This is a subject which is talked about a lot in the bagpipe arena, which I feel is neglected and dismissed by many professional and novice players alike, I feel that it is every pipers duty to at least have a go at making their own if at all possible, only then are those people going to get the full benefits of learning how to manipulate and gain full control over their instruments, which would relieve some of the pressures of their makers.

Without this knowledge they are definately missing out on valuable information as to how the rest of the instrument works and performs, there are up to 5 double and four single reeds to contend with, which will all need some kind of adjustments at some stage of their life.

Don't get caught out, especially if you are away from your pipe maker abroad, this happened to a top player who once asked me to make and fit a reed to his instrument, this is where the problems start, there is a distinct lack of standardisation in this industry, not all makers instruments are the same, and making a reed for a strange instrument can be very time consuming to say the least, in most cases not worth the time and effort in doing so, the information here and on many other sites is free, so there is no excuse whatsoever at not having a go.

The first and most important thing you need to do when first making your own reeds is, the need for consistency, for the first time, try to make all your reeds as close to each other as possible and only make one reed at a time or you could be building in the same inconsistencies if you made a batch of reeds, once you find something that works, stick with it, always record all your settings, so you have something to fall back on later.

There are many different techniques and ways of making a chanter reed today, the following stages are simply a guide for making reeds that are fitted into my own instruments, they may not work in all makers pipes, but will give you an idea of where to start.

To work out how to make a staple blank strip you do the following, Take the diameter of the mandrel to be used, then add this to the thickness of the material you will be using to roll, then multiply this figure by 3.14, and you will have the exact width of the blank you will need to roll around the mandrel.

A few tips for the beginner is, when you scrape the reed try and get the petals so they vibrate or play in the chanter without a bridle fitted, if you do this you will be somewhere to making a reliable reed, getting the reed to play without the bridle fitted means that the two half's of the reed are sitting comfortably without any undue stresses, which would be present if the reed had to be opened or closed more than 1.00mm in order of getting it to sound, if this is the case the two half's of the head would be under undue stresses via forces from the bridle and a dull sounding reed might be obtained, the reed needs to vibrate freely without those stresses.

In order of getting the petals to be in a playable position, there are two parameters that need attention, For instance, the size of the sanding cylinder in relation to the width and thickness of each slip, example a 77.00mm diameter sanding cylinder used on a slip of 13.20mm wide X 1.00 thick should give an eye or opening well below 1.00mm, and when scraped the reed should close down so that it plays in the chanter without a bridle fitted, try experimenting with your sizes until you get the desired effects.

 

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