Vintage Bagpipe Archive

Photos and descriptions of all instruments featured
since October 2010

  • Henderson, cocuswood, silver and ivory, circa 1890s

    This is one of the old sets of Hendersons we’ve had on the vintage page.

    The pipes are cocuswood, mounted in ivory and elegantly engraved silver. The silver is not hallmarked, and the silver ferrules have seams, both evidence of the pipes having been made around or before the turn of the century.

    The engraving is light and tasteful, and the silver shines up beautifully. The ivory is in spectacular shape.

    The tone is vintage Henderson — full, rich, and, unlike the ferrules, seamless.

    There were hairine cracks in one tenor top, one tenor stock, the blowstick stock, and at the very bottom of the bass stock. These have been invisible whipped. Cocuswood is more difficult to match than blackwood or ebony, so the recombed sections show the repairs slightly, though I like to think it has been tastefully done.

    The original chanter stock was too badly split to salvage, so the mount was put on a blackwood replica stock. The seam on one tenor ferrule has separated slightly, but this is visible only up close.

    This is a pretty special set. Perhaps that should go without saying.

  • Henry Starck, full ivory, 1923

    Henry Starck was a descendant of a long line of 19th-century German woodwind makers. He emigrated to London in the 1880s where the Queen’s Piper, William Ross, convinced him to begin making pipes for him. Making bagpipes proved lucrative, and several generations of Starcks continued the business into the 1960s, still using Ross’s name on their pipes.

    Henry and his son, also Henry, were marvellous makers, and pipemakers today still hold Starck pipes up as icons of craftsmanship. Listeners are often surprised to discover that a full and rich set of Henderson-like pipes they are hearing is in fact a Starck.

    This set is blackwood, mounted in full ivory. According to a previous owner who knows the history, they were made in 1923. The pipes are in pristine condition, and the ivory is immaculate. They were likely refinished at some point, but there is no evidence of a crack or repair anywhere. The two tenors don’t appear perfectly identical. They certainly look like the same maker from the same time period. The reedseats were threaded at some point in the recent past.

    Each tuning pin is stamped “H. Starck, Late W. Ross, London.” The stamps are visible in some of the photos.

    The tone of these pipes is big and buzzy — Starck hallmarks. They are steady. They tune in the right places. They are superb.

  • David Thow, pre-1916, ebony, ivory, plain silver slides, set #2

    The Thow pipemaking company made instruments from 1861-1953, starting with the patriarch, John, and followed by his son David, who took the company over when John died in 1879. The chanter is labelled “David Thow, Dundee.” David died in 1916, so these pipes could have been made anytime between 1879 and 1916. David and John Thow were superb pipemakers, contempory with the MacDougalls and Centers, and made pipes of comparable quality.

    These pipes have been in storage for who knows how long, as evidenced by the very uneven staining on the ivory. The pipes are ebony with full ivory mounts and plain silver slides, unhallmarked.

    There were no cracks in the pipes themselves, though the chanter had been broken and primitively whipped. This has been completely restored, but the drones required no work at all, not even refinishing. There is some spider-cracking on the ivory, but this is cosmetic, and none of the pieces is threatened. As seen in the photos, the cord guides and the sleeved ivory ferrules on the tuning chambers are quite distinctive, the latter being adopted by William Sinclair.

    The pipes are not as full as a MacDougall set, but not as mellow as most David Glen pipes. The tone is rich, refined and steady without being overpowering. The drones tune slightly lower on the pins that some other sets, so this set would be particularly suited to someone playing a flatter pitch. The chanter plays, but would be a challenge to reed consistently.

    Thow pipes are rare, and are should be viewed as one of the prime pipes made in their day.

  • Silver and ivory R. G Hardie, hallmarked 1967

    This Hardie set was made in 1967 and came to me in excellent shape, so I have left the original finish intact. Though there was no original chanter sole, all other pieces, including the mouthpiece bulb and sleeve, are original

    This set was fairly robust as Hardie pipes go. While I find Hardie pipes a bit “mellow” for my taste, I quite liked this set. It was certainly not a booming old Lawrie, but it was rich and locked nicely into tune.

