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TLC for an old swanee whistle

Will Fly 06 Nov 08 - 02:09 PM
Barbara 06 Nov 08 - 02:37 PM
Will Fly 06 Nov 08 - 02:39 PM
Jack Campin 06 Nov 08 - 07:03 PM
Nigel Parsons 07 Nov 08 - 04:04 AM
Manitas_at_home 07 Nov 08 - 05:52 AM
Sean Mc 07 Nov 08 - 10:19 AM
Will Fly 07 Nov 08 - 02:57 PM
jeffp 07 Nov 08 - 03:27 PM
Sandra in Sydney 07 Nov 08 - 07:36 PM
Will Fly 08 Nov 08 - 03:29 AM
Alan Day 08 Nov 08 - 08:05 AM
Will Fly 08 Nov 08 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,leeneia 08 Nov 08 - 09:16 AM
GUEST,Arturo 04 Nov 10 - 08:02 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Nov 10 - 10:11 AM
Alan Day 04 Nov 10 - 10:22 AM
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Subject: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 02:09 PM

I've just acquired a 1920s swanee whistle or "lotus flute" made from bakelite with an end stop of bone. The end stop - which fits into the end of the whistle - is bound with what feels like waxed thread and is loose, i.e. comes out very easily. The end of the slide is a brass tube and I can feel some irregularities when moving the slide in and out. My questions are:

1. What's the best method of ensuring that the end stop stays in place? Is there a special thread and/or waxing which could be wound round the stop to ensure a tight fit?

2. Should the slide tube be lubricated? If so, with what - or should it stay dry? And the best method of cleaning?

I'm hoping that perhaps reed or brass players may have some knowledge here. The swanee whistle is usually considered as a joke instrument, but I've known players who could make it sound extremely melodic and tuneful. So - a serious query.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Barbara
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 02:37 PM

We always called this thing a slide whistle and I own ones in plated metal (chrome) and plastic.

I don't know about other people, but when faced with the first problem on a different instrument, I used waxed dental tape (wider than floss).

Neither of my whistles need grease. If it doesn't slide easily I would think that wax would be safer than grease. I don't know if bakelite is at all absorbent, but if any of the components do take up moisture, the grease might penetrate and create problems down the road.

Again, I have never dealt with bakelite and bone, but warm soapy water and a rinse is usually good, and you might want to purchase a flute swab to clean the interior and to use on it after playing it.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 02:39 PM

Barbara - that's just the kind of useful advice I needed. Thanks so much for your swift and helpful response. :-)

Will


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 07:03 PM

Tangentially: there is a culture in Melanesia whose most-played instrument is a kind of subcontrabass swannee whistle, several feet long and made out of bamboo. They're used in groups with the melody hocketed between the players. Somewhere I have an LP with a few tracks of this.

I have tried fitting an ordinary plastic one on the side of a recorder so it could act as a tunable drone, like an elaboration of the Hungarian ikerfurulya. Unfortunately I haven't got one good enough to produce a useful musical effect.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 Nov 08 - 04:04 AM

Playing the flageolet (penny whistle) in the bath, with all the holes covered makes an effective swanee whistle with the tone varied by the degree of submergence!

Cleans all the spittle out too!


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 07 Nov 08 - 05:52 AM

I managed to obtain some pipers hemp a few years ago for this sort of thing. I use it with beeswax. About once in a blue moon.I can't remember where I got it from but there are websites for bagpipe supplies. I would imagine that an untreated thick cotton thread would do.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Sean Mc
Date: 07 Nov 08 - 10:19 AM

I have an old wooden flute. I use PTFE plumbing tape on the joints.
Hope that helps.
Sean


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Nov 08 - 02:57 PM

Thanks folks - all your tips really are appreciated. Interestingly, the top of the bakelite pipe - near the fipple - has the words "Swanee whistle or lotus flute". But I thought a lotus flute was something else again.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: jeffp
Date: 07 Nov 08 - 03:27 PM

