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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:39 pm 
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Hello all! I've been investigating the physics and acoustics of the whistle, and I've been wondering whether anyone knows any details about the materials of which the old standard "cheap" whistles are made. The metals have been easy to track down, of course (mostly brass, except for Clarke's tinplate), but the headpiece materials have not. I'm interested in the plastic used for plastic headpieces, and the wood used in Clarkes. Clarke just lists "hardwood", which is not very helpful. For instance, balsa is technically a hardwood (stupid though that sounds).

As far as plastic goes, ironically, Clarke has been the only one I've come across so far that has specified what they make their headpieces out of, namely PC-ABS. I've seen other posts mentioning in passing that other mouthpieces are made of (plain) ABS, but my own measurements of weight (very precise, using a laboratory scale) and density (imprecise, but helped by having many mouthpieces to measure) suggest that ABS is actually denser than the plastic used in Oaks, Feadogs, Waltons, and (newer) Generations.

From my density measurements, they all seem very similar, and most consistent with polystyrene. This seems odd to me, as the quality of plastic in (newer) Gens seems significantly inferior to that used in the others. Among other things, if I sight down the tube, the plastic in the head of the Gens transmits light pretty well, while that of the others blocks it pretty effectively. They feel different to me as well, the others feeling more "solid" somehow. Less subjectively, they seem to be of different toughness: sliding the head up and down on the Gen sometimes leaves bits of shredded headpiece plastic fluff that gets in the tube, while this has never happened in the others, in spite of some of them being very tight fits.

If the densities didn't suggest otherwise, I'd say that only Gens were polystyrene, and the others ABS. But again, in spite of the inaccuracies I get from my comparatively crude volume measurements (displacement of water in a graduated cylinder that's only marked in ml), they're all in the same range, averaging around 1.01-1.03. That's not dense enough for ABS (specific gravity 1.06-1.08), but right in the ballpark of polystyrene (0.96-1.04).

So, does anyone know for sure what these things are actually made of?

And what about the wood used in Clarke originals, anyway? Or Shaws, for that matter (I just got one, and so of course I'm curious about that as well...)?

Thanks in advance...!


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:30 am 
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Clarke just lists "hardwood", which is not very helpful.


They used to bill it as cedar but they may be using different woods now, hence, perhaps, the ambiguity.


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The plastics used in injection molding are polymers - chemicals - either thermosetting or thermoplastic. Thermosetting plastics are set by the application of heat or through a catalytic reaction. Once cured, they cannot be remelted and re-used - the curing process is chemical and irreversible. Thermoplastics, however, can be heated, melted and re-used.

Thermosetting plastics include epoxy, polyesterand phenolic resins, whilst thermoplastics include nylon and polyethylene. There are almost twenty thousand plastic compounds available for injection molding, which means that there is a perfect solution for almost any molding requirement.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:02 am 
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Seems like you should be asking the companies themselves - though some might consider it a 'trade secret'. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:21 am 
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The old Clarkes used Malaysian rubberwood, later replaced by cedar (which I already mentioned) and maple. According to Dannatt's booklet on Clarke whistles. Cedar has a clear and distinct smell that makes it easy to spot.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:04 am 
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Cedar does have a very distinct smell but you might have to abrade the wood to smell it--the odor comes from oils in the wood which are volatile and flash off the surface over time. I'd assume if you were going to use a wooden plug you'd use a rot and moisture resistant wood. Cedar is very rot resistant is in the US was traditionally used for roof shingles


It's puzzling to me why Generation doesn't issue a "classic" whistle. Go back to the old molds, use a different formula, and charge twice as much for it. The one pre-1980s Generation I have, found in a drawer, does have a different sound and shape and is quieter. They would not even have to improve their terrible quality control, although obviously that would be a good thing too.

Edit: yes and the mouthpiece on my old Generation is a different color blue and much much less translucent. It feels like a different plastic


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:41 am 
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Go back to the old molds,


The old molds had worn, by all accounts. As have, by now, the ones that replaced them. A choice was made, one would assume based on customer demand, for a louder whistle. In all fairness, I have an early eighties 'Darra' whislte that I believe to be a test run for the new model (and it circumvented the mood surrounding the hungerstrikes by not stating 'british made' on its label). The molds were new and doing fine, it's a nice well behaved whistle. Newly made molds would be a start, even if they don't fancy a re-design.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:54 am 
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I assume they have a few folks around who know how to make a mold?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:59 am 
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Who knows. One would suspect, if they were interested at all, they would have long sorted this instead of letting things slide.

You can always ask them.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:21 am 
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Ahem. "Cedar" is a very ambiguous term. In the Western/NorthWestern US where they use 'cedar' for roofs and siding, they use thuja plicata, not a true 'cedar', rather a 'cypress'. Got into the middle of this when making reeds for uilleann pipes.

Bob :D

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:54 am 
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When and why did the demand for louder whistles begin? I don't care for very loud whistles in the first place. We can't all start playing louder and louder. Nuts.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:21 am 
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it's a bit of an arms race, isn't it. Read the forums: being heard, cutting through, low octave completely swallowed up, standing up in a rowdy bar session. They're the buzz words, and that's only in the last week or so.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:57 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
being heard, cutting through, low octave completely swallowed up, standing up in a rowdy bar session. .


Jeepers Peter

Friels has certainly changed for the worst :lol:

Cheers

John


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:00 pm 
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Thanks to all who've responded so far... I was hoping that headpiece material might have become a relevant bit of tweaking lore (e.g., how much to heat X to melt it, which solvents work on Y, that sort of thing). I can speak from personal experience that chloroform is exactly the thing you want to use in order to repair cracked heads on newer Gens. Acetone isn't. I know polystyrene dissolves in both, but it reacts differently to each, and I don't have the experience to say whether or not other plastics respond in the same ways. I like my other whistles enough not to want to experiment on them (and haven't had to repair cracks such as the ones incurred in getting the head off of a Gen C), but I figured others might have done so.

I'm surprised to see cedar being mentioned so much, as it's a softwood. Assuming Clarke's site is accurate, they must have switched to something else. The wood does look a bit mapley to me, but there are plenty of other things it could be as well.

As for Gens vs other whistles, I agree with PB+J that the plastic seems very different between earlier and later ones. I did ask Generation about this, and never got a response. But perhaps I should try some other makers.

Speaking of which, who exactly makes Oaks? I've not been able to determine this anywhere on the Internet so far. The heads on my Oak and Feadog C whistles look identical aside from colour, which makes me wonder whether Feadog actually makes both. (Oddly, while the Feadog D looks like a slightly-scaled-down Feadog/Oak C, the Oak D looks quite different. Unlike the others, it's got the 'bump' on the labium and that ridge behind it like Generations have.)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:02 am 
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Speaking of which, who exactly makes Oaks? I've not been able to determine this anywhere on the Internet so far. The heads on my Oak and Feadog C whistles look identical aside from colour, which makes me wonder whether Feadog actually makes both.


The Oak was originally made in the US, somewhere in the last decade Feadóg Teo either bought them or production was outsourced to them, at which point (what seems like ) the Feadóg head was put on them (the older Oaks had a different design, pretty nice for D, less so for C. Nicer than a Feadóg. If you found a good one). I am not sure what the situation is right now (and really don't care much about it either) as I have recently seen them billed as 'made in the USA' again and they are no longer listed on the Feadóg website.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:23 am 
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I bought an Oak in four months ago that came saying "made in Ireland" on the packaging. It looks to be exactly the same tube as feadog pro. The mouthpieces appear to be made of exactly the same material but they are shaped differently. The Oak has that dimple thingy and a significantly wider windway


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