    There are a couple of very minor dings in the silver that can just be seen in the photos of the caps, and a couple of scuffs in the finish, so I’ve tried to make this set as affordable as possible for someone who might like a nice silver and ivory set without the usual price tag. I often find Hardie sets like this suit adult pipers looking for an attractive instrument that is easy to reed, easy to tune, and steady.

    The silver pattern on this set is quite unusual for Hardie pipes: hand engraved rather than machine.

  • Circa 1890s, unknown ebony, ivory mounts, new engraved silver slides

    This set is a bit mysterious and with a rich, deep tone. They are ebony, and mounted in full ivory. The profiles and the ivory patina, slim stocks and slender beads suggest a date in the 1890s. The original slides were plain silver but badly dented and marked, so they have been replaced by new engraved slides with a Runic pattern.

    A visible crack in the bass top has been invisible whipped and is undetectable. A hairline crack in on tenor top was similarly whipped, as was the chanter stock. The blowpipe stock is new and poly lined. The ferrule on the chanter stock was missing, so a similar ivory ferrule was found, and the bead turned down slightly to match. There is a crack in the blowpipe ferrule that has been crudely filled, but left in order not to damage the mount.

    The set has some Henderson and Lawrie visual characteristics, but the tone is not as full as these makes. These are not quiet pipes but the tone and steadiness is exceptional, and typical of old ebony pipes in the Center or MacDougall tradition.

    The pipes have been refinished. There is lots of character and tonal excellence in this set. They have everything — except a name.

  • Circa 1920s Lawrie, ebony, full ivory, engraved silver slides

    This set of circa 1920s Lawries in ebony has full ivory mounts and engraved Sterling silver tuning slides. Though the slides display the typical “RGL” maker’s mark, there are no date marks. However, the previous owner had the pipes pegged at the 1920s, and the use of ebony and the patina of the ivory along with a few spider lines on the projecting mounts would easily support this.

    The bass top section had a very visible crack that has been sealed and whipped, and while it can still just barely be seen up very close, it will pose no problems. The chanter stock and one tenor stock exhibited hairline cracks and have also been whipped. However, the wood is of exceptional quality and in exceptional condition and all pieces ran true on the lathe. The cracking is very typical of an ebony set of this age — almost impossible to avoid, but worth the added tonal qualities of ebony.

    The blowstick stock is a poly-lined reproduction with the orignal mount. The remaining stocks may or may not be original — they are ebony and a perfect match to the set — but the ivory mounts are not original, with three in one style and two slightly different. However, the patina matches the mounts on the drones perfectly, and the overall effect is pretty seamless. The entire set has been refinished.

    The tone matches the elegant look of the pipes — rich and full, though not booming. They are steady, they tune in the right places, and they blend well with the chanter. It’s a well used but beautiful set with classic Lawrie tonal character.

  • Duncan MacDougall, Edinburgh, circa 1860s, ebony, full ivory

    This Duncan MacDougall bagpipe is in remarkable condition, given its age. The middle bass drone joint is stamped “D. McDougall Edinr” just below the projecting mount. The “Edinr” is actually upside down below the maker’s name, a typical trait of this period. The stamp is clearly visible in the enlarged photo of the upper projecting mounts, bottom left. While it is difficult to know exactly where Duncan MacDougall lived at all times during the 1860s and early 1870s, a bagpipe stamped ‘Edinburgh’ can generally be thought of as having been made in the mid to late 1860s. This set was in the possession of the previous owner since 1978. Before that, they were part of the estate of Brodie Castle in Forres, Scotland.

    The bagpipe is ebony and fully mounted in lovely ivory. All pieces are original except for the blowstick and blowstick stock. The stock has its original ferrule, and the blowstick has an almost perfect replica mount in ivory. You would not guess these pieces are not original without knowing.

    As is typical of pipes with brass linings in the drone tuning chambers, hairline cracks have appeared adjacent to them on the tenor drone tops. There is no leakage, and these have been invisible whipped to prevent future problems.

    The pipes were refinished by the previous owner.

    The tone is classic Duncan. Though it is not a booming sound, the richness, the blend, and the timbre of the bass drone result in a sound that fills the room.

  • Circa 1960 R. G. Hardie with Henderson bores, full ivory, set #1

    This set of circa 1960 Hardie full-ivories has been rebored with pre-1940s Henderson bores.

