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Uilleann Pipes Information

In Detail

CHANTER

I make chanters in the keys of D and C. They are designed to play at concert pitch, that is, with the A note at 440 Hertz on the D chanter. On the C chanter the nominal A note (which is really a G) is at 391 Hertz. D chanters are 14 ½” long; C chanters 16 3/8” long. Chanters are stamped “Donax” and with the year of manufacture on the side, near the back D hole.

D and C chanters

 

Chanter reeds I make use staples of extruded brass tubing, 3/16” outer diameter for a D chanter, 5/32” o.d. for a C chanter. Therefore the reed seat in the chanter is a cylindrical extension of the chanter bore. I can make a chanter with a conical reed seat by request. Picture of reed & reed seat:

reed and reed seat


 

The chanter tenon (the part which fits into the reedcap) is wrapped with wax coated nylon thread.

All chanters come with pin blocks, whether keys are ordered or not. Keys can be added later if desired. The blocks are placed in a standard configuration to support four keys.

pinblocks


 

A right-handed set-up would be: C natural (Rt thumb), B flat (Rt thumb), A flat (Rt thumb), and F natural (Left pinky or Rt index finger). I can make a left-handed set-up by request. If additional keys or alternate key configurations are desired I am willing to discuss the possibilities. There may be charges above what is shown in the price list.

Chanters are fitted with a brass ferrule at the bell end.

chanter bell and ferrule


 

I make almost all chanters of african blackwood. If you desire another kind of wood I may or may not be able to accommodate you. I have made chanters of ebony, bubinga, lignum vitae and boxwood. I will not make chanters of cocobolo because it can cause an allergic reaction in a small percentage of the population.

THE REED

Chanter reeds are a whole subject unto themselves. Click here.

REEDCAP

I make two kinds of reedcaps.

The standard model is made of brass, silver soldered and epoxied together. It has a curved tube which connects to the bag chanter stock. The tube which connects to the chanter has an inner diameter of about 11/16”. The tube which connects to the bag has an outer diameter of 3/8”. If requested I can make reedcaps with different sized tubing diameters.

standard reedcap


 

I make a valved reedcap. With it the player can silence only the chanter without having to lift a finger from the chanter to activate a key. The valved reedcap works by rotating the chanter about its axis less than 1/4 turn.

valved reedcap valved reedcap


 

valved reedcap open and closed


 

Most makers can supply a reedcap with a stop key. The key hangs down within reach of the fingers and when pressed stops the flow of air to the chanter. To me this is an unsatisfactory arrangement. If you have silenced the chanter, that is, covered all the holes, then you must lift a finger to depress the stop key, and the chanter sounds. The valved reedcap design gets around this. There are also fewer moving parts in the valved design.

On the ones I have made so far, the inner diameter of tube which fits on the chanter is about 11/16". The outer diameter of the tube which fits into the bag is 3/8" Overall length is a bit over 5 inches. These sizes can probably be changed as long as I can use standard-sizes of brass tubing.

BAG and STOCKS

I am using top quality bags made to my specifications. They are made of airtight leather, glued and sewn. They are not small bags; over the years I have heard this design referred to as “Taylor style.” Laid flat the dimensions are about 27” by 11”. Neck diameter for the chanter stock is about 1”.

the bag


 

I am willing to work with someone if they need a different size of bag, or longer or shorter neck or the stocks tied in in particular locations. However: fitting is not an exact science to me. One does one’s best, but once the incisions are made it is a question of adapting to what has been done or being willing to pay for another bag.

I do not make or supply bag covers.

The small wooden parts associated with the bag are usually made of the same wood as the chanter, and with brass ferrules. The wooden part which fits into the bag blowtube stock has a notch on the rim. The notch indicates where the check-valve hinge is, on the inside. Orient the part so the notch is up, and therefor the hinge is hanging down when playing.

bag stocks & blowpipe


 

The blowpipe between bag and bellows is neoprene or vinyl tubing, 7/8” o.d by 5/8” i.d. Proper length of the blowpipe is an important factor the fit of the pipes to the player’s body. I can supply extra tubing if needed, or it can be bought at a decent hardware store.

BELLOWS

Bellows sides are of cherry. The leather is the same as used for the bag. The leather is glued, tacked and nailed on. The round head nails are solid brass. Sides are about 5” x 10” and when opened all the way the back ends are about 10” apart. Bellows are stamped “Donax” and with the year of manufacture on the side, near the inlet valve.

bellows intake side
bellows outlet side


 

Straps are leather, with brass buckles. There are eyelets at the ends of the straps, which engage hooks on the bellows. Set the strap length once with the buckle, then hook and unhook the strap with the eyelet. Easy on, easy off, and much quicker than messing around with the buckle every time.

Cushions on both sides are held on with velcro. Bellows inlet valve is usually same wood as chanter.

bellows cushion & inlet valve open wide


 

POPPING STRAP

A piece of leather to put on your leg to provide a good seal for the chanter. A square of bag leather, with a leather strap. Also called a piper’s apron.


 

popping strap


 

DRONES

I make a standard set of three drones in a mainstock with an on/off switch. Ordinarily the drones are made from the same kind of wood as the chanter. The mainstock is of cherry. Metal parts are brass. Tenons are wrapped with waxed nylon thread. The mainstock is stamped “Donax” and with the year of manufacture on the barrel.

