Pipehacker Project: Rebuild and Resurrect a Practice Chanter Reed

Never chuck a good reed. Wait. Did I say that already once before? Well, it’s true, and if you’ve been at this bagpipes thing for any length of time, you’ve probably amassed quite the collection of old reeds off all kinds. Practice chanter reeds are typically going to give up the ghost more frequently only because of the conditions in your practice chanter and the accumulation of spittle over time. But a good practice chanter reed that has served you well shouldn’t be buried at sea or given a viking funeral. The plastic blades and copper staple are far from worn out. In fact, you will be in the ground as worm food before those materials decay. That old reed can be stripped down and rebuilt, better, stronger, faster… you get the idea. That old reed (or even a new one that doesn’t perform up to par) can be resurrected into a new, modern state of being.

What You Need

  • Plastic blades from old practice chanter reed
  • Copper staple from old practice chanter reed
  • Removable masking tape
  • 3/16-inch heat shrink tubing
  • Disposable lighter
  • Scissors

How to Do It

1. Align and secure the blades. Line up the two blade pieces as closely as you can. Tear off a bit of tape and fold over the top of both pieces. The extra bit extending off the sides will hold the two pieces in place.

2. Assemble. Slide the crimped end of the staple between the blades. No need to worry about how far just yet, but keep in mind that the opening will sit just at the top of the angled cut of the blades.

3. Slide a 3/4 to 1-inch piece of the tubing over the staple and over the bottom stems of the blades. Push the tubing as far up the blades as you can to reach the top of the angled cut. It helps to pull back the staple slightly to get the tubing up there.

4. Position the staple. Slide the staple up into position. The top opening should just be at the top of the angled cut where your tubing stops.

5. Shrink and secure. Wave your lighter flame gently under the tubing and twist the reed to get all sides. Careful not to burn anything. You don’t need much heat.

6. It’s alive, ALIVE! Like Dr. Frankenstein, you have taken dead parts and created life! A strategic placement of dental elastic might be needed to seal up the blades more completely and adjust your new sound. Be gentle, the shrink tubing may slide and the reed assembly will move if handled too roughly. If that happens, take it all apart and repeat steps 1 through 5.

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