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Meet The Last Artisans Making Traditional Bagpipes By Hand In Scotland’s Capital | Still Standing

crafting an artisanal bagpipe takes steady hands attention to detail and sharp tools [Music] the bagpipes history spans around three millennia with roots in early civilizations and it’s been a key part of scottish heritage for well over 600 years but there’s only one workshop left in the country’s capital that still makes these instruments by hand we went to edinburgh to see how the city’s last traditional bagpipe makers are still standing [Music] at kilbury bagpipes dave wardle and his apprentice rory black take about four days to craft a single instrument they make many different kinds of traditional pipes but the most famous of all is the scottish great highland bagpipe [Music] this style consists of five pipes connected to a bag the blowpipe is the smallest the player blows air into it to inflate the bag which flows over the reeds inside the pipes to make music the three pipes on top are called drones the two tenors played just one note and the larger bass is the same note an octave lower these give the bagpipe its distinctive continuous tone and then the chanter has holes that the player uses for the melody like a recorder [Music] dave always sharpens his tools he does this around once every hour to keep them in good shape during the intense process i’ve actually got nerve damage in my left arm which is probably due to the manufacturing the bagpipes and you’re working constantly with your hands you’re on your feet all day and that wood’s very very hard you’re sharpening chisels gouges he uses african black wood to make the pipes it has a very very dense green and gives a better tonal quality it’s also very very long lasting very very hard it’s popular for high quality woodwinds like clarinets ancient craftsmen used to use local hardwoods to make their instruments but dave gets his supply all the way from mozambique he drills a hole in a block of wood to form the air tunnel of each pipe before the mechanical lathe artisans had to carve every hole and shape every pipe completely by hand but now most bagpipes are mass manufactured by machines rather than by hand like at kilbury as the apprentice one of rory’s tasks is to roughly shape the wood into a cylinder as the lathe turns the block he uses a sharp chisel to round off the edges evenly the main motive was the way the pipes were made and everything’s hand done start to finish there’s no cnc machines it’s all hands-on being taught how it was done in the most traditional ways that we installed dave takes on the more intricate decoration work called beating and combing this is a delicate process that gives each pipe its traditional pattern the combs are the small bands of grooves cut into the wood and the beads are the smooth sections between them then dave makes the projecting mounts he drills these pieces out of wax and puts them on each drone between sections they help the pipes move when tuning and hold them in place once the pitch is perfect dave applies a coat of varnish to the wood sections and mounts then he hammers on the decorative metal ferrules he buys these from a silversmith for added flair to set kilbury pipes apart from standard ones he covers fine wool string with resin to wrap around the fittings this resin is very sticky so what that does it creates a bond with the wood so it doesn’t slip this is a process called hemping the pipes hemping makes the connection airtight and it has to be done carefully so the pieces hold together but can still move just enough to tune dave inserts a single reed into the bottom of each drone and a double reed into the chanter like all woodwinds the reeds vibrate and produce sound when air passes through now the pipes are ready to go into the bag dave seals them into a gore-tex bag with a zipper and rubber gaskets traditionally the airbag was made from animal hides and dave still receives some custom orders with this request but many players say synthetic bags like this have better moisture control and are easier to maintain finally he gives the finished pipe its last decorations the cover and cords the protective cover is often made of velvet or tartan and the cord keeps all the pipes in place okay and that’s a bagpipe fully assembled and ready to be tested before it goes to the customer rory tests the pipes by checking tuning quality and playability [Music] before he packages them up to be shipped off to kilbury’s customers all over the world now with the internet it’s opened up worldwide i mean you’d be amazed at some of the places we we’ve sold bagpipes too it’s just quite incredible really or why somebody from kazakhstan what they’re playing a great highland backpack i have no idea scottish highland soldiers used bagpipes as an instrument of war as far back as the 14th century originally known as war pipes soldiers played them to inspire troops into battle against their english invaders and to strike fear into the enemy their high-pitched tones travel for miles around making them perfect for the battlefield they were even used as recently as world war ii nowadays bagpipes are mainly used in ceremonial settings as well as highly competitive and prestigious piping bands one of which dave used to play in you’re supposed to enjoy the instrument i took it to a different level i mean at one point i was probably practicing three four hours every night every day of the week obviously striving to be the best i could and at the age of 15 yeah i was playing in grade one bands and competing seoul and all that sort of stuff yeah but it becomes a time you have to pull back a bit from it it’s just a bit too intense at times you know so instead of playing the pipes dave focused his passion into making them mass manufacturing in the 20th century has decimated the traditional craft flooding the market with lower quality pipes that can be made on a larger scale for less machine money pipes can cost as little as a hundred dollars whereas a set of kilbury bagpipes usually costs around fifteen hundred a few years ago dave thought he’d have to close the workshop for good due to lack of demand but he got a lifeline from an unlikely place gordon nicholson is a traditional kilt maker who just happens to have a shop right next door back in 2018 the for sale sign went out outside kilwary bagpipes and dave had agreed a redundancy package with the owner so i had gone back home and spoke with my wife and said we’re going to lose the last artisan bagpipe maker in edinburgh and her reply was you know what to do then he also runs a kilt makers academy focused on carrying that tradition forward as well together both shops take advantage of edinburgh’s bustling tourist trade offering tours and demonstrations another way of keeping these crafts alive promoting musical heritage rory balances his apprenticeship building bagpipes with his passion for playing them he’s been a piper since childhood and now he plays with ireland’s premier pipe band every saturday he flies to dublin and back just to practice with them yeah it’s a big commitment we end up getting home quite late at night so this devotion is heartening for dave and it gives him hope that the craft he’s dedicated his life to will continue rory again i think it’s very like me when i was younger is he’s dedicated to his piping 100 it is important to keep the traditional way going traditional way of bagpipes will always keep going it’s taught in the schools in scotland now and it’s very important to me but it’s kids love it [Music] you
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