‘Rules’ for looking after Northumbrian Smallpipes
A well maintained set of Northumbrian Pipes will last a lifetime. If they are played, handled and stored correctly you will protect them from damage and they should only ever need minor maintenance to keep them in top condition. However, it’s important to inspect them regularly and carry out a few checks to head off any problems. There are also a few ‘rules’ it’s wise to follow to help avoid accidents. Do remember that your pipes are very fragile so look after them well.
Northumbrian Smallpipes are safest when stored in a case. The delicate drones and chanter can be protected wrapped in clean cloths and inserted into plastic tubes. I recommend you use these whenever your pipes are not being played. Protect your pipes from excessive cold and heat, avoid storing them in direct sunlight or extremes of humidity. Never put them down where they might be damaged. People have put them on chairs where they have been sat on, or on beer tables in pubs where they have been spilt on.
If you are moving from one environment to another, the change might affect the reeds and they might need a short amount of time to settle down and play in tune.
Always handle with care. Handle your pipes by the two main stocks (the Chanter and Drone Stock) near the bag, and always support the chanter. Do not let it dangle freely as it may fall from its stock and break. Do not lift the set just by the bag, the drones or the chanter.
The joints holding the drones and chanter into their stocks should be tight enough so nothing moves but not so tight that they jam. Check them often. The drone slides should slide easily to tune them, but should be tight enough to be air tight. The end caps are all held on with bindings and are not usually glued (unless you have a Burleigh set). With any set, some compression of the bindings is may occur and they may work loose. As the joints are made from wood and wood changes size with humidity, over time the bindings might loosen too. If they do you can wind a length of cotton thread (usually waxed lightly with bees wax) to make them hold again.
Following these simple ‘rules’ will prolong the life of your pipes and hopefully avoid any damage. For more information about Northumbrian Smallpipes contact Kim@northumbrianpipes.co.uk