Saturday, June 15, 2013

The NC Maker Faire and the easiest fipple in the world

Today E, S, and I went to the NC Maker Faire--our first Maker Faire experience.

E's highpoint was learning to solder:

He made his very own blinky Make LED robot pin:

When he came home, he added a piece of paper to the back to interrupt the circuit; otherwise the LEDs would blink until the battery ran out.

S's highpoint was seeing the robotic bugs by the folks at, although I suspect he also enjoyed showing off his biking finesse by zipping his way through SPARKcon's stationary bike race. S handily won the first race; E came from behind to win the second.

My highpoint was learning how to make the least fickle fipple in the world from wood artist Hal Papan. I was drawn to his table of wood whistles when I looked up to see a hands-on wood-whistle-finishing demo in progress. Hal kindly talked to me about fipples and let me finish a whistle too. He had prepared a bunch of nearly-finished whistles, having already carved the bores and cut the bevels and fipple plugs; my task was simply to orient the plug properly and insert it far enough into the bore that it lined up with the vertex of the bevel cut. He had to help me force the plug in far enough, since it was a tight fit, but the nudge-check-nudge-check process was helpful since I could easily hear the difference between the not-quite-there-yet sound and the loud tweet of the aligned plug. It's a very pretty whistle, with lovely knots and curves.

Of course, when I got home, I tried making one out of clay. It was quick work to roll a coil, push a dowel in, and make a plug for the open end. I was too impatient to wait for the tube to stiffen up, so I went ahead and used a wire cheese slicer to cut the bevel. A little bevel tidying and voila--a sounding whistle, with a remarkably straightforward fipple.

My first attempt was a little too big to put my lips around (which I was doing with a conflicted mixture of enthusiasm for the sound and worry that my bag of clay scraps had been growing bacteria for three months on my porch and I really shouldn't be putting the clay anywhere near my mouth), so I smushed the first iteration and tried again with half as much clay--and voila again

The result is a plain can-I-do-it experiment (yes! I can!), but there's clearly room for further experimenting to discover what kind of sound(s) I can get out of these sorts of whistles, to learn how they can be visually beautified (Joe is back at Penland making far more beautiful ones), and to find out whether there's any chicken potential. Tweet tweet.

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