Build Your Bagpipes: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Assemble Your Pipes Like a Pro (Part 1 of 2) -

Build Your Bagpipes: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Assemble Your Pipes Like a Pro

by Jori Chisholm, Founder of
Last Updated: June 25, 2024

I’m excited to show you how to assemble a set of bagpipes from scratch. I’ll guide you step-by-step through the entire process, from unboxing all the different parts to having your pipes ready to play. With over 30 years of experience as a piper and bagpipe teacher, I’ll share my knowledge of the components, tools, and special tricks that I use to build my own pipes.

Whether you’re a seasoned piper or just starting out, you’ll find this video helpful and informative. So let’s get started and make your bagpipe assembly experience as smooth as possible!

Watch the two-part video and scroll down to read a summary or the full video script.

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The video aims to teach viewers how to assemble a set of bagpipes from scratch, covering every step and tool needed.

  1. Unboxing & Initial Setup: Components are individually wrapped and labeled, with detailed instructions on unpacking and setting up the initial parts.
  2. Moisture Control System: Installation of the dri-flo moisture control system to ensure pipes remain dry and in good condition.
  3. Pipe Bag: Introducing the Bannatyne hybrid bag, combining traditional feel with modern airtight properties.
  4. Stocks Installation & Hemping: Detailed steps on inserting stocks into the bag and wrapping joints with waxed nylon lacing and dental floss.
  5. Threading Drone Reed Seats: Process of threading to secure drone reeds firmly in place, enhancing stability and sound quality.
  6. Infinity Pipe Chanter Setup: Setup of the Blackwood Infinity pipe chanter with the Tone Protector humidity control.
  7. Mouthpiece & Valve: Recommendations for the best mouthpiece and valve, including installation tips for optimal performance.
  8. Oiling Pipes: Importance and technique of oiling pipes to prevent cracks and protect the wood.

Part 1 Transcript:  Today I’m going to assemble a set of bagpipes from scratch and show you step-by-step how to put your pipes together from all of the different parts to make your pipes ready to play.  You’ll be able to watch and learn about all of the different components, parts, tools, and special tricks I use to build my own pipes, and it’s all based on my over 30 years of experience as a piper and bagpipe teacher.  

I’ll show you every single step of the process including, unboxing the pipes, tying on the pipe bag, installing the water trap and moisture control system, the blowpipe and valve, and the Perfect Angle Blowpipe Positioner.  I’ll show you how to install your drone cords for a perfect fit and classic look.  we’ll look at hemping the joints and tuning slides and talk about the advantages of different materials like hemp , dental floss, and waxed nylon.  

In Part 2, I’ll show you how to thread your drone reed seats so your drone reeds never fall out, and how to install a new set of drone reeds.  We’ll set up the pipe chanter, Tone Protector humidity controlling reed cap, and look at selecting pipe chanter reeds from the Tone Protector Reed Case.  Finally, I’ll show you the secrets for oiling your pipes.  And I have provided a list of links for all of the supplies and tools I use in this video so you can get what you need to get your pipes put together perfectly on your own.

So let’s get started!

When I buy a set of pipes I always set them up myself so they are exactly the way I want them.  There are so many options out there for the various components of the pipes, and I want to use the ones that are the very best and perfectly for me.  What I’m going to show in this video is EXACTLY the way my pipes are set up. 

I have also assembled sets of pipes for many students and other pipers, using this exact same set up and they have all been very happy with the results — in terms of quality, efficiency, and overall playing comfort.  Links to everything in the video are available in the description below.  All of the parts and accessories are what I use personally and what I recommend for you.  They should work very well for you regardless of your make of pipes or your experience level.

If you have questions about anything in this video, please ask them in the comments below.  If you are looking for a set of pipes and you don’t have the time or interest or experience to build your pipes yourself, I am happy to do it for you.  Please reach out to me via my website at

Unpacking pipes — these Athertons come individually wrapped and labeled.  Silver and imitation ivory.  Not all pipe makers do this but OT and Middle Tenor are labeled.  Keep them labeled.

First install the moisture control system — my favorite is dri-flo.

Rubber cups attach to grooves.

