Bellows

The three main considerations in making top quality bellows should be efficiency, standard of construction, and comfort.

 

Efficiency:

Our bellows are made with a generous capacity which allows for a more relaxed speed of right arm movement. All our bellows are now double skin, and have been for a few years, they are completely airtight. I have hardly ever had  customers who have returned even the older style for repair, unless they actually damaged them.

 

Materials

We have used a number of different woods for the boards over the years.  The wood needs to be  fairly hard, but not subject to splitting, and fairly light weight (No point in having a heavy unwieldy lump under your elbow if not necessary). Also it should not be subject to CITES restrictions, and take a fine finish. Based on that and availability, the choice is currently Cherry from the Lammemuirs, and Muninga from West Africa. Outlet block and connector are made of Blackwood or Mopane. The thick leather hinge is secured with face plates which are plated to match the ferrules on the pipes. We only do black leather now, after 15 years our stock of beautiful brown leather ran out, and I haven’t found any that is good enough quality to replace it so far.

 

You have a choice.

There are two styles of bellows available, as illustrated in the pictures.

 

Hand stitched  with inlaid stitching channels

Traditional style for the Lowlands and Borders, but a considerably more generous volume of air capacity than the usual Northumbrian bellows. The double leather is hand stitched to the boards and the stitching channels are then inlaid with rosewood. Hand stitched bellows naturally take longer to make. Standard ones are included in the price of the pipes, additional padding costs £25 per side (Elbow and body). Shown below, bellows in Elm, Rosewood, and Bubinga.

 

Side tacked

This style goes back a long way in Scotland, but for a while it was more often associated with Irish pipes. It is also used widely in Scotland particularly since the revival of bellows piping. Fractionally more capacity than the hand stitched, but in practical terms this makes hardly any  difference. These are included in the price of the pipes, but in this case additional padding (Elbow and body) comes as standard and is also included in the price. Bellows shown below, are Muninga, and Cherry. They have gold plates and gilt fittings, we more often make them in Nickel. 

 

Both sets

The transfer tube separates from the bellows block for ease of packing and allows different length tubes to be supplied to suit different individual measurements, for example where two members of a family want to share the pipes. The fittings on both ends of the tube match taper to taper with the fittings on both the bellows and the pipes, these are not hemped and give a firm connection which releases with a simple sideways twist. No maintenance is required!

 

Comfort:

Although in the past we have rarely had any customers complain that our bellows were not comfortable, we do recognise that not every piper is built the same, that is why we offer the option of padded bellows. We have restricted the padding to an amount that contributes to comfort, but does not cover the whole side of the bellows and obscure the natural beauty of the wood and the craftsmanship.

 
 
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