Maintaining African Blackwood
The wood is the heart of the instrument, and it needs to be in good condition. Here are a few simple tips that will help keep your pipes at their best.
Check that the bores of each section and the stocks are smooth, clean, and without any obstructions. Well made instruments will have smooth bores. If the bores are rough, you can smooth them out with steel wool on a cleaning rod, or have a pipe maker/repairer do this for you. If the bores are dirty, a few good oilings with quality bore oil will remove most of the built up dirt.
Check each section for cracks. A crack that leaks air can cause all sorts of problems. Pay particular attention to the wood underneath the ferrules, the stocks, and the tuning chambers of the drones. These are the most common areas where cracks will start. If you have a crack, have it repaired as soon a possible by a competent bagpipe maker/repairer. The crack will only get worse, not better. If you wait too long, repairs may not be a possibility and you will have to look at replacing the part. Some pipe makers are now sleeving blowpipes to help prevent cracking.
The drone bushings in the top of each drone can become loose as the wood and glue age. Leaks around the bushes are quite common and can cause some serious drone instability. To check for leaks, remove the top section of each drone and plug the bush with a rubber stopper, or your finger. Blow in through the other end and check for leaks. If there is a leak, the bush will have to be removed and re-glued into the drone top. If you are not comfortable doing this, have a competent bagpipe maker/repaired do this for you.