There are many pipe bags, natural, synthetic and hybrid — my favorite by far is the hybrid: leather outside for traditional feel, synthetic inside so super airtight and no seasonings, dries out completely.  The best in the world and trusted by thousands of pipers is Bannatyne hybrid, this one has the bottom zipper which give great access to inside and stays out of the way, they make one with a size zipper, I don’t like that one because the zipper is right on the side of the bag where your arms squeezes.  I have three sizes in the shop, small, extended small, and the Willie McCallum size.  I play a small.  The Willie size is very popular since Willie designed it to be like a medium in the back with some extra room for your tubes and moisure control system but narrower in the front for better comfort and ergonomics.  It’s slightly too large for me, but a very popular size.  Probably my best-selling size.  I don’t stock the medium or large size bags since they are really way too big for anyone.

Install stocks into the bag, insert from inside, wet the inside of the grommet (don’t use soap or oil), push through, tugging is okay, bags are strong!

Check it’s flush on the inside.

Repeat for tenors.

Install water tube trap, hemped up goes into bag into bottom of blowpipe stock.  Easier to fit it before stock is installed to bag.

Waxed nylon lacing and dental floss — better than hemp!

Install blowpipe stock.

Next install chanter stock — no grommet, use ‘O’ ring and hose clamp and black tape.

Use tape as a gasket helps seal.

Use tape on outside too to protect bag from clamp.

Wide tape again over clamp to protect bag cover.

Now extra tape over the grommet joints.

Attach the dri-flo tubes to the rubber cups.

Use some zipper lube the first time you close the zipper.  Not needed to seal but reduces wear and tear on the zipper and makes it easier to open and close.

Favorite mouthpiece is the Ayrshire Bagpipes mouthpiece with built-in valve — typical rubber valves attached to the bottom of the blowpipe and easily damaged, but this one is inside so totally out of harm’s way, seals great.  This one is the oval mouthpiece which I love, not sure if they make this any more.

Rubber mouthpiece protector — from comes with the Perfect Angle Blowpipe Positioner.

Thicker and tighter.  To install, use some water.  Or even easier use this tool called spreader pliers or ring opening pliers — like pliers but goes reverse and opens.

Next install Perfect Angle™ Blowpipe Positioner — allows you to position the blowpipe in perfect angle and position so it sits comfortably in the mouth and doesn’t fly away.  Very popular!  

O’Ring with buckles on blowpipe stock.  ‘O’ rings with the black webbing on bass and tenor.  Attach the buckles.  You’ll adjust this later when the pipes are being played, simply shorten them to pull the blowpipe toward the head.  Ideally let got with mouth and sits right there.

Now hemping up the blowpipe joint.  Many pipers use hemp which is really linen thread, even with the wax it’s not very waterproof, gets soaked here because of so much moisture from breath. It disintegrates and rots, and dries and shrinks and swells up, etc.

For years I’ve used a combination of dental floss and waxed nylon lacing tape.

It’s like dental floss but thicker.  Waxes, doesn’t swell or shrink and lasts pretty much forever…

See how I start the wrapping, first strand lengthwise, hold with thumb and then wrap over it. No knot.  Holds nice and tight.  Put some tension to keep it snug and sealed to the pipes. Don’t want it to separate and then you have spinning hemp and have to start over.  Also keep some space there, don’t go to either end.  As it is pressed down it spreads out and this gives some room.

Use dental floss for the last little bit to get the tightness perfect.  Note: any newly-hemped joint of the slide may get loose over the first few days or weeks, this is normal as the material compresses down, just add a few more wraps, eventually it will be perfect and stable.

Now: drone cords.  Two models, wool or silk.  Silk seems to be more popular these days.  Solid colors or multi colors.  Pick something that matches or doesn’t!

I use these tiny cable ties.  Easy to install and remove and holds very tight.  I think traditionally they used needle and thread but I haven’t done that in years.

Start at the outside tenor.  Make sure the length is right, not too long. I like 4 or 5 inches from the edge of the drone top.  Use cable ties, keep it tight so cord stays in the cord holder groove.  Keep it snug, the drone will turn.  Pull cable ties tight so they don’t slide.

