"Penny-Chanter" Dimensions -- April 1999

As Published in The Pipers' Review Magazine July 1997
Includes the Finished Ivory/White CPVC Plastic Exterior

Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 David C. Daye, all text, image and sound files presented here.

Feel free to copy this work for desktop use and/or your individual study of piping. You may not republish all or any portions of this work in any form, or distribute it in any form, without permission. You may establish electronic pointers or links to this page. Questions, problems, comments or requests for permission to reprint may be e-mailed to me at CLICK HERE 

13th Edition April 199 -- Includes the Finished Plastic Exterior
12th Edition June 1998 Expanded Reed Making Information
11th Edition March 1998 Hard D Adjustment
10th Edition 9 June Another Reed Option***
9th Edition 2 June Upper Bore Option*
8th Edition 27 April 1997 FINAL DIMENSIONS 
7th Edition 10 April 1997
6th Edition 6 March 1997
5th Edition 10 February 1997
4th Edition 30 January 1997
3rd Edition 22 January 1997

Tool Notice:

A drill press with a suitable vise for clamping the chanter is required to make the large A and F# holes in this chanter, and probably most of the other holes as well. The soft plastic exterior is too soft, tends to grab the drill bit damaging the shell and possibly injuring the worker.

Table of Contents

Current State of Playing

As of April 1999 the chanter has been published and sold by me in both kit and completed form for two years. Many pipers and makers have tested it and found it to tune and perform better than many of the best known traditional wood chanters currently being sold. More than one piper has posted on the uilleann pipe e-mail discussion forum that it performs better than all modern wide-bore concert D chanters, a claim broader than I feel comfortable to make.

Nonetheless, a certain number of established pipers are using Penny-Chanters as replacements for their traditional wood chanters. Penny-Chanters are now found around the world and are being used by some touring, stage and recording pipers, in addition to the great many learners who wish to investigate uilleann piping on a budget or who have placed orders for expensive traditional pipes and intend to get an inexpensive early start with the "Penny."

For those who build traditional pipes, the reasons for its good performance are purely based on the internal shaping and the tonehole geometry. The materials and construction have nothing to do with it. The Penny-Chanter has offered convincing proof that the legendary difficulties of the Irish uilleann pipes are not necessarily inherent in the instrument or its reeds, generally, but rather are of recent origin and can be overcome by any maker, using any construction, with careful testing and experimenting.

Source & Acknowledgements

The source of these dimensions is an especially fine specimen of a David Quinn "Liam O'Flynn Rowsome Copy" chanter, number 8427 made in 1984 for the New York piper Bill Ochs. Bill was exceedingly gracious to loan this chanter to me for 18 months during development of the Penny-Chanter, at a time when David Quinn had retired from pipemaking and was not expected to resume as he has since done.

A comparison was also made with an un-numbered Quinn "O'Flynn" owned by Carla Dundes in Cincinnati, Ohio.. The 8427 chanter is in excellent condition, very straight and showing very little evidence of warping or shrinking after manufacture. The chanter was measured with long soft plastic probes. The shrinkage was so little that the insertion distances for probes varied 1/4" or less as the chanter was rotated. The Penny-Chanter is based upon the maximum inner diameters in order to be closest to the shape of the Quinn reamers.

Considerable morale support and fine-tuning assistance came from the Australian pipemaker Craig Fischer who, partly because of the Penny-Chanter project, was motivated first to develop his own home-build chanter (the square wood chanter) and second to undertake history's most complete study of the uilleann pipes. He has made highly detailed measurements of the finest known specimens of uilleann pipes of different makes and musical keys and has broken new ground in scientific studies of the acoustics of pipes for the purpose of recovering the lost pipemaking knowlege of past masters. Craig is planning a series of publications both of the actual historical pipe designs and of design and fine tuning principles intended to bring modern pipemaking up to and beyond the level of its highest state in days gone by.

Although the lower bore does mirror the David Quinn bore in its stepped way, Craig feels that the upper bore and throat equate to a significant departure from the original wood chanter. In fact the stepped section appears to equate to a slightly wider lower bore because the 2nd octave tunes flat with reeds that balance in the David Quinn chanter. Coupled with the narrow, cylindrical exterior and changed tonehole geometry, the Penny-Chanter has become a new design on its own.

Table of Main Bore Tubing Sizes


  • Tubing is sold according to its *OUTSIDE* diameter so the *OUTSIDE* diameters are now given in this table.
  • The largest tube size does not extend down to the bell, it merely covers the joint between the plastic shell exterior and the region of the F# and E holes to increase thickness for tuning purposes.
  • Overall Length: 360 mm.
  • Click Here to See how measurements were taken.
  • O.D. 
    and Bell (mm) 
    Bottoms & 
    Bell (mm) 
    5/16  100  360  260
    11/32 142  360  218 
    3/8 96.5  280  183.5 
    13/32  131  280  149 
    7/16 165  280  115 
    15/32  203.5  280  76.5 
    1/2  52  105  53 
    17/32  87  105  18 
    9/16  105  105 
    19/32  105  105 
    5/8 105  105 
    21/32  90  133  43 
    1/2" I.D.
    CPVC Plastic
    255 360 105
    3/8" I.D.
    Butyl or
    30 360 330


