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Caring for your Pipe Bag

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Caring for your pipe bag is an important part of keeping your whole bagpipe system working optimally and sounding its best. The condition of the pipe bag can affect air efficiency and reed performance, so taking time to check the bag regularly and complete a few maintenance tasks is well worth it. Maintenance tasks vary depending on bag material and type, but in general, think clean and airtight.
 
Caring for Synthetic Pipe Bags

Synthetic bags and hybrid bags (bags with a hide exterior and a synthetic interior) are very easy to care for. If your bag has a zipper, make sure it is kept lubricated per the manufacturer's instructions. Leave the zipper open when you are not playing, to help the bag dry out. A damp bag can become unpleasant and unhealthy quickly. Check the stocks often to make sure that they are all secure. If you're using a Ross Canister system or other system with loose desiccant, vacuum the interior periodically to avoid dust accumulation in the bag and on your reeds.
 
Caring for Hide & Sheepskin Pipe Bags

Leather bags perform better when they are played regularly. It is frequent playing of the pipes that keeps the bag supple, not seasoning. Of course, these bags should also be seasoned, as needed, to keep seams airtight and to improve moisture control. Make sure to use the type of seasoning and sealing products recommended by the maker of your bag. L&M's Scotian bags, for example, require a special sealant and conditioner, and do not use Airtight.
 
Bag Lifespan: For hygiene reasons it is recommend that you keep a sheepskin bag for a maximum of three years and a hide bag for no longer than five years.
 
Seasoning Overview:  It is important to season regularly, but it is equally important not to over-season. It is necessary to do a long and thorough seasoning on a new bag. After that, maintain the bag with seasonings targeted at the main seam. For cow hide bags, the purpose of seasoning is to keep the stitching airtight. Seasoning will not improve moisture control in these bags, and too much of it may make a mess of the inside of your bag. Sheepskin bags require more attentive seasoning, not only to keep the stitching tight but to treat the skin also. The pores are not as close together as hide, so seasoning is required to keep the skin air tight and to improve moisture control.
 
 
Directions for Seasoning a New Hide or Sheepskin Bag with Airtight: 
This is for the most traditional types of hide and sheepskin bags. If you have a zippered hide bag, it may require a different treatment process. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations before treating.
 
Seasoning your bag will be a messy process at first, but you will get better at it.
 
Prep: Remove drones, chanter and blowpipe. Cork all five stocks.
 
Heat: Carefully heat an open plastic jar of seasoning in the microwave, just until it liquefies.

Pour: Pour seasoning into the bag, through the chanter stock. For new bags, you'll likely need just 1/2 of the container. (For subsequent maintenace seasonings, you may need as little as a few teaspoons.) Squeeze out as much air as possible and replace the cork.

Knead: Rub the seasoning vigorously into the skin, paying special attention to the welt (seam) of the bag, making sure the seasoning is worked in thoroughly. For a bag's first seasoning, this may take 30-45 minutes.
 
Inflate: Remove the cork from the blowpipe stock and replace the blowpipe. Ensure that the remaining corks are secure, and blow up the bag as tight as possible. This will force the seasoning into the stitching. Tilt the bag back and forth so the liquid can be heard running along the welt. Squeeze bag while doing this.
 
Test: Test for airtighness by inflating the bag, first making sure that all the stocks are securely stopped and the blowpipe valve is functioning properly. Wait 30 seconds. If you are unable to blow any more air into the bag, then the bag is considered airtight. Remember, no bag is so airtight that it will remain inflated indefinitately.

Drain: Carefully remove the blowpipe and cork the stock. Hang the bag using the loop at the back. Remove the cork from the chanter stock and let the seasoning drain out. Make sure the other stocks are kept upright, so any seasoning can drain down into the bag and out of the chanter stock. Work your fingers around the part of the chanter stock that is tied into the bag to ensure that excess seasoning does not get caught there and congeal. Be sure that all excess seasoning has drained out before proceeding.
 
Clean: Once the excess seasoning has drained out of the bag, clean all of the stocks meticulously. Use paper towels or rags for this. Make sure the bottoms of the stocks are not clogged with seasoning. You can check the drone stocks by holding the bottom of two stocks together and looking through. Check the blowpipe and chanter stocks by holding under a light. If they are clogged remove the congealed seasoning with a stiff brush. The more you season your pipe bag the more this may become an issue. Your drones will not function properly if seasoning builds up in these areas, and it's easiest to remove at this point in the process.


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