The ability to create a luring call sound is invaluable while hunting waterfowl. However, commercially made duck calls can be expensive to purchase, and it can be difficult to find a lure with the exact desired sound. For this reason, many hunters choose to make their own duck calls at home. A project such as this can be rewarding, and allows the craftsmen to precisely control the specifications of the call. With a lathe and a few other woodcrafting tools, a duck hunting enthusiast can craft a custom duck call of equal or better quality than those available commercially.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Woodturning Lathe
- Lathing tools (including gauges/sandpaper)
- Drill Press
- Belt Sander
- 1/2" Acrylic Pipe
- Sheet of mylar
Find or cut a piece of hardwood to 4 inches long by 1 and 1/2 inches square. This piece will act as the barrel of the call.
Bore a 5/8 inch hole straight through the centre of the barrel piece using a drill press.
Attach the barrel piece to the lathe's mandrels and bring the lathe up to speed. Use a roughing gauge to knock the corners off the block and give the piece a cylindrical shape. Once the corners have been smoothed, use a spindle gauge to cut the piece into the shape you desire. Most duck calls taper towards one end to create a mouthpiece, and many have a groove cut into them to allow the use of a lanyard.
Use sandpaper while the piece is on the lathe to give the duck call's barrel a smooth surface. Start with 100 grit sandpaper and gradually move to 600 grit for a quality surface.
Remove the mandrels and mount the barrel on the lathe with a dowel so that one end of the barrel is accessible. Bring the lathe up to speed again and use the detail gauge and sandpaper to finish the end. Mount the barrel to expose the other end and repeat the process.
Cut another piece of hardwood measuring 4 inches long, with a base of 1 and 1/4 inches square. Use a drill press to drill a 1/2 inch hole that is 1/2 inch deep, then bore a 3/8 inch hole straight through that hole. This piece will act as the insert and the housing for the sound creation materials. Shape one end of the piece into a small enough taper to allow the piece to fit into the barrel.
Create a sound board by splitting a 2 inch length of 1/2 inch acrylic pipe lengthwise. Split the pipe off centre so that about 60% of the pipe's diameter remains. Round off the end using a belt sander. Fit the sound board into the insert piece.
Cut a thin piece of mylar to 2 by 3/8 inches and snip off two of the corners at 45 degree angles; this will act as a reed. Set the mylar in the insert piece on top of the sound board, and cut a tiny piece of cork to hold the reed to the sounding board and seal the open space.
Tips and warnings
- You will need to tune the duck call before it is suitable for field use. This is a process which involves repeatedly testing the call and trimming the reed and sound board to modify the tone and pitch of the call.
- Duck call inserts can be bought commercially, and will fit into the homemade barrel of your duck call. Many hunting supply shops also sell individual sound boards, reeds, and insert pieces, giving craftsmen access to prefabricated materials.
- Always use safety precautions when dealing with power tools. Wear protective gear if necessary.
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