Summer/Fall 2009 :

An uilleann pipe mainstock & drones, to go with the practice set i made for Dave H. of Ladysmith BC, and finished this past winter. The materials will be African Blackwood, brass, and imitation ivory.

The project so far (scroll down for the latest update):

(14 July 2009) The project is officially under way! Here are the bass drone bends, fresh off the bender. Each one still has the soldered-on plug (these will be cut away later on). The annealed tubes get plugged, filled with soapy water, and bent frozen. The cleanup is a lot easier than with some kind of lead-based filler, although you have to be fairly quick getting the tube from the freezer into the bender...

The hollow resonator "puck" for the bass drone is made of imitation ivory. I was really looking forward to making this part, just because i hadn't done it before. I think it came out pretty well.

The bottom part is the drone switch. I'm sticking with the one i copied from Chris Langan, just because i like it. The rest of this set's visuals, though, will be of my own design, to match Dave's practice set. The acoustics are going to be a composite of existing designs, leaning toward the quieter, narrower-bore sets.

(1 Aug) Every time i do a new build, it seems like there's a new tool or gadget that needs making. Here's the newest one, designed to help when working on large tubing (for instance, mainstock ferrules.)

My lathe has a 1.5" bore through the spindle, which is obviously too small to accomodate the 2.5" brass tube for uilleann pipe mainstock ferrules. So, unless i want to waste lots of this expensive tubing, i need a way to support the free end while i'm working on it and cutting off the ferrule. I do have a large "bullnose" pipe centre, which is great for polishing and putting on the decorative lines, but doesn't help when cutting the ferrule off the end of the tube.

Here i've made a wooden mandrel to fit the inside of the tube. It runs on ball bearings on a sturdy 3/8" steel shaft held in the tailstock chuck. I can push it in far enough so the end of the tube is fully supported on both sides of the parting-off cut. When it's fully pushed into the tube, i have full access to dress and deburr the free end. The wooden part is also easily replaced for different tube sizes.

This thing helps a lot with peace of mind when working with large tube.

(9 Aug) The mainstock is complete. It's made of maple. I finally ran out of mainstock-sized cherry, and my wood supplier didn't have any more at the moment. Maple works fine, but is a little tougher to drill. I can't imagine making a stock like this out of blackwood!

What's not obvious at first glance is that this stock is made up of 22 separate wood & brass parts variously glued, screwed, pinned and soldered together.

Here is the back of the stock. The drone valve plate is a 2009 Canadian quarter, with a pad made of felt and leather. The switch shaft runs through a close-fitting brass tube, "anti-lubricated" with thermal grease. This stuff is normally used in electronics, but so far it's the the best thing i've found for giving the switch an action that's stiff and smooth at the same time.
Blackwood squares.

(13 Aug) Here is the first actual drone part - the bass drone sliding piece. None of it is glued together or polished yet, but i wanted to see what it will look like.

So far, so good...

(14 Sept) This is the first section of the bass drone. It's got a socket at the end to receive the first U-bend. Also in the mainstock are the plugs for the regulator holes.
(21 Sept) That's 3 out of 4 bass drone sections. Next up is the middle loop-back part, then finally assembling it all. Right now i'm planning to use brass straps to hold the straight sections together. It's a pretty traditional way, but i've not done it before, so i'll practice on some scraps first. (Blackwood is naturally oily enough that i'd rather not depend on glue for any real structurally important joints like this.)

(1 Oct) Coming along. The bass drone is finally ready for finishing & assembly.

That's half (4 out of 8) of the drone sections made.

(7 Nov) I wound up taking most of October to prepare for a concert with Banquo, but i'm back to bagpipe making now. Here's the tenor drone.
(11 Nov) That's all the parts made. Next up is gluing everything together, finishing, and reedmaking. I'm anxious to hear how they sound!
(20 Nov) Everything is glued and finished, ready for tying in...

Here is the complete set, tied in, reeded and playing well!

(Click the image for a larger version.)

Last updated on 30 November 2009, by Penny.

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