Next move to the Middle Tenor, make sure cords are twisted.  I like 6 inches or so.  In older photos it was wider, but most pipers like the narrower spacing since it keeps the drones more compact. Easier to keep on your shoulder, not pull away from you.

Next bass middle section.  Same 6 inches so it looks even.  No cord holder here so just attach with a little bit of looseness here.

Now to the bass top.  Again make sure not twisted or knotted.  Keep a little bit of slack so you can take pipes apart.

Snip off the excess from cable ties.  Careful not to cut the cords!

Last thing we need to do is knot the cords, but first I’ll hemp up the top tuning slide.  Again using the thumb and holding the end vertical and wrapping over the end.  Wrap and test the first, wrap and test, etc.  When pretty close, I get a perfect fit with dental floss.  Wrap, test, then trim the end.  I don’t knot it.  The wax holds it in.  easier to remove some if you need to, just find the loose end.

The knot!  A lot of these drone cords have too much length to them especially since we are spacing them closer these days, so a very cool stylish look and way to use up some excess length is with 1 or 2 knots.

Take the loose end with the tassel and do a simple overhand knot on itself but going around the cord that’s attached to the drone.  It looks pretty and will slide up and down.  I like to do a second knot and have them right next to each other, it looks super cool.

Back to drones.

Great, so now you have unpacked your pipes, attached your dri- flo moisture control system, and your Bannatyne hybrid pipe bag with the water trap tube and bottle, attached your mouthpiece with vale and rubber mouthpiece protector that comes with your Perfect Angle™ Blowpipe Positioner.  You know how to wrap a joint and slide with waxed nylon lacing tape and finish it off with dental floss — for a tougher, longer lasting, moisture resistant fit.  And I’ve shown you how to install your drone cords with the perfect spacing and that lovely little knot for a classic stylish look that’s the perfect length.

In my next video, we’ll complete the bagpipe building process and I’ll show you how to thread your drone reed seats so your drone reeds never fall out, and how to install a new set of drone reeds.  We’ll set up the pipe chanter, Tone Protector Humidity Controlling Reed Cap, and look at selecting reeds from the Tone Protector reed case.  Finally, I’ll show you the secrets for oiling your pipes.  

I’ve put links to everything in this video in the description below, including all of the supplies and tools I’ve used.  Remember, everything in this video is exactly the same way I set up my own pipes and everything is something I recommend.  One of the secrets to playing well and enjoying your piping more is pipes that are set up to sound great, feel great to play, and stay in tune.  So check out the links below for all of these great items.

And please check out the YouTube channel for part 2 and for all of my other great videos.  I created to help you achieve your dream to be a piper, regardless of your age, previous experience, or where you live in the world.  So make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel and click the notification bell to stay updated when we post new videos.  When you subscribe, it lets YouTube know that you like my videos and it helps me grow the channel by recommending my videos to other pipers who might find them useful, too.

For additional free resources, including videos, lessons, and guides, make sure to head over to And download my free pdf guide called “How to Achieve a World-Class Bagpipe Sound,” — the link is in the description below. 

If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below. 

If you are looking to take your piping to the next level, please check out my Inner Circle.  With your membership, you gain full access to the very best at This includes weekly live interactive online classes for pipers for all skill levels led by me and World Champion guest instructors. You’ll also get access to my exclusive lesson library filled with hundreds of videos, lessons, tunes, exercises, demonstrations, and more covering EVERY topic in piping from music theory to technique to tuning maintenance set up and so much more. And you get personalized support from me to help you reach your piping goals. To find out more about joining my Inner Circle, please visit

Thanks and Happy Piping

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Part 2 Transcript:  Today I’m going to finish assembling a set of bagpipes from scratch — taking them from a pile of parts and components and building a set of pipes that is 100% ready to play.  This is the second video of this series.  So if you just watched the first part, welcome back.  If you want to go back and watch from the beginning, the link to the first video is in the description below.  

In the first video, I guided you through the initial setup of assembling your bagpipes, which included unboxing, tying on the pipe bag, installing both the water trap and dri-flo moisture control system, and setting up the blowpipe, rubber mouthpiece protector and valve. I also showed you how to attach the Perfect Angle Blowpipe Positioner, how to fit the drone cords for, and how to wrap the joints and tuning slides, discussing the benefits of different materials like waxed hemp, dental floss, and waxed nylon.

