How to Make a Wooden Ocarina





Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Ocarina

About: In short I like anything that has to do with clay, chickens, pokemon, sonic and wood :P

   Hello everyone, I know I haven't made an instructable for a very long time but I'm back and I would like to share my newest project with you. Since the beginning of high school I have made about 10 ceramic ocarinas and 3 wooden ocarinas but now that I have graduated, I have decided to finally make an instructable on how to make one of these awesomely haunting instruments. This project will be perfect for anyone struggling to find a project for shop class because not only will they have every tool they will need at their disposal, but they will also be able to obtain the materials much more easily.

    Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take photos for a couple of steps so I will try to recreate and explain them the best that I can.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

   For this project, you will need a few tools. You will need a:
- power drill
- drill bit set
- jigsaw
- disk and belt sander
- wood carving gouge
- mitre saw
- dremel
- wood glue
- chromatic tuner
   When it comes to making an ocarina, or any instrument, the range will always be important. The size is a major part of determining the range of your ocarina. Generally, the smaller, the higher in pitch, and the larger, the lower in pitch so when it comes to making your own ocarina, personal preference can mean different measurements. I will use the measurements to my ocarina which I believe is classified as a tenor(G3-C5). You will need:
- two 2 x 4 x 12 pieces of oak which will be used for the top and bottom of the ocarina
- one 1/2 x 6 piece of red oak which will be used for the lining between the top and bottom and between the body and mouthpiece
- two 1/2 x 4 x 4 squares to be used as the top and bottom plates of the mouthpiece, they should be the same type of wood as the body, not the middle lining.
- one 2 x 4 x 3 1/2 of white pine which will serve as the middle lining of the mouthpiece 
- Sweet Almond Oil

To get the 2 x 4 and 1/2 x 4 x 4 pieces oak, I cut them out of a stock of oak my teacher gave me. I have provided a diagram of how the stock was divided into the different pieces. Also, the measurements provided on the list are nominal while the measurements on the diagram are actual.

Step 2: Cutting Out the Top and Bottom

The first step in making your ocarina is to draw an outline of the shape you want your ocarina to take. The shape does not include the mouthpiece as that will be made later on. Unfortunately I made the slight mistake of designing the ocarina with a curve leading to the mouthpiece, this was later corrected and I have added a line showing how the ocarina should have been cut out.

Step 3: Smoothing Out the Outer Edges

Using the disk and belt sander, smooth out the edges of the top and bottom of the Ocarina. Be careful not to accidentally sand the sides that are to be glue to the middle lining. Make sure to leave the ocarina round and smooth and do not be discouraged if it takes a while as it can be a lengthy process depending on the wood.

Step 4: Carving Out the Top and Bottom Plates

Using the wood carving gouge, carve out the top and bottom plates until they reach the thickness you want. Generally, when it comes to ocarinas, the thinner the better so I gave mine the wall thickness of about 1/4 of an inch. This step is the lengthiest one as I spent a good 3 days carving them out but it was very well worth it. Unfortunately, I did not have a picture for this step so I made a demonstration of the plates out of clay. It shows how the plates should look once you carve them out.

I advise you to wear gloves for this step as it is not fun to accidentally cut your thumb with a chisel, believe me been there, done that.

Step 5: The Middle Lining

For the middle lining, trace the top or bottom plate on the 1/2 x 6 piece of red oak. Once you've traced the plate on the 1/2 x 6, trace another line along the inside of the first one. You can make it as thick as the walls of the top and bottom plates or you can make it a bit thicker it doesn't really matter, heck mine came out crooked from the inside.

Step 6: The Mouthpiece Lining

Take the top or bottom plate and place it against the side of the 2 x 4. Draw the mouthpiece on to it and using the jigsaw, cut it out. This will be used as the middle lining of the mouthpiece as well as the roof of the mouthpiece's airway.
After you have cut the lining out, you will need to sand it down with the disk and belt sander in order to create the angle needed for the mouthpiece. I have provided an image to demonstrate how the lining should be sanded down.

