New Pro A

While it had always been my intention that the Low G would be the next key to follow the Low D and the F, it is in fact the A that has come to fruition first.   The G remains very close, but it still needs that little extra something to give take that final 1% to being absolutely ‘there’.  The A definitely is that- those who have played the prototypes seemed to consider it to be best A they have played.  I’m certainly happy with them and I hope you like them also!  They are currently available to buy on this page.

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Notes: The new As feature a slightly different tuning slide to the brass slides as used on the Ds and Fs. They are still low profile, but use a low friction plastic lining instead of brass.    They are also available in a satin plain aluminium finish.

Update on New Keys

I’ve been answering a lot of emails recently about when keys of whistles other than the D and F are going to come to fruition.  I thought I’d provide a general update here.  Though I had envisaged the G would be the next key, and we have taken a substantial number of advance orders for these, it is in fact probably the A which will be ready next.  Those on the waiting list for the Gs (some of which have been waiting for almost a decade!!!),  will be given first offer on the As.  In a best case scenario we would also see both the G and the Eb available before the end of the year.

 

MK prototype whistles

Prototyping!

prototyping whistles, design, testi

A busy workbench !

a busy workbench for making Mk Whistles by Misha Somerville

Micro tools! (for doing the fine work)

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Back to chromatic

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Stuck low whistle tuning slide

How to fix a seized whistle tuning slide

(please note this applies to metal tin whistles and low whistles -not wooden ones).

A seized tuning slide has long been a problem on many woodwind instruments.  I thought I’d take the time to talk through the ins and outs of seized tuning slides – an age old curse of woodwind musicians including low whistle players.

First I feel it’s worth mentioning that the best solution is to prevent the tuning slide seizing in the first place – as obvious as it might be to say so!   Contrary to popular belief tuning slides rarely, if ever, seize as a result of dirt getting trapped in the slide.  The two parts actually get stuck because the surface of metals corrodes as it reacts with air – in a similar process to steel rusting.  This reaction on the surface of the two adjacent and touching parts causes the parts to fuse together.  Some metals suffer more from this phenomenon than others.  Aluminium or steel are quite reactive in air and therefore fuse relatively quickly.  Brass and titanium are relatively stable (or ‘inert’) in air and will therefore take much longer to react.

The simplest way of stopping the two parts seizing together is to stop the reaction at the surface of the metal.  This is where tuning slide grease (or cork grease) comes in very useful – it coats the surface of the parts and creates a barrier between them and the air, hence stopping the reaction.  The handy thing is that putting a little on can last for long time.

So you didn’t use any Cork Grease and you have a seized tuning slide?

The tuning slide on your prized music instrument is seized – what should you do?  The first thing to remember is don’t panic!  …or start twisting it with massive pliers or hitting it off things in a blind rage!  The trick is to break the bond which has developed from the corrosion.  The easiest way to do this is heat the outside part.  When you do this, the outside of the slide  expands quicker than the inside causing the bond to break.  After doing this you’ll be amazed at how easily the parts come apart.  It’s a little like using hot water to heat your breakfast bowl to get dried cornflakes off it!

So how do you heat the outside of the slide?

By the far the best way to heat the outside of the slide is with a heat gun.  This, however, is not always readily available to us.  A compromise can be to run boiling water over the outside of the part at the tuning slide.  Care must be taken during this not to burn your hands – as the parts do heat up it can be a good idea to use gloves – ideally wool gloves though even rubber washing up gloves are a good start.  This wont always work but it is a good starting point.  In extreme cases, where you don’t have access to a heat gun, using a blowtorch at a distance and sparingly will break the seal, though many would prefer to send the instrument to an instrument maker before reaching this point!

Of course once you’ve unstuck the tuning slide, make sure to keep some grease on it so it doesn’t happen again!

***If you think it would be beneficial for this article to be published as a video please let us know – if there’s enough interest we’ll publish it as an instruction video.

The Slow Game

Sometimes it can seem like the most frustrating thing: 12 years after starting out and only the D and the F have made it into the hands of musicians.  As a musician it often seemed that an idea cooked up that day, or even on the spot, could make it out into the world and be enjoyed by others right there and then.  As an instrument maker it all changed.   Things took years, decades, or even lifetimes to come to fruition, and the more you tweaked, tinkered and listened the longer it took.  I’d like to think that it pays off though.  Well made musical instruments are not only capable of incredible feats with the right partnership, but they can also go and go for many years.

Working late into the Night


low whistles makers

 

Notes from the workshop: keeping the edges

One of the most challenging parts in making whistles (and I suspect lots of other instruments) is keeping the corners and edges sharp.  The fipple – the edge the airstream is directed onto – for example,  is one of the most important parts in the formation of a good tone.  Also, the edges of the tone holes are the extremely influential with tuning and intonation.

But by their very nature, edges are exposed, making them vulnerable to getting rounded off.  From a makers perspective it’s awkward because if we didn’t have to maintain the edges, we’d just be able chuck the assembled instruments in an automatic polishing machine and collect the beautifully shiny whistles an hour later.  In a similar vein, it’s always been said that you can tell the quality of a flute by whether the keywork has any hard lines or edges – on the cheaper models everything’s been rounded off in the finishing process.

Obviously edges need to be deburred and finished so as to be safe to touch, but rounding out the tone-hole edges on whistles means that some form of ‘indiscriminate’ finishing has been used, which attacks the edges – pushing sandpaper or a scotchbrite pad up against the body as it spins on a machine might be an example.  The difficulty here is that, although it gives a good overall finish to the eye, it rounds off the edges, and by the very nature of this kind of abrasive process, it’s difficult to do consistently, with these inconsistencies then work their way through to the tuning and intonation.

It’s one thing to identify a problem though, and an entirely different matter to solve it!   It’s also true that soemtimes the answer might’ve been starring you right in the face – for ten years!  Thankfully focusing in on this has produced some good processes and techniques, and it’s something we’ve made good progress with.





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