On this page we hope to give some hints on basic maintenance and fettling. It is always advisable that any work on you pipes is carried out by their maker, if that is possible, or an experienced fettler, but there are a few things you may wish to do and some suggestions from experienced pipe fettlers are listed below. The Northumbrian Pipers' Society takes no responsibility for the information given here and any fettling carried out at your own risk.


This piece was written by Nick Leeming in response to a request for material for the NPS website.  Please consider it the opinion of an experienced piper, who has found it useful to have an emergency fettling pack in his pipecase.  It should not be considered definitive or mandatory.  The initial request was for the content of the pack; when this was supplied, a further request was made to give an idea of what each item is for and how to use it.  Finally, a check-list is included, which the wise piper might use before going out to play in public.  Other pipers have contributed information (for which thanks, particularly to Julia Say). Interested pipers might also like to refer to the excellent article by Francis Wood in the Winter 2012 NPS Newsletter.

I carry a little zipped bag in my pipecase for emergency fettling.  Most problems that this stuff can fix relate to lubricating or replacing poor bindings on stocks or standing parts of drones,  or stuck (or slack) valves or tuning beads.

If a piper maintains their pipes properly at home and checks them before going out to play, emergency fettling should rarely, if ever,  be needed.


Note that oil is only to be used on keyed chanters with leather pads.  Oil should not be used on keyed chanters fitted with plastic pads, as these do not need to be kept moist - indeed the oil may adversely affect the adhesive used on plastic pads. For this reason, if the pipes have plastic pads, it may be better not to carry oil at all, in case there is inadvertent contamination.

I also carry a few cotton buds to clean various blocked orifices on other people's pipes.  Other pipers carry spare self-adhesive pads to replace lost pads, or tiny bottles of liquid shellac (commercially available as Knotting fluid from DIY stores) to glue loose pads back with.  Personally, I have not yet lost a pad where it was attached by inserting a fragment of shellac flake between the pad and the head of the key (with the key in place on the chanter, and the new pad in position over it's hole), and heating the outside of the head of the key with a soldering iron to melt the shellac.

As noted previously, checking the pipes before going out to play can go a long way to avoid the need for emergency fettling.  Here is a check-list:

If the answer to any of these is no, then the pipes need fettling.  Once fettled and in good playing order, the best thing for the pipes is occasional lubrication of the moving parts combined with frequent use.  Pipes are like any other machine; neglect them, or don’t use them (or a part of them, such as a tuning bead), and they will not work as well as if they were used regularly and maintained properly.