I make a very wide selection of bagpipes, all of which have either been developed for my own use or in cooperation with other pipers. Many of these designs are unique to me. During the twenty-five years I have been making them my pipes have acquired a reputation for their quality of craftsmanship, design and reliability.
I pay a lot of attention to the appearance, detail and finish of my pipes. The designs are very distinctive, formed using hand held tools; I pride myself on the beautiful, flowing 'lines', graceful shapes and individuality that result. They make my pipes very characteristic - they are immediately recognisable as pipes made by me.
All my wood is air-seasoned for at least three years. Once made, all the wooden parts of my pipes are soaked in linseed oil in a vacuum and pressure impregnation system that I have developed. This gets the oil very deep into the wood, adding stability and resilience and giving it a lovely mellow sheen which darkens over the years.
I have developed my own plastic reed design for my smallpipes, and I use plastic reeds wherever possible. They have a great tone as well as being stable and trouble-free, and are greatly appreciated by beginner and professional alike.
I started getting interested in instrument making when I was travelling in Africa and the Far East in 1979- I taught myself to make penny whistles with Araldite and old tins, when I was staying in cheap hotels or camp-sites. On my return, I was inspired by the interest of my eldest brother John had in the English bagpipes that had survived only in pictures and carvings. I soon developed a passion for discovering more about these pipes; I began experimenting with making bagpipes and surprisingly quickly taught myself how to make them.
For the past twenty-five years making bagpipes has been a passion and a vocation. It involves much of my activity, lifestyle and social life. I do everything; office work, sourcing all the materials, collecting them, making tools, making the bagpipes, displaying them, repairs to old bagpipes, researching history, writing letters and articles, lecturing, performing, answering emails and the phone, sweeping the floor, packing my pipes, walking to the Post Office, repairs to my workshop and much, much more. Making bagpipes by hand is not a business; it is a way of life.
The process of producing music from a tree is an enchanting one. The trees which I use are British hardwoods, often trees which I have known and some of which I grew up with in the Leicestershire village where I was born. Most of this wood has been cut up and processed by me For me this is a personal relationship with my materials, and it means that I can often supply photos and descriptions of the actual tree that the pipe is made from. I love transforming a tree into an instrument that can make people dance. I have recently made bagpipes from an apple tree that I also made 49 bottles of apple wine with. At the launch of my latest CD we drank the wine and danced to music played on the same tree.
Buying a bagpipe is a big decision; I am very happy to help and advise; I've included some basic advice below on this page.
Each piper has to find a bagpipe that suits them. Different pipers may have different tastes and criteria, so one piper may like a pipe that another piper does not like. I relish the fact that each of my bagpipes is an individual creation. So whilst I enjoy incorporating a customer’s special requirements, there is always a lot of 'me' in every one of my bagpipes ... even after I have sent away a set of my bagpipes I still feel and acknowledge a connection with both pipe and player. I make myself available to any one who has a set of my pipes and am always happy to do repairs, offer suggestions, information and comment. I enjoy my connection with my customers and many of them have become close friends.
My pipes have always been popular and I have quite a long waiting list for all pipes, except my Leicestershire smallpipes, which I can supply much quicker. For newcomers to piping this is the pipe I usually recommend. However, if your interest is particularly in Scottish music, you might want to consider a Scottish smallpipe.
Pipes are made from a choice of hardwoods that I have in stock. Most of this wood has been cut up and processed by me - I know where most of the trees have grown, and can sometimes supply a photo of the actual tree.
Local boxwood is a very attractive alternative to ivory for mounts on pipes, bellows-inlet-valves and other decorative or protective elements. All pipes can be made either bellows- or mouth-blown and I offer a choice of colour for bag leather and velvet bag covers.
Please feel free to discuss with me any idea or requirements you may have to do with the sound, design or type of wood that you would like. Smaller details may be very important for you. I enjoy incorporating special features such as horn or silver mounts and ferrules, more elaborate padded bellows, etc.
I play every bagpipe that I make for a considerable amount of time, taking great care with the voicing and tuning so that each one leaves my workshop ready to play. For beginners I can supply notes on how to play and maintain the pipes.
I am happy to undertake repairs and alterations to your instruments..