether projecting or button,
that is at the bottom of the blowpipe, tenor bottom, and
bass bottom joints. They butt up against the stock
- The bulbous shape at the end of a thin
length. There are bulbs at the top of pipe and practice
chanters, and at the bottom of mouthpieces.
- A fitment at the top of the top joints
that closes off the bell. Through the center of it is a
hole that is close to the size of the top's bore.
- A small mount, as opposed to the larger
projecting mounts, which
flares out only to the diameter of the ferrule
it is opposite.
- Short for ring cap.
Also, the most common name for the closed part of a ferrule
(bass and tenor) on a half or full set of silver (i.e the
part around the hole where the tuning pin is inserted.)
- Carnauba is a vegetable fat obtained
from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree called the “Tree
of Life” (Copernica cerifera). One of its
most interesting properties is that it swells and closes
its pores when exposed to water. Carnauba is the hardest
natural wax and has lustrous composition.
- A trade name for Bakelite,
or phenolic resin. Catalin is the term used in piping, and
it was used extensively as an artificial ivory until the
mid seventies or so. It smells very nasty when turned, and
some kinds turned dark orange after time.
- An old-fashioned valve at the end of
the blowpipe. It is made from leather,
and is shaped like a round stingray. Part of the blowpipe
tenon is scraped away, and the tail
of the valve is clamped against the tenon when it is wrapped
- A gooey, sticky mixture of wax and tar.
It is rubbed into the hemp. Then the hemp is wrapped around
the tenon in neat rows. The wax helps the hemp stick to
the tenon, and also protects the hemp against rotting by
cocuswood or cocus
- Cocus was the premier choice of woodwind
makers (including bagpipe makers) for hundreds of years.
Its cost now prohibits popular use. Initially yellowish
green to brownish olive in color, it reddens and darkens
with age and handling. It is found in Jamaica and Cuba.
Its botanical name is Brya ebenus, and is also called Jamaican
- One of the series of small grooves in
each wood part of the bagpipe (except the pipe chanter.)
It is usually bracketed by beads, but
is almost always at each end of the series of combs and
beads. The combing tool usually has between six and nine
teeth, and thus cuts that many grooves. Different makers
use different sized combing tools. Measuring the combs is
one way to help identify the maker of an old set of pipes.
combing & beading
- The series of combs and beads cut into
a drone or stock section. It is one of the most distinctive
things about the look of a Highland bagpipe. Examination
of the combing & beading can yield clues to the skill
and artistry of the maker.
- That part of the top joint which prevents
the cords from moving. It is an integral part of the wood,
and forms a canyon around and through which the two cords
pass. The cords are fastened together at each side of the
cords & tassels
- The objects used to tie the three drones
together, allowing them to stand up against the piper's
- 1. n. The object used to plug
the end of a bore. Usually this object
is a rubber bung. An actual cork is not suitable for an
airtight seal. 2. v. The action taken
to plug the end of a bore. This definition is much more
common than #4, but is sometimes confused with that definition.
3. n. The material used as an alternative to hemp
to seal the tenons when they are inserted
into the bores. 4. v. The action taken to apply
the cork to the tenons.
- 1. v. To put bungs into the
empty stocks to test the bag for leaks. Four corks occupy
the drone and pipe chanter stocks, and the blowpipe is used
to fill the bag. 2. v. To put bungs into the bushes
to prevent the drones from sounding. This is an imperfect
method of making a bagpipe take less air, and is usually
used for beginners. 3. v. To apply cork to the
tenons as an alternative to hemp. 4. n. The state
of the tenons after the application of cork, e.g. "The
corking was too loose after my friend borrowed my pipe."
- The botanical name for African blackwood,
also called mpingo.
- The act of striking the end of a piece of wood to drive
it tightly into a metal ferrule at the other end.
- Specifically, Gaboon ebony was used primarily
in the 19th century and early 20th century by bagpipe makers.
African blackwood has taken its place as the premier choice
of bagpipe makers. Its botanical name is Diospyros mespiliformis.
It is jet black in color, and grows in west Africa. There
are other cheaper and inferior ebonies.
e.m.c. (equilibrium moisture content)
- The point at which wood is stable and
in equilibrium with the humidity of its surroundings (it
is no longer gaining or losing moisture).
- A fitment at the end of a bore to prevent
splitting when a hemped tenon is inserted into the bore.
The hemp on the tenon
pushes outward in all directions, and the ferrule counteracts
- The pattern produced on a board surface
by prominent rays or deviation from regular grain. The figure
is often, though incorrectly, referred to as grain.
- Any accessory such as a mount or ferrule
fitted to a wood part of the pipe.
- A style of mounting a bagpipe. The same
material is used on the ferrules, projecting
mounts, and ring caps. For example,
full silver is a very high-end full mounted pipe, and art.
ivory a cheap one.
fully combed & beaded
- The condition of a bagpipe when every
wood part except the pipe chanter
has an uninterrupted series of combs and beads along most
of its length. Those sections of each part that are long
sweeps are combed and beaded. Ferrules, mounts, tenons,
and cord holders are never combed & beaded, nor are
the tuning pins.
