Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Out of all the things we have done recently this has to be one of the most exciting for the older children, we did this as part of our Medieval learning block we started a week ago. The awe and wonder present as they whittled their own simple stick whistle was amazing, so much excitement and achievement at the end. We have a flute and a homemade Lyre planned over the coming weeks to we shall add those to the blog as and when we do them.
The original instructions for these I remember years ago vaguely from a book (I think) called a school boys handbook, it was in my grandads charity shop, an old book I think from the 1920s I was probably around 13 years old, so when I decided to have a go at these I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I had remembered the instructions faithfully. But they worked so it seems I retained something.
Please remember that these should only be made under supervision and if you are confident your child can safely use a knife, if not, make it yourself, your child will be just as amazed to watch the process and be able to play the whistle at the end
What you will need:
A stick around 3/4 inches long, the thicker the bark on the stick the better and easier it works, the original instructions said Willow, but we haven’t any willow so I used two types in the image above, some from the pear tree (left) and a stick from the recently fallen apple tree in the front garden (right) which had thicker bark and was a lot easier to do.
A whittling knife or Stanley knife
Somewhere protected you can do it, outdoors is perfect but we ended up at the dining room table.
How to make it:
Firstly take your stick and at one end cut or saw at a rough 45 degree angle, this will form the end you blow through.
Then cut or saw a notch into the top of the whistle to form the hole, I found the smaller the hole the better the whistle, be careful not to cut through the whole stick. I found from making a few, you are best having the top ‘blowing’ end narrower than the bottom end if the stick is uneven, as otherwise there is a risk of splitting the bark when you move on making the whistle.
About half an inch from the bottom of your whistle score a ring bark deep around the circumference of the stick.Then using the handle of your knife or another big piece of stick, gently tap the stick all over the bark which sits above that line until it starts to come loose, you can see if it comes loose by holding and gently trying to twist it off. This was so much easier to do with the stick with the thicker bark. Once the bark starts to come loose, gently pull it off, you want it to all remain in one piece, with the handle on the bottom.
Now you should have a long piece of stripped bark on a handle and a tube of bark. Next, where the little notch was which you cut before you loosened the bark (yellow line) you need to cut the stick along the flat vertical edge of that notch (red line), so that you now have two pieces. Taking the smallest piece on the right, on the top longest edge using your knife shave a mm from the top edge (orange line) and then slide this back into the top of the whistle, it should now whistle on its own, if the air isn’t moving through, take another tiny bit off the top of the wood you put back in, replace and try again. I found that the smaller this gap for air flow was the louder and clearer the whistle.
At this stage as I slid the lower half of the whistle back into the bark, I found it easier to shave a little wood from the stick itself, as it was hard to push back into the bark. The stick allows the tone of the whistle to change.
Thats it! Now you have your whistle, have fun and try it with different types of wood! Maybe have a basket of whistles from far away adventures.