The Bagpipe Gear Hack


If you’re like me, your pipe case is packed to the gills with stuff. But when do you really need it all? Most tinkering on the bagpipes takes place in the practice room, at home, by yourself. Over time, a single piper can accumulate quite a collection of piping accouterment. I’ll be honest, I am prepared for lone piping survival after the apocalypse. I carry it all. But how often do I really pull out that spare gear, reed, tool, thing…all of which is weighing down my pipe case? Answer: almost never. I can think of one time over a long time when I dropped my blowstick on a contest day, ruining my flapper valve, and was happy I had: a) an extra flapper; and b) my tools including small needle nose pliers. All went well. New flapper installed and crisis averted. Luck favors the prepared. And that is the point. You never know what you need until you need what you don’t have. Predicting that though is going to be different for every bagpiper. Some will put their mind at ease and carry around a separate toolbox stocked to the brim with tools, extra reeds, and everything else short of a circular saw. Others get by with a small pipe-case sized box of emergency items. Whichever path you choose, listing a bunch of stuff that may or may not belong with you at all times would be tedious. Let’s instead think about the classification of your gear. Your essential items should generally fall into four separate categories:




Pipehacker Pro Tip: Hotel Card Chanter Tape


The modern competitive bagpiper can become quite the connoisseur of hotel rooms and beds. International competition and even the local US circuit will have a piper and his or her gear on overnight stays all year long. It’s a safe bet that many pipers will have their favorite hotel that features regularly in their travel plans. You’ll end up with an impressive collection of rewards points for sure. Inevitably, you’ll also end up with an impressive collection of plastic hotel room key cards. One or two will always appear in your sporran at the end of a trip. I don’t have the nerve to toss them because I know I can find a repurposed use for them—sustainable living, you know. (Extra tip: they serve as excellent paint scrapers.) Because this is Pipehacker, there is indeed a repurposed use for these credit card-sized pieces of plastic that will serve your bagpiping needs. Here is a quick and simple tip/project that will provide you with a ready supply of tape for tuning the notes on your pipe chanter. All you need is a dead key card, a hobby knife, and a roll of tune tape.

A word about what is typically sold as “tune tape.” While this vinyl tape is a de rigueur part of a modern bagpiper’s supply kit, the large, 1/2-inch roll one gets at your favorite bagpipe supply shop is not suited for constant storage in one’s pipe box. Here is my roll after many hot US piping seasons bouncing around in my pipe case.


One roll is a lifetime supply, but not if that roll is a loose, gummy mess. The solution is to have a supply of tape at the ready while keeping the roll at home, safe from further abuse.

How to Do It

Pull off a strip of tune tape. Stick along the top of the key card.


Cut the tape on an angled cut with an Xacto knife or other blade near the edge of the card.


Stick that new end underneath the first strip, cut the end again and repeat down the length of the card. You should end up with 6 strips.



A reason to keep hotel keys! Flip the card over and repeat the same steps on the other side. Fill other cards if you have them.

The cards are a sturdy holder for ready-cut pieces of tape for use on your chanter. No fumbling or cutting needed. One card will hold twelve strips, enough for each hole on your chanter with extra. The tape should stay flat and undamaged wherever you keep it. The card fits perfectly in your sporran or the pocket of your waistcoat, but it could just as easily find a place in your pipe case. Keep the full roll of tape at home, safe and sound. Resupply the cards as needed as the strips are used.



Pipehacker Project: Waxing Hemp-ish

Friday, November 4, 2011

Having well hemped joints on your bagpipe is a critical part of a well set-up and efficient instrument. The hemp used should use a good amount of black…


Pipehacker Project: Rebuild and Resurrect a Practice Chanter Reed

Friday, June 24, 2011

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…


The Salvaged Wood Smallpipe

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fellow bagpipe addict and pipehacker-in-training Johnny L. stopped by for a visit recently and he is the first recipient of the “Pipehacker DIYB award.” OK, I made that…


Pipehacker Tip: The DIY Pipe Bag Seasoning Funnel

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bagpipe bag seasoning is messy stuff. The wide mouth opening of your modern container of Airtight makes it an easy matter to make a clean pour into your…


Pipehacker Project: The Reed Capsule

Friday, March 11, 2011

Even though you now has a portable reed case (as well as minty fresh breath) you still have need to store, transport, or otherwise protect your chanter and…


Pipehacker Project: The Personal Reed Case

Friday, February 4, 2011

An enterprising bagpiper can accumulate a large number of chanter reeds over time. But once you find those choice bits of cane, what do you do with them?…


Pipehacker Tip: Bagpipe Bag Hole Punch

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For those new to the hide bag tie-in, it has always been necessary to measure out and place the spots where your stocks will insert. A quarter-sized hole is then cut into the leather and the stock pushed through. The trick is always to get as round a hole as possible. The more perfectly circular the hole, the less likely it will be to tear when you push your stock through. The only way to do this well is to have an ideally sized “punch” to stamp out that hole.


Pipehacker Project: The DIY Blowstick Valve

Friday, November 12, 2010

Are there any pipers left who remember the days of leather blowstick flapper valves? The little circles of old bag leather that dried up and had to be gnawed back to life in order to function? No? Well, once upon a time pipers had to make their own flapper valves to tie on to their blowpipes.

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