Oily Reeds

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Oily Reeds

Postby Francis Wood » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:37 am

The characteristic rustling sounds that some pipe-bags make usually indicates that there is a layer of refuse-bag beneath the cloth cover. That's often evidence of a maker's over-enthusiastic use of bag dressing which is effective in sealing the bag and soiling everything else in the vicinity.

Inevitably, the excessive dressing also reaches the reeds and particularly the chanter reed. This is bound to affect the effective density of the reed blades and perhaps their stiffness too. In any case it can't be doing any good and I do think a chanter reed loses some brightness when there is contamination.

What do others think?

Francis
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Re: Oily Reeds

Postby Barry Say » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:29 pm

I believe this is due to the use of pure Neatsfoot oiil as a supposed dresing. Without the beeswax component it is a liability. To remove the problem:
  • Take the cover off.
  • Remove plastic
  • cover the with Brown wrapping paper, shiny side out.and leave in a warmish place.
Brown paper absorbs oil but it may need several applications of brown paper to solve the problem.
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Re: Oily Reeds

Postby Brynley » Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:48 am

I recently had a drone, (cane-brass) reed misbehaving and had to handle it to open the tongue several times, ( change to a very humid location,it kept clapping shut), and had it go permanently bumble-beeing. As a last resort I dipped it in "rubbing alcohol" and closed it over a cigarette paper several times, (no sign of dirt on paper after), et voila, its been great since. As my bag is rubber(?) coated leather inside , I,m thinking it could have been skin oils,dust, or a tiny residue of neatsfoot from my fingers, via the pipes.
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Re: Oily Reeds

Postby Francis Wood » Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:48 pm

My original question, back in February referred not to the general nuisance of excess bag dressing but its specific effect on chanter reeds. Since then, I've encountered another reed (one of mine and a good one) which has returned to me with its tone diminished, its pitch lowered and evidence of oil contamination. Have others encountered this effect too?

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Re: Oily Reeds

Postby Richard Evans » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:20 pm

I don't see many oily reeds but I wouldn't be surprised at the effect you describe. It is said that they can be cleaned by dipping the blades in meths a few times and blowing through from the staple end. Jock Agnew used to advocate deliberately oiling Border pipe reeds for improved tone, I tried this but didn't really notice anything but maybe the idea is to knock a bit of edge off the reed for a sweeter tone. I guess we need the edgy reed because of the small bore.
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Re: Oily Reeds

Postby Francis Wood » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:42 pm

Richard Evans wrote:I don't see many oily reeds but I wouldn't be surprised at the effect you describe.

Thanks, Richard.

What is certain is that oil impregnation will add mass to the reed blades giving them a character the maker did not intend. Perhaps that is in some unusual cases an improvement, but I think that it damages a delicate reed. It's interesting to hear of Jock Agnew's recommendation for Border pipes reeds. Perhaps there is an occasional advantage in deliberate oiling when reeds are wet-blown. A Google search for 'oiling chanter reeds' has revealed an interesting variety of opinions.

My own view remains that oil contamination is extremely harmful for smallpipe reeds, and I am now advising that pipes should be stored in their box with the chanter vertical, whenever there is evidence of over-enthusiastic bag dressing by the pipe-maker. An intermediate plastic layer between bag and bag cover is always an alarming sign.

There is a remedy which I have not yet been brave enough to apply. Adrian has described a vigorous process involving both nail-varnish and shampoo (see 'Myths Exposed' in the Pipes Maintenance section. I can confirm that this courageous reed survived with its head held high and sounding excellent.

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