    Bob Hardie’s pipes were well crafted and he used superb wood. They are favoured by pipers wanting a quieter pipe, and as a result aren’t as popular as pipes with a fuller sound. I asked the Henderson experts at Dunbar Bagpipes (Jack Dunbar worked at the Henderson shop in the 1940s) to rebore these Hardies according to the old Henderson specs. Only the internal specs of the bells were untouched. The bass bottom joint is a slightly smaller diameter than Henderson so it tunes a bit higher on the pin. The result has been as I’d hoped, with a much fuller drone sound, but still steady and easy to reed.

    The set is mounted in full ivory that is in excellent shape but for a bit of staining and chipping on the caps. The sticks were were excellent condition and have been refinished. The blowpipe was missing, so a replica was made in poly-lined blackwood with an old matching ivory mount.

    I’m pleased with how this rebore experiment has turned out, and will replicate it with other Hardie sets. It matches excellent aged wood with the resonating Henderson internal specifications.

  • Robertson, circa 1940, ebony and blackwood, ivory and nickel

    This is an interesting James Robertson set, in that it is a mix of ebony and blackwood, suggesting a date of manufacture of around 1940 or a bit earlier. The ivory projecting mounts are Robertson’s distinctive design; the ferrules are nickel. The chanter is likely original to the set.

    The bass and blowpipe stock match the set, while the chanter and tenor stocks may be replacements, though not readily apparent to the untrained eye.

    All other pieces are original. There are no cracks or repairs, and just a couple of tiny age chips in the ivory. The pipes have been refinished.

    The sound is typical of Robertson consistency: big, bold and steady.

  • WW1-era Lawries, ebony, full ivory

    What I was struck by more than anything with these pipes was the steadiness. The first set of reeds I tried in them locked in right away, and even though the chanter reed sharpened up and I eased off to compensate, the drones stayed locked. The tone was full and smooth: typical Lawrie/Henderson of this vintage.

    The pipes are lovely dark ebony that has been beautifully refinished. The ivory is lovely, though slightly stained and spider-lined here and there. It is in good condition but for one chip on the blowpipe projecting mount. The chanter stock had slight a slight crack that became apparent after the finish was removed, and has been invisible whipped. The ivory ferrule from the chanter stock was missing. Another old ivory Lawrie ferrule has been installed to replace it.

    There is not much more to say about this set. It is an elegant full ivory set in ebony, beautifully restored by Dunbar Bagpipe Makers. The sound and steadiness would win prizes at the highest levels, or suit the hobby piper who just wants trouble-free tone!

  • Circa 1900 John Center, ebony, ivory mounts, nickel ferrules

    John Center was initially a professional photographer with a keen eye who began making pipes in Edinburgh in 1869. His son James joined him in the business later. The family moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1908 where they continued to make pipes. John died in 1913, and James died a young man in 1919 of the Spanish flu epidemic. A leading player, Jimmy Center was commemorated in Willie Ross’s superb jig, “Center’s Bonnet.”

    John Center was renown for his workmanship and refined sound. This set is typical, with meticulous turning, lovely ivory mounts, and a tone which is steady and seamless, but not booming — not as quiet as David Glen’s pipes, and not quite as big as Duncan MacDougall’s best sets, but similar in timbre and steadiness.

    All drone pieces in this set are in excellent condition. The bass stock had fine cracks that have been sealed and invisible whipped. The blowstick stock is a reproduction in blackwood with a poly lining and the original mount. The blowpipe appears to be an old Henderson, and the chanter stock is an old replacement with a slightly different combing pattern.

    This is a pleasing old piece of history, both aesthetically and tonally.

  • Dave Atherton “MD” MacDougall reproduction, 2012, blackwood, full holly-mounted, engraved silver slides

    With all due respect to the rest of today’s craftsmen, Dave Atherton was the finest modern bagpipe maker I’ve ever seen. His acoustical knowledge and his obsessive attention to detail resulted in a remarkable instrument that holds its own against some of the great vintage bagpipes. His brief career, which ended this past summer for personal reasons, has left around 170 instruments worldwide that have immediately become collectors’ items.

