Pipehacker Tool Tip: Trade Up Your Drone Swab

Pipers have devised all sorts of methods to swab out moisture from, as well as swab bore oil to, the insides of their bagpipe drones. Homemade “brushes” and swabs made from old pantyhose, rags, and whatnot attached to wire coat hangers or string can all be suitable—for a time. I can’t count how many DIY swabs I’ve made and used over the years but I’ve finally gone for a cheap yet efficient manufactured solution that rifle and pistol enthusiasts have always used.

The ramrod is as old as the USA itself. What was basically a stick to push down powder for that single shot once upon a time became the same tool to push through cleaning oils and solvents to remove carbon build up in the gun barrel. That same tool is ideal for use by the bagpiper.

So I upgraded and went for a relatively inexpensive small caliber brass cleaning rod with a handle and threaded attachments to hold small swabs. The Hoppe’s brand carried by Dick’s Sporting Goods is an easy-to-find solution to “trade up” in your bagpipe swabbing needs.

The small, .22 caliber kit comes with three lengths of rod that more than accommodate the longest and narrowest drone parts. The end is a standard threaded opening that takes one of several attachments ranging from short cotton brushes to a slotted “needle eye” to take an appropriately sized piece of cloth. (I found that the cotton brush needs a bit of trimming down to fit through the bottom part of the tenor drone.) The best part of this,and the advantage over home-grown versions as well as the commercial versions sold at your favorite bagpipe supply shop, is that the swabs can be removed to be cleaned and/or replaced when the need strikes for a coating of bore oil or plain old cleaning out of condensing moisture.

  • Zsa Zsa Gabor

    As an alternative, I have had pretty good success with the various swabs they make for flutes and other woodwinds. They are long, thin and non-abrasive.

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