About five years ago, I bought a practice chanter that I quite like. It’s a regular length blackwood model made by Duncan Soutar, and for the price (less than $100 US at the time) I’m convinced there’s not a better blackwood chanter available. It has served me very well since then, and if some catastrophe were to render it unplayable, I would attempt to replace it with the same model.
My chanter has experienced some bumps and bruises, and within the first year or so of ownership it experienced its first major encounter with gravity. I dropped it from the height of my hand and it landed squarely on the sole, which shattered upon impact. I collected the pieces, stuck them back together with superglue, and it worked pretty well for a while.
Not long after that, the chanter suffered a nearly identical accident. For a reason that I don’t remember now (missing pieces? laziness? no superglue? futility?), I didn’t try to repair it this time, and I’ve been playing it without a sole for about three years.
For some time I’ve been trying to figure out a replacement sole. I emailed the manufacturer, who was happy to send me a new one, but the cost of shipping the part from Scotland made it impractical. Buying a new chanter was similarly impractical, since I still had a chanter that made a perfectly good sound.
A few weeks ago I had a sudden inspiration. I didn’t have the machinery or tools to make a sole, but it turned out I knew someone who did: a friend of a friend had a 3D printer, which he was mostly using to make new cases for his iPhone. I emailed him a description of the piece with measurements, and within a week he had printed me a sole. Actually he printed me three, in various colors, so I can change them when I feel like it.
The new soles are definitely not as pretty as the original: I simplified the design so they don’t have the interested contours, the layers generated by the printing process are clearly visible, and there’s a faint impression of the honeycomb pattern that provides structural support to the otherwise hollow sole. I’m not concerned about the appearance; it is for a practice chanter, after all.
I’m just happy that I have a sole again.