How to make a low d irish whistle

whistle image by Henryk Olszewski from

The Irish whistle, or penny whistle, is commonly used in folk music as a standalone instrument or to provide accompaniment for singers. You can create your own whistle with a piece of pipe and an electric drill. The most common key for penny whistles is D, but they can be pitched differently by adjusting the size and position of the holes. It is important that the holes in the pipe are carefully cut, or the pitch of the pipe may be significantly altered.

Cut a plug from the dowel rod. The plug should be 1 inch long.

Reduce the size of the plug so that it will fit inside the tin tube. The plug should fit snuggly so that air cannot pass around it, but should not stretch out the top of the pipe when it is pushed in. The easiest way to reduce the size of the dowel rod is by sanding it. Sand around the dowel rod so that the whole dowel is evenly reduced in size.

Create the flat side of the air passage by making one side of the plug flat. Sand off about 1/16 of an inch from one side of the plug, removing the rounded face and creating a flat plane.

Measure 7/8 of an inch below the top of the tin tube and make a mark. This is the location for the window.

Cut away a small rectangle that is 1/3 of an inch wide and 1/6 of an inch tall.

Glue the plug into the end of the tin pipe with the flat side of the plug facing up, inline with the finger holes. Do not push the plug too far into the tin—the plug should stop before the window begins. Let the glue cure according to package directions before proceeding.

Form an indented lip below the window. The top side of the lip should be lower than the bottom side, and should line up with the centre of the air passage. Use something soft and round, like the edge of a ballpoint pen and a hammer, or the round end of a very small ball peen hammer, to tap down the lip. It should be shaped like a ramp, up out of the window and into the main body of the pipe.

Look down the air passage, over the flat part of the plug, to check the position of the lip. It should be near the centre of the airspace. It will look like it is cutting the light entering the airshaft in half. If it is pressed too far inside, slide the handle of a wooden spoon or something similar into the end of the whistle and push it back up and into the correct position.

Cut the top end of the pipe at a 45-degree angle to create a mouthpiece. It is important that the cut be even, and that it is carefully sanded to remove rough edges and splinters.

Draw a straight line down one side of the 12 inches of tin tubing with a permanent marker, using a ruler as a guide. This line is the line along which the finger holes will be positioned.

Mark the fingering holes along the line. Measure the holes from the top of the pipe. The top hole should be between 42 and 43 per cent of the tin tube's total length. The second hole should be between 50 per cent to 51 per cent, the third hole should be between 58 and 59 per cent, the fourth between 67 and 68 per cent, the fifth hole between 72 and 75 per cent and the bottom hole between 84 and 84 per cent.

Drill out the holes from bottom to top. Use a 17/64-inch drill bit for the bottom two, the fifth and sixth holes. Use a 3/16-inch bit for the fourth. Drill out the second and third holes with a 15/64-inch drill bit and the top with a 13/64-inch bit.

Remove any burs from the holes and smooth out the metal edge by running a metal file inside the hole.

Most recent