Navy Dads

I've found many resources online that talk about how to tune a bosun's pipe.  However, each description of how to tune is not precise enough for me to know what the instructions mean.  So, I've pasted the description I found most helpful below and I've attached a picture of my pipe with arrows showing the points of confusion for me.  Maybe you can help me figure this out, as my pipe does will only sound with soft blows of air and goes mute when I blow harder.   

Here's the best description I found online.  I've included some italicized text in the description that shows my points of confusion with the description.  After you read this, you'll see my questions as related to the picture I posted with arrows that show my points of confusion on the actual picture of the pipe.  Thanks for following along! 

"Pipes are stamped out when manufactured; therefore, both the hole and the pee are often misshapen. Most pipes are too open at the pee and should be flattened and soldered at the sides of the pee to fill the space between the pee and the bowl <-- That statement is a little vague.  Fill the space between the pee and the bowl, that could be a large area or a smaller one...  Anyway, you'll see a better way to help me answer this question when you see the attached picture and accompanying questions below; otherwise, hissing sounds of escaping air will interfere with the clearness of the call. 
According to Mike Sandell, USNR(Ret), a USN Boatswain´s Mate for 22 years, “to tune a Bosun Pipe we would put bee's wax inside the bowl and use a lighter to melt it and kind of smash in the side <-- smash in the side of the bowl?  How and how much?  How much wax goes inside the bowl, what's the goal of this?  to tune it up so the perfect sound would come out of it.” 
From an early edition of the Bluejacket´s Manual, “some pipes are improved by scraping the wind edge or edge of the bowl farthest from the pee. It is sometimes necessary to enlarge this hole by scraping as well as by sharpening the edge until the reed strikes the hole fair. A test of this is often made by pushing the large end of a broom straw through the reed to find how the straw hits the wind edge of the hole. That edge of the hole should split the straw. The call, once tuned, should sound if held with its mouth to a gentle breeze; and, when blown with open hand, should sound from the most repressed pressure to the full strength of the lungs without any flaw in the sound known as wind leak or hoarseness; and the sound with closed hand should be as clear and shrill as is possible.”"

Ok that was the end of the online description for how to tune.   

Here's some questions that correspond with the attached picture.   
1.  You see the red arrow, pointing at the little red circle.  Is that what I'm supposed to fill with beeswax or solder?  Or am I supposed to fill that area AND the area that the purple rectangle covers?  Or, am I missing something altogether? 
2.  All the tuning descriptions talk about sharpening or filing away the wind edge on this side of the bowl so that a broom straw that is passed through the reed of the pipe will hit this edge squarely and in effect show that the wind blowing through the reed will be split evenly by this edge.  Well, when I do this test and pass a broom straw through the reed, it does indeed strike this edge squarely.  However, there is this rib/fin of metal that the green arrow is pointing at.  Am I supposed to file that area away above the green line?   
3.  Lastly, look at the 2 orange lines I have going through the reed of the pipe.  The top orange line is the path of the broom straw that I pass through the reed, and it strikes squarely on the wind edge.  However, the middle of the reed is the bottom orange line, and you can see that the first edge of the wind edge actually splits the air that would come out of the pee at the end of the reed.  Is this supposed to be like that?   

Anyway, please help me out and let me know what I might be missing.   

Note: The pipe I am working with is authentic and made to be used.  It is not a ceremonial pipe or something bought from amazon.  Also, I understand that many people call the bosun's pipe a bosun's call or boatswains call, but for the purposes of this thread, I have simply called it a bosun's pipe.  Lastly, I realize that there are many ways to tune the pipe.  Regardless, I am hoping someone can help me with some method that will work for the pipe I have posted a picture of.  Thanks for your help!

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Not sure if this would be of help to you
You may also want to post on our Boatswains Mate groups maybe they know of other resources as well:


The info about the wax is perfect.  Adding a little at a time and tilting away from you, 45 degrees sounds doable!  

The picture of your pipe is a little blurry however.  How is the "pee" on your pipe different than mine?  It looks like yours might be raised higher than mine...?

Also, yes, I've googled and googled all the ways I can think.  The videos I find are for sounding various calls, but none for tuning.  But...the search might be over with the advice you and others are providing!  

NavyDads Co-Admin, Jim said:

Matt, I sent you a link in a message. However I tried to copy and paste the link, but it is incomplete and the link does not work. So disregard my message.

But if you haven't done so yet, try Googling "Boatswain's Pipe" or "Tuning a Boatswain's Pipe."

I agree that there are many resources, and it seems that most sailors who use one all have different methods of tuning. You should also check on YouTube for any videos. I think the idea of the bee's wax is to add a little bit at a time. My understanding is that you "tip" the pipe away from you. So that the wax settles in the front and bottom of the bowl by lifting the mouth piece up and away from you. I would guess at about a 45 degree angle.

I have still not messed with my pipe too much and have not mastered it.

Good luck!


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