Loony wooden whistle

This is my Sunday article, but posted on Friday. Why? Well, I don't like to be a copy cat, and even less do I like to look like one. Steve Ramsey, just today posted his video about making a referee whistle. So I figure, if I post mine now, it will be clear that this isn't copying him (unless you believe making videos takes no time :) )

I wanted to experiment with building a whistle. But as usual, I wanted to give the project an extra twist. I wanted one that sounded unusual. So I made this one to play two tones at once, with a "pea" in each chamber to modulate both tones.


I prototyped the concept just by clamping dry pieces of wood together and blowing into it. That way, I could still tweak it to get the right sound.


The two chambers of the whistle are cut with a 1 1/8" and a 1 3/8" drill. The closer the ratio of pitches, the more dissonant the whistle will sound. But if the two pitches are too close to each other, the two chambers of the whistle will pull each other into unison.

(It's probably for this reason that the pea-less Fox-40 whistle has the mouths of the two whistles facing away from each other, to reduce the ability of the two whistle elements to synchronize).


Working out the shape. The air in channel is just below tangential to the drilled hole. I cut this out with a bandsaw.


The bandsaw leaves a bit of a rough cut. To get smooth air flow, I sand both sides of what will form the slot for air to go in.


Another trial assembly for testing. I clamp the housing between two pieces of wood, use a wood splint to set the gap in the air inlet, and blow to test it.


I use a piece of pine doweling to make the "pea" to go inside.

The pea must be light, but large enough not to be able to fall out the slot. It also needs to not fully obstruct the slot. Otherwise, it's too likely to plug up the slot and get stuck there.


Now time to glue it together. I glue both bodies to either side of a 2 mm thick piece of hardwood, making sure the inlets, and the outlets of both sides line up.


With both halves glued to the center divider, I cut around the larger cavity to form the overall shape of the whistle. I use a compass, set to about 4 mm, and drag the point along the inside edge of the body to mark the line where I'm cutting.

After that, I glue in the top of the mouthpiece to form the inlet. I use the same splint that I used to set the gap for testing earlier to now set it back to that position.


Cutting some nice dark mahogany for the sides of the whistle. I saw these thin on the table saw. In this case, on my homemade table saw.


I trace the outline of the body on the mahogany, then cut that out on the bandsaw, leaving 1-2 mm around the outline.


Assembling it. Important - don't forget the pea. Also, it's important to not shake it while the glue is drying so the pea won't end up sticking to glue squeezeout.


I glued it up one side at a time. Trying to align everything all at once would be too difficult.


With everything glued up, I trim the mahogany flush with the body of the whistle, and also trim the inlet side.


Finally sanding it. I do the inside curves with my strip sander (I don't have a spindle sander, and the strip sander works much faster anyway).


Completed whistle. With two pitches, both warbling from the pea, it makes an unusual sound. It reminds me of the sound that a loon makes.

The lower of the two holes is a bit larger than ideal - I should have left it smaller so there would be less risk of getting the pea stuck in the slot.

It would be a good idea to finish the whistle with a food grade finish before it discolours too much from usage. I have not done that on mine.


See also:

Building a crokinole
board
Building an air raid siren

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