    Though he made many instruments for C. E. Kron during the early 2000s, the Duncan MacDougall reproduction he created when he was in business for himself in Chicago is his masterpiece. I was fortunate enough to work closely with Dave during the development of this model and can attest to the care and knowledge that went into every set. This set, made this year in African blackwood with full holly mounts and engraved silver slides, is a superb example of his work.

    The blowpipe stock is poly (as was Dave’s style) and the blowpipe is a brass-lined, blackwood stick.

    The tone of this set is full and all-encompassing. It is more aggressive than Henderson pipes, and belies the myth that Duncan MacDougall pipes were subdued, a myth perhaps resulting from so many David Glen sets being mis-identified as MacDougalls, likely for fraudulent reasons.

    As an aside, when I played in the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band at the World Pipe Band Championship in 2008, I played an early Atherton MD set. The band’s drone tuners — both prominent pipers — came to me at one point asking what drones I was playing. I told them and they remarked that they were the steadiest in the band and the most vibrant to the touch. “I can feel the wood shaking in my hands as I’m tuning,” said one. I thought that was a remarkable thing to hear, given the calibre of player and bagpipes in that remarkable band.

  • Suspected William Gunn, circa 1850, cocuswood, full ivory

    William Gunn lived from 1789 to 1867 and, according to Jeannie Campbell, he made pipes in Edinburgh from 1834 to 1866. He was a competing piper and published The Caledonian Repository of Bagpipe Music in Edinburgh in 1848, a significant book republished by the National Piping Centre quite recenlty. He also composed the piobaireachd “The Gunn’s Salute,” which was published by William Ross and has been set for the piobiareachd competitions at Oban and Inverness in recent years.

    This gorgeous cocuswood and ivory set was purchased as a Donald MacDonald set, but after consulting several expert colleagues, the possibility of Gunn as the maker was raised. The barely visible remnants of a stamp on one tuning pin clearly show a “W” at the start of the first line — and not much else — confirming the possibility that William Gunn may be the maker.

    The pipes have been meticulously refurbished at some point in recent decades. The wood may have been slightly sanded to remove imperfections, and the ivory lightly buffed. All pieces are original, except for the bass ring, which has just been replaced with an ivory reproduction. One projecting mount has at some point been chipped, but the original piece has been glued back in place. This and a small gap in one other ring are the only imperfections on the set.

    UPDATE: In late June and early July I spent three weeks playing these pipes with a variety of reeds and found them tonally exceptional: robust, rich and buzzy, and extremely steady, very much in the Duncan MacDougall tradition. It is tonally almost identical to my #2 bagpipe, a cocuswood J&R Glen set circa 1870s (soon to be pictured on this page), so I have decided to pass this one on. My #1 bagpipe remains the silver and ivory Donald MacPhee set, also shown on this page.

  • 1903 Henderson, hallmarked plain silver, ivory

    This is a tremendous Henderson set, but unusual in that plain silver Hendersons of this era are uncommon.

    The pipes are in spectacular shape for their age. One tenor tuning pin had a hairline crack that has been sealed. The original blowpipe bulb had been butchered to create a hack extendable contraption, but the blowpipe stick was able to be perfectly restored. The ivory is nicely aged and in immaculate condition.

    The tuning chambers were gently reamed to even up the tuning action and the pipes were stripped and refinished.

    The tone is that great old robust, smooth-as-silk Henderson sound with their legendary steadiness and dominant bass. Classic.

    This combination of age, tone, condition and character is hard to come by.

  • 1979 R. G. Hardie, hallmarked engraved silver, ivory, rebored to Henderson specs

    This set of circa 1979 silver and ivory Hardies has been rebored to pre-1940s Henderson bores.

    Bob Hardie’s pipes were well crafted and he used superb wood. They are known for being steady but quiet, which some pipers prefer. However, in keeping with the current trend toward fuller sounding drones, I asked the Henderson experts at Dunbar Bagpipes (Jack Dunbar worked at the Henderson shop in the 1940s) to rebore these Hardies according to the old Henderson specs. Only the internal specs of the bells were untouched. The bass bottom joint is a slightly smaller diameter than Henderson so it will tune a bit higher on the pin. The result has been a much fuller drone sound, still steady and easy to reed.

    This bagpipe is in almost perfect condition, though the blowpipe is new blackwood (poly-lined), with a Lawrie mount turned down slightly to match the Hardie.