In today’s video we’ll finish setting up the pipes, starting with threading the drone reed seats to secure the drone reeds firmly in place, how to install a fresh set of Ezeedrone reeds, setting up the new Blackwood Infinity pipe chanter with the Tone Protector, and how to pick reeds from your Tone Protector Reed Case.  For the final set, I’ll show the exact way that I oil my pipes to protect them from the elements and from cracking.  And I’ve included a list of links in the description below for all the supplies and tools used in this video, so you have everything you need to assemble your pipes accurately on your own.

So let’s get right to it!

Whenever I get a new set of pipes, I like to set them up myself so they’re just how I want them. There are lots of different options you can choose for your pipes, and everything I show you here is EXACTLY what I use for my own pipes and what I recommend for you.

The set we’re working with today came as “sticks only” from the bagpipe maker, which means it includes the drones, blowpipe, and five stocks, but they weren’t put together and nothing was hemped up. So, the next thing I’m going to do is hemp them up.

Waxed nylon lacing which is like dental floss but thicker.  It’s strong and lasts forever.  Floss thinner or final layer to get perfect fit.

Leave some room at the end of the pin so it doesn’t fall off the end.  For joints, leave room at both ends and base so there’s room to spread out.

I like to mark the outside and middle tenors so they don’t get switched accidentally.  Sharpie works.

Next install the drone reeds.  The set I’m using here is my favorite.  

Rubber gasket, okay but not great. Loose and not all the way in.

Remove the rubber, it fits all the way in with room for some hemp or floss to get a perfect fit.

The next thing I like to do is thread my drone reed seats.  This requires a special tool which actually cuts a screw thread into the reed seat.  I’ve done this with hundreds of sets of pipes — all of my sets and sets for students and customers.  You can do it, you just the need right tools and take it carefully.  If your pipes are new and under warranty, this might void your warranty but I’ve never worried about that.  

The way it works is the tool called a screw tap which is like a metal screw but with grooves in the sides.  You slowly and carefully screw it into the drone (this works for wood or plastic drones by the way) and you can feel it biting into the wood.  I have marked the depth of the reed on the tap with tape, there’s no use in going any deeper than that.  As you turn, you can feel resistance.  Back it out, release wood pieces, go back, and so forth.  Then back and forth many times, and will get a nice clean thread.  Unscrew.  Dump out any wood pieces.  Brush it. And you get beautiful clean threads.

I have a larger tap to the bass drone and smaller one for the tenors.  Repeat the process.  Being careful to take it slow and go back and forth.  Don’t go deeper than the tape which is exactly the depth of the hemped part of the reed that goes into the drone.

After all 3, then get cleaned up and get ready to hemp up the drone reeds.  I use dental floss.  Strong, cheap, pre-waxed.  

Then screw it into the drone.  I prefer to hold the drone reed and turn the drone.  You can screw it in tight and it will hold!!!  Trim off the end.

Then do the other two.

By threading the reed seats, your drones are very securely attached, never falling out, I think you actually get a better, more stable sound.  Many pipemakers are threading their pipe chanter reed seats to hold the chanter reeds in securely and to allow for some tuning adjustments.  For the drones, it’s really great to have the reeds firmly screwed into reed seats — since they are heavy and hanging upside down when you play.  

Every time before I play, I check the reeds and give them a little turn to make sure they are snug.

Now we have a few remaining joints to get hemped up with waxed nylon and dental floss.  I think the joints are nice and snug so they will hold firm and tight when I’m tuning my pipes.  

Now that we are done with the pipes and the drones, let’s move on to the chanter.   This here is the Infinity pipe chanter from R.G. Hardie & Co. in blackwood.  This is the world’s top of the line blackwood chanter.  If you follow and this YouTube channel, you will have seen several videos I’ve made about the Infinity chanter and all of the reasons that make it the top choice for pipers and pipe bands of all levels.

It comes in this nice case and with a standard chanter cap which you can throw out or use as  paperweight since you will be using a Tone Protector Humidity Controlling Chanter Cap to protect your reed and keep it ready to play.  It comes with two humidity packets and an extra battery.

