25 Photos - Jan 30, 2013
Photo: Starting with a section of electrical conduit sent to me by Phil Brown of Big Whistle fame, I square the end with a parting tool on the small lathe.Photo: Then, once the end is square, I use a series of gages to set the length of each piece of the whistle. In this case it's the bottom hand joint of a black Walkabout Every C whistle.Photo: And then the section is parted off.Photo: Here I am setting the boring bar to turn the ID of the head joint to receive the top hand joint. I try to make 20 or 30 whistles at a time because it is so tedious to set up the machines. It takes much longer than making the cut.Photo: Moving to the larger lathe, I set the tooling to turn the OD of the male portion of the tuning slide.Photo: Job done. I de-burr the ID and OD while the lathe spinns down.Photo: Here the OD of the whistle head has been turned. The thickness of this section determines the height of the wind way, and thus plays a large role in the voicing of the whistle.Not shown: The logo and key are put on by a local engraver.Photo: With the OD of the head finished, I now know where to stop when making the double cuts for the windway.Photo: I score the windway at the labium.Photo: Then snap out the waste.Photo: And clean up the sides of the windway. We want smooth air flow in here!Photo: Filing the labium ramp. This is one operation that I would like to automate or devise a useful jig for. Not that it's difficult, but doing this free-hand leaves room for variation to creep into the process. And the labium is critical in the voice of the whistle. You want it not too sharp, and not too dull. It has to be just right.Photo: Once the whistle has a labium, I insert the fipple block and slide the mouthpiece over the head joint using a shop-made gage to ensure they are at the same position as the hundreds that came before.Photo: Over to the band saw to cut the mouthpiece to length. The length of the windway also plays a role in how the whistle plays.Photo: Then the undercut forming the beak is done.Photo: And the rough bits are smoothed out.Photo: And I smooth the marks from the sanding drum a little. Not completely smooth though, I want it to feel like wood so it doesn't slide around in your lips while you play.Photo: Polishing the whistle before drilling the tone holes. The holes grab the buffing wheel if polishing is done after the holes are drilled.Photo: Now the tone holes are drilled. I devised this sliding sled jig to hold the whistle so the holes are all in alignment. I can change the hole pattern by swapping out a single part. That brass bolt to the left is locking the hole template in place.Photo: Drilling the holes takes less time than changing the drill bits.Photo: The holes are done, and you can see the burrs raised by the drill.Photo: So I have to remove the burrs and round over the edges of the tone holes. This is done with a #11 X-acto knife. When I started I would slice the end of my right thumb about once every 100 whistles. But I can go quite a while between gashes these days.Photo: Undercutting the tone holes is important. The air doesn't like to flow across sharp corners, so a hole with sharp corners acts as if the ID of the hole were smaller than one that is rounded off a little. This is another operation where damage to my fingers would often happen.Photo: And that's about it. I play each whistle - some longer than others - to ensure the tuning of every note in the two octaves. You are on your own when you get into the third!Photo: Thanks to Terry McGee and Graeme Roxburgh for creating the original "Reel Time Tuning Analysis" software, and to Scott Turner for this Windows adaptation of the technology that I am using. Please read about RTTA at http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/RTTA.htm.