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Chantry Talk by Mike Nelson 17 August 2013


As some may know this has been a project long in evolution, and has had its share of issues, however the clear aim was that the survival of the Northumbrian smallpipes is very much dependant on the next generation, the children and grandchildren of today's adults. The problem was how to get the pipes seen and known by this audience? The school pipe project was to create compatible pipes for schools in the North East of England, having them "on the menu" for children to learn at school. Mike, a professional manufacturing design engineer, and also a very well respected pipemaker, has been a major contributor to the design and recovery of the project with others.


The School Pipe design considerations were:



As shown below these are the pipes in the current stage of development.



Key features are







Not a piece of thread and beeswax in sight! (chanter reed staple excepted).


Mike assembled a demo set in a matter of minutes using a tie wrap and bolts and demonstrated these features:


Initial problems with the outsourced supplied part tolerances have been overcome by Mike using his engineering skills in particular re-boring out-of-tolerance drone sliders with brass sleeves and sorting some of the 'O' ring design flaws. As a result of this they may be able to make up about 80 sets which will be reliable for use in schools, a very positive outcome.



School pipes being played by Susan, Hilary, Dorothy and Gill at the Chantry

They sounded, perhaps as you would expect, like a set of pipes should – and with no tuning problems. The pipes were playing together and sounding good immediately. Acetal is a hard smooth material so will be much like an ivory set in sound.


Possible future plans include



These will be dependent on future funding, but the cost of sets in volume have proven to beat the design critera by a long way (excluding labour).


The road has been a long and difficult one with NPS folk like Mike putting in effort for free to get there but it looks as if the rescue is complete.


The deployment and adoption by schools or visiting teams of pipers will depend on other people in the society, but hopefully if you're in the North East they may be coming to a school near you soon. Further news on this project will be on the website or in future magazines and journals.


The NPS would like to thank Mike for his well attended and very interesting talk.


More details can be found on Mike's own website here