If you're looking for an after school project for the kids, have them build a whistle from a stick. A freshly cut branch from a willow tree can be used to build the whistle. With adult supervision, the willow branch can be shaped, using a utility knife, to produce a high-pitched whistle when air is blown through the mouthpiece. Happily for the parents, the whistle will lose its acoustic properties after a few days, as the wood begins to dry out.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Small handsaw
- Utility knife
Locate a willow tree. The weeping willow is a common type of willow that can be identified by its long, drooping branches and spidery leaves.
Examine the willow tree's branches until you find a newly sprouted branch with moist bark with a diameter measuring at least 1/2 inch. Cut a 1-foot section from an area of the branch that is straight and has minimal buds along its surface using a handsaw.
Cut a 45-degree notch from one end of the willow stick. Hold the stick in one hand and position the saw blade across the centre of the end of the stick. Cut at a 45-degree angle toward the outer side of the stick. This notched end will be used as the mouthpiece for the whistle.
Measure and mark a location 4 inches from the notched end of the stick. Cut a 1/4-inch band of bark from around stick using the utility knife. Once this band of bark is removed the stick should have a 1/4-inch ring of exposed wood.
Position the stick with the notch facing downward. Measure 2 inches from the notched end and cut a 1/4-inch-round divot from the top of the stick with a utility knife. Cut completely through the bark.
Grasp the stick with both hands on either side of the 1/4-inch band. Slowly loosen the bark on the notched side of the 1/4-inch band by twisting it back and forth with your hand. Slide the bark from the notched side of the stick. If the bark does not release, place the stick on a flat surface and tap the bark with the utility knife handle. This will help to release the bark from the wood. Remove the bark tube and set it aside.
Position the stick on a flat surface with the bare wood of the notched end facing right. Saw through the stick immediately to the right of the round divot. The resulting wood segment, with a notch at one end, will be the mouth piece.
Position the small mouthpiece segment with the notched end facing down. Cut a shallow sliver of wood lengthwise across the top of the mouth piece segment. When the whistle is assembled, this sliver will allow air to blow across the top of the mouthpiece and through the round divot of the whistle body, creating a high-pitched noise.
Assemble the whistle. Slide the tube of bark over the whistle body. Insert the mouthpiece through the open end of the bark tube with the notched end facing outward. Align the tube so that the divot hole faces up and the notched end of the mouthpiece faces down. The mouthpiece should sit inside the end of the tube. The bark tube should fit snug around the mouthpiece, allowing air to flow through the top of the mouthpiece only.
Blow through the mouthpiece. A high-pitched whistle should be heard. Slide the bark tube in and out to change the whistle's pitch.
Tips and warnings
- Aspen, red alder and poplar branches can also be used to make a whistle.
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