Introduction: Adaptive Bagpipe Chanter

Our client, Julie, is a professional bagpiper who had a stroke that left her right side effectively paralyzed. Following her stroke, Julie became extremely invested in both physical and occupational therapy, and since she began on her recovery journey, she has been successful in regaining a lot of movement on her right side.

Currently, Julie is able to walk with a cane, and she has regained consistent gross movements in her shoulder and upper arm. She is also able to extend her lower arm from the elbow, though not without fatigue after a few extensions. Moving down the arm, she has up-and-down hinged wrist movements, but when it comes to her fingers, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Julie lacks fine motor skills in her right hand, and she is unable to move any of her fingers independently. As a result, it has become impossible for her to play the bagpipes as she used to. The chanter, which resembles a conventional recorder, is the portion of the bagpipes held directly with the hands. Typically, the left fingers cover the top three holes, and the right fingers cover the bottom four (Picture 1). Without being able to lift her fingers, she is unable to cover and uncover the four lower holes on her chanter, which prevents her from successfully playing any notes. Our prototypes seek to allow Julie to play on the chanter. Playing on the chanter requires 9 configurations of covering or uncovering holes, and our two prototypes take two different approaches toward accomplishing this. The first prototype, the static cover, simply covers 3 of the bottom 4 holes of the chanter, allowing Julie to play 5 out of the 9 notes, practice movement of her left hand, and work on her right hand's placement. The second prototype is inspired by the keys of a clarinet or saxophone, and uses keys and levers triggered by her left pinky to move covers of the holes for the right hand.


Our device is unique to Julie and her bagpiping needs, and consequently, so are the supplies. To recreate the same device, we recommend using the same parts; however, similar parts could be used in creating a device specific to another individual.



**note: no tools are needed to create the static prototype; these are all for the moving version.

  • Clamps (for holding parts while drying & sawing)
  • Hacksaw (for cutting shafts)
  • Metal file (filing down shafts)
  • Drill bits/reaming bit (reaming holes of 3D print - we used an M2)
  • Tape (for helping hold things in place while gluing)

Step 1: CAD Model Design

Our device is very specific for Julie and her needs, but could potentially be adapted to others with similar needs – such as a user with a broken hand or loss of a limb. We designed our device for her specific practice chanter, but it also interfaced well with other practice chanters, such as this one we purchased on Amazon. To make or repair that version, attached are the CAD and STL files. To replicate the version we made Julie, simply download the STL files, print, and assemble, as detailed below. In the case that you are attempting to design a similar device, details of how we designed ours in CAD are below.

DESIGN As all of our parts are designed in regards to the specific model of chanter, it is important to have a model of the chanter to base all of your parts off of to ensure compatibility. The way in which we accomplished this was to take a straight-on picture of the chanter and upload it to our CAD software, using it as a guide to sketch the shape and revolve into a 3D geometry (Picture 1). If you are unfamiliar with CAD and want to try your hand at editing our files, the Fusion360 website has great support material to assist in learning. Here, the instructions split in two for the two options of prototype.

Step 2: Fabrication

In order to take the design from CAD to physical parts, we export to STL file type and use a 3D printer (we used a Markforged FDM printer, and would recommend similar FDM printers). 3D printers are not always the most easily accessible, so we recommend checking libraries or labs for printing services.

Moving Model: After parts are printed, holes should be drilled out to be the exact diameter needed. This can sometimes be done by hand, taking a 2mm (the diameter of our shafts) drill bit or reamer and twisting it in the hole to remove the slight excess material; if this is not easily working, you can carefully use a hand drill to slowly remove material. Next, the rods must be cut down to size. For our model, we have 4 different lengths, but for an adapted model, the length is just the distance between the two rod holders or between key and hole cover for axial rotation and cantilever rotation, respectively. To cut them, use a hacksaw, making sure to avoid cutting yourself.

Static Model: Simply print the part.

Step 3: Assembly

Moving Model: First, use super glue to attach the silicone to the hole cover arms. While that is drying, press-fit the bearings into the rod holders. After the glue has dried, assemble the hole cover arms onto their respective rods and use a small amount of glue to keep in place. Next, press-fit the rods into the bearings in the rod holders, making sure each is interfaced with the correct location. Cut pieces of dyceum the size of the rod holder base (for us, about 1”); attach the rod assembly to the chanter by placing the dyceum between the rod holder base and the chanter, then threading a zip tie through each rod holder and tightening around the chanter to secure.

Static Model: After parts are printed, line the inside of the cover with a piece of silicone, then attach to the chanter using nuts and bolts, over top of the silicone. The prototype is ready to play!