Allergic to nickel

Allergic to nickel

Hi all!
I am new to this forum and hope it is ok to ask the following question - if not please feel free to delete or tell me to delete the post. I would be greatful for any ideas. I have a lovely Shaw low whistle made from nickel, but i am allergic and when i play with a pipers grip my fingers get really itchy within a couple of minutes. Is there anything i can do apart from get a plastic one instead, or cover it with clear nailvarnish? The latter feels a bit criminal though. I like the sound it makes so i don’t really want to give it up.

Interesting i don’t have the same issue with the "normal" little D whistle, so i guess my fingertips can’t have the same sensitivity.

Re: Allergic to nickel

MarieW,
Your question is entirely valid. I had the same problem with Generation nickel whistles, and so I play mostly the brass ones, whose sound I also prefer. I also find that the fingers don’t grip nickel as well as brass.

I think there are various whistles on the market which are neither plastic nor nickel, but there may not be so many low whistles among them. Even if you don’t find a solution straightaway you could use a brass Generation or Feadog for practice.

Re: Allergic to nickel

Is it possible to wear some kind of gloves? Possibly mittens so that only your finger tips touch the holes? Or very thin rubber gloves(I know that doesn’t sound very pleasant).

Or would a very low dose of some kind of "antihistamine" help when you are practising?

Sorry if any of these suggestions sound daft. I’m just thinking aloud.

Re: Allergic to nickel

Hi Marie,

I’m no doctor so I can’t don’t know what to say about your allergy but if you don’t want plastic there’s a few more options. Jon Swayne (https://www.jonswayne.com/) makes beautiful wooden low whistles (not cheap though) and Colin Goldie (https://www.colingoldie.de/) and Misha Somerville (https://mkwhistles.com) make them in aluminium.

Surely there’s other makers but those are the ones I have tried before.

Hope this helps.

Re: Allergic to nickel

I was pondering gloves too but i suspect you’d lose the feel of the holes. But i will have a look for something very thin to see if it would work.

Good point regarding having a different one for practise, I will keep an eye out for a non itchy low d, i don’t mind plastic per se, it just seems a shame to not be able to play the existing one. Buuut, any excuse to get a new one right :D I would love a wood one but i just can’t justify the price of one at the moment.

I have a penny whistle generation d in brass and i would probably want to go somewhere where you are allowed to try them, the one i have is hideously out of tune and has been relegated to a toy. Thankful they are not expensive. We occasionally pop up to London and i think there are a couple of shops up there that might be good (the one close to us doesn’t let me try them due to H&S).

Thank you for taking your time to reply

Re: Allergic to nickel

Agree about needing to try out Generation whistles before buying. The ones I play were all bought a long time ago when the quality of the mouthpieces was better.

Big Whistle Music has a selection of whistles from different makers, including brass and aluminium:
https://www.bigwhistle.co.uk/

Re: Allergic to nickel

Hello, MarieW. Sorry to hear you are sensitive to nickel. I like Shaw whistles too though I’m not sensitive to the metal. Interesting you asked about coating it in nail varnish because that is one of the recommendations for people with nickel allergies for wearing nickel jewelry. You may have seen this all ready. It has detailed information about nickel sensitivity.
https://www.nsc.com.sg/Patient-Guide/Health-Library/Types%20of%20Skin%20Conditions/Pages/Nickel-Allergy.aspx

Posted by .

Re: Allergic to nickel

You might try using a good hand cream to provide a barrier for your skin. It could actually improve the seal over the holes. Just make sure it doesn’t make your hands slippery.

Posted by .

Re: Allergic to nickel

You could silver plate it like a Boehm flute. Many are silver plated nickel silver. [I am only half joking.]

Nickel allergy contact dermatitis (ACD) is a very real thing. Here’s a technical article, with a possible suggestion to use a glycering emollient:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_allergy

"In 2011, researchers showed that applying a thin layer of glycerine emollient containing nanoparticles of either calcium carbonate or calcium phosphate on an isolated piece of pig skin (in vitro) and on the skin of mice (in vivo) prevents the penetration of nickel ions into the skin. "

Re: Allergic to nickel

"You could silver plate it like a Boehm flute. "

Silver plating is a simple enough process in itself and not that costly. The problem with a Shaw whistle is the wooden block, which would presumably have to be removed for the plating process, since it involves immersion in aqueous liquid. Practicality aside, however, it seems a good solution (no pun intended) from the perspective that you would not have to apply an emollient every time you wanted to play. For me, one of the nice things about the whistle is that you can have one lying around and pick it up to play whenever you feel like it, without any special preparation.