    Reboring to Henderson specs gave this lovely set a robust and steady Henderson sound — it’s a different bagpipe. Here’s your chance to own a large bore silver and ivory bagpipe at a great price.

  • Stamped William Ross (Queen’s Piper), in ebony, full ivory, brass inserts, cocuswood chanter

    Hot on the heels of the historic silver and ivory Donald MacPhee set shown below is this marvellous set by William Ross, the Queen’s Piper. This is another remarkable set that will likely remain part of the permanent collection.

    William Ross was a monumental piping figure during the latter half of the 19th-century. He was born in 1823, and died in 1891, having held the position of Queen’s Piper to Queen Victoria since Angus Mackay’s death in 1854. His 1869 publication of piobaireachd and light music, called “Pipe Music” is one of the most significant collections of the century.

    The exact history of his pipemaking business is not clear. He was a very clever businessman and very well-to-do as a result. Jeannie Campbell tells us he made the prize pipe at Inverness from 1873 to 1886. However, it is thought that he was not a turner himself and hired turners to make his pipes for him. From about 1880 onwards, he used Henry Starck, whose family had immigrated to London from Germany many years earlier. This would mark the beginning of the Starck pipemaking business, and the pipes made by the company for the next 30 years would be their best.

    After Ross’s death, Starck would stamp his pipes “H. Starck/late W. Ross.” It is thought that sets stamped only “W. Ross” were the earliest, turned while Ross was actively involved in the business.

    Starck was meticulous about stamping his instruments, often in several places, and this set is stamped “W. Ross” on each stock. The distinctive projecting mounts are typical of Starck’s wide shapes, though shallower and using a softer, rounded bead rather than the straight cut bead he would use later on. The tuning chambers have brass slides installed.

    All pieces appear to be original, though the blowstick is missing. The chanter is cocuswood, and while it may not be original to the set, it too is stamped “W. Ross.”

    The set had several cracks, only two of which required whipping. The chanter was a mess, but is now immaculate. Kudos to Dunbar Bagpipe Maker for a remarkable restoration of this instrument, which now should have another 100 years of life left in it.

    The tone of this set is typical of the earliest Starcks: big, robust and buzzy. They are as steady as a rock and a joy to play and behold.

  • Unknown ebony set, full ivory, circa 1890s

    This set was sold to me by a Scottish pipemaker as an 1880s cocuswood set, “possibly MacDougall.” One would expect a pipemaker to know wood, but in fact they are ebony, likely circa 1890s, and, if anything, possibly early Lawries. The Lawrie moniker is an educated guess, by a fellow vintage afficionado who has a great eye for shapes and lines. In fact, the tone is quite similar to a circa-1900 ebony/celluloid Lawrie set that was once owned by Captain John MacLellan and sold on this site a few months ago. The sound is rich and very steady, but not the big, full Lawrie/Henderson sound. If you like a mid-range volume set of drones with old Lawrie quality, this set is a good candidate.

    Being ebony, there were some hairline cracks, and, being ebony, I take no chances with these. Ebony does not glue as well as blackwood, so both tenor tops and the blowpipe have been invisible whipped. The ebony stocks have been replaced by blackwood, with the orignal ivory mounts. The ivory mount on the chanter stock was reclaimed from another stock. The blowpipe stock was missing; the new stock is poly lined and has an imitation ivory mount.

    This is not an unusual amount of restoration for a pre-1900 ebony set of pipes, and the end result is a distinctive old pipe with a lovely, steady tone. A piobaireachd player would like this set.

  • Thow of Dundee, 1909, silver and ivory, ebony

    Here is another set of old ebony pipes that comes to the site with some repaired flaws but a brilliant, steady tone. Made by David Thow of Dundee, the pipes are ebony with silver and ivory mounts. The silver is not hallmarked, but the last owner said he purchased the pipes as having been made in 1909, and the aged look of the ivory and the use of ebony would support that.

