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How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?

04 Jan 02 - 11:07 AM (#620897)
Subject: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend

I wonder if anyone can help?

My grandfather, who taught me pretty much all the songs I know, died last year, and my grandmother has given me his harmonica (as I've been trying to learn to play for a while) and his Swannee Whistle. I always loved it as a child, because not only could he play it beautifully, but he would let me make Clanger noises with it. (For the uninitiated, The Clangers was a British TV programme, about peaceful little pink creatures that live on a distant planet, and they talk entirely in whistles, all done on this wonderful instrument.)

The harmonica is in good condition, and plays beautifully, (although there's 16 small holes instead of the 10 large ones on my beginner's instrument - tricky!) but the whistle has been put away at the top of a wardrobe for years. It's rather old, I think - it looks to me as though it's made of bakelite, with an ivory bottom stopper (packed with some sort of waxed cord, I think) and brass moving parts. It plays, but the brass is tarnished, and I think it needs a good clean.

Anyone got any advice on doing this, or on actually playing it as an instrument, rather than just Clanger-whistling?

Thank you!


04 Jan 02 - 11:43 AM (#620927)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: Sorcha

I found lots of stuff about how to make comedy noises, but no helpful information about cleaning or tunes. Sorry.


04 Jan 02 - 11:52 AM (#620934)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: Ned Ludd

The safest cleaning method is warm soapy water and dry thoroughly. The cotton on the stopper is just to give an airtight joint. Be careful not to damage the mouthpiece. If the brass still needs cleaning after washing,try to use something that will not wear it away.(I would leave it to polish with use.


04 Jan 02 - 12:13 PM (#620956)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend

Thank you!


05 Jan 02 - 05:12 AM (#621432)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: Liz the Squeak

It is possible to play tunes, but it takes a great deal of practice. Pretend it's a fretless guitar, and listen really, really hard.

Warm soapy water is the best thing for Bakelite, provided there are no cracks. I'd be tempted to just wipe it with a damp cloth. Any grease on it will be a result of handling, and will either wear off or shine up with more handling.

Thread Creep - all the Clangers' episodes were scripted, and there was an uproar at the BBC when Mr Postgate wanted to start with a particular phrase. The BBC argued that you couldn't say that sort of thing on Children's TV, and Mr Postgate argued that it was what the Clanger would say. The argument was won by someone else pointing out that as it was being done entirely by whistles, the odds on someone understanding what they were actually saying was infintesimally small.

That phrase uttered by Major Clanger - clearly understood by myself and several others - 'Oh sod it, the damn thing's stuck again!'

LTS


05 Jan 02 - 05:23 AM (#621435)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: PaulM

Liz,

To be pedantic, it's "bloody thing"

A real audio clip of Oliver Postage explaining it can be found here

Paul


05 Jan 02 - 12:50 PM (#621527)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: catspaw49

I was thinking you could give it a good scrubbing in the Swannee River.............

Spaw


05 Jan 02 - 05:19 PM (#621656)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: Gypsy

Talked to the resident whistle guy, and he recommended trying to play it like you would a slide trombone...stopping your breath to achieve separate notes. So that's my two cents worth


19 Jan 02 - 12:49 PM (#631130)
Subject: RE: Help: How to clean/restore a Swannee Whistle?
From: GUEST,Tracey Dragonsfriend

Just got back to this - thank you all for your help!