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Completed first bellows, in black walnut (images)

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2014 11:39 pm
by ckrusor
This is my first woodworking project since middle school (25 years), and my first leatherworking project. I needed to replace the inadequate bellows on my SSPs, so I acquired a board and a block of black walnut wood, a 5 sq foot black goatskin, an old black leather belt, brass hinges, a brass knob from an old jewelry box, and a few other small parts (upholstery tacks, silicone sealant, etc.). It was more time consuming than I expected.

The bellows have brass internal hinges, a large (1.5" diameter) inlet valve in the conventional position, and an elbow pad. The clappers are eleven inches long and six inches wide, and eleven inches apart at the back when maximally open. Some features of the design are unconventional. First, it isn't symmetrical about the midline. The clappers are somewhat kidney-shaped. I liked this shape when I made cardboard mockups. Second, it has a saddle; not like the narrow saddle of a musette bellows (or Jon Swayne bellows, or Klondike Waldo's bellows), but a wide saddle that is rotated so the bellows is not horizontal when worn. The nose end of the bellows points up a bit. Bellows mockups with this orientation were more comfortable to me. The inner clapper, saddle and all, was shaped from a single block of walnut. Third, the bellows has a brass wire "rib" that acts like a middle clapper. It keeps the gusset from ballooning out or collapsing inward.

The torso strap passes through a tunnel in the inner clapper. I covered up the heads of the hinge bolts on the outer clapper with a wood inlay, and the arm strap has a button hole at one end and slips over a brass knob. The tube to the bag fits inside the outlet port on the bellows. It might not be very visible in the photos, but I did a terrible job on the finish, and the wood is marred in several places. Anyone with any actual woodworking skills would cringe if they saw it up close.

Any input is welcome.

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Re: Completed first bellows, in black walnut (images)

Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:55 am
by Driftwood
Congrats. The amount of thought that has gone in to this design is impressive. You'll have to let us know how you get on with it.

Re: Completed first bellows, in black walnut (images)

Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:27 pm
by anima
that's pretty cool, like a piece of modern art.

Re: Completed first bellows, in black walnut (images)

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:27 pm
by AaronMalcomb
Excellent work. I have pondered the benefits of an asymmetrical design and am glad you experimented with it. Remakable crafstmanship too.

Re: Completed first bellows, in black walnut (images)

Posted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 2:19 am
by oleorezinator
Beautiful! It has that Swedish modern design look.

Update

Posted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 10:26 pm
by ckrusor
Thanks for the compliments. I'm pleased with the new bellows. I've been playing my pipes a lot more in the last few days than I have in the recent past. My old bellows were from an old set of Naill border pipes, and they were inadequate. The old bellows are 5" wide and about 9" in total length, but the leather hinge for the outer clapper is 2" back from the front end (see photo), so they are effectively 5" x 7". I've never seen another bellows with that kind of hinge. I was never able to achieve a truly steady bag pressure.

Now I can achieve a very steady bag pressure, and the bellows will fill the bag in about two and a half full pumps. I notice that it affects how much I look forward to playing. I'd recommend this project to anyone who needs a new set of bellows. I live in an apartment and have a minimal toolset (literally and figuratively). The only power tools I used were a hand drill and a scroll saw that I bought on craigslist for $30. Including the scroll saw, the sandpaper, and all of the raw materials, the total cost was about $100. It was time consuming, but it could be done more simply. If I were to do it again, I would use a separate steam-bent piece of wood for the saddle, and I would skip the brass wire rib in the gusset.

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