Resurrecting the "O.G." Irish Pennywhistle


#1

In the early 1970s the Generation tin whistle company accidentally made a run of cheap pennywhistles that happened to be the best ever made. Maybe 1 out of every ten would be an exceptional instrument, and the early Irish sound we all know and love was defined by this whistle throughout the folk revival.

However, in the late 70s the molds wore out, the company moved on, and nothing as good has ever emerged since. Many fine, handmade whistles are available these days, but most of them use a variant of the Kalischeck’s “three tube” system to make the mouthpiece. This limits the allowed dimensions and tends to produce its own distinct sound.

I struggled on the lathe for a while before wondering if I could 3D print something based on the old whistles. Duct flutes (which include recorders, whistles, and ocarinas) in general require sub-millimeter precision, especially in the exit dimensions of the airblade. A few years down the road, I’ve learned a ton about how to shape the sound of the instrument, and about 3D modelling and printing, too.

On the far left you can see the original PVC pipe kluge, then the machined ones, and then the beginning of the Renaissance. The real tipping point was making a “modular” whistle I could put different angles of airblade in, different windway shapes, etc, and vary the window length scientifically down to a few thousandths of an inch.

Now, despite a pandemic, disabling levels of depression, and almost zero access to practice space, I have something I’m ready to sell. Sound samples coming soon!


#2

Let me know when they’re up!