How to Build Your Own Water Manometer


If you are a member of Dojo University or have visited the site, you have no doubt heard about a water manometer. You will also understand what a worthwhile tool it is that can help us to achieve several essential goals in piping, including blowing at the chanter reed’s sweet spot, calibrating our drone reeds, and helping us to learn steady blowing. While you can buy a ready-made manometer from Henderson's Bagpipe Supplies, it takes minimum effort to make your own.

The following supplies should be readily available at most hardware or home improvement stores:

1) 15 to 16 feet of 3/8-inch clear tubing
2) One Black rubber stopper, not cork, that fits snugly into the top of one of your tenor drones.
3) One brass or plastic straight tubing connector that will go through the length of the stopper.
4) One plastic tubing “elbow” to prevent a “kink” at the top of the manometer.
5) 3-4 plastic zip ties to secure the tubing to itself.

Double about five feet of the tubing back onto itself and lightly secure the tubing together with 3 to 4 zip ties. Be careful not to pull the ties so taught that the tubing becomes pinched or restricted. Cut off about 5 to 6 feet of the tubing and insert the “elbow” into the cut end. Then insert one end of the tubing you just cut into the other end of the elbow. This elbow is critical to prevent kinking of the tubing because the weight of the manometer will be at this “bend” of the tubing. See Photo 1.

Plastic Elbowelbow-8889821

The last step is to drill a hole through the stopper into which the straight connector is placed. With a drill bit slightly smaller than the tubing connector, carefully drill down through the length of the rubber stopper. Be careful to stay in the middle of the stopper as much as possible. See Photo 2.

Brass tubing connector and rubber stopperstoppper-and-connector-1491338

Press the brass or plastic connector down through the tubing, but leave enough of the connector so that you can put enough hemp on it to fit snugly into the end of the tubing. See Photo 3.

Stopper with hemp over the connectorstopper-with-hemp-2814688

It is ok if the connector stops at the end of the tubing. Just be sure that is nothing to restrict airflow. Congratulations! You have just made your first manometer.

Pour some water into the manometer from the open end of the tubing, (not the stopper end!) so that there are about 3 feet of water going up both sides of the tubing. This should be enough liquid so that it is unlikely to “blow” the water all over your ceiling! You might be tempted to add food coloring to make the water more visible, but you might also end up with an irksome cleanup job ahead. Instead of water, a blue-colored window cleaner works great for enhanced visibility. Hang the manometer in a convenient location on a wall or a door. The hang spot is from the plastic elbow, See Photo 4.

manometer-with-explanations-4671038Water manometer

Insert the stopper end of the tubing securely into the top of a tenor drone. Any drone will do, but the outside tenor because of its easier access. Also, for more accurate “readings”, it is advisable to remove the drone reed from the drone. This assures that there is nothing obstructing the flow of air anywhere from the inside of the pipe bag, all the way to the liquid.

The manometer works by allowing the air pressure from inside the bag, up through the drone, and into the tubing, where the air pressure then “pushes” down on the liquid, making it rise up on the other side. You're now ready to employ an excellent tool for diagnosing and improving your sound production on the bagpipe. There are several videos here at Dojo U to instruct you in manometer use and how to get the most out of it.

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  1. I want to make sure that the airflow is efficient. Initially I had put the connector too deep in the stopper, but that made the narrow part of stopper too "fat" and would cause stopper to not always stay in drone. Seems better now. But is it bad if the tube is too long? Mine is 20ft. I wanted to have a little extra tubing so I wouldn't be restricted. But I was wondering if that created more resistance than would be desirable. I didn't bother with the plastic elbow as I couldn't find in any store nearby but there isn't any kink (I spread it apart on my pullup bar).