rob moore

Uilleann and Northumbrian pipes, Hurdy Gurdy, Lira Organizzata, Eclectic Instruments

Two Air Supply Controls For The Northumbrian Small Pipes or Quit Your Squawking

Chanter Stock Switch

(1) A Switched Chanter Stock For The Northumbrian Small Pipes

A chanter stock switch although not a necessary component for the Northumbrian Small Pipes is for myself as a part time instrument maker and experimenter a valuable tool and I think it would also be a useful addition for a piper.

I made this gadget that stops the chanter, so the drones may be tuned without the chanter squawking at you.  It’s not always easy to completely stop off the air by squeezing the neck of the bag and all it takes is a little air to escape into the chanter to cause a most unmusical screech.  Many Uilleann pipers have used a chanter stop key/switch for many years for this same reason.

Another advantage in having a chanter off/on switch becomes evident when fitting reeds to the drones.  The drones often require been taken from the drone stock and put back numerous times before being satisfied with the sound, playing pressure, stability and balance with the other drones.  This is when the switch can help preserve one’s sanity.

(2) A New Pipe Bag

Even before I put in the switch I found that the traditional bag for Northumbrian Small Pipes tends to have a rather narrow neck that extends straight out from the bag to the chanter.  This forces the player to bend the neck of the bag while playing, in order to have the chanter in the proper playing position.  This can interfere with the air supply, causing sounds that are less then desirable.  My solution to this problem was to use a 1/2 size L&M highland pipe bag that comes with a gooseneck.  This puts the chanter in the desired position.

I noticed a big improvement not only to the position of the chanter but also in the increased supply of unrestricted air.  So much in fact, that the chanter reed received so much more air that a new and stronger chanter reed was required.

Now with the new bag and the newly made switch I have two less things to blame for my squawks and squeaks.

Exploded View

Description of the switch

When the switch’s toggle is flicked up to 90 degree to the axis of the chanter, the cam located at the end of the shaft  allows the rod to drop.   When the toggle is flicked to the other position, which is in line with the chanter, the rod and valve are lifted allowing air to pass through the holes in the disks. In the stop position the spring holds the valve against its seat.  A small pin in the rod couples the rod to the spring.  The disks are treaded into each end of the brass tube. The brass tube  has hemp thread wrapped around it making it a air tight fit inside the Blackwood switch body. The centre holes in the disks are to guide the rod.  In addition, there is an ‘O’ ring on the cam -shaft to prevent any air from escaping.  It is a light press fit into the countersunk hole in the Blackwood body.

As can be seen in the photo at the top of this page, the hub of the toggle has a cutout acting as a limit stop.  When flicked into either position it comes to a stop against a pin, which is set into the Blackwood body of the stock.  Now it positions precisely with the slightest effort.  A hair trigger switch only allows sweet notes to pass through the chanter.