    John Thow and his son David were remarkable pipemakers in the 50 years on either side of 1900. Their pipes are often mistaken for Gavin MacDougall for various reasons, including the superb tone and the wide cord guides; however, the stylings around the cord guides and on the ivory work on the end caps are distinct Thow traits. Robert Gillanders worked for both MacDougall and Thow (as well as for Center) in the years after 1900, so there are common elements in some of these makers’ pipes. For some reason — perhaps the consistent lack of makers’ stamps — Thow gets short shrift and his pipes are given other well known names, like MacDougall. In short, the three ebony Thow sets on this site at present are gems being sadly ignored for want of a bigger name.

    One tenor top on this set was a hack replacement, but both original mounts were in the box, so a replica tenor top has been made in ebony, matching the second original top and using the original mounts. One tenor bottom and the bass stock had hairline cracks, so these were invisible whipped since they are ebony (ebony doesn’t glue as reliably as blackwood). The chanter stock is a replacement, and the blowpipe stock was also whipped. The ivory is lovely. The silver is not of the highest grade and the ferrules are open rather than closed, but the overall effect is quite nice.

    The drones play beautifully — steady, robust, and with a wide tuning range that keeps pipes steady.

  • Circa 1960 R. G. Hardie, rebored to Henderson specs, full ivory, set #2

    This set of circa 1960 Hardie full-ivories has been rebored with pre-1940s Henderson bores.

    Bob Hardie’s pipes were well crafted and he used superb wood. They are favoured by pipers wanting a quieter pipe, and as a result aren’t as popular as pipes with a fuller sound. I asked the Henderson experts at Dunbar Bagpipes (Jack Dunbar worked at the Henderson shop in the 1940s) to rebore these Hardies according to the old Henderson specs. Only the internal specs of the bells were untouched. The bass bottom joint is a slightly smaller diameter than Henderson so it tunes a bit higher on the pin. The result has been as I’d hoped, with a much fuller drone sound, but still steady and easy to reed.

    This bagpipe was in almost perfect condition, and appears to have been played for only a short time. There are some almost imperceptible chips on a couple of the projecting mounts. The finish is original. The blowpipe was missing, so a polypenco-lined blackwood blowpipe was made to match and an old ivory projecting mount turned down a bit to match.

    Since reboring, this pristine pipe is robust and much more Henderson-like than the orginal, mellow tone.

    Email me about this set.

  • 1925 Henderson, full ivory, engraved silver slides

    This is a tonally spectacular set of full ivory Henderson pipes with engraved silver slides.

    The slides are not hallmarked; however, the mouthpiece tube is hallmarked 1925. The mouthpiece tube is well worn, and it’s hard to tell if it matches the slides. It’s possible that the slides were added later, but the pipes themselves are certainly of the same vintage as the mouthpiece tube: easily 1920s or earlier.

    Because the pipes didn’t need to be refinished, the identity of the wood couldn’t be determined for sure. They aren’t ebony. They appear to be blackwood, but in good light they have a distinct reddish cocuswood tinge.

    The pipes are in superb condition, showing no cracks or repairs and only some very normal, minor chipping to the mounts.

    The tone is big and bold, rich and locked-in steady: really classic Henderson.

  • John Center, circa 1890s, cocuswood, ivory

    Many vintage aficionados consider John Center one of the greatest pipemakers, ranking in both tone and craftsmanship along with Duncan MacDougall, David Glen and Henry Starck. He made pipes in Edinburgh from 1869 to 1908, moving with his son James to Melbourne in the last few years of his life.

    He favoured cocuswood as the material of choice for his sticks. His pipes are superbly crafted, and display a refined, buzzy tone about half way been the more robust MacDougall and the subdued Glen. The bass is full and dominant, and the pipes are very steady.

    This set is pristine but for the blowstick, which was missing and has been replaced with an ebony replica. While the set has been refinished, there are no cracks or repairs. The mounts are ivory, and the pipes come with the original chanter displaying maker’s the name as “J Center Edinburgh.”

    The set is a gorgeous artifact and a lovely instrument.

    Email me about this set.

    As shown, sticks only, with original chanter
    CAD $3,250, plus shipping

    Set up to play – Ross Bag, MCC2 solo blackwood chanter, Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
    CAD $3,900 plus shipping

  • William Sinclair & Son, 1976, fully mounted in boxwood

    William Sinclair began making pipes in the 1930s, and the firm is still going strong in Edinburgh under the direction of old Willie’s grandson. The company is renown for the quality of its pipes and chanters, and has long owned a position as one of the great modern pipemakers.