For what it's worth -- when I played trombone, I lubed the slide with cold cream and sprayed with water to slick it up. The cold cream would wipe off cleanly for cleaning. Very little is needed. Just enough to put a slick surface on the tube. Get a small dab on your finger, use your fingers to wipe it up and down the tube, and rub the rest into your skin for moisturizing purposes. Then spray with a mist of water and you're good to go.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 07 Nov 08 - 07:36 PM

There are many bakelite collectors around (I have a few pieces) so I did a google search on cleaning bakelite & found this useful info. Dunno if it's useful to you, Will Fly, but it might just be useful to me if I keep buying bakelite stuff.

sandra


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Nov 08 - 03:29 AM

Thanks Sandra - it's a very thick and heavy instrument of black bakelite and I shall probably take the slide out and give the whole of the inside and outside a thorough clean up before dealing with the slide and end stop.

Will


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Alan Day
Date: 08 Nov 08 - 08:05 AM

Will, I have an old Swannee Whistle which my Grandfather gave me at the age of seven.I played it on stage with his little dance band at Church Halls etc. My whistle is small in comparison to most I have seen being about six inches in overall length and brass plated cap that fits over one end to hold the brass plunger in place.The only ones I have ever seen the cap is just a push fit onto the base of the whistle.If you extend the whistle too far (like my Grandson does) the cap and the plunger are pulled apart.I use vaseline on the plunger, a light oil would do it,but like a trumpet the taste of oil eventually reaches your mouth. There are very few who can play these little instruments well and although I have been playing mine most of my life I still make people wince when they listen to it.
Al


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Nov 08 - 08:53 AM

The one I've bought is about 12" long, solid bakelite with tube over 1" thick - a real monster.

Is used to play in a jug band (The Egbert Sousé All Stars) in London in the late 60s/early 70s, and we used to be joined, from time to time by a swanee whistle player called Wink (surname escapes me) who played it like a jazz instrument and was a superb performer on it. As you say, not at all easy to play well - but I'm going to have a go (perhaps on the top of the Sussex Downs, where there's only sheep and cattle to be frightened...).


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 Nov 08 - 09:16 AM

Recently I attended a high-level workshop in early music. Someone there mentioned using Teflon plumber's tape when a recorder joint becomes loose. I've tried it, and it works.

Sean Mc has already mentioned that he uses it on a wooden flute.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: GUEST,Arturo
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 08:02 AM

Hi, I have several of these Lotus Flutes or Swanee Whistle. They were made in England. The one with the bone top is the De Luxe model. If I'm right, your flute has an inner metal cylinder. You can use any lubricant. The oil for slide trombone is OK. Be careful with baquelite. Don't expose to light or hot water (it loose the black color). Clean with a lightly moisted cloth. Dental thread (or any slim one) is the best way to ensure the top.

Further information in my blog: http://queinstrumentomasraro.blogspot.com

It's in spanish, but you'll can find the way to contact me.

By the way. I'm a collector of this kind of flute. Let me know it if you decide to sell yours.

Best wishes!

Arturo


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 10:11 AM

I second that mention of plumbing tape for loose joints. I had a recorder with a loose joint, and I wrapped the plumbing tape right over the thread wrapping. worked like a charm.

(I had got the tip about using tape at an early music workshop.)

I wouldn't lubricate it if I were you. Who knows what the chemical reactions might be between a lubricant and an old compound like Bakelite, especially Bakelite that's getting old.

Keep in mind that when you play it, water vapor from your breath will condense in the tube and lubricate it naturally.

I hope you have fun with. One day, I picked up one of those and played 'the Trumpret Voluntary' on it automatically. (I had had no idea I could do that.) My relatives were hugely impressed.


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Subject: RE: TLC for an old swanee whistle
From: Alan Day
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 10:22 AM

Mine is a "Picollo" with "Registered" "Made in London" printed on the shank.
It has a brass insert with a brass plunger.
Al


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