Care & Maintenance

Care & Maintenance – Some Basics


  • Bellows inlet/clack valve – should be air-tight / ensure hinge is on top.

  • Bag inlet valve – should be air-tight / ensure hinge is on top.


  • If pipes are bellows blown, it is recommended not to mouth-blow reeds (as it adversely affects stability & longevity) or inflate the bag by mouth. Suck the reeds if sounding is needed.

  • Reeds need to be handled carefully, but don’t be scared to adjust them if necessary.

Drone reeds

  • A small blob of Blu-Tack (to test), then sealing wax (more permanent) can be placed near the end of the reed tongue to quieten the reed and make it take less air. This will also flatten the reed.

Chanter reed

  • Opening/closing (gently) the bridle will allow adjustments to change the pitch, tone and working pressure.

  • “Plastic reeds are often more stable and robust, but have a different timbre to cane.” (More Power to Your Elbow)

  • “Some pipe makers have their own design, which might suit only their chanters.” (More Power to Your Elbow)


  • Check the length of time to hold a (reasonably) steady tuned note (e.g. low A) with a full bag after ceasing to inflate.

    • < 10 seconds – possible leaks / loss of air

    • 10 – 15 seconds – good

    • 15 – 20 seconds – great

    • >20 seconds – Superpipe!

  • Check stock bindings are air-tight.

  • NB: “lighter man-made materials such as Goretex do not support the drones and chanter so well, though many pipers are satisfied with these materials.” (More Power to Your Elbow)

  • “Dressings used for mouth-blown Highland pipes are not suitable for bellows-blown pipes.” (More Power to Your Elbow)

  • Bellows-blown pipe bag dressing recipe: Mix 1/2 oz. (14 g) beeswax + ~ 1/2 (~240 ml) pint neatsfoot oil. Warm liquid to use.


  • Can use bag dressing to make air-tight.


  • Softer woods (e.g. laburnum) should be oiled regularly.

  • Harder woods (e.g. African Blackwood) do not usually need oiling, just a dry wipe to clean. This rule applies for drones too.

Playing pressure

  • “A set of pipes that plays at a very low pressure is not necessarily easier to play, and in fact will require more accurate control and so make the pipes harder to learn at first. Playing at a very high pressure is hard work and not so relaxing.” (More Power to Your Elbow)