January 2018:

Ok, it's been waaaaay too long since i've done any instrument making. I've had a commission for a set of smallpipes from Joanne T. in Victoria.

This is going to be not quite a normal Scottish smallpipe. It'll be in A - Joanne enjoys the lower pitch - and will have a French-style lower-hand thumb hole for the minor 3rd. It will have two drones in a common stock, each with a stopper and a tuning hole so they can be tuned 1:5, 1:4, and 2:-. This is actually the drone configuration i use in my regular performance instrument. I find it wonderfully simple and versatile at the same time.

Materials will be plumwood, brass, and imitation ivory.

Here is the first part to come off the lathe, the bellows inlet valve housing. I'll be using the last of the batch of bellows i made up some years ago.


The bellows just needs some belts and cushions, and it's ready to go.

Here we've got the chanter stock and blowpipe stock ready to tie in. The bag is a 3/4 size highland pipe bag from L&M.

Here's the blowpipe and its stock. This is my "mark 2" design, made to use the "Little Mac" valve which i've found to be nice and not burpy.

The free end of the blowpipe is made to be a nice airtight fit into the hose from the bellows. This is a design i've used for years, it's really stable and doesn't pull out by accident. There's no extra fittings, so it's quite easy to adjust by simply adjusting the length of the hose.

(I'm really sorry about all these terrible photos, i don't have my real camera handy so i'm stuck using my cellphone. Anyway.)

Here is the drone stock, made of walnut. The one piece of plum i had that was large enough turned out to be kind of punky inside. I didn't really trust it to be structurally stable, especially once it was hollowed out.


Here are the two drones' standing pieces.
Here is the sliding piece of the larger drone. I'm stuck here for a few days while i wait for a reamer for the smaller drone's tuning slide cavity. I thought i had one here but it turns out i did not.
In the meantime, i've sewn up the cushions so the bellows is done and ready to go.
Here are all the drone sections all made, sitting in the mainstock. Some of the parts still need finishing and/or polishing, but i think it's looking nice so far.

(22 Apr) Well, the worst happened - i got a new job! Which means i've been kind of overwhelmed and haven't had much quality time in the shop. Things are starting to be a little calmer now, so i've been back at it.

Here is the chanter, ready for fingerholes.

This is the last actual turning/machining part, from here on it's polishing, gluing and tying everything together, reedmaking and fine tuning.

We're getting close now!

Everything is polished and ready for tying in and fine tuning.
(13 June) Here we are all tied in! All it needs now is some reeds and chains for the drone stoppers and it's ready for its new home. For years i've wanted to make a plum smallpipe, and i'm really really happy with the way this has turned out.
(17 June) The reeds are all in and playing nicely, and the drones have their little stoppers and chains - these pipes are done! (Click the picture for a larger version.)

Here is a sound sample with some tunes showing off the different drone configurations.

- March of the King of Laois (drones A & E, using the "normal" fingerhole for C#, giving an A mixolydian scale)
- Bransle d'Ecosse (drones still A & E, but using the French style lower hand thumb hole to play in A dorian)
- A Scots Rant (drones A & D, to play tunes in D major, where the tonic is your "3 finger" note)
- Theme Vannitaise (one drone on B, to play tunes in B dorian, with the tonic on your "5 finger" note)

So just two drones, each with stoppers and a hole to raise the pitch by one tone, plus the lowerhand thumb hole, make this simple little instrument surprisingly versatile.

Last updated on 17 June 2018, by Penny.
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