Step 7: The Top and Bottom Mouthpiece Plates

Take the mouthpiece lining and trace it on to the plates. After you have traced the lining on to them, feel free to cut out the top plate but not the bottom one.

Step 8: The Airway

   Usually when it comes to making the airway for a wooden ocarina, a chisel is the tool of choice. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to try this method since school was going to end in about a week, so I used the mitre saw to perform this instead. The mitre saws in my school have a depth adjuster allowing me to achieve a dado cut of about 1/8 of an inch. I have provided my own diagram above demonstrating the steps in making the airway.

1.) Drill a hole about the width of a Popsicle stick(I used a 7/16 drill bit) a 1/2 inch away from the edge of the plate.

2.) You will then make a dado cut from the edge of the plate to the fipple hole. The cut should be about 1/8 of an inch in depth and as wide as the fipple hole.

3.) Make another dado cut from the end of the fipple hole to the edge . The depth for this cut should be about half of the first cut. For example, the depth I used was 1/16 of an inch

4.) Using the dremel, carve out the fipple hole from the bottom of the plate, this will create the ramp in which the sound is produced. I highly recommend not to make the ramp extremely sharp as it can become weak and susceptible to damage. I found that keeping it dull gave me a nice dark tone.

Once you have finished making the airway, you can place the lining on top of it and see that the lining completely covers the fipple hole leaving only the small airway exit visible. To fix this, mark where the fipple hole starts on the lining and carve it out using the edge of the belt sander. It is important to not go farther than where the fipple begins. I have provided a diagram above.
After you are done, cut out the mouthpiece plates and feel free to glue the three parts together. Do not put too much glue as it can seep into the airway when pressed. If you find that some glue does seep into the airway, you can clean it out with a toothpick.
Once it is glued and dried, the lower mouthpiece plate will be poking out a bit, sand it down to make it flush with the rest of the mouthpiece. I have all provided a diagram.

Step 9: The Body-to-mouthpiece Lining

Once you have finished making the mouthpiece, lay it on top of the 1/2 x 6 and trace it. You want to cut out an oval for the lining. The size of the oval can vary depending on the size and shape of the ocarina. Once you have cut out the oval, you will cut out another oval on the inside to allow the air from the airway to go through. Once you have done that, glue the lining to the mouthpiece and smooth it out with the sander.
Unfortunately I did not take a picture of the lining with the hole for the airway cut out so I have provided a diagram to show how the lining should be cut out.

Step 10: Putting Everything Together

Once you have finished making the mouthpiece, linings and body, it is safe to glue everything together. Apply adequate amounts of glue and wipe off any excess with a moist towel. After the glue is done drying, proceed to sanding the ocarina until you remove all, if any, cosmetic defects.

Step 11: Tuning the Ocarina

Take the ocarina and hold as if you were playing it with all the holes closed. Have somebody trace over your fingers. When you have traced your fingers, place a dot where you fingers actually come in contact with the surface. Then drill each point with the smallest drill bit available to you.

For this process, you will need a chromatic tuner.

Now that you have drilled the points where your fingers are to be, blow into the ocarina with all holes closed. This will produce the fundamental note(lowest note). My ocarina had the fundamental note of G3 so if I uncover the first hole, it should give me an A3, then the second hole a B3 and so on. If your ocarina's fundamental note is a G#3/Ab3 then you will have to be careful in maintaining your sharps and flats throughout the tuning process.

If you need a more in-depth analysis of tuning your ocarina, you can click on the link below, it will show you which notes belong to what hole, based on what key your ocarina is in.

A few precautions:
-Do not force the drill bit as it can chip the ocarina
-Go one size at a time, if a 2/8 drill bit doesn't change the pitch much, don't go straight to a 3/4 drill bit.
-Unlike a clay ocarina, a wooden ocarina cannot be fixed if you make a hole too big so be very careful.

