Measuring and Copying a Chanter

Updated 17 April 1998
Updated 06 April 1997
Updated 21 Jan 1997

Copyright 1997 David C. Daye, all text, image and sound files presented here.

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Measuring Bores With Probes

For making a "Penny-Chanter" straight-tubing copy of a chanter, only a relatively few measurements need to be taken. If however a more accurate copy is desired, then many accurate measurments are needed.

I have tested the following procedure by re-measuring a chanter measured earlier by a professional maker, and found my results were in excellent agreement with his. The process is simple. Probes are carefully made to have accurately widths. These are inserted into the chanter until they stop in contact with the bore. The insertion distance is then recorded. These distances can be used to create a graph of bore diameters which in turn allow copying of the chanter by different means.

Round or circular probes should not be used since these will only find the narrowest diameter at any given point. Wooden chanters always deform to some extent, becoming slightly oval in cross-section. The widest diameter at any given point is the closest approximation to the maker's original intentions. Therefore thin, flat probes are better because the can be rotated to find points of maximum and minimum insertion.

Note however that if a chanter is particularly good sounding or well behaved, this deformation may actually be responsible for some the chanter's better qualities. A more accurate copy, especially if the reproduction is to use stable artificial materials such as metals or plastics, might be had by taking account of both the major and the minor diameters at each point along the bore. Therefore 2 sets of measurements might be taken, one showing the maximum insertion distances of the probes, the other the minimum insertion distances.

Metal probes should not be used, especially if they have sharp edges, or else the bore can be damaged!

For general-use study or tranditional copying, a series of some 40 to 50 T-shaped probes are made. The stems are longer than a chanter (at least, long enough to protrude from the far end of the chanter when fully inserted for measuring). The cross-arms of the T's are carefully cut and filed to length with an accuracy of +/- .001" or +/- .025 mm. I make these in successive sizes from a little less than the expected throat I.D. to a bit wider than the expected bell. The first 10 or so, which measure the critical throat and upper bore area, I make in increments of .005" or .125 mm, and the rest increase in increments of .01" or .25 mm.

The stems are narrow, thin plastic as are the arms. I use very thin firm styrene plastic obtained from hobby stores, intended for model making.

For making a Penny-Chanter, only the throat needs thorough measurement. The only other bore measurements needed are those which correspond to the I.D.'s of the straight tubes which will be used in the replica. Make the T cross-arms exactly the widths of the tubing internal diameters. (for English-based tubing, 1/4", 7/32", etc.) ranging from the i.d. of the throat to that of the bottom or bell of the chanter.

Caution: When using soft probes, care must be taken not to exert force which would cause the probes to bend and continue too far into the bore. Very light pressure is all that is needed. Once the probe meets resistance its position is marked on the stem, and later the distance from the T to the mark is measured and plotted on a graph.

Making Castings of Bores

Warning! It is easy to damage a chanter by making castings.Water-based casting materials such as plaster of paris has caused grain-raising in junk-chanters I have cast--even though I saturated the chanters in almond oil first--so I suspect it may also have caused (temporary?) changes in dimension. A burst of moisture such as this could cause a historic or dehydrated chanter to crack. In any case the grain raising could have the effect of softening the tone of the chanter, perhaps permanently, so anyone trying this should proceed with caution. Note I am *not* recommending this.

OK you've decided to make a casting anyways. Suggested steps:

  1. Remove all keys & removable mounts and ornaments
  2. Seal all holes and the reed seat above the throat so that casting does not extend around corners etc. and become stuck
  3. Soak chanter outside and inside in almond or other bore oil, to minimize sticking of casting and to protect wood from casting material
  4. Make up a long threaded rod for reinforcing the casting and for assistance in removing the casting from chanter
  5. Mix casting material (such as plaster of paris) and "wet" the rod with it
  6. Remove chanter from oil soak at the last possible moment, drain briefly
  7. Fill chanter with casting material, tap gently & repeatedly to dislodge air bubbles
  8. Work rod with its supporting "spiders" into bore as far as practical


Suggest X-Raying at a veterinarian if one is agreeable. Try to remove all metal mounts and keys. Since chanter has almost certainly shrunk a little bit and therefore become slightly oval in cross-section, suggest 2 different views of chanter:

  1. Finger holes down, to get most accurate size & positioning of holes
  2. Finger holes to one side, to see hole under-cutting and obtain a different angle on the bore

Ask to have the film as close to the chanter as possible to minimize distortion.

Measuring Tone Holes

Measure the internal diameters of the holes of course. A soft, firm rod can be inserted up the bore and pressed up against the underside of each hole to mark the bottom of the hole so that its depth can be measured. Click Here for an illustration of measuring hole depth. Notes should be made to indicate the direction and amount of undercutting of holes.

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