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Having played the highland bagpipes for a couple years now and having just finished a course on maintenance, I was greatly interested in building my own set of pipes just for fun. A few days later, a duct-tape and CPVC bagpipe emerged!

Assembly (from having taken out the parts to having a playable instrument) takes roughly 4-5 hours.


Here's a video of me with my second iteration of PVC bagpipes! Among the improvements are a freshly crafted duct tape bag, valves and a screw tuner for the drones, and CPVC drone stocks instead of vinyl tubing.

Here's a video of a seasoned piper giving the membrane pipes a spin!
(Just a side note... the drones were HORRENDOUSLY out of tune in this video. They can sound better, really!)


And just for fun, here's an earlier video of me playing the Star Wars theme on them (before we added the bag)


 
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Step 1: Parts and Tools

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There are only a couple parts required before you get started. 

For each of the drones and the chanter (i.e. one drone or chanter = one set of these parts. My pipe had a chanter and two drones):
1/2" CPVC pipe, variable length
3/4" CPVC Cap
3/4" CPVC Coupling
3/4-3/4-1/2 CPVC Pipe T (the 1/2" comes out the side)
3/4" CPVC pipe lengths - two 1" cuts and a 1.5" cut. For the drones get an additional 6" cut)
A few squares of plastic bag, roughly 2" by 2".
Waxed hemp or regular masking tape

For the bag:
Duct Tape
4X 2" lengths of OD vinyl tubing

For the blowpipe:
2' OD vinyl tubing
Parts listed in my Check valve instructable


Essential Tools:
A Dremel
Pipe cutters
A sharp knife
Drill (preferably a drill press)

You'll End Up With:
1 Duct Tape Bag
1 Bass Drone
1 Tenor Drone
1 Chanter
1 Blowpipe + Check Valve


Which can then be assembled into a set of smallpipes!

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Did you ever make the video on how to make the drones?

Would be really helpful, it looks like the membrane is on the small end with a cap?

FabricateIO (author)  TechnoWombat6 days ago

Yep, the membrane is on the small end (closest to the air inlet) and uses the same method as the chanter. We're actually planning to revisit this project sometime this winter, so that video might happen in the next few weeks :)

Cool, I'll keep an eye out for it.
nheck5 months ago

can you please upload the videos again? amazing job, i will build my own!

drdilemma9 months ago

I have taken this design and have made organ pipes from the drone design, and it has produced an absolutely beautiful sound. The only dilemma that has been occurring is that the inner pipe does not always stay level with with the outer pipe which does not cause the reed to vibrate. I have decided to use wax paper instead of the plastic bag and it has given a much smoother tone. The only problem is that the pipes don't always stay level. After sanding and sanding in an effort to keep them level it doesn't not always stay. With the pipes facing up was weight pushed down on the wax paper, with it facing down the inner pipe slides down, either way some of the pipes don't let the wax paper vibrate. I am out of ideas, is there any way in which I can keep these pipes level to have the wax paper stay constantly level?

FabricateIO (author)  drdilemma8 months ago

If you're having trouble with the pipes sliding around, I'd suggest making them fit more tightly together by adding additional tape or other material. Once you find a point where it sounds good, you could use an additional spot or two of hot glue to hold it the pipes in place. The glue should be relatively easy to remove later on if you need to adjust things. Finally, I don't know what your setup is, but if you stacked the pipes horizontally you'd remove the gravity issue from your tuning problem. Hope this helps, and I'd love to see pictures/video!

I haven't worked with PVC before, but I think an old saxophonist trick for bulking up shrunken cork short term is to use plumbers' tape. It compresses nicely and allows an airtight fit, if you do it right, on a sax neck as well as on a pipe (well, there it's a watertight fit, but same difference.) Maybe you could try that. It also would have the benefit of not involving glue, so if you had to disassemble for cleaning or something, it'd be easy... but make sure you put enough tape; you may need to add a little more if you disassemble at some point, depending, just to reestablish a nice tight seal.

