Tag Archives | border pipes

How to Look After Northumbrian Smallpipes

‘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.


Support the Pipes and the Stocks

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.

Regular Checks

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

Northumbrian Pipes

‘Because He Was A Bonny Lad’ played on Northumbrian Smallpipes

Here’s a quick tune on a set I finished last year.

For more information on Northumbrian Smallpipes contact me on Kim@northumbrianpipes.co.uk

Northumbrian Pipemaker – Repairs to a Robert Reid Set

Robert Reid Set

I recently had the privilege to work on a set made by Robert Reid.  Robert Reid (1784–1837) is widely acknowledged as the creator of the modern form of the Northumbrian Smallpipes.   About 75 of his sets are known.  Most of these are kept in collections and only a handful are played.



Repairs to key spring and block completed

This set needed some repairs as the old repair to the C# key block had failed and the low E key spring had broken.


R Reid stamped on the Drone Stock


For more information on Northumbrian Smallpipes contact Kim@Northumbrianpipes.co.uk




Northumbrian Pipes Refurbishment

Replacing Artificial Ivory on Northumbrian Smallpipes

Northumbrian Smallpipes Ivory Replacement

It’s now illegal in the UK to buy or sell most items containing ivory.  Many historical set of Northumbrian Smallpipes were made with ivory end caps and fittings, and increasingly I’m being asked to replace these with artificial ivory.  Here’s a set of Northumbrian Smallpipes I’ve just finished work on.  The replacement parts can be seen fitted and in place with the original ivory parts on the table.

For more information on Northumbrian Smallpipes contact Kim@northumbrianpipes.co.uk

Northumbrian Pipes Chanter

Four Key Northumbrian Smallpipes Chanter

Northumbrian Small Pipes Four Key Chanter

One of the earliest tune books for the Northumbrian Smallpipes, the Peacock Manuscript first published in 1800, refers to “A Compleat Drawing of J.PEACOCK’S New Invented Pipe Chanter with the addition of Four Keys”.

Recently, I was asked to make one of these Northumbrian Smallpipes chanters.  Few have been made as they were quickly superseded by the seven key Northumbrian Smallpipes chanter.  However, they are lovely smallpipes chanters and are a joy to play.

For more information on Northumbrian Smallpipes contact Kim@kimbull.co.uk

Northumbrian Pipes and Border Pipes Bellows

Bellows for Border Pipes are traditionally a bit larger than bellows for Northumbrian Smallpipes.  Border Pipes use a little more air, so a larger supply helps the player with this.  I’ve recently made a set for my border pipes and here are some pictures-

Border Pipes Bellows

Pipes Bellows with Curved Cheeks

Pipe Bellows and Fittings

For more information about Northumbrian Smallpipes contact me on Kim@Northumbrianpipes.co.uk

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