- A style of mounting a bagpipe. Two different
materials are used, and on half mounted pipes the ferrules
and projecting mounts are
always different materials. For example, silver and ivory
is a very high-end half mounted pipe, and nickel or stainless
and art. ivory a cheap one.
- A group of symbols stamped on precious
metals in Britain. The hallmark indicates that the object
has been assayed, i.e. tested to verify purity not less
than the legal standard indicated by the particular mark.
For example, sterling silver
is 92.5% silver. A hallmark usually consists of the sponsor's
mark (usually the smith), the standard mark (denoting the
metal content e.g. sterling), the assay office mark (or
"town mark" - where the metal was assayed), and
the date letter (what year the metal was assayed.)
- A botanical group of trees with broad
leaves. This word does not refer to the hardness of the
- That part of a lathe that transfers the
power to spin the work.
- The dead inner core of a tree. In most
species, darker and denser than the sapwood. Heartwood is
very desirable, and considered the best portion of the tree.
- 1 n. The thread used to join
two parts together. It is wrapped around the tenons to make
a pressure fit. Good hemp is made of linen. 2 v.
The act of applying hemp.
- A piece of ivory or plastic that is fitted
onto the end of the tuning pin. It is used when a tuning
slide is installed, and is a prerequisite for contemporary
quality making. The reason it is needed is that the pin
must be turned to a smaller diameter than normal (i.e. than
it would be without the slide), and so more hemp than usual
is required. This means the small diameter at the top of
the pin, without the stop, would allow hemp to come cascading
off when the top or middle joint was pulled off the pin.
Also, the small diameter means a thin wall thickness at
the top of the pin. The hemp stop strengthens the top, and
acts as a ferrule. This double duty makes
hemp stops essential on quality pipes. They must be threaded,
- The opaque, creamy white, hard, fine-grained,
modified dentine that composes the upper incisor teeth (tusks)
of an elephant, walrus, mammoth, or mastodon. Ivory is composed
of curved layers of dentine alternating in shade, and intersecting
one another. The resulting lozenge-shaped structure is elastic
and finely grained. It is one of the most beautiful and
expensive materials for mounting bagpipes.
- Basically, a machine that fashions work
by making the work turn on an axis. The cutting is done
by a tool that is not rotating. On wood lathes the wood
usually turns between the headstock
and the tailstock. The turner holds the tool by hand and
moves it to cut various shapes on the wood. On metal lathes
the work (whatever material is being fashioned) turns and
the tool is held rigid whilst the operator moves the tool
using hand wheels. Lathes are very versatile, come in a
myriad of styles, and some contradict the above definitions.
Wood can be cut in any metal lathe and soft metals can usually
be cut on wood lathes.
- The part on the top of the blowpipe
that goes into the mouth. It is blown into, which channels
air through the blowpipe, valve, stock, and into the bag.
It is usually threaded at the bottom to screw onto the top
of the blowpipe.
- The part at the bottom of the mouthpiece
that bulges out. On our
it is the ivory or art. ivory part beneath the mouth tube.
- On our
the part that goes in the mouth. It screws into the top
of the bulb, and clamps the mouth tube into position.
- On our
the silver tube that is sandwiched between the tip and the
bulb. Fancy practice chanters can also have a mouth tube.
- An old-fashioned synthetic resin used
as a binder for various materials. When binding canvas,
it is commonly called bakelite (after its
inventor.) When made without filler, it is called catalin.
Catalin was used by bagpipe makers as artificial ivory.
It is the stuff that turns orange.
- A rare wood from Africa that ranges in
color from dark orange to shocking pink. It produces a very
rich and completely different tone from African blackwood.
The botanical name is Berchemia zeyheri.
- The part of the bagpipe upon which the
melody is played. It is the part that points down,
and upon which the hands are placed. The piper holds it
in front, and covers or uncovers various holes that are
drilled in a straight line down the front (with one in back),
thereby making different notes.
practice (or practise) chanter
- The pipe used for actually learning to
play the bagpipe. It has no bag, but the hardest part of
learning the bagpipes, the fingering, is identical on the
two instruments. This means one can practice on the small,
convenient practice chanter and improve one's playing without
touching the cumbersome pipe. A teacher and pupil can demonstrate
and show the fruits of practice quickly and efficiently.
Then those fruits can be savored on the bagpipe.
- The gracefully shaped pieces on the bottom
joints, blowpipe, and bass middle joint. They are usually
made of ivory or art. ivory (sometimes silver), and almost
always show a marked contrast of color with the wood. They
jut out radially from a ferrule (every
ferrule, in fact, except the pipe chanter stock ferrule),
then sweep back in toward the wood. Most of the length of
the tuning pins separates the top projecting mounts from
the ferrule above. The bottom projecting mounts should always
touch the stock ferrules.
- An acute taper cut into the bottom of
the drone bottom joint bores and the top of the pipe and
practice chanter bores. This allows the piper to insert
a reed into the piece and get a snug fit. The acuteness
of the taper prevents the properly seated reed from moving.
Addition or removal of hemp on a reed determines how far
up the bore the reed can go.