DavidH211 months ago
Awesome!! Sweet, thanks bro. I hodgepodged drilled a chanter just so I could mess around with making a chanter reed out of cane...a lot harder than it seems!!! Lol, I'm really close though. The drone reeds were pretty easy to do. I'm actually adding another tenor drone so that I can add the D above the tenor A. Also, I'm debating to make the chanter out of metal pipe for the sake of the tone, I think it sounds better than coming out of plastic. I wish I had a lathe so I could make everything with wood.
DavidH211 months ago
On the topic of the 1/2" not being able to slip freely with a gap into the 3/4", I decided to ditch the membrane idea and put reeds in. I was having way too much trouble adjusting the plastic without changing the tuning, because it would play a different note depending on how taut the plastic was. It was impossible to get it back to the original note, even with the screw couplings. I'll let you know how the reeds turn out.
FabricateIO (author)  DavidH211 months ago
Hey David, awesome you're trying reeds - definitely let me know what works for you, as I've been considering trying out a reeded version instead of the finicky membranes.

If it's not too late, here are the dimensions of my chanter:
Total length: 16-1/4"

Measured from bottom of chanter to center of the hole you uncover to play the note:
High A (on back): 10-9/16"
High G: 9-11/16"
F: 8-15/16"
E: 8-1/16"
D: 6-14/16"
C: 6-3/16"
B: 5-1/16"
Low A: 3-7/16"
Low G (two holes, on sides): 1-11/16"

My smallest hole size was about 1/4", so I'd suggest starting at that size and widening it downwards/upwards if the pitch is too high/low, respectively. I also used electrical tape to further tune each note by partially taping over them, as it's impossible to get them to align perfectly with just drill holes. 

I tune my drones with one to bass A and two to tenor A, like a traditional bagpipe (although tenor E sounds cool too). The lowest note with all fingers covered is actually G (scale degree 7 since it's in the key of A), so to play the root note you'll want your pinky off the last hole. 

Hope this helps!
Scott
DavidH211 months ago
If my drones are tuned bass A, Tenor A, and Tenor E, what should the low note of the chanter be when all the finger holes are covered? A?
DavidH211 months ago
*measurements for the chanter, that is
DavidH211 months ago
If you could at least give us the length measurements between the membrane and the first hole, and all the subsequent holes, that'd be great!!! Also, it would've been nice to know the outer diameter of the pipes...when I got mine, the 1/2" was flush with the inside of the 3/4", so for the part that's inside the T and touches the membrane, I had to do a LOT of filing so that air could flow through.
ish12121 year ago
Hey! Where/ when/ how to make and install the reeds?
FabricateIO (author)  ish12121 year ago
The "reed" is really just a membrane - I use the plastic bag from Lowes that the parts came in. If you look at step 2 you can see a small piece of plastic bag that goes on the end of the drone. This takes the place of the reeds.
i've seen a tutorial on how to make double reeds from plastic beergarden cups...
ish12121 year ago
What are the lengths of the pipe? You say things like "small section" and "large section". Could you be more specific?
ish12121 year ago
Hey. One suggestion I would make is to differentiate when you are talking about length vs. diameter. Sometimes you use them interchangeably. It is clear enough now, but if you were thinking about improving the tutorial, maybe you could put one in bold and one in regular letters.
FabricateIO (author)  ish12121 year ago
Good point! I'll try to make the difference a bit less subtle on the next update.
ish12121 year ago
Hey! The video on this page is not available.
FabricateIO (author)  ish12121 year ago
Damn, this is what I get for referencing something from the internet. Thanks for bringing this to my attention - I'll make a video of my own very soon.
Josiphine1 year ago
I think I've got it! Doesn't make a wonderful noise (yet, but I'm still adjusting) but at least it's doing something. My family is crying, :D.
FabricateIO (author)  Josiphine1 year ago
Fantastic! Got any videos? Also, a quick question... how comfortable are you with the amount of air it uses? I've noticed that it takes much more air than a regular bagpipe (larger pipe diameter) and have been working on improvements, but it'd be great to know if this is a common problem.
No video (yet; maybe I should steal my sister's camera?) and I'm not quite finished yet. I think I made my bag a little too small. I'm going to try again tomorrow.
Josiphine1 year ago
3/4" inside or outside diameter?
Josiphine1 year ago
My T has a ridge on the inside that prevents the 1/2" pipe from going in more than an inch. Is yours completely smooth on the inside?
Josiphine1 year ago
I'm not sure I understand you. My 1/2" pipe doesn't touch the membrane. I'm not able to push my pipe all the way to the other side because my T gets smaller in the middle so I'm only able to push it about half an inch. Does yours not?
FabricateIO (author)  Josiphine1 year ago
The 1/2" pipe should definitely be touching the membrane... the air should be traveling into the T, up the side of the 1/2", through the membrane and back down the inside of the 1/2" pipe. You might want to check the diameter of the T connector you have... you'll need 3/4" on the vertical column and 1/2" out the side, such that a 1/2" pipe can slide clean through the vertical part of the T with no friction.
Josiphine1 year ago
I seem to have done something wrong. My pipes won't make any noise. Just a hollow blowing noise. I haven't attached my chanter yet, could that be the problem?
FabricateIO (author)  Josiphine1 year ago
Try detaching your drones/chanter and trying them out individually... you have to adjust how tightly the inner 1/2" pipe makes contact with the membrane. There's a sweet spot - too far in either direction and you won't make any sound. Also try tightening your membrane so there are no wrinkles.