    This set was made in 1976, and was remounted in boxwood several years ago by pipemaker Tim Gellaitry, who in fact made pipes for Sinclair for many years. You could hardly make a better choice for reproducing Sinclair mounts. Tim also refinished the pipes at that time.

    The pipes are in immaculate condition, with no cracks or repairs. All pieces are original

    Sinclair tone is robust and steady. This set was easy to reed and behaved as expected. i’ve not encountered another boxwood-mounted Sinclar set. There may be others, but they are rare.

    This is a great “all-natural” pipe with a strong predigree.

  • Circa 1930 Starcks in cocuswood, full ivory

    Though not stamped, this set shows the very distinctive half-circle beading typical of Starck. It doesn’t show the large, rounded, billiard-ball projecting mounts. This and the use of cocuswood, suggest a manufacturing date ten years on either side of 1930.

    All drone pieces are original. The bass stock and the chanter stock are replacements, with two old ivory ferrules slightly turned to match the originals. The blowstick is not original to the set, but has been turned in a matching colour and with an ivory mount. Some ivory gaps have been patched. The ferrule on one tenor drone appears to have had a large piece broken off cleanly at some point and glued back into place. Though the join is quite visible, it is solid and should not come loose with normal use.

    The pipes have been stripped and refinished.

    The pipes are full and steady in the Starck tradition, with a lovely blend with the chanter typical of cocuswood.

  • John Center, circa 1890, cocuswood, full ivory

    John Center pipes are uncommon, but this is the second coccuswood Center set to became available here in recent months. Many vintage aficionados consider John Center one of the greatest pipemakers, ranking in both tone and craftsmanship along with Duncan MacDougall, David Glen and Henry Starck. He made pipes in Edinburgh from 1869 to 1908, moving with his son James to Melbourne in the last few years of his life.

    He favoured cocuswood as the material of choice for his sticks. His pipes are superbly crafted, and display a refined, buzzy tone about half way been the more robust MacDougall and the subdued Glen. The bass is full and dominant, and the pipes are very steady.

    This set is all original and has no major damage to the wood. There is some spider cracking in a couple of the ivory pieces, and one ring and one projecting mount are cracked slightly open, but are still solid and unmoving. The set needed no work or refinishing. The two pieces of cracked ivory could be filled, but there was no reason to, and the fill would likely be more visible than the cracks.

    This set is a great example of the work of one of the 19th-centuries great pipemakers..

  • Unknown silver and ivory, circa 1930

    This silver and ivory bagpipe has a brilliant Henderson-like tone: bold, rich and steady, with a wide tuning range that holds the drones in tune for long periods.

    I was pleasantly surprised by this, because the visuals left me not knowing what to expect. Looking at the combing, the tenor drones appear to match. The bass top and bottom match, but are different from the tenors, and the bass middle is different again. The ivory projecting mounts are all similar but not identical. (One tenor projecting mount was replaced by a larger mount turned down to match when the pipes were refurbished.)

    The patina of the ivory suggests the 1930s or earlier. The silver all matches, but is not hallmarked. Seams are visible in some of the ferrules, and one stock ferrule has a noticeable gap in the seam. The fit of a couple of the silver pieces is not perfect and suggests it was added later.

    The mouthpiece bulb is imitation ivory, but is a reasonable match for the aged ivory. A hairline crack in the bass top has been repaired and is not visible. All stocks have been replaced and the original mounts affixed.

    However, the bottom line, tonally speaking. is that the pipes are absolutely superb. If this pipe looked as good as it sounds, it would be priced at $7,500 — the price of a high-end silver and ivory Henderson or Lawrie.

    But, the flaws don’t allow that, and the price below reflects this.

    If you have always wanted a brilliant silver and ivory Henderson or Lawrie pipe, but can’t afford the price tag, this is the bagpipe for you.

  • Henderson, circa 1930, blackwood projecting mounts, new silver ferrules, slides, caps

    This Henderson set is thought to date from around 1930, give or take 10 years. The ring caps were very old catalin, and the ferrules were nickel, neither of which did justice to the pristine wood and tone of this set. I don’t very often mess with original Hendersons, but this set needed an aesthetic makeover, so they were ‘half-silvered’ with lovely Ancient Celtic. The bushes are blackwood.