The Tone Protector  is easy to set up, just take the digital hygrometer off the top and insert two of the humidity packets in the little space inside.  It’s tight but get them as low as you can and then just cram them in with your finger.  Then replace the hygrometer and you are ready to go.  The humility level will rise and stabilize at or around 84%

Next just add a little bit of floss or hemp to your chanter to make it nice and snug.  NEVER turn the wood chanter from anywhere except the very top bulb, it will snap.  I’ve seen it happen!

Now for a great sound with the least amount of hassle, you want to have a nice stock of high quality pipe chanter reeds and ALWAYS store them in the Tone Protector Reed Case.  Here we have some nice Foundation reeds — my favorite reed which is collaboration between me and one of the world’s top reedmakers.

Pick a good one and insert it firmly into your pipe chanter reed seat and pop the Tone Protector  cap back on and your reed will be closer to ready when you are ready to play.  Make sure to screw it in tight.

Now I like to do a last check on the tightness of the joints and slides.  Will pack down and might need to add a couple of wraps.  Joints to the stocks are tightest, bass top slide is tight, lower bass and tenors slides less tight but snug unless you move them.

Final step to getting your pipes ready to play is to oil them.

There are differing opinions about oiling pipes, some never, some do!  I never did until I got Athertons.  He recommends it especially for new pipes or pipes that haven’t been played in a long time.   

The idea is that it protects the wood from getting shocked by moisture.  Typically bagpipes crack on the outside when the inside gets wet, swells, and expands, the outside doesn’t expand so it cracks.  Regular oiling, like over 6 months or year will help prevent this.

What you need is a set of soft brushes and oil.  Two sets of brushes (moisture for regular use) second set for oiling… for the brushes R.G. Hardie & Co.  

The oil recommended by Atherton is called Bore Doctor.  It’s very thin and light.  Most of it absorbs into the wood and the rest will evaporate overnight.  I like to do this and then wait till the next day to play.

60ml will last for years.

Oil drones and stocks, not the pipe chanter.  I start with the narrow brush and get the inside narrow bores of bottom sections and the ends of the drones.   You can check to see if you are getting good coverage, shiny, not dripping.

Next, the wider brush for the top sections and middle section of bass.  I get a little on my little finger and get the insides of the bell — wider in there and brush won’t reach.  If you can reach your finger in there, get creative.

Now use brushes which are already oily and get the outsides.  Try to avoid the cords, imitation ivory mounts and metal.  Won’t be harmed but they don’t need it.

That’s it.  There will be some oil there but let them sit overnight and they will be ready to go the next day, you can put your pies together and get ready to play.

In this video and the previous, we’ve covered the complete setup of a bagpipe from scratch.  If you have questions about anything in this video, please ask them in the comments below.  If you are looking for a set of pipes and you don’t have the time or interest or experience to build your pipes yourself, I am happy to do it for you.  Please reach out to me via my website at

I’ve included links to all the supplies and tools used in this video in the description below. Everything featured here is precisely how I set up my own bagpipes, and I highly recommend each item. Properly set up bagpipes not only sound great but are also more enjoyable to play and maintain their tuning.

Don’t forget to visit the YouTube channel for part 1 and more great videos. I founded to help you achieve your piping dreams, no matter your age, experience, or where you live in the world. So, be sure to subscribe to the channel and hit the notification bell to keep up with new content. Subscribing helps me grow my channel since YouTube will be more likely to  recommend my videos to other pipers.

For more free resources, including videos, lessons, and guides, head over to Also, download my free PDF guide, “How to Achieve a World-Class Bagpipe Sound,” available in the video description below.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

If you’re ready to advance your piping skills, please join me Inner Circle. Membership grants you access to the best resources available, including weekly live classes with myself and World Champion guest instructors, an exclusive library of hundreds of videos, lessons, tunes, and more on every piping topic imaginable. You’ll also receive personalized support to help you achieve your piping goals. For more information on joining the Inner Circle, visit

Thanks for watching and Happy Piping!

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These tips are based on my 30+ years of experience as a piper and teacher to pipers of all ages and ability levels from around the world.