If it's only not sounding when you attach them to the bag, you likely have an air leak. Tape over all the drone and chanter holes, blow up the bag, put pressure on it, and tape over any leaks you find.

Hope this helps - let me know how it goes!
Josiphine1 year ago
Will you tell me how long your drones/chanter pipes were? I don't know what I'm doing and any additional info would be great.

Thanks!
FabricateIO (author)  Josiphine1 year ago
Hey Josephine!

I don't have the pipes with me right now, but I can give approximate dimensions.... the chanter was short - probably less than 2 feet from tip to membrane side. Tenor drone was about the same length, and the bass drone was maybe 3 feet.

It helps to cut them a bit long and then cut them down to size as you tune them, then cut another 1/2" or so off when you add the 3/4" tuning sleeve part at the end.

Hope this helps!
bondmatt1 year ago
Thank you for the assistance! I am very interested to see the updates you have mentioned in the comments. I might have gone wrong with the chanter without your last comment, I was going to try to set it up for the key of A although I suppose by partially blocking holes it should be possible to hit some alternative notes?

For any other Canadians Canadian Tire has the right parts. What one does not want to do is buy the pipe from there (they sell 5' lengths, everywhere else I looked the min. was 10') and the fittings from Rona.
FabricateIO (author)  bondmatt1 year ago
Key of A should be fine - mine is tuned to concert A, although the great highland pipes usually tune their low A somewhere between concert B and B-flat. and while you can try to play sharps/flats with partial fingering, you won't find much of that in traditional bagpipe music. Generally you want to stick with solid notes and leave half-note playing to the punk metal bands ;)
bondmatt1 year ago
Neat project. Kudos to the instructor.

Could someone suggest a good resource (preferably on the web) for a suitable chanter (more specifically the notes it should play with various finger positions)?

Without knowing much about the bagpipes this is the one part of the instructions where it seems easy to go wrong.
FabricateIO (author)  bondmatt1 year ago
Thanks!

For fingering, you could take a look at this site for finger placement. If you're concerned about hole spacing and the like, I'd say just try drilling holes and taping over using another chanter (or my own) as reference, then do it for real on a new piece of pipe. I'm planning on improving the design and making the chanter part a bit clearer - you're right about that being one of the trickier sections.
If I wanted to make a louder version, what controls the volume? I know i can't just push more air. Would a larger diameter pipe be louder? (pitch still controlled by length) Is there something else that would work as a membrane that would be stronger/ stand up to more intense air flow? I guess I want to make a version closer to highland pipes or even larger.
Thanks for any advice!
FabricateIO (author)  jimmyjohnsausages1 year ago
You'd be right about the air part - that just detunes things. A larger bore might make it a bit louder, but will take much more air to blow. Apparently one reason the great highland pipe chanter is so loud is because it tapers outward from a very small hole. Maybe try increasing the bore on the end by softening the pipe and pushing something conical into it.

You could look for a tighter membrane material, but beware that'll probably increase the pitch quite a bit so your drones etc. will be longer. And actually, I found I could make the drones about as loud as a highland pipe's just by taking off the end caps and moving the inner pipe just right, but YMMV.

I've almost come up with version 2 now, so keep an eye out :) not any louder, but should be more in tune and easier to play.
Excellent job trying to make one yourself, and for having a pro give it a test drive. Any plans to use your experience on this build to make another kind of instrument in the same fashion, maybe something that plays to the strengths of PVC and duct tape (larger bladder and bent pipes)?
FabricateIO (author)  mikeasaurus1 year ago
I've definitely had a few thoughts on construction since I posted the 'ible.

I think the bladder size is fine right now, any larger would be harder to hold comfortably and require more air to blow up. However, I've been thinking of adding some ball valves to slow the flow of air through the membranes and make them act a bit more like reeds, since right now the airflow is a bit on the fast side and it's harder to keep pressure than on regular pipes. I might play around with compacting the drones as well :)
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