This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Jul 6, 2012

About the "Swan logo"... Part II

(sequel of the post About the "Swan logo"... Part I)


Now, are there differences between early Swan and the current production? MANY !!

Color and Plastic

At a first quick glance, everybody can see that the color range is absolutely not the same. Pastel (mixed with white) or tertiary colors were used at the beginnings, contrarywise to the current production which offers only "pure colors" (mix of a maximum of 2 primary colors).

Let's admire the Piet Visser's collection :

Piet Visser's collection photo by Maikel Mei.

Another obvious difference is the use of another kind of plastic. The old one was a bit dull and the new one is shiny. But the current one is also a little bit translucent, and seems more fragile regarding tiny scratches.

Now, if you take the time for a closer look, there are many other differences between the german and the chinese Swans...

Weight and Thickness

The old Swans were heavier than the new ones. I made the test with a precision scale (7.42 vs 7.12 grams):

OK, is this a difference in the plastic density? To find the answer, I measured the thickness of both flutes, at the exact same place, with a Palmer (1.40mm vs 1.35mm):

You could even argue that the 2 plastics shrink differently after injection...

... but the wideness is exactly the same (4.95mm), so difference does not come from the plastic itself! So, we can state that the moulds are not the same, and that the new model is lighter because it is made of less material. It is thinner.

Production stigmata

So, were there 2 different types of Swan flutes : the german oldies and the chinese new ones? No... things are a bit more complex again...

It is true that it is very easy to establish if a Swan is german of chinese. Besides the weight/thickness and type of plastic, the moulds were not the exactly the same, and some details are conclusive. For instance, the pair of round artefact which appear on the front of the mouth shield. On the old version, they are clearly salient, and almost flat or even a bit depressed on the chinese Swan :

There are two other noticeable differences : the labium of the vintage flute is regular, and the new one is very irregular, with a systematic oblique bevel. More, the chinese nose saddle always presents a little hole at the place where the airway cover was plugged, whilst the original german model nose rest has its full integrity.

Finally, if we compare the thin details on both series, it becomes obvious that the german produced flutes were the result of a much more precise mould. But when you look at those details, they exactly match, despite the difference in finesse.
On these images, the chinese model is on the left, german one on the right. The last pair of images show superpositions of the drawings :

What does it mean? Was the chinese mould made directly "on" a german Swan? In this case, how to explain the difference of the plastic thickness between the 2 models, and particularly the fact that the new model is thinner: taking the direct imprint would more probably lead to an equal or a bit thicker result. Indeed, the drawings got thicker, and in this case how to explain that the body is thinner ?

So, I assume the chinese mould was not made by direct imprint, but more probably with a pantograph or another "copy machine".

                                          << Read Part I       Read Part III >>


On the same topic :

- About the "Swan logo"... Part I
- About the "Swan logo"... Part II
- About the "Swan logo"... Part III
- "Swan logo"... Identity revealed!
- Much more about the Swan!
- Schwan Special Colors
- Vintage Schwan - Forensics and Dating



  1. WOW!!!! Fantastic, this article!!! Great scientific approach and superb photographic comparisons.

  2. Thank you Mr. Mei! I think you'll like Part 3 too, tomorrow.

    All the best,


  3. A very interesting and scientifically thorough article. There is another possibility though; it could be that the original mould was refurbished. There is wear and tear on moulds and over time the shut off surfaces don't match up properly, resulting in undesirable 'flashes' of plastic on the edges of the moulded object. This can be remedied by grinding down, or spark eroding the shut off surfaces, so that they match up properly again. They are usually ground down to a set tolerance, for instance 0.25 or 0.5 mm so that standard shim stock can be inserted into the die case (bolster) to accommodate the dimensional loss of the tool. This could explain why the newer nose flutes are thinner and lighter, and possibly the mould surfaces were polished again, explaining the shinier surface appearance.
    Chris Schuermans

  4. Hello Chris!

    Thanks a lot for your comment and explanations!
    You can probably answer this question : are any mould able to fit any injection machine ? I mean : would it have been possible to easily adapt the german mould to the new machine the chinese maker will have used?


  5. Hi Antoine,
    I don’t have any firsthand experience with plastic injection machines so I asked a toolmaker. According to him it would be fairly easy to modify (if necessary) a mould to be fitted to any machine. In principle the basic functioning of these machines is the same and the attachment mechanism that hold the moulds are also more or less the same. I hope that answers your question.

  6. Thanks a lot Chris!

    Another question:) If you polish the mould... your get more space for the plastic... So why a re-polished mould would drive to a thinner nose flute ?

    All the best,