Step 12: Oiling Your Ocarina

Once you are done putting together your ocarina and tuning it, you have to apply oil in order to keep your ocarina fully functional. The oil of choice for most people with wooden ocarinas would be sweet almond oil, not bitter almond oil as it is extremely toxic. To apply the oil, cover the ocarina finger holes and pour some oil into the fipple hole. Shake the ocarina until you feel that it has absorbed enough oil. Once you are done, let the oil drain out from the holes. Next, apply oil to the outside of the ocarina with a cloth. Apply as much as you want, don't be afraid of adding too much especially if its the first application.

I had my ocarina stained with red mahogany wood stain. I do not believe it affects the way you apply oil or the way the oil penetrates into the wood.

You can now enjoy playing your ocarina :) Thank you for taking a look at my instructable and I hope you have fun making your ocarina!!!
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76 Discussions

so in the parts for the red oak what is the thickness, width, and the length it says "one 1/2 x 6 piece of red oak which will be used for the lining between the top and bottom and between the body and mouthpiece" and i don't know the measurements. is it .5 inches thick and 6 inches long or .5 inches thick and 6 inches wide, i know this might be dumb but im using this as a project for school

so, in essence, I could take this instructable and use it as a base persay, to make my own ocarina. Because the ocarina I plan to eventually make is a bass ocarina, with a far more "carrot" like shape, as well as it being a 12 hole instead of a ten

Hi, I'm having some trouble with making my ocarina. When you say not to carve the middle lining past where the fipple hole begins, is the beginning the side where the slant is or the opposite side? Should you be able to see where the carved out section is by looking through the fipple? Mine's a bit visible, and I can't get it to make any sound.

2 replies

Hello, sorry about the mixup but by the beginning I mean at the very end of the airway where the fipple hole begins. The problem with carving too much is that the end of the airway becomes uneven which could mean that the air might not hit the ramp correctly or other things like that. I'm not 100% sure on this but I just took it as a rule of thumb at the time and I believe that if the lining isn't carved enough it could dull out the sound big time. You should also be able to clearly see where you have carved it out as it starts from the beginning of the hole onward. Also is your ocarina completely assembled or is it taped together? When I first tried it out by taping it together, it wouldn't make a sound but it was mostly because air was escaping as the tape wasn't air-tight. I hope I made sense lol

Thanks for the help, after I carved out the lining more and applied oil it now works! Well, sort of. It's pretty quiet and only makes a solid note if I blow gently. It's almost barely audible. I've tried enlarging the airways a bit and trying to smooth it out more, without much result -- maybe it's a little better. Could this be because of the body? Maybe the lining's making it uneven, or it should be thinner to resonate better? Or is it just supposed to be kinda quiet? When I blow harder it makes a screechy whistling wind sound.


2 years ago

I have another question. When I drill the holes, how do I get the wood chips out? Will it come out if I just shake it?

1 reply

Yeah shaking it or blowing into it normally does the trick just be careful not to get it in your eyes :)


2 years ago

In step 8, you said that the second dado cut is supposed to be half the depth of the first one, but in the diagram, it looks like I'm supposed to cut it the same depth as the first dado + 1/16in more. Just to be clear, the dark gray is the chiseled out part, right?

2 replies

Sorry about the confusion but the light gray part is where the cut's supposed to be. I don't think I thought of it all the way through but I fixed the photo for you so you can understand better. I hope it helps :)


2 years ago

I'm making a wooden ocarina and i was wondering how the tuning works...Is it sufficient to just trace where my fingers fall on the instrument as you have indicated in your istructable? Do the placings of the holes not make any difference to the note produced?

3 replies

Hello, I'm really, really sorry for taking forever to reply but I think it has more to do with making it a lot more comfortable to hold than for sound quality so you shouldn't need to worry a whole lot on that.

I got really lost at the mouthpiece part. Could I get some help on it?

5 replies

Hello, sorry to you too for taking so long to reply. I'd love to help, what are you having trouble with?

Hi, I don't really quite understand how I would make the airway. I understand how to make the mouthpiece, but I'm not sure how to follow on the 8th step.

Just realized I replied with a different account. Derp.

lol it's okay xD what part did you have with it? I changed the picture seeing as the one I had was a bit confusing.

lol it's okay xD what part did you have with it? I changed the picture seeing as the one I had was a bit confusing.