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  1. #1
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    a tale of two bagpipes

    On a different thread in a different forum The Wizard Of BC demonstrated how an experienced "eye" can tell much about a kilt's constructions, materials, and origin from a single pic.

    To show a similar thing with pipers and pipes, I posted the following two photos. Each shows a set of pipes currently being sold on Ebay by people who don't know what they're selling.

    For experienced pipers this is easy-peasy, but here goes anyhow. From the following pics deduce, for each pipe,

    1) where it was made
    2) who made it
    3) when it was made
    4) the materials used
    5) the quality of tone and performance
    6) approximate value



    Last edited by OC Richard; 10th July 16 at 03:15 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  2. #2
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    I am not a piper but just 'cause.

    1) where it was made - Over there
    2) who made it - Jim
    3) when it was made - Tuesday
    4) the materials used Wood, cloth, shiney stuff
    5) the quality of tone and performance - They are bagpipes
    6) approximate value - More than I would ever pay


    Steve Ashton
    www.freedomkilts.com
    Skype (webcam enabled) thewizardofbc
    I wear the kilt because:
    Swish + Swagger = Swoon.

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  4. #3
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    The Q is offline Oops, it seems this member needs to update their email address
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    I've no idea about who where why?
    But that second set looks entirely man made,
    rubber bag,
    jubilee clips to hold the drones on.
    Nylon instead of ivory,
    And some other man-made plastic for the drones themselves.
    "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give"
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

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  6. #4
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    After 15 years of playing, I consider myself an experienced piper, but I don't have a lot of experience identifying pipes, neither by appearance nor sound. So, identifying these pipes from just two (albeit huge) pictures is not so easy-peasy.

    I have only one set of pipes, which I bought after taking lessons for about 7 months. I'm fortunate to have a maker local to me (he's now retired), so I didn't shop around a whole lot.
    John

  7. #5
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    I'm fortunate, I suppose, because from the get-go, when I began playing in my first band in the late 1970s, I was around people playing lovely vintage pipes.

    I had been playing only around three years yet I had been exposed to what vintage Hendersons, Lawries, MacDougalls, Glens, etc looked like and sounded like. 40 years on, and I've owned pipes from most of the well-known vintage makers.

    SPOILER ALERT don't read the following if you want to make your own educated guesses. That's what vintage pipe ID is all about, educated guessing. There are pipes which numerous experts have examined and it's still unclear who made them.

    These two pipes aren't like that. They're in the category of the obvious, for pipers who have held, examined, heard, and played vintage pipes.

    Top pipe:
    1. Sialkot Pakistan

    2. one of the numerous makers there, there are hundreds, the largest being Geoffrey.

    3. hard to say exactly, as they've made the same type for decades, but probably 1970s to 1980s.

    4. the wood is Sheesham wood. The Pakistani makers call it Rosewood, it is not. The mounts are aluminium alloy.

    5. the sound would be sh!te, if you can get reeds to go in them at all.

    6. you could get a set like this new from the maker, back in the 1980s, for $40.

    Bottom pipe:

    1. Edinburgh

    2. James Robertson. The huge fat ivory mounts are unique to him; no other sets look remotely like Robertsons.

    3. he made pipes 1908-1948 though the business continued for some years after. I would guess this set was made in the 1930s or so; to nail down the exact year one would look at the hallmarks on the mounts.

    4. As I recall Robertson was in the forefront of using African Blackwood, so sight unseen I would guess the materials are ABW, ivory, and sterling silver. These mounts are chased with the thistle pattern and will likely be hallmarked "D&N" which is Dalman and Narborough, Birmingham. Due to these being a silver-mounted set I would assume that the projecting mounts are genuine ivory. However Robertson made many pipes, generally their less expensive sets, mounted with casein, an odd early imitation ivory made from milk protein. By now these casein mounts have badly degraded, literally disintegrating before your eyes, and it's common practice for modern pipers to send these old Robertson sets to have the casein removed and replaced with modern imitation ivory or other substance.

    5. Robertsons are renowned for their wonderful huge bold tone and their consistency. I've heard pipers say a couple things about Robertsons:
    "Lotsa wood. Lotsa ivory. Lotsa sound."
    "You never hear a bad Robertson." (There are good Hendersons and bad Hendersons. Good Lawries and bad Lawries. But Robertsons always sound great.)

    6. The market for used pipes fluctuates along with the general economy, but I've seen sets like this go for $4000 to $6000. Robertsons are renowned for their tone and you'll see them in the hands of good pipers, thus the demand for Robertsons, especially silver-mounted ones like above, is high.

    Helps when world-famous pipers are playing a particular make of pipe, to increase its value.

