Alternative pipes

Alternative pipes

I’m hoping to purchase some uilleann pipes in a few months but being a vegan it’s going to be very difficult to buy one with non-leather bellows. I know there are synthetic bags available but finding strong flexible synthetic leather bellows could be impossible. I know there are materials out there such as are made into saddles and other things but whether a bellows maker would go through the hassle of purchasing said product without knowing if it will work doesn’t seem likely.
Are there any other non bellows blown pipes in D that can be played with others in an itm session? I’m thinking worldwide.. there must be something out there.

Re: Alternative pipes

What about buying second hand? Isn’t it less harmful than buying something new? (especially if it comes from the petroleum industry)

Re: Alternative pipes

I don’t imagine it would be too difficult finding a non-leather alternative for bellows.

I’ve seen old bagpipe bags and old bellows which appear to be home-made things using rubber. Rubber bags were standard on Spanish pipes, fairly heavy rubber that wouldn’t balloon out, and be fine for bellows.

Why not Gore-Tex? It’s become very common for bagpipe bags. It might be too balloon-y on bellows, but you could use a layer of Gore-Tex covered with a layer of heavy upholstery fabric (to give it the required stiffness). I’ve seen many uilleann bellows with a layer of leather covered with a layer of heavy velvet, purely for appearance. (The same velvet used for the bag-cover.) The fabric and leather weren’t glued together, just placed on top of each other before being nailed onto the boards.

About mouth-blown bagpipes for Irish session music, that topic comes up often on Highland pipe discussion boards, with Highland pipers hoping to be able to participate in Irish trad sessions using Scottish smallpipes (which can be mouth-blown or bellows-blown).

The problem is twofold, a problem with keys and a problem with range.

There’s a vast number of trad Irish session tunes that stay more or less within an octave, but to play them all in the keys used in Irish trad sessions would require SSP chanters in several different keys.

I think you would need the following chanters:

G-g Major scale (F#) G A B c d e f# g
D-d Mixolydian scale (C) D E F# G A B c d
A-a Mixolydian scale, with lower-hand thumbhole (G) A B c#/c d e f# g a
E-e minor scale (D) E F# G A B c d e

(The octaves I’ve shown are how the notes usually appear in trad Irish session tunes, not the actual pitches of these chanters, for example the A chanter is the largest and will play most of the tunes an octave lower than usual.)

With switching around between those four chanters you would be able to play many hundreds of standard Irish session tunes, but still not be able to play many hundreds more. It’s why I think the SSP route is impractical, though possible.

Re: Alternative pipes

Get a set of vPipes.

Re: Alternative pipes

I’ve a set of Walsh Smallpipes that are all synthetic, except for the bellows and the girth and arm belts. They came with two chanters, one in Piper’s A, the other in Piper’s D. The drones supporting pitches are changed simply by plugging and unplugging one of the drones. From the Gortex bag to the Stock, Drones and Chanter which are Delrin, it’s all synthetic. The bellows, however, does use leather. I can’t see any reason why a synthetic can’t be adapted to work, providing there was some form of support to prevent the Gortex from ballooning, as others have noted. Vinyl might be better than cloth, as it comes closer to duplicating and holding the pleats in the bellows that leather has. Changing the girth and arm straps to a nylon webbed belt shouldn’t be an issue. Here’s a link: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.johnwalshbagpipes.com/&ved=2ahUKEwjUnLPUppPqAhWQWM0KHUSKA28QFjAAegQIBxAD&usg=AOvVaw1BmvyyShWBV9g0boJW55Lz

A side note, even though the A Chanter is closer to the GHB Chanter, I prefer playing with the D chanter, as it sounds "sweeter" to my old ears.
Some have asked why I chose Delrin over traditional wood, but I live in a very dry area of the SW US, and had issues with my first set of pipes developing cracks, in spite of all efforts to prevent them. Delrin is a stable material regardless of humidity. Comparing recordings between my old Naills and my current Dunbars, there’s no distinguishable difference in the sound.
Good Luck with your quest for Eco Friendly Vegan pipes.

Re: Alternative pipes

I think I recall two makers on Facebook discussing making vegan sets.
If I remember it was Martin Gallen of Banba pipes and Chris Coe. It’s been done I’m sure.

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Re: Alternative pipes

Thanks for your responses, i’m sorry I may have wasted your time with the alternative pipes question. I’ve emailed Jack Brennan an Australian pipe maker and he says it can be done without too much trouble for the same price! I’m overjoyed that it’s possible. I’ll be making an order on my birthday, hopefully it will arrive before the birthday after that!

Re: Alternative pipes

Very good!

Cool he can do it no problem.

Re: Alternative pipes

All best wishes on your piping journey Michelle. A long road but a very satisfying one.