In order for bagpipes to perform well,
and to help ensure steadiness of tone, joints must be properly hemped so they are airtight
but moveable. An under-hemped joint will leave the joint movable and not air tight, both of which contribute to an unsteady
sound. An over-hemped a joint will put undue pressure on the wood risking cracking and/or seized joints.
There are various types of bagpipe hemp, pre-waxed yellow hemp, pre-waxed black Hemp and yellow unwaxed
There are varying thoughts on which type to use with arguments for and against, however, the following has served
me flawlessly for years and continues to do so.
Time taken to apply the layers of hemp in an
even manor is time well spent. Ensure that each strand is placed next to the other with no gaps, applying
firm pressure as you do so.
|hemping a bagpipe joint
Apply one layer of hemp then roll the joint between two hard
surfaces, eg table top and piece of wood, to bed the hemp in place. This helps greatly in avoiding having to "top up"
the hemp a week later when it has compressed itself.
I'm not in favor of pre-waxed hemp as it is very greasy and with
time becomes very smooth and relies on a very tight joint to give a seal. In addition when pre-waxed hemp is coated with cobblers
wax the two substances dilute and mix leaving a sticky mess and the pre-wax does not allow the cobblers wax
to penetrate the hemp.
Un-waxed hemp and cobblers wax are the main components. Coat enough
hemp with cobblers wax to make the first neat layer of hemp on the joint. Once this initial layer is complete
roll the joint between two hard surfaces; this will leave a nice compressed layer as a base for the next one. Repeat
this for the next layer. This provides a good base that will last for years and years and
when its time for a re hemp then only the top couple of layers will need replaced. Repeat this layering
and rolling as many times as is necessary. Finish off by making the last two layers of your
joint with un-waxed hemp.
On Stock joints make the last three layers
in un-waxed hemp. This is allows moisture collecting in the stock to wick into the hemp which assists a little
with moisture control and ensures an airtight seal without the risk of over swelling that would be caused if all layers were
|PTFE tape on drone slide
On tuning pins leave only the last two layers un-waxed and finish these off with a very small application
of PTFE tape. This PTFE tape provides a thread like base which makes fine tuning very accurate. Some will argue against this
for a variety of theoretical ideas however having used this for well over 30 years without problem I would strongly recommend
it....the choice is yours... but never use this tape on stock joints.
Your joints should be firm enough so that drone tops can be adjusted with two fingers and thumb but there
should be no side ways movement, wobble or slip down. Stock joints should be a little tighter.
Remember that good
bagpipe maintenance is one of the key factors in keeping a steady tone. Joints
should be checked regularly to ensure that they are in prime condition. Climatic conditions
have a major influence on joints as this changes the dimensions of the wood which shrinks and expands, pipes that are new
will experience a slightly greater change in the initial 15 to 20 years but they will always change.... even after 100 years
of playing. You will find at times you have to add a few turns of hemp and at other times you will have to remove a few turns....this
is perfectly normal.