Notes About Pipe Bag Sealers

Internet Posting 13 August 1996

Copyright 1996 by Craig Hazelbaker

Date: Tue, 13 Aug 96 09:29:57 cst
From: "cwhazelb"
Subject: Re[2]: Bag sealant

I replied to my local friend Rob Thorpe directly, but now I feel I should contribute to the discussion to the rest of the list. These are my observations after 27 years of Highland piping, 20 of them as an open level piper, and after many discussions in both the Highland and Uilleann world. In other words, there will always be someone for which this advice will not work. ;)

>I'm glad to hear my suspicions about highland pipe seasoning are right.

Wellllllll, no. Not exactly. The job of Highland seasoning is a) to make the bag airtight, and b) draw moisture *away* from the bag and reeds, allowing the moisture to go to the outside world. The best seasoning for this to date is Airtight made by RG Hardie in Glasgow. There have been many many attempts at other 'commercial' seasonings, some of which were total disasters. One of the later types may or may not (avoiding slander) have been SilSeal. Horrible concoction containing, for the most part, silicone. As that stuff dried, it formed nasty globs of jelled silicone. It also held in moisture. This is a Bad Thing. That stuff didn't do well with reeds either. I will never use any concoction except Airtight. It works and there have been many miserable and destructive failures. Airtight is "Guaranteed to make any bag air tight that is not actually burst"... I can vouch that the stuff works unless it is a significant leak. "Will not harm reeds"... Yep. Unless you SOAK one in a puddle of it.

Some makers of uilleann pipes, including Tim Britton, use Airtight to season their bags and bellows. Rob wrote that he was wondering how to get the stuff out of his bellows. I responded "why?". My uilleann bellows, then when I got them, my smallpipes bellows, were not perfectly air tight. I seasoned them with Airtight, and they have been tight as a drum since. A third reason I was told that the bag should be seasoned was to prevent or at least delay the onset of dry rot. This was told me by a maker of uilleann pipes.

>I've never seen the stuff, but I know everyone's pipes have that peculiar
>smell which is both slightly interesting and repulsive at the same time.

Yes, well, here is another story. If you order a tin of Airtight and it is already liquid at room temperature, it is too late. It has already gone off. While Airtight does have a small amount of disinfectant, it can and will go off. Here are a few ways to avoid this: 1) melt the stuff *slowly* in a double boiler configuration (pan of warm / hot water)... Do Not dunk it in boiling water nor put the tin directly on the burner. If it is overheated, there go the desirable qualities, and the "Bad Smell" is not far behind. 2) if you want to keep the remainder for future use, do not keep it in the original tin. Find a small bottle (a Spice Islands jar is perfect for 1/2 tin), fill it to the Very Top allowing no air, and screw the lid on Tightly. The cooler it is stored, the better as well. 3) don't reuse the excess that has been poured out of the bag. 4) if it reeks, don't use it.

>I've never seen the stuff, but I know everyone's pipes have that peculiar
>smell which is both slightly interesting and repulsive at the same time.

If a good tin is used, and the above advice followed, it will be virtually odourless for years. One of the ingredients in the stuff is Lanolin, which is not a bad thing for the leather, which is why olive oil and neetsfoot oil are sometimes used. Both of these are great on baseball gloves. At any rate, rotten lanolin does smell. Ask any shepherd. If it is rotten, don't use it. I can see no *harm* in using the 2 recipes including beeswax; beeswax in conjunction with other substances have been used in leather making, woodworking, and metal working for centuries. The only thing I can think of is that there is a slight change in properties, but no true chemical change. I would ask myself, what does (neetsfoot oil / olive oil) look and feel like as it dries and oxidizes? The beeswax will help add body, and, of course, help seal. If you doubt that it works, let me tell you that I have a bag on my Highland pipes that is 15 years old, still tight as a football, and it still does not reek using Airtight. You just have to know how to do it, and what to avoid.

Craig Hazelbaker

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