May 16, 2013

Rubber-sleeved skin pipe bags a first for Highland pipes

Only last September Lee & Sons Bagpipes introduced zippered sheepskin and goatskin pipe bags, and now the Vancouver-based company has brought out what is thought to be the first production skin bag with rubber grommet sleeves for drone and blowpipe stocks.

In testing with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, the new bags take three weeks to make, according to Jack Lee.

“We have been developing the pipe bags with grommets and zippers bags for several years now,” he said.   “Also, we have been playing them for several months in SFU and there hasn’t been a leak in the grommets yet.   No pipe bag maker can ever guarantee that their bags will never leak but we make them as solidly as we can.”Lee said that the seam on the bag has three layers of stitching and six different layers of adhesive. Synthetic bags with rubber stock sleeves have been available for many years, but Lee said that he believes that the new bags are a first in the category.“We have learned that there are dedicated groups of sheepskin and goatskin players out there,” Lee added.   “Many pipers love the tone that the bags can produce but find tying them in to be challenging.  We felt that if grommets could be put into cowhide bags it should be possible in sheepskin and goatskin.  Installing them is very labour intensive and takes several days.”Unlike cowhide, skin bags are susceptible to tearing when cut and tied-in due to the suppleness of the material that can be cut if the tying-in twine is pulled too tightly.A sheepskin or goatskin bag with zipper and rubber grommet stock sleeves is priced at $389.


  1. Good concept and I’m sure, a fine product, but now we’re talking about $400.00 a year per piper operating expense….every year…or $12,000.00 a year for a 30 piper band….every year….. Of course there are still the other costs, but now we must find $12,000 per year for this and only this…. On the other hand, going the synthetic tubes and wires way, we can spend, say, $400.0 this year…and that’s it……….for 10 or more years.. Choices, choices…… At least we have them.

  2. I play a Bennet bag. The shape is uncomfortable at best and tying it in sucked. Giving a piper or PM flexibility to choose between canisters or unadulterated sheep/goatskin sound even up until the hour before a contest, without each player having to purchase two separate bags is worth it’s weight in gold for the intelligent buyer. Jack Lee makes them and SFU plays them. What further endorsement do they need?

  3. Hi I may have commented before on bags, but before I continue I have been playing for 35 years and seen it all. The bottom line is you just cannot improve on the original and the best which is a straight and gimmick free sheep or goat skin bag. I loved it in the Eighties when the first Gore-Tex appeared, it was as tight as a drum ¡°great¡± but then along came all the moisture issues and all the various solutions, some better than others. My favourite being the Ross system. I could not be convinced to return to sheep skin. I did go back in the late Nineties and it was awful, the bags were poorly made, oozed seasoning and lost air quicker than a burst balloon, just ridiculous, ¡°sheep skin bags¡± ¡°yeah right¡± so back to the Ross and trouble free bags. I would not be convinced to go back and therefore had been playing synthetic for about 25 years and very used to the sound they produce. I was asked about 4 seasons ago to start playing a sheep skin and was not for doing it all, the grieve that comes with it was not very appealing but my fellow pipers were all returning to the old system so I agreed. When my pipes were returned it was a euphoric moment, same drones same chanter same reeds but a completely different and superb resonance sound, just incredible. Th

  4. A Sheepskin/Goatskin bag, made and played/used in the traditional way, is the ultimate sound. We lament the fact it can’t always be a safe bet with moisture, so we look to other things. Anything like a Ross bag/canister system is a compromise so that the ‘playing window’ can be extended, but at the expense of resonation and that throaty ‘boom’ we all know. This offering from the Lee clan looks superbly made and is obviously hard to produce economically. I do wonder though about the zipper on such a bag – so that a canister can be used. A canister is, in my opinion, going to make the bag less of a contributor to the tone and more just a reservoir for air, as is the case with Ross/Bannatune. Canisters are like mufflers on your drones, so this could actually be a similar result to a Bannayne or Ross type of sound. Not bad or wrong, by any stretch, but certainly not the ultimate. The extra cost in all these products appears to be going towards materials/designs that facilitate longer playing time.



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