~ Universe of Bagpipes ~
~ and a couple of old ones ~
The Moose Valve
A tiny but key component of almost every sort of bagpipe is a one-way valve that keeps air from backing up the blowpipe and thus allows the piper to take a breath while pressure and airflow to the pipes is maintained by squeezing the bag between body and arm. Called a "blowpipe valve" or "flap valve" the traditional form is a simple leather disk tied or tacked to the lower opening of the blowpipe so as to be hinged. When the piper is blowing air into the bag the flap is simply blown aside, and when the piper takes a breath the pressure from within the bag shoves the flap against the opening of the blowpipe, occluding it. In modern pipes the leather has largely been replaced by rubber, and there may be a little strip of brass that serves to anchor and hinge the flap. Seems simple enough, and this is the only moving part of nearly every bagpipe (other than vibrating reeds). However, we are talking bagpipes here and as anyone who has been around them long enough knows, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, sooner or later. And that includes flap valves which are prone to suddenly leaking or failing altogether, which is highly annoying at best or can even make the pipe impossible to play comfortably. While a new plain flap valve costs only $6 (see shopping cart, below), installing and adjusting it can take more than a few minutes and is thus not what a piper about to play a wedding or march in a parade wants to deal with.
Moose Valve: The ultimate valve at the moment is the oddly-named Moose Valve, from Australia. (Meese? In Australia?) Never mind the name, this is a very nifty little piece of work. It slips into the blowpipe stock - any blowpipe stock, even one with a rough or irregular bore ("stocks" are the short tubes attached directly to the bagpipe's bag that accept the various pipes - blowpipe, chanter and drones). It is fixed there by a couple of turns of a simple provided tool, which expands the Moose Valve's soft silicone-rubber collar against the bore walls. It's non-restrictive and stone reliable and does not require a zippered bag or any mods to the pipe. It can also serve as a spit-trap if desired, depending on how it is positioned in the bore. It comes in a clear plastic tube which allows practice installation. It carrys a two-year warranty. Price is $40, which may seem like a lot unless you've done battle with a lesser valve an hour before you're due to pipe.
The Big Mac Valve
Big Mac Valve: Another clever new device by the same company, Pipers' Choice, that produces the well-known Little Mac Valve (see below) is the Big Mac Valve. This is a large-bore valve (meaning it allows better airflow) that installs by plugging into the bottom of the blowpipe stock. It too has an ABS housing surrounding a synthetic rubber disk, larger than that of the Little Mac. It also incorporates a right-angle fitting below the valve which redirects the air away from the chanter reed, thus keeping that reed drier longer. This right angle fitting can accept tubing connecting to further drying devices if desired. The Big Mac also serves as a spit trap. No modification to the bagpipe is necessary for installation, the stem of the valve is simply hemped up to fit snugly into the bottom of the blowpipe stock bore. But the pipe bag must have a zipper. The Big Mac costs $25.
The Little Mac Valve
Little Mac Valve: One popular solution that's been around for a few years is to replace the flap valve with a modular valve called a "Little Mac." This consists of an ABS housing surrounding a synthetic rubber disk. It is installed by means of its tapered stem, which plugs into the bottom of the blowpipe bore. The Little Mack does not restrict airflow in comparison to a conventional flap valve (which is important) and it is reliable. It is also relatively inexpensive, at $14. But there is one drawback to this design: In order for the tapered stem to seat firmly and reliably in the blowpipe bore, the mouth of the bore must be reamed out so that it matches the taper of the stem. Most pipe dealers and makers have such a reamer and will install a Little Mac if they have your blowpipe (for example when buying a new bagpipe), but if you are doing this on your own you'll need the reamer, at a cost of $15 (available below). Also, some pipers are reluctant to modify their pipe in such a way, especially if it's an antique.
All of these valves are available from us, see the usual shopping-cart buttons below or contact us for alternate payment methods.
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