Willow whistle

Spring and early summer are the best times of year to make a whistle. This is when the sap is rising in the trees, making the bark easier to slip off. Willow is the best wood to use and should make a shrill, piercing whistle when blown.

I found the instructions in an old encyclopaedia under 'a whistle that a boy can make' - it certainly seems to be a classic design which every boy once knew. However there is more skill needed to make one than you might imagine. I had no luck the first time (the season not being spring), no luck the second time (even though it was spring), and only had success the third time - although you will be glad to hear that others made a good whistle first off when following these instructions! The whistle that I did get to work only made a sound after having left it out all night, but then it made such a loud noise, that it was worth all the effort - it shows that one shouldn't give up!

You will need:

4˝ 5˝ (10 15 cm) piece of willow wood, without side branches and as straight and
round as possible

A sharp knife


Cut a slanting piece off one of the ends of the piece of willow.
(Diagram 1)

Make a notch on the top side, as shown in diagram 2. Cut a ring just over half way down, being careful to only pierce the bark and not cut all the way through the piece of wood.

Now take off the bark from the ring to the end. This can be done by first wetting it in water and then tapping it gently with the end of a knife, or by rolling it with a stick on another piece of wood. With constant tapping and wetting, the bark should slide off in one piece when you twist and pull. Be careful not to damage the bark.

Extend the notch on the inner piece of wood back towards the the ring, then cut a flat strip from the notch to the mouthpiece. (Diagram 3)

Slip the bark back in place, and blow through the end. The whistle should work perfectly, but if it does not, take the bark off again and make some alterations: extend the notch even further down, or make it deeper, or cut a little more off the strip between the notch and the end.
Slip the bark back on and see if the result is any better. It may take a few tries to get it right, but with persistence, you are sure to succeed.

     Diagram 1
     Diagram 2
      Diagram 3
Note: Keep your whistle outside, or wrapped up in a damp cloth because it stops working if it is allowed to dry out. Soaking a dry whistle in water can restore it to its original condition.

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