South Africa correspondent Nicholas Taitz has written regarding this important question for all pipers….
I was wondering what the opinions of Piping Press readers were on the oiling of pipes and/or chanters. Blackwood of course – no point oiling plastic. Should drones be oiled, especially on the inside where they are not varnished?
Should chanters ever be oiled, and if so, outside only, or also on the inside?
Other woodwind ‘wet’ instruments such as clarinets are recommended to be oiled. They are often made of African blackwood too.
Assuming the answer is to oil, what oil is best? The same stuff that is recommended for clarinets?
I have oiled an old Henderson set with what guitar players call ‘lemon oil’ – it’s a Dunlop product, a plain mineral oil with a lemon smell.
The old pipes absorbed it all in, I left them wet with it, and in the morning they had absorbed it all. They seem to be going very well. They had no cracks to start and still don’t, except in their ivory.
Thoughts of those who have knowledge? Some say ‘never oil pipes’. Some say ‘oil pipes, but never a blackwood chanter’. And some say ‘always oil pipes, including the blackwood chanter’.
I mentioned this because I remember Barry Donaldson quoting old Willie Sinclair as saying never to oil pipes (including chanters); this brought the issue to my mind again.
I have also wondered about it for some time, as many other instruments made of comparable tone woods are recommended to be oiled periodically.
- I don’t believe in oiling Nicholas, though in the past I have cleaned drones with bore oil made by instrument manufacturers Selmer. I was always taught that heavy oils would dull a blackwood drone or chanter. Blackwood is a naturally oil-rich wood anyway (try burning some off cuts). Like you, I would be interested in what readers, and pipemakers, think. Ed.