There comes a time in every bagpiper’s life when the winds of change blow and he or she must gather the courage to face up to the end…of your pipe bag. Yes, inevitably one will see the end of your current bag’s life and be forced to switch to something new.
These days, many makes of synthetic and natural hide bags come equipped with rubber grommets where the stocks meet the bag, substituting cord for metal clamps against rubber. It’s definitely easier and faster to put the bagpipes together this way but the grommets run the risk of failure and sometimes leak. No matter how hard you tighten the clamps, air leakage can still happen over time. The rubber sometimes does not always grip wood (or plastic) the way it should to block air under pressure. The constant worry is that it won’t hold up with regular use.
I have always been a fan of the “au natural” approach with a hide bag, tying it in the old-fashioned way with cord and muscle. It truly is the best way to guarantee a perfect airtight seal on all the joints. But man, if it isn’t a chore I would put off forever if I could. The grommet installation offers some bit of convenience but, how do guarantee the seal that is needed around all the stocks? The grommets are typically one size fits all but, all drone stocks are not the same. Time to add an extra step as a preventive measure against any future leakage.
Enter sticky-tack, poster putty, fun-tak, or whatever you want to call it. This gray or yellow or blue sticky putty comes by many names and can be found in just about every store, pharmacy, or supermarket. It’s main purpose is to stick posters to walls without nails or thumbtacks.
The putty will be used to improvise an additional layer of seal around the groove of the stocks before they go into the bag.
Cut a narrow strip of the putty and knead it in your fingers to soften. Roll out a skinny rope of the stuff long enough to wrap around the groove of your stock. Gently press it into the groove all around.
Stocks are then mounted into the bag grommets normally. Ideally, the putty will fill in any nooks and crannies or tiny spots missed by rubber. The pressure of the clamp should be sufficient to push the putty into small spaces and create a seal. If you look inside the bag, you might see a bit oozing out. I would say this is a good sign, that the putty is squeezed all around the stock and sealing it up tight.
Time will tell if this solution lasts. Right now, there is no air leaking around any of the stocks. But this is one of those tips that can only be tested over the course of active playing for a good length of time. As a preventive measure, it can’t hurt, is easy to apply, it won’t damage the wood, it’s cheap, and for peace of mind, it is worth the tiny bit of extra effort.