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Malcolm McLaren, of Hobart, Tasmania, has an innovative approach to many areas of pipe making (I watched him put into practice his method of drilling a smallpipe chanter; see COMMON STOCK Vol 6 No 1 Dec 1991). Here, prompted by the article on Drone Vibrators by Al James (see COMMON STOCK Vol 12 No 2 Dec 1997) he describes his own approach to the subject.

During your visit back in January, I made a reed jor a friend’s set of smallpipes in the style I have been using over the last couple of years. They vary only slightly from those written up in the December '97 issue of COMMON STOCK, in the article by Al James. The main difference occurs in the construction that avoids the problern with the “the sealed end” and the damage that could occur to the blade if the reed is not held correctly when being put in the drone seat.

I use round brass tubing exclusively, scrap pieces of brass sheet (26 gauge or around 0.020", it doesn’t matter that much) and a soldering iron. The overall sizes of the reeds are similar to those in the article, but this is governed by the bore sizes in the drones more than anything else. E.G.; for a “D” set



Cut your pieces of brass tubing with a “junior hacksaw” along its length for the distance “B”. Force apart with a screwdriver or similar and then place a piece of flat metal inside this and tap it gently on an “anvil” to flatten the sides parallel with each other forming a “U” shape. Use a file to equalise the sides of this “U” shape, and also clean up the end.

Next cut a thin strip from the brass sheet the length of "E" + "F", the width of this should be a whisker wider than the “OD”. Then drill or punch the hole “D” in this brass strip, and fold the end over at a right angle:


This piece of brass strip is then soldered onto the previously formed brass tubing, taking care to make the solder flow smoothly to fill any gaps which make the reed body airtight. When cool, wash this in water to get rid of any corrosive flux, then file and/or rub the flat surface on fine emery (wet & dry) to get a perfectly flat surface. The styrene blade is then tied on (a drop of super glue works really well, but only the smallest drop is necessary, otherwise you will glue too much of the blade onto the flat base). The lightest flick will “set” the blade, and the drone should sound close to the required pitch. If a little flat, sharpen the reed by using a razor blade to cut a whisker off the end of the styrene; if too sharp, untie a little off the base of the blade. Rough up the end of the brass tube that fits in the reed seat and bind with waxed dental floss to ensure an airtight fit in the drone, and away you go.