    The chanter is original but has no sole. A matching silver sole can be acquired for this chanter, or whatever chanter is selected for the pipes. The sticks were in immaculate condition, well cared for and played until recently by a friend of mine in New York state. The wood required no refinishing.

    The pipes are full and rich Henderson: steady and easily reeded. A great old set, done up beautifully, if I do say so myself.

  • Circa 1940s flat-combed Lawrie, nickel ferrules, holly caps

    This is a very sweet little R. G. Lawrie set with lines and ferrules typical of the firm’s 1940s products. The nickel ferrules are more rounded and aesthetically pleasing than other Lawrie nickel mounts.

    The drone caps were orange catalin, which nobody likes, especially me. These have been replaced with holly.

    The pipes are crack free, and have been refinished. The tone is very steady, and while not as full as the Lawries of the earlier part of the century, they are still fairly robust. They are very light to carry.

    I got these for a great price, and they were in great shape, so the refurb was not costly. I’m often asked about affordable vintage pipes for young people looking for good quality for competition, or for a lightweight, low-maintenance set for older hobby pipers.

    Well, this here is the set!

  • R. G. Lawrie, hallmarked 1951, silver and ivory

    This is a lovely Lawrie set that was a bit unusual when I acquired it. The tenor tuning pins (including the silver slides) were extremely long. The bores of the bottom joints were quite narrow, like Hardies. When I played the pipes, it was clear that they could play quite close to concert A. I had the pins shortened and the tenor bottoms opened out, and it became a normal bagpipe, though the tenors still want to tune fairly low on the tuning pins. In all other tonal respects it is a solid, steady set of Lawries, though, because of the tenors, perhaps most suitable for someone who likes to play a flatter pitch — 466-472.

    The bushes were catalin, which was unusual given that the rest of the mounts are ivory. The catalin bushes have been replaced by holly. The wood above the projecting mounts on the three bottom pieces was quite narrow — not the usual comb or bead — so this has been built up for a more traditional appearance.

    There were no cracks in the wood. The ivory blowpipe bulb is cracked but has been visibly sealed. All other ivory and silver is in excellent condition.

  • Henry Starck, ebony, ivory, circa 1900

    This set of Starcks is not completely original, but it is made entirely in old ebony and ivory and the replacement pieces match Starck specifications.

    The bass bottom joint and one tenor bottom are not original. The stocks are not original but all match. All ivory matches nicely as the photos show.

    The bass mid-joint had a hairline crack and has been invisibly whipped; one tenor top and one stock have been whipped slightly under the ferrules. These flaws will never budge and they are imperceptible.

    The Henry Starck, London stamp is visible on one tenor pin and the bass middle pin.

    The pipes exhibit the classic, steady tone of ebony Starcks made by the elder Henry (d. 1924): full, but not overpowering, and with a rich buzz.

    Since not all pieces are original and there has been some whipping, the pipes are priced appropriately. But the tone is as good as any Henry Starck pipes you’ll find.

    These pipes were played by a good friend of mine in Ohio for years. He spoke highly of them many times before parting with them due to ill health.

    The pipes were recently stripped and refinished.

  • Wm. Sinclair & Son, circa 1960, ivory mounted with engraved silver slides, stock ferrules

    This great old set of 1960s Sinclairs is in mint condition. They were originally mounted full ivory. In 1977, the pipes were sent to Sinclair to replace a cracked blowpipe and blowpipe stock. The silver slides were added then. It’s possible the stocks were replaced at that time or the silver was added to the existing stocks. A slightly different finish on the stocks would suggest they were replaced. The stocks and blowpipe have now been refinished to match the pipes.

    A matching engraved silver mouthpiece tube was added in 1977, as well as the imitation ivory bulb. The pipes display the unique one-piece ivory caps Sinclair was known for. Close-up photos of the silver below show it to be a lovely and intricate pattern.

    The set is virtually perfect now. The ivory is absolutely pristine, as the photos show.

    Full, rich, and very steady, Sinclair pipes were the leading modern instrument of the 1960s, and the Edinburgh firm has enjoyed a solid reputation for excellent since its inception in the 1930s under the first William Sinclair.