If you choose to replace it with a different whistle there are, of course, other options besides plastic. There are various aluminium and brass ones available (and wooden, if your budget allows). If you particularly like conical-bore whistles, Michael Copeland makes a brass low D (again, if your budget allows - ca. £500).

Re: Allergic to nickel

The wooden block need not be a problem. You can get brush plating kits for both silver and gold. They have an electrode with a foam pad which you soak in plating solution and then just rub it on, no need to immerse the object. I use the system quite a lot for gold plating brass fittings for stringed instruments.

Re: Allergic to nickel

Thanks, Mark M - I learn about plenty besides tradtional music on this site. The OP might not want to shell out the £90+ on a kit for a one-off plating job, but presumably a commercial plating service would also offer brush-plating as an option.

Re: Allergic to nickel

You lot are amazing, thank you very much. There are so many suggestions i haven’t thought of, it didn’t even strike me you could plate an instrument. I will explore the options and thinking about it, agree on the fact that the beauty of a whistle is you can just pick it up and play without much further thought.

I only tried a couple of low d’s, so i don’t have a very big experience. I can’t really remember now, but i think i chose it as reviews said you didn’t need big hands for it, but i also like the breathy sound it makes. I feel that maybe i need to find a shop to try some others to see if i like one as much, and go from there and in the meanwhile have a go at some cheaper solutions to see if anything works for the Shaw.

Ultimately i think i will start saving up for a nice one, possibly wood but it also depends on outcome of trying some others out. Back in the days when i was earning a decent wage i bought an Abell and absolutely love the feeling of the wood, the sound it makes and how easy it is to play, albeit it is a bit loud so it doesn’t always get used. (And yes fully aware before any good players roll their eyes it’s probably a "all the gear no idea" purchase, but it is lovely all the same :D ) I thought Copelands were like gold dust and really expensive?

Re: Allergic to nickel

On the out of tune Generation. You could simply move the mouthpiece to make it in tune.

I tune to the D (low and middle) and then check the other notes in the first octave. One thing to remember about Generations is that people often under-blow the second octave meaning that it will be flat.

Re: Allergic to nickel

I can’t imagine why coating your whistle would in any way make it sound different. And, I’m only curious here, does the nickel affect you in any way at the mouthpiece?

Re: Allergic to nickel

To Ross - no it doesnt’ weirdly, and neither do my fingertips when playing a little whistle get affected to the same extent. I discovered recently i assume it is genetic, both my dad and sister is the same.

Also my hands start to itch almost immediately if i hold coins. As allergies goes it’s not a very inconvenient one, apart from being mildly annoying when playing a nickel low whistle lol.

Thank you for the information on tuning the generation whistle, i shall give that a go.

Re: Allergic to nickel

Not wanting to derail the thread, but it looks like it’s reaching a natural conclusion anyway.

To get the head off your Generation D whistle, the most common way is to dip the head for few minutes in a cup of hot (near to boiling) water. The ABS plastic has a much higher expansion coefficient than the brass in the tube so this should start to loosen it.

Grab the head in a tea-towel, and then firmly pull and slightly twist to remove it. You’ll find there’s a bit of lacquer at the top of the tube where the head used to be, I clean that off.

Personally, I put a little Vaseline (petroleum jelly) onto the tube before starting to push the head back on. Put the head back on a small way and make sure it’s straight. I then tune it slowly by degrees holding the head and tapping the the base of the tube on something hard to move the head down slightly.

Remember that any whistle needs to be warmed up to be in tune.

There is a rather less common (though very effective) way to remove a Generation head, and that is to repeatedly drop the whistle into the tube of a lower pitched whistle so that the bottom of the head strikes the end of the other tube and gradually gets knocked off.

It doesn’t really take any additional force, just keep lifting and dropping it and it’ll work. I’d advise that the tube that you drop into does not have a head on it since once the tube of the whistle is released it will slide right down and can damage the fipple if it’s there. All this means that the hot water method may be more feasible.