Blowpipes and Valves
The proper length of your Blowpipe has a great deal to do with the comfort of your bagpipe. With the pipe bag tucked under your arm the blowpipe should be in the middle of your mouth, if your head is forced back or to the side, the blowpipe is too long. If you are hunched forward, the blowpipe is too short. If you are using a standard blowpipe the easiest way to get the correct length is to unscrew the existing mouthpiece and try some different length mouthpieces. Round mouthpieces are available in lengths from 2.5" to 6". Oval mouthpieces are available in 3.5", 4.5" & 5.5" lengths. You may wish to experiment with both the round and the oval as most pipers find one more comfortable than the other. 1" Blowpipe extensions are also available. These screw onto the end of your existing blowpipe and increase its length 1" at a time. Most of the older sets of bagpipes have a blowpipe and mouthpiece with a small diameter bore. The minimum diameter for the bore should be at least 5/16". If the bore is less than this, it should be enlarged. A good way to check to see if the blowpipe is non restrictive is to fill your lungs and blow as hard as you can through the blowpipe, if you can't empty your lungs in 1 second the blowpipe or mouthpiece is too restrictive, have it bored out. There are some very good plastic blowpipes available some have a built in valve and some have an adjustable length. One that has both these features is the Flexistick. It has a large bore with a large built in valve, an adjustable length, and the angle of the blowpipe can be adjusted as well. If you play a wooden blowpipe, dry the inside with a pull through or a chanter drying brush after each session in order to avoid cracking and warping of the wood. Both plastic and wood blowpipes should be cleaned once every 4 months with a soft bristle brush and warm water to remove debris. With each of these procedures care must be taken in order not to damage the valve. Add a pull through, chanter drying brush, and soft bristle brush to your pipe case. A spare valve is also a must.
The older pipes came with a leather flapper or clacker valve that usually need to have some moisture added to the leather in order to operate correctly, if you are playing one of these you may want to replace it with a rubber flapper valve (#2). This type (in leather or rubber) is secured to the end of the blowpipe that goes into the stock, using hemp. They must be fitted correctly to the blowpipe in order to be airtight. Another type of valve (#1), is found in some Airstream blowpipes and Wallace Flexisticks, and is mounted internally between removable sections of the blowpipe. The third type pictured (#3), like the Little Mac valve style, is inserted into the hemped end of blowpipe and has great back-flow restriction, but also restricts the amount of air that you can blow through it because of its size and location. To check for airtightness with any of these valves, place the hemped section of the blowpipe in your mouth and blow, if air is escaping up the blowpipe remove the hemp and reattach the valve until you achieve an airtight seal. If you are happy with the length of your blowpipe but want a less restrictive valve or are tired of adjusting the flapper valve, investigate the valves that are inserted into the blowpipe stock, such as the popular Moose Valve. These blowpipe stock valves have three advantages over the flapper valves: they are easy to install, are much larger in diameter so they allow you to fill the bag quicker and they also form a moisture dam or well in the stock. The moisture gathers between the valve and the stock wall and can be removed by simply tipping the stock with the blowpipe removed.
Chanter Drying Brush
Soft Bristle Brush
Pull Through Swab
Spare Flapper Valve
Spare Airstream/Flexistick Style Valve
Spare Little Mac Style Valve
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