    Super-glue the main brass tubes together except for the largest 21/32" tube. If a tube sticks or seizes part way in, simply cut off the excess and glue it over the appropriate part of the uncovered upper end. Glue the butyl or polyethelene plastic (or other 3/8" i.d. plastic water pipe with about 1/2" O.D.) inside the top of the 1/2" I.D. CPVC plastic water supply pipe. It may be necessary to drill out the top inch or 25 mm of the CPVC. This makes a lightweight holder for the top end of the bore stem. Roughen the inside of the CPVC and the outside of the top of the stem and the long middle portion of the brass bore assembly over which the CPVC shell will fit. If it is a tight fit, superglue it onto the stem, if it is a bit loose, 5-minute epoxy can be used. Clean away lumps of epoxy once it has set and check the fit of the last brass tube. A bit of filing or sanding of the joint between the widest bottom brass tubes and the CPVC pipe may be needed, because the plastic can be very slightly offset to one side or another. Then superglue the 21/32" brass tube in place.

    Special Tapered Upper Bore

    Click Here for a table and graph of the Quinn upper bore.

    This upper bore is rather easily made using 2 pieces of tubing. My original working chanter required a rolled conical sheet metal throat. Craig Fischer showed me that this tubing construction would be virtually the same and of course much easier for most experimenters to build. I would credit this simple suggestion with making the Penny-Chanter feasible for production and home building by very inexpert musicians and others who lack machine tools.

    Note for pipe makers: Craig and other makers have found that they can experiment with their own throat and upper bore geometry very quickly and easily in traditional wood chanters by drilling out the top of a test model and replacing the upper bore with this same tubing construction, to arrive near an ideal shape before making and modifying reamers to make the traditional taper in wood.

    The tube bottoms are cut at an angle so as to approximate the behavior of  the tapered bore in the original wood chanter. The innermost or Throat Tube consist of a short cylinder with a very long tapered tail, and is fixed partway into the next larger or Upper Bore Tube. The Upper Bore Tube reaches from the head of the chanter down part way to the back D or thumb hole, and also has a taper. The reed is hemped and will slide, for tuning purposes, within the Upper Bore Tube between the chanter top and the throat. Some authorities believe that this "Reed Seat" region should be as narrow and smooth as possible. Accordingly an extra tube of the same diameter as the Throat Tube can be installed above it, extending to the top of the chanter, providing a narrow reed tuning slide.

    The actual throat itself apparently needs to be a smooth straight cylinder of about 2-3 mm length and somewhat narrower than the stock 1/4" tube (with its roughly 7/32" internal diameter) available in North America. I have had working P-C's with throat inner diameters ranging from 3/16", which is substantially narrower than the Quinn, to somewhat more than 13/64", or about the same as the Quinn.

    Beware of leakage around the outside of the Throat Tube. Its cylindrical section is so short that there may not be an effective seal between it and the 9/32" o.d. Upper Bore Tube. Creative gluing; wax, a careful wrap of teflon tape, or perhaps a thicker modelmaking glue, may be necessary to achieve an airtight seal. Excessive leakage here makes the effective throat too large causing bottom D gurgling and possible back D instabilities.


  • Diagrams are intended to be accurate, however the dimensions shown in table are most likely to be accurate.
  • Click Here for general diagram of general principles.
  • Click Here for general diagram showing 2 ways to make the Throat Insert.
  • Click Here for diagram showing Throat Tube (1/4" o.d.) and Throat Insert.
  • Click Here for diagram showing Upper Bore Tube (9/32" o.d.)
  • Optional Inner Reed Seat is not generally required but reduces air volume inside seat. May help performance of some problem reeds especially on bottom D and 2nd octave difficulties.
  • Table of Throat, Reed Seat and Upper Bore Tubing

    Tube Name   Construction   Diameter  Cylinder Length   Tail Length   Taper Type  Location of Top 
    Reed Seat   Tube   9/32" OD 15 mm   0  --  360 mm 
    Inner Reed Seat
    Tube 1/4" OD 15 mm 0 -- 360
    Throat Tube   Tube   1/4"  OD 4 mm  39-35 mm
    ( 25 min) 
    Concv. esp @ top  345 mm 
    Throat Insert   Paper or Tube   13+/64" ID
    to .206" ID. 
    2-3 mm  2-3 mm  Flat  344 mm 
    Upper Bore Tube   Tube   9/32"  OD 60 mm  35-40 mm  Flat  360 mm 

    Finger Holes


  • "Distance" is measured from bell to the center of the hole.
  • Diameters and positions are both critical.
  • "Major" under-cutting means "substantial." You may need to under-cut one or more of these holes on your Penny-Chanter. A Dremel tool, small rotary file, or the side of a drill bit spun in an electric drill can be used.
  • Table of Finger-Hole Dimensions

    Distance from 
    Bell (mm
    Hole Under- 
    E-  56  17/64" -- 
    84  3/16" -- 
    F#  117  21/64"  -- 
    148  7/32"  Slight down
    186  9/32" Slight up & down
    218.5  17/64"  Slight up 
    [ C' ]  [rear] 236  5/32" -- 
    249  7/32"  Major up 
    D'  [rear] 268  17/64"  Major up 

    End of Make a Penny-Chanter Page
    Return to Make a Penny-Chanter Page
    Return to David Daye's Bagpipe Page