For drones in the key of D, you choose between two styles of bass drone, long or short. The long style has the “traditional” proportions associated with uilleann pipes. The short style is acoustically almost identical, but does not stick out as far - a difference of about six inches. Long/short option is not available for drones piched flatter than D; bass drones for lower-pitched sets are proportioned like the short style.

drones with long bass, short bass

 

I make drone reeds of tube cane. I make particular effort to “play in” drones before they leave the shop in an effort to ensure that they will be stable & reliable. Over the years cane tubes in the sizes appropriate for drones have become increasingly expensive and more difficult to obtain. At some time in the future I expect to go to composite drone reeds, that is, reeds with a (probably) cane tongue and a barrel of wood or plastic.

drone reed and reed seat


 

The drone reed seats are cylindrical. I use windings of Teflon tape around the open end of the reed to enlarge the cane to the diameter of the reed seat. Most pipers use a tapered or conical reed seat. I ascribe to the theory that a tapered fit is merely waiting to loosen up. I can supply drones with tapered reed seats if requested. For more information on drone reeds click here.

The mainstock is hollowed out inside so that the three drone reeds are in one cavity. I believe this makes the three drones sound more blended. It also seems to help stabilize the pitch of each drone.

The drone on/off switch is designed to work smoothly and last a long time without becoming progressively more difficult to move. Switch movement between the on and off positions is only about 1/16”. The upside of this is that using the switch is quick and positive. A downside is that you cannot tell if the switch is on or off with a quick visual inspection.

drone on/off switch mainstock cup


 

The mainstock cup is a piece of brass tubing, 2 ½” diameter.

The mainstock has holes for tenor and baritone regulators. Hole diameter is 5/8”. With no regulators the holes are stopped with wooden plugs, the same kind of wood as the drones. Recently I have begun to make the plugs with holes in the side. When the day comes that the plugs need to be removed - as when adding regulators - one can stick a 5/32" rod in the hole & lever out the plug. A mandrel for D chanter reeds would do the trick.

mainstock plug

 

TENOR REGULATOR

A standard five-key regulator with F sharp, G, A, B and C natural. Ordinarily the wood is the same kind as the chanter. Metal parts are of brass, excepting the key springs. Three keys have coil springs, two have flat springs. Tenons are wrapped with waxed nylon thread. Regulators are stamped “Donax” and with the year of manufacture on the side, near the C natural key.

tenor regulator
a set wth regulators


 

The tenor regulator has a cane reed similar to a C chanter reed. As with chanter reeds, the reeds I make for regulators use staples of extruded tubing, 5/32” o.d. Therefore the reed seat in

the regulator is a cylindrical extension of the bore. I can make a regulator with a conical reed seat by request.

I ordinarily make the regulator tenon (the part which fits into the hole in the mainstock) to fit a 5/8” hole.

BARITONE REGULATOR

A standard four-key regulator with D, F sharp, G, and A. Ordinarily the wood is the same kind as the chanter. Metal parts are of brass, excepting the key springs. One key has a coil spring, three have flat springs. Tenons are wrapped with waxed nylon thread. Regulators are stamped “Donax” and with the year of manufacture on the side, near the A key.

baritone regulator
baritone and tenor regulators


 

The baritone regulator has a cane reed similar to a C chanter reed. As with chanter reeds, the reeds I make for regulators use staples of extruded tubing, 5/32” o.d. Therefore the reed seat in the regulator is a cylindrical extension of the bore. I can make a regulator with a conical reed seat by request.

I ordinarily make the regulator tenon (the part which fits into the hole in the mainstock) to fit a 5/8” hole.

If you are thinking of adding but one regulator to your half set I recommend it be the baritone.

E REGULATOR

I have made a couple E regulators. These have one key to sound the note E, and use the same kind of reed as the tenor and baritone regulators. The E regulator takes the place of the tenor regulator.

prototype E regulator in set
another E regulator


 

BASS REGULATOR

After years of procrastination I have come up with an acceptable design for a bass regulator.

bass regulator prototype
bass regulator prototype


 

A standard four-key regulator with the notes G, A, B and C natural. Ordinarily the wood is the same kind as the chanter. The reed seat part is of Delrin. Metal parts of brass, excepting the springs. All are flat springs. Tenons are wrapped with waxed nylon thread. Regulators are stamped “Donax” and with the year of manufacture on the side, near the C natural key.

The regulator is the recurved type, with a bore u-bend and the reed lying along the mainstock. A more “traditional” design is with a straight bore and with the reedcap extending off to the player’s left. I am not interested in making a straight bore design regulator.

The bass regulator has a cane reed similar to a D chanter reed. As with chanter reeds, the reeds I make for the bass regulator use staples of extruded tubing, 3/16” o.d. Therefore the reed seat in the regulator is a cylindrical extension of the bore. I cannot make a bass regulator with a conical reed seat because of design constraints.

bass regulator with reedcap removed
bass regulator, reedcap in place


 

Adding a bass regulator to an existing set will require that I have the mainstock in hand. It would be best to have drones and other regulators as well, so that I can make sure the sounding parts are well balanced.

Nov 2012


Uilleann pipes Description In Brief

 

Please contact me for further information.

Nick Whitmer
1 Renwick Place
Ithaca NY 14850

607 275 8178

nwhitmer@verizon.net

baritone drone slider in dogwood