    Here is Pipe Major Terry Tully of St Lawrence O'Toole Pipe Band playing his silver & ivory mounted set of Robertsons. Too bad the video is poor quality.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UhOWBzTSlY
    Last edited by OC Richard; 10th July 16 at 03:47 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  9. #6
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    Thank you Richard for your explanations. Neither am I a piper, but I am an amateur musician. We guitarists would call that 'imitation ivory' - "ivoroid" and know that only because it is all over our guitars in various locations, and is used mostly because of the legal barriers of importing real ivory. And on that subject, if the Robertson pipes employed real ivory, would they not be illegal to import-export these days? We also know rosewood from southern Asia referred to as "East Indian Rosewood" (and has similarly been employed starting about 1970 due to the same legalities as that of Brazilian Rosewood), but I am an expert in neither ivory or wood (and know absolutely nothing of "Sheesham"), so I make these comments only as questions or observations from my personal limited knowledge base.

    Regardless, I enjoyed your explanations.
    Regards,
    Tom

  10. #7
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    Our clan piper plays a set of Robertsons and they do sound great.

  11. #8
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    In the past year, I've been asked by friends on two occasions to look at some "really old" bagpipes that they had been gifted.

    In both cases, my first clue as to the origin was a white, plastic mouthpiece on the blowstick.

    I'm afraid I had to tell my friends that the pipes were neither old nor valuable (nor playable!).
    'A damned ill-conditioned sort of an ape. It had a can of ale at every pot-house on the road, and is reeling drunk. "

  12. #9
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    Thanks for the primer, Richard. I thought the top pipes looked like Sialkot products, but am not really good at identifying pipes. Some of the things that stood out for me were: The dinged up metal on the first set, indicative of a very soft metal, not well cared for. Even though the picture is a bit blurry, you can see the reflections of the dings on the mounts, similar to the dull spots on a knife blade. The combing (little close together lines) on the wood turning showed some differences, as well. The first set had what seemed to be grosser, less fine combing, while the Robertsons had even, delicate, fine combing. The beading (slightly rounded areas between the combing) was also finer on the Robertsons. I didn't count, but often the numbers of grooves in the combing between poor and quality pipes is uneven. Quality: always the same number, less quality: variable numbers of grooves in the combing. The inclusion of both heart- and sapwood on the Sialkot pipes was in direct contrast to the quality of matched wood on the Robertsons. A better finish on the Robertsons contrasted with the thicker, goopier finish of the other set. On a personal note, I found the engraving of the thistle pattern on the Robertsons to be lovely. Great contrast. Thanks for the pics.

    JMB

    PS--we readers shouldn't sweat the hose clamps on the Robertsons. They are often a better choice to seal the stocks when synthetics bags are used.
    Last edited by Blupiper; 12th July 16 at 03:06 PM.

  13. #10
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    Thanks guys!

    Yes when you're evaluating vintage pipes what you ignore, pretty much, are the ancillary things like bag, cords, and cover. Also vintage pipes (and oftentimes not-so-vintage pipes) rarely are sold with their original chanter. Blowpipes often crack and are replaced, and pipers will often have a favourite make of blowpipe which they play in whatever set they're playing. So with vintage pipe ID you're looking at the drones.

    Even new pipes often have a chanter and blowpipe of different make. Depending on the retailer, a new set can be ordered with a chanter and/or blowpipe of a different make.

    Trouble is, for unknowing Ebay sellers, is that the only obvious maker's stamps are on the chanter. So one sees pipes being sold all the time on Ebay misidentified due to the seller seeing the stamp on the chanter, which happens to be a different make than the pipes.

    There's a set now on Ebay being sold as being made by L&M Highland Outfitters, Nova Scotia! The joke is that L&M made leather pipe bags, not pipes. But the seller saw the L&M stamp on the bag.

    About ivory yes President Obama issued an Executive Order around two years ago banning the possession of any ivory worked or unworked. Any ivory-mounted set is subject to seizure by the Department of Fish & Game. To make an ivory-mounted set of pipes legal is complicated and requires the pipes having a provable provenance. The ivory must be provably gathered "from the wild" prior to a certain date, been within the USA by a certain date, and not bought or sold after the date of the Executive Order. Because I couldn't prove that my pipes had been in the USA by the date specified they were impossible to legalise though they had obviously been made before 1908. So I sold them and bought a new non-ivory set.

    About counting the number of rings on the combing, Jeannie Campbell in Highland Bagpipe Makers has this to say:

    "Recognition of makers can be a problem as many instruments do not bear the name of the maker. Patterns changed according to different turners within the same firm and turners might transfer to another firm and continue to make the same patterns, as they would take their tools with them. A turner can usually identify his own work and distinguish it from the work of other turners within the same firm. There are several known instances of a turner working for one firm during the day and working unofficially for another firm in the evenings...

    Making measurements or counting the rings on the combing only serves to prove that makers changed their designs."

    Now the quality of the combing is another matter as you point out. Good craftsmen do good clean combing. They have a special tool for doing it (it cuts all the combs at the same time) and the tool has to be kept sharp.

    Here's a video showing a Scottish pipemaker doing the combing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03gQFjSCwxU

    Ironic that the music is the Irish uilleann pipes, which have no such combing.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 15th July 16 at 06:12 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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