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Old Hedworth Smallpipes help

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:29 pm
by Alec
I have an old set of Lignum Vitae Hedworth pipes marked on the common stock ferrule WHH, Dunston, 1955. It has a 9 key chanter but the tone holes have been heavily gouged. A few of the drone parts are badly warped but still slide. The metal work appears to be nickel silver and is in need of a clean up. Bellows are original and so seems the carry case, bag and cover.

I am wondering whether I should make up a new chanter to current designs, transfer the keys and keep the old chanter body with the set. Am also thinking about doing similar with the bent drones.

Is this sacrilege? Should I just leave them alone, clean them up and keep them as a snapshot of history?

I'd be interested to hear what you all think before I do anything rash.


Re: Old Hedworth Smallpipes help

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:06 am
by RobSay
Hello Alec - you have what sounds like a 'classic' Hedworth set both in terms of materials and condition (!). Many people have started on and continue to play these instruments, My first stab at playing was on just such a set.

The 'splaying' of the drones is a Hedworth characteristic; the warping is an unfortunate side effect of using whatever pieces of wood were to hand. Scooped out tone holes are also not unusual as tuning was not Hedworths strongest ability.

They can almost certainly be brought back into playing order and you should definitely consider this as your first option. Without having seen your set, I would expect to clean the metalwork up, replace the bag (it will be small, heavy & stiff), replace / modify the bellows hose and potentially do some work on the chanter (Re-reeding the instrument should probably be taken as a given). Making a new chanter stick is a fairly significant effort and retrofitting keys is actually more effort than making new ones. It is quite surprising what can be achieved with some in-fill and a file - I've heard and played many an old rescued stick.

I would strongly recommend taking the set along to someone who has seen these sets before and talking through the options (where are you in the world?). In the UK you'll probably be able to find someone who is actually playing a working set of Hedworths which will give you an idea of what you're trying to get to.

hope this helps


Re: Old Hedworth Smallpipes help

PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:34 pm
by Alec
Hi Barry

Many thanks for your very informative reply. I do actually like the set, pretty little thing warts and all! As it is both named and dated it would be nice to restore it carefully. The only thing missing is a small metal embellishment on the smallest drone lower. The chanter keys will need taking off and cleaning; there is a lot of 'goo' making them stiff and unresponsive.

Would you know what I can use to clean Nickel Silver? Brasso doesn't seem to touch it.

I live down south near Taunton, I know there is an annual gathering at Halsway but have not been along as yet.

Again, thanks for the reply, has spurred me on to get the wee things going again. By the look of them it has been many years since they were played in earnest.

Kind Regards

Re: Old Hedworth Smallpipes help

PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 10:22 am
by RobSay
Hi Alec - some family confusion there, Barry is my father

The Halsway meeting would indeed have been your closest/best opportunity - unfortunately that's just passed (first weekend in March). Your next closest organised group would I think be in the Salisbury area (the details should be on the NPS pages).

I've tended to steer clear of Nickel silver and only ever had to deal with it on older sets that have passed through my hands - I've only ever needed to use hand soap, water and elbow grease. The Internet will no doubt be awash with other methods - some of which may be contradictory. The more abrasive the material and the less you want to get on your hands - the more wary I would be. When you do clean the keys, the keys will come off with the springs attached - be gentle with the springs as they are only lightly riveted on and are easy to dislodge or break.

I think I know the metal part you mean on the standing part of the drone - it's purpose is to add strength and prevent splitting. You'll need to get that made as there are no real sources for spare parts - for that you need to talk to some makers.



Re: Old Hedworth Smallpipes help

PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:59 pm
by Julia Say
Use methylated spirit to clean off the goo. Old toothbrushes are good to get it on with, so are cocktail sticks for those fiddly corners, but like Rob says, mind the springs. They can be replaced, but it's not a simple job. You'll need a 1mm drill or possibly an unbent paper clip to push out the pivot pins that hold the keys on. Take care, as they can ping all over the place as they come out.

Oh, and while we're on, I'm Rob's mum. Just so its sorted!

Good luck


Re: Old Hedworth Smallpipes help

PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 4:08 pm
by Alec
I do apologise for the name guff! It seems to be some unconscious memory that bubbled up from my brain's Northumbrian archive. I must have been on auto pilot after a long day teaching!

Best wishes