Instructables

Bear Whistles! Bird Whistles! How to Build Sculptures that Sing.

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Picture of Bear Whistles! Bird Whistles! How to Build Sculptures that Sing.
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There is something magical about taking a soft piece of earth/clay and making it whistle. This Instructable you will walk you through the steps of making a clay whistle.

 


You'll need clay and a few tools :

soft earthenware clay
Popsicle or other similar flat, wooden stick
sharpened pencil
palette knife or other small carving knife
needle tool; used to remove bits of clay from the airway of the whistle; scoring when attaching pieces of clay
round tool for making tone/note holes.
carving tools;  small ribbon tools and stamps for decoration/ texture.
 
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Step 1: Forming the Whistle

Picture of Forming the Whistle
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Begin with a round ball of clay. The size will determine the tone of the whistle, the larger the piece of clay, the larger the chamber, the lower the tone.

Cradle the ball of clay in the palm of one hand, pressing the thumb of your other hand into the ball to open up the clay. Press until you  feel pressure against the palm of your hand holding the clay. 

With your fingers on the outside of the ball of clay and your thumb on the inside, begin pinching and turning the ball of clay, working from the bottom towards the top. Thinning the wall of the chamber as you go. The goal is to turn and pinch in such a way that the wall of the whistle is about 1/4" thick or thinner and even on all sides.  

Step 2: Closing the Chamber

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Alternating between pinching and smoothing, slowly work on the opening in the chamber until it is closed and the form is sealed.
Note: You can use a small piece of clay to fill the hole, if needed.
SteffiG4 months ago

a question: Can this be made with air-dry clay?

Great idea! Can this whistle be made with regular red school clay? I don't have access to a kiln but my clay is airdry.
swisel1 year ago
wow this is awesome. I am trying to make one, but the sound is way to weak! i have tried your tips and helpful messages but they just doesn´t seem to work please reply
alaut (author)  swisel1 year ago
hummm...when the sound is weak, quite often there is a little clay blocking the airway; double check the airhole and airway and clean away any bits of clay you see. If that doesn't work...put the Popsicle back in the mouthpiece and make sure your bevel is cut at a fairly sharp angle...a weak tone means you are very close...:). Hope this helps...you could snap a picture of your whistle...and post it here, might help me guess what's going on...
saosport1 year ago
Great work. I will have to make one. You have my vote!
triumphman1 year ago
I meant the lower left creature across from the bird. It is not the bear. Maybe a pig or boar ? Can you help me with this ?
alaut (author)  triumphman1 year ago
That whistle is imaginary; a small, fanciful rodent would be my best description. Raku is another way to fire whistles, most definitely. Fun.
triumphman1 year ago
What is the creature in step 10 next to the bird ? I can't quite make it out ! Maybe a wild boar or pig ?
triumphman1 year ago
My brother just told me I could "Raku" the ones want to make from clay. Then I won't need an expensive electric kiln! Can't wait to try this method. He says I need a very hot fire too. Thanks again.
triumphman1 year ago
Very nice! The first two animals look like Aztec designs. The second ones look like eskimo type sculptures or carvings . Very nice. Wish I had a Kiln! Too big for Fimo or Sculpy.
alaut (author)  triumphman1 year ago
I haven't tried using Fimo or Sculpy; your comment makes me want to play around with some. It might work...keep in mind that whistles can be quite small...you'd need to fashion a smaller flat stick, to create the airway; otherwise the process would be the same for a smaller whistle.
Mary Stone is a whistle maker who makes awesome, tiny whistles.
www.marystonewhistles.com
Thanks, I will try a smaller version with Fimo. Love the designs!
linrodann1 year ago
These are beautiful! I'd love to make one. I don't have access to a kiln; is it okay to not fire them? Will they just be really fragile then?
alaut (author)  linrodann1 year ago
Thanks for your kind words. Yes, it would be okay not to fire your whistle and you're right it would "just be really fragile". You might also want to try a "self-hardening or air-dry clay". It's similar to earthenware clay but was something added that makes the a bit more durable after it's dried; and you don't need a kiln...
That's a great suggestion. Thanks!
Nice work! I have a ceramic bird whistle but it is meant to be filled with a bit of water so that you get a warbling bird sound out of it.
alaut (author)  caitlinsdad1 year ago
Thanks....Glad you reminded me of this...I have an old plastic/bakelite whistle that warbles when you add water...i love the sound. Making one out of clay would be fun challenge...there is a book, From Mud to Music, by Barry Hall that includes directions and loads of information on making these warbling whistles along with many, many other types of musical instruments.
leeonn1 year ago
Cool turned out
WUVIE1 year ago
Where do I begin? I am infatuated. Intrigued. Impressed. Interested. Amazed. Curious. And envious of your talent. Bravo! Must read all about you!
Very cool! I remember making these in ceramics class senior year.

GM
Kiteman1 year ago
These look great, but what do they sound like?

Could we hear a recording or see a video?
alaut (author)  Kiteman1 year ago
Great idea! I'll work on getting a recording or video made....
These are gorgeous!
These are amazing. :D