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Bagpipes are available in many different styles and with lots of ornamentation choices. Machining of the wood; style, shape and material of the projecting mounts; the type of slides, ferrules, ring caps, chanter sole, and mouthpiece are features that vary from pipe to pipe. The most commonly used materials are imitation ivory, African Blackwood, nickel, stainless steel, plain silver and engraved silver. We stock a huge range of pipes to suit all needs, tastes and budgets.
Some pipe makers offer more exotic looks with different metals such as brass or aluminum and more unique projecting mounts, like imitation horn. While a wide range of choice is good, it is important to remember that these decorative accents have no bearing on the quality of sound. The sound of a bagpipe is determined by the inner geometry designed in the drones and pipe chanter and not by its outward appearance. So a less expensive model within a single pipe maker's range should be identical to their most expensive model in performance and sound.
So a modestly priced set will function just as well as its full silver counterpart, even though their may be a $3000-$4000 difference in price. As long as you have a good base Blackwood or Poly instrument, further sound quality and performance are determined by a properly set up instrument and the skill of the player.
The majority of the bagpipes sold are designed in just a handful of combinations - usually half mounted with nickel, stainless or imitation ivory. Every manufacturer makes this type.
With the adaptation of some new machining techniques, a number of very attractive metal offerings are now available to dress up a set of pipes without costing $3500.
A similar 'design of sound' is built into each one of a pipe maker's models, so once you have decided on a brand of pipes, your choice will simply be determining the look you want and the budget you have established for the pipes. We suggest allowing an additional $200 for a case and the accessories you will need to keep the pipes maintained properly.
Engraved, hand engraved, chased, cast - similar but different terms when it comes to metal work. Some is done by machine or laser or by pressing a pattern is into the metal. Hand engraved means the pattern actually etched into the metal surface.
Nickel plated brass, solid nickel, beaded nickel, or an enclosed nickel ferrule. All used to describe the metal sleeves found on most standard pipes. An enclosed and beaded solid nickel ferrule is more expensive to manufacture than a plain ferrule. However, the relative quality of the material does not indicate how well it's attached to the wood. Some manufacturers take extra care in this area which generally indicates better fit and finish. It is not uncommon to have loose metal ferrules, as wood will expand or contract slightly in different conditions.
The imitation material used on most pipes today does not yellow and turn orangey brown like some of the pipes made 20 years ago. This material varies by manufacturer from a solid color to slightly marbled or checked to simulate the real thing. One company processes their material to provide an antique ivory look. Certified mammoth ivory is now available from some manufacturers, but it adds a huge amount to the cost of the pipes.
Since any combination of bag cover, cords, bag type, and chanter can be used with any pipe style the descriptions below are describing general feature differences
Basic or Plain Sets
These models are only basic in their appearance. Pipes are shaped in plain wood or plastic with just the outline silhouette for the drones and stocks. Some manufacturers offer a set with Flat combing - which offers only a few simple lines of combing on each piece. Since these sets spend less time on the lathe and generally don't have projecting mounts, they represent the entry level price points.