- The object at the very top of each drone.
It is usually ivory , art. ivory, or silver. It contrasts
in color with the wood. Its purpose is mostly decorative,
but it does help to counteract any possible outward pressure
by the bush. On a well made pipe, this
is very unlikely. It is sometimes also called the crown.
- The outer, younger portion of a tree,
usually distinguishable from the heartwood
by its lighter color. Years ago, it was quite common to
see sapwood (incorrectly referred to as "bark")
on the exterior profiles of bagpipes. In those days the
makers cut and sorted the wood from logs. The sapwood is
the result of a maker using all the wood that he could.
- The plate like object at the bottom of
a pipe or practice chanter. Soles used to be ubiquitous,
but their use has fallen away. On pipe chanters they are
generally about 2 7/8" in diameter, and 1/2" in
thickness. The end is flush with the bottom of the chanter.
They are made of ivory, art. ivory, or metal.
- The two holes drilled near the bottom
on each side of the pipe chanter. Sound holes must be used
when a conical bore ends with no bell. If no sound holes
are present under those circumstances, the lowest note will
always have an unacceptably different tone from the rest
of the notes. This can be demonstrated by covering the sound
holes on a pipe chanter and sounding low G. The note (ignore
the ridiculously low pitch) will be a very disagreeable
- An alloy of fine silver and copper. It
consists of 925 parts fine silver and 75 parts copper per
thousand parts. Fine silver (unalloyed silver), is the whitest
and has the greatest luster of all metals. With a melting
point of 1761 degrees Fahrenheit, silver is one of the most
ductile and malleable metals, making it ideal for jewelry
making. Because fine silver is so soft the copper must be
added to increase its durability. Other metals can be used,
but copper has been found to give the silver the necessary
durability without affecting its ductility and malleability.
- Each of the five pieces of the pipe that
gets tied into the bag is a stock.
- A bore that is larger
at one end than at the other. The pipe
chanter has a tapered bore.
- That part of any piece which gets hemped.
The hemped tenon has a pressure fit to the piece to which
it should be attached. Except on the pipe chanter and practice
chanter, the tenon always has a mount adjacent to it. The
mount provides a "stop" past which the piece sliding
over the tenon can't go.
- Specifically, one of the smaller drones
that extend away from the bass and the
piper's head. More generally, any part that has to do with
a tenor, e.g. "a set of drone reeds is a bass and two
top joint or top
- The top piece of each drone. It has a
tuning chamber at the bottom part of the bore
and a bell at the top. The shape at
the top is always considerably larger (about 2" dia.)
than just below (about 7/8" dia.). The shape sweeps
up to the top from the cord holders. The diameter is larger
at the top in order to accommodate the bell.
- The bottom bore of the tops and the bass
middle joint. It is a counter bore (i.e. a larger bore than
the main bore), and starts at the ferrule.
Generally it is 1/8" longer then the length of the
tuning pin that is to be inserted into it. In any case,
the two bass and two tenor tuning chambers should be the
same respective lengths. The tuning pin is never inserted
all the way so the mount meets the ferrule. It is inserted
part way, and thanks to the hemp on the tenon portion of
the pin, a snug but moveable fit is achieved. The top or
middle joint is then moved up or down to tune the drone.
Moving up (lengthening) flattens the pitch, moving down
- The straight, slender part at the top
of the bottoms and bass middle joint, extending up from
the top mount.
- 1 n. A sleeve, usually silver
and always metal, put over the tuning pin for the sake of
decoration. It extends from the top mount up to the bottom
part of the hemp. 2. n. A sleeve, usually brass
or nickel silver, that is inserted into the tuning chamber
as a permanent fixture. The more skillful makers held it
in place with glue and a wedge. This practice was common
over a century ago, but was abandoned almost universally.
- A venturi is simply a device which provides
a way to convert high-pressure, low velocity air to low-pressure,
high velocity air. In the context of the chanter stock,
the bag provides the high-pressure, low velocity air and
the stock serves to increase the velocity of the air moving
past the chanter reed. Since the reed's total flow area
is much smaller than the stock's restriction, the effect
of the venturi on an easy reed will be minimal since the
easy reed requires little air to make it vibrate. The venturi
chanter stock will have a measurable effect if the piper
plays heavy reeds. Submitted by Mark Lee.
- A device to prevent large amounts of
breath moisture from getting into the bag. Our design combines
efficiency with ease of use. On it, a reservoir at the bottom
of the blow stock juts into the bag. This catches most of
the moisture, and allows the piper to empty the trap by
merely removing the blowpipe and upending the stock. Another
design has a long tube that stretches from the blow stock
to the back of the bag. These are very cumbersome, uncomfortable,
and difficult to empty. The traditional design is a cork
stuck into the bottom of the blow stock with a tube through
it. The end of the tube is not flush with the end of the
cork. the space between the tube and stock bore walls catches
to Jim McGillivray play our traditionally crafted
|Charley Kron, master pipe maker and Principal of C.E. Kron & Co. talks about the business of pipe making and the growing demand for quality drones and chanters in the US.
read interview >