[ Ref. Mark Kinsler in 171207 MMDigest
Hi Mark, You have been "gifted" for repair with a classic Karl
Griesbaum whistler. If there is a flashlight type bulb in the lamp
post, then there is likely to be a battery compartment in the wooden
base, used to light that bulb.
You can see demonstrations of several of these on YouTube -- look for
"German Whistlers" or "Karl Griesbaum Whistlers". The one that is
closest to yours is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K884ay0t7pA
However, the lady demonstrating the piece is not correct in her
assertions. The switch in the back should activate the whistler and
turn on the light bulb in the lamp post all at the same time. His head
turns side to side while he whistles his tune -- usually "Show Me the
Way to Go Home" but it could be any of over 100 different tunes. When
he's finished the whistling stops and the light goes out. You can see
a video of one I recently restored at
As far as repairs are concerned the best I can do, sight unseen,
is to provide you with a possible guide, "Nursing Care Planning Guide
for Critically Ill Geriatric Whistlers!"
As such, here is the "boiler plate" information I provide to clients
about repairing musical singing bird boxes and singing bird cages
(which are very similar to the whistlers) and should answer most of
your questions about how I work and the likely costs of my services.
- - -
Bird Cage / Bird Box / Whistler Repair:
Thank you for contacting me about your bird cage, bird box or whistler
in need of repair. Yes, I certainly do service those mechanisms and
I'd be happy to assist you in restoring yours to its normal operation.
Unfortunately, sight unseen, it is impossible for me to guesstimate
what the repairs might cost.
What I can tell you that I charge a $45.00 bench fee for an evaluation
and estimate to repair. If you choose not to have the suggested
repairs made, we will be pleased to return it to you, and your only
financial responsibility would be the bench fee plus the return
packaging, shipping and insurance charges. If you opt to have the
repairs made, the bench fee is in essence waved and simply considered
as part of the first hours labor fee.
Mal-functioning musical bird box, bird cage and whistler mechanisms are
very much like cars that won't start. The lights won't come on so you
install a new battery. Now the lights come on but the car still won't
start. However, now that the electrical system has been restored you
see that the gas gauge reads empty, so you add gas. But it still
doesn't start, so you start looking at other items that might cause the
car not to work.
Even after you find out what the problem(s) were and get the car
started, you may then find that it runs very rough, or it doesn't sound
very good. Then you need to investigate and evaluate other adjustments
to various components and what those might cost for parts and labor.
I can also tell you is that my minimum labor charge is $90.00 for the
first hour or part thereof. Additional time beyond the first hour is
also billable at $90.00 per hour but in 10 minute ($15.00) increments
plus the cost of replacement parts, if any are needed, and the return
shipping, handling and insurance costs.
Perhaps an additional $35 or more depending on the size, weight and
value of the bird box, cage or whistler. (Insurance is often the most
costly return shipment factor as mechanical bird boxes, cages and
whistlers can often be valued in excess of $1,000.00 or more).
One can only give an educated guesstimate of repair costs based on past
experience. However, until the job is completed, even the restorer
won't know how much time it will eventually take to complete tasks
X and Y because A, B, C & D, and sometimes E, F & G will also need
to be attended to in order to effectively complete X and Y!
Bird boxes, cages and whistlers are very difficult to guesstimate
a repair cost without knowing where, or what the problems are. Their
repair or restoration can be anywhere between $250 and $1,000.00, or
more, plus parts, depending on the problems encountered, and how far
one wishes to go with a "restoration".
It is one thing to get it "working" again, it is another to restore
it to look and work "as new" so that it will last another 100 years.
The question will be what it is worth to you to have it restored.
I have long ago given up on guessing how a given client will wish to
proceed as there is no way for me, or anyone else, to quantify its
"pricelessness" or "irreplaceability" to you or your family.
- - -
Packaging for Shipment:
As far as safe packaging is concerned, I'd suggest that you put the
box, cage, or whistler into a plastic bag or a large "zip-lock" type
plastic baggie. Remove as much air from the baggie as possible and
For a bird cage or whistler, wrap "bubble wrap" around the middle
portion of the cage (like a belt) until it is as wide as the base.
Then, wrap more "bubble wrap" around the entire cage or whistler
creating a cylinder. Seal off the top and bottom.
Next, nestle it inside a new cardboard box, filling it with
Styrofoam peanuts such that there are one to two inches of peanuts
between the bird box or cage and the interior walls of the cardboard
carton. Overfill the carton somewhat so that when you close it you
must forcefully compress the peanuts. You should then violently shake
the sealed carton and you should not hear anything rattling around.
Most bird cages and whistlers are about 12" to 14" tall and 5" to 8"
in width or diameter. Therefore you will probably need a carton
that is at least 14 x 10 x 10 inches or perhaps 16 x 12 x 12 inches.
Bird boxes, being much smaller will require a smaller box. A USPS
"Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate" box is often a good value and the
carton is free from your local post office.
The criteria for a well packaged item is that the carton should be
able to be dropped (repeatedly) on any side or corner from an height
of 30" onto a concrete floor without the contents being damaged.
I emphasized using a "new" carton as if there should be any damage
in transit a claim for damage will be denied by the carrier if a
previously used carton has been utilized. The carrier will argue that
they cannot confirm that they crushed the carton.
Please be sure to enclose a letter inside the package with your name,
email and physical address, and also your phone number, so that we can
call you with our formal estimate. And also, should the address label
on the package be damaged or removed, so that the carrier can identify
the sender and or recipient. Please insure the package for whatever
value you would accept as restitution if the package is lost, stolen,
or damaged beyond repair. (Highly unlikely if the box is securely
packed and properly addressed). Also be sure to get a tracking number
or delivery confirmation number.
Please feel free to telephone me or email me if you have any further
questions. A phone call is preferred, as I speak and think much more
efficiently orally than typographically.
Don Caine - Proprietor, The Music Box Repair Center Unlimited
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