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Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:18 am
by Barry Say
I have some sympathy with most of Adrian's posting, but I do not share is stance on the need for airtight bellows.

While the bag, the chanter, the drones and the blowpipe need to be absolutely airtight a slight leak in the bellows can actually be beneficial for beginners.

If the player operates the bellows using a full stroke to refill the bag, and then waiting until another full stroke is needed, the effect of a small leak is minimal. If on the other hand the player is continually "snatchin' at their bellasis" (as Joe Hutton would have said) then a small leak makes playing very difficult.

However, if the bellows leak sufficiently to cause problems then they must be fixed.

my $0.02

Barry

Re: Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:32 pm
by Francis Wood
Nothing made of wood and leather can ever be 100% airtight. However it is up to the maker to make the bellows function as optimally as possible. Whilst a noticeable loss of air from the bellows is vastly preferable to a loss from the bag, both should be remedied.

As for the suggestion that a slight leak in the bellows can actually be beneficial for beginners because of their inexperience, surely the best remedy would be to address both deficiencies; the leak and the poor technique. Neglected, both will lead to tears.

Francis

Re: Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:28 pm
by Barry Say
Taking up Francis' point.

If a beginner has a perfectly air-tight set of bellows, they can easily get to the point where they are playing with both the bag and bellows nearly fully inflated and never get to use the full stroke of the bellows. The role of the bellows is to deliver a volume of air and providing the bellows deliver at least a litre of air preferably 1.25 there is no real problem.

To test the bellows:

Stop the bellows outlet. Use your thumb or a bung. Open the bellows to their fullest extent and then start to close them as if you were using them normally. Before you have closed the bellows an inch there should be a noticeable stop as they pressurize. ( I will call this the stop point.) opening the bellows outlet should then produce a significant flow of air.

Increasing the pressure at the stop point can take the bellows beyond their normal working pressure and cause leaks or make existing leaks worse. It generally isn't worth the effort of chasing the last 1 percent of airtightness in bellows. In the bag etc, such a leak would make playing exremely difficult.

I am aware that Inky-Adrian prefers airtight bellows and has said that this allows him to rest his left arm. Of course I recognize that this is the opinion of a highly skilled player and others may well wish to emulate his approach, but in general, I think that most players would do well to give higher priority to some of the other points Adrian raised.

Barry

Re: Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:48 pm
by John Gibbons
The leakiness of the set I started on is my explanation for the defects of my technique.
Snatchin' at me bellasis being the main one.
But maybe the problems have always really been in Crouch End, not Longframlington....

Re: Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:25 pm
by adrian
Barry,
your post doesn't make sense?
I can't agree that a leak is beneficial to anything! Burleigh makes chanters with reeds which blow at a hard pressure to stop beginners overblowing. If the bellows leaked, then the mastering of the instrument would be so hard, that you would need steroids.

Re: Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:47 pm
by John Gibbons
To stop beginners overblowing? That might be the intention.
The problems with that set when I got it would have put someone less pigheaded off starting piping altogether.
It probably didn't help that they could have been sitting in Hobgoblin for months,
with people having a go and maybe taking them apart too.

Working through the reed fettling section of John Liestman's book, a lot of help from Francis, and a trip to Longframlington,
and then those pipes became a set someone could learn and play on. But it was a struggle those first few months.

John

Re: Issues in pipemaking: Leaky Bellows

PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:34 pm
by Francis Wood
When teaching someone new to NSP, I always begin with the bellows on their own, and encourage a gentle but full action making use of their full capacity. It helps to partly close the output with the thumb so that there is some resistance as in ordinary use, as well as making the valve operate.

In my view, beginners should always do this exercise as part of their practice sessions. Observation of quite a few advanced players suggests that this aspect hasn't been sufficiently emphasised when they were getting used to the instrument.

Francis

Moderator's note:

I trust Francis will pardon the liberty I have taken in copying this message to a new part of the forum which is dedicated to discussing teaching methods. It can be found at:
viewtopic.php?f=27&t=443
I think it may be very constructive if we can gather all the discussions on teaching in one place.

Barry