Buying a Bagpipe – New or Used?
In our first installment on this topic we discussed delrin vs. wood, which more or less leads us directly into the next installment of buying a bagpipe: New or Used?
If you’re buying a delrin bagpipe, standard models come up for sale from time to time. You’re pretty much guaranteed that the internal health of the bagpipe will be intact. This means no warps, no cracks, and no shrinkage. Everything should pretty much be as when it came out of the shop. There may be some external signs of use however internally, you’re golden. So, unless you’re passionate about having something special or unique in terms of the aesthetics of the bagpipe, a used, standard model delrin bagpipe represents great value. Of course, expect to spend a bit more money on your choice of bag, reeds, cover and cords. You may also need to adjust the length of the blowpipe by means of a new mouthpiece.
If you’ve elected to purchase a wooden bagpipe, things get much more complicated. The choices of new wooden bagpipes are many. The choices of used wooden bagpipes are many more and much more complicated.
When buying “new” you’re essentially making the purchase based on the reputation of the maker. New bagpipes usually come with a guarantee of some description and makers are generally eager to make certain that the customer is happy. If there is an issue with a new bagpipe, depending on your choice of maker, expect a quick and satisfactory response.
Not all new bagpipes are created equally. You’ll need to speak with your advisors to narrow the choices and ultimately choose the bagpipe that’s right for you.
If you’re buying a new wooden bagpipe, do your research with your advisors and establish your criteria. This isn’t easy.
Here are some of the considerations at the top of my list:
- Quality of the wood
- Quality of the workmanship
- Sound and performance
- Reputation of the bagpipe and maker
- Style of the bagpipe
- Delivery time
- After-purchase support and service
Let’s only talk about the wood today. Truthfully, there are only a handful of suppliers worldwide for exotic hardwoods. Some are more discerning in their selection of the timber. Some are more thoughtful in allowing the squared billets to dry naturally and become accustomed to their new shape and circumstances. A good maker knows where to find good wood.
When the wood arrives at the makers shop, it should undergo an addition period of adjustment. Throughout the manufacturing process, at various critical stages, the wood needs time to adjust. Bores and profiles all have an impact on the structural integrity of the wood and certain factors will cause the wood to shift. If any of these stages are hurried of otherwise compromised, the wood will continue to shift after the bagpipe is finished. The result is non-concentric bores and external profiles, warps, and cracks.
Now I’m going to stop here and take a deep breath. We’re talking about an organic material that has a mind of its own at times. Despite everything, sometimes wood does what wood does and there’s not much that can be done about it. From my perspective, even the most responsible maker can have an issue from time-to-time. From a general perspective, if I encounter several sets of bagpipes from a particular maker where issues with the wood are present, I’m probably going to conclude that something is amiss in their selection and/or care of the wood during the manufacturing process.
What you don’t see can be very disturbing. I have seen many good-looking bagpipes that revealed serious flaws during restoration or refurbishing. The most disturbing are worm holes. Yes, the insect world has some terrific wee creatures that love to bite into even the hardest woods on the planet. Where one maker might reject the piece, another maker will fill the hole and send it out the door. Of course, this might not become obvious until years later and even then, this is something that’s not widely known. Those who do repairs and restorations know about it however they are reluctant to speak out.
Lest I fall further into this particular rabbit hole, let’s move on.
I suggest that you do a lot or reading, ask a lot of questions, and listen to your trusted advisors. Hurry along slowly.
If you’ve made the decision to purchase a used bagpipe, there is a “risk vs reward” factor that you have to consider. If you’re purchasing the bagpipe without physically inspecting it yourself and perhaps with one of your advisors, the risk of unknown issues is great. You might as well flip a coin. I know many who purchase used bagpipes and then spend a considerable amount to make them “right” if that’s even possible. When buying a used instrument, price is perhaps the last thing you want to consider.
Ideally you should have the opportunity to physically inspect and play the instrument prior to purchase. Bring along your advisor. If this isn’t possible, ask for lots of pictures. Find out as much as you can about the bagpipe who’s selling it. Make an allowance for all the unknowns.
It would be a daunting task to write all the considerations one must consider, whether you’re purchasing a new or used bagpipe. Apply the same questions and considerations that you would to something that you know a great deal about. I am overwhelmed when I walk into Bass Pro. Any one of the product categories could be compared to what we have attempted to cover in a few short paragraphs here. I will simply conclude by encouraging everyone to read, ask lots of questions, and to experience as many bagpipes as they can before making their final choice.