Bellows Making

A forum to discuss the arcane art of making uilleann pipes, reeds, and set maintenance.

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Re: Bellows Making

Post by macwarner57 » Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:01 am

outofthebox wrote:From looking around at suppliers websites I think the proper industry term may be cowhide. The exterior looks like suede, but the inside is smooth finished. One of the options that is available in metre length is belt leather - which has a thickness of just over 2mm. This would combine stiffness with a smooth finish on both sides.
2mm would be ridiculously thick and stiff, like a belt. And the "exterior" (skin/hair side) of the leather is the shiny side, not the "inside" (split/suede-like) side. Just reverse your terminology there. Though it's true on bagpipes we tend to put the shiny side facing in, it grows shiny-side-out on the animal. The rough side is called the "flesh" side.

Leather is described using several terms- primarily the following: the "cut" (region of the animal's body it was removed from), the "split" (the amount or particular layer of skin the leather was processed from), the "weight" (basically the thickness of the leather, described in ounces) and the "tanning process" used in stabilizing the material (oil tanned, vegetable tanned, chrome tanned, elk tanned, etc).

"Elk tanned" is not elk hide leather, but rather cowhide tanned as if it were elk hide. This yields an airtight leather. I have made bellows from other tanned styles with good results, however. In a double layer, this is less important.

I would start with 3 or 4 oz leather. Even thick leather can be floppy, and thin leather can be stiff. This is a living material, like cane. Real life experience is essential.
J.G. Warner

"Understanding and making [uilleann] pipes isn't rocket science:- it's harder." -Driftwood

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Re: Bellows Making

Post by elbowpipe » Wed May 11, 2011 5:19 pm

I have an old bellows which I obtained on freecycle. It leaks like a sieve although seems robustly made. Discovered tonight that the main source of leaks are round the screws used to fasten on the metal exit pipe, and to fasten the leather hinge. These all go right through the paddles! Is the solution to get shorter screws and/or seal around them with appropriate sealant?
Has anyone tried a mix of vinyl and leather (the former for airtightness and the latter for stiffness)? Are the tacks around the edge of the paddles likely to be a source of leakage? I imagine that the leather is stuck on with sealant first before being tacked, so in theory they should be sound.

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Re: Bellows Making

Post by MeisterMiles » Wed May 11, 2011 7:03 pm

Wow. I'm glad to see I got this reaction. I definitely like the idea of using drapery trim, should have thought of it sooner.

Also, does anyone here want to share their opinion on what kind of leather they like best for making bellows, specifically leather that is already airtight.

PS: Once and for all, I have to know if chrome-tanning leather makes it airtight. :P

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Re: Bellows Making

Post by MichaelLoos » Wed May 11, 2011 7:19 pm

All my bellows are vinyl-lined, the oldest one having been in regular use since 1996, never causing any problems.
Chrome-tanned leather is by no means necessarily airtight.
Filling the screw holes with silicone or contact cement should keep them airtight. No point using shorter screws now, that the holes are already going through the paddles...
As long as the tacks are in solid wood, they won't cause leakage.

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Re: Bellows Making

Post by maki » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:53 am

Anyone put together one of C.J Dixons bellows kit?
My only regret is not making more mistakes.

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