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How to Build Your Own Water Manometer

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If you are a member of Dojo University, or have visited the site, you have no doubt heard about a water manometer. You will also understand what a worthwhile tool it is that can help us to achieve several essential goals in piping, including blowing at the chanter reed’s sweet spot, calibrating our drone reeds, and helping us to learn steady blowing. While you can buy a ready-made manometer from the Piper’s Dojo, it takes minimum effort to make your own.

The following supplies should be readily available at most hardware or home improvement stores:

1) 15 to 16 feet of 3/8-inch clear tubing
2) One Black rubber stopper, not cork, that fits snugly into the top of one of your tenor drones.
3) One brass or plastic straight tubing connector that will go through the length of the stopper.
4) One plastic tubing “elbow” to prevent a “kink” at the top of the manometer.
5) 3-4 plastic zip ties to secure the tubing to itself.

Double about five feet of the tubing back onto itself and lightly secure the tubing together with 3 to 4 zip ties. Be careful not to pull the ties so taught that the tubing becomes pinched or restricted. Cut off about 5 to 6 feet of the tubing and insert the “elbow” into the cut end. Then insert one end of the tubing you just cut into the other end of the elbow. This elbow is critical to prevent kinking of the tubing because the weight of the manometer will be at this “bend” of the tubing. See Photo 1.

Plastic Elbow

The last step is to drill a hole through the stopper into which the straight connector is placed. With a drill bit slightly smaller than the tubing connector, carefully drill down through the length of the rubber stopper. Be careful to stay in the middle of the stopper as much as possible. See Photo 2.

Brass tubing connector and rubber stopper

Press the brass or plastic connector down through the tubing, but leave enough of the connector so that you can put enough hemp on it to fit snugly into the end of the tubing. See Photo 3.

Stopper with hemp over the connector

It is ok if the connector stops at the end of the tubing. Just be sure that is nothing to restrict air flow. Congratulations! You have just made your first manometer.

Pour some water into the manometer from the open end of the tubing, (not the stopper end!) so that there’s about 3 feet of water going up both sides of the tubing. This should be enough liquid so that it is unlikely to “blow” the water all over your ceiling! You might be tempted to add food coloring to make the water more visible, but you might also end up with an irksome clean up job ahead. Instead of water, a blue colored window cleaner works great for enhanced visibility. Hang the manometer in a convenient location on a wall or a door. The hang spot is from the plastic elbow, See Photo 4.

Water manometer

Insert the stopper end of the tubing securely into the top of a tenor drone. Any drone will do, but the outside tenor because of its easier access. Also, for more accurate “readings”, it is advisable to remove the drone reed from the drone. This assures that there is nothing obstructing the flow of air anywhere from the inside of the pipe bag, all the way to the liquid.

The manometer works by allowing the air pressure from inside the bag, up through the drone, and into the tubing, where the air pressure then “pushes” down on the liquid, making it rise up on the other side. You're now ready to employ an excellent tool for diagnosing and improving your sound production on the bagpipe. There are several videos here at Dojo U to instruct you in manometer use and how to get the most out of it.

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Advanced Manometer Use
Produce Great Tone With a Manometer

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John Holcombe John began piping at the ripe old age of 55 years. Always liking the sound of the bagpipes, John grew up in Oklahoma, where he never had a chance early on to experience firsthand this amazing instrument. But after moving to Indianapolis, he had the great fortune in 2004 to begin lessons with Craig Waugh, and Open Grade piper originally from Manitoba, Canada. Through that outstanding instruction, along with annual attendance at Jack Lee’s Piping Hot Summer Drummer and being a founding and continuing premium member of Dojo University, John has continued through hard work and determination to advance his knowledge and technical skills. As a retired research physician, John now enjoys immersing himself in piping, and he is proud to have won several first place medals in Grade 4 competitions in EUSPBA-sanctioned events. John’s current goal is to achieve the Grade 3 level of competence.

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