Introduction: Turkey Box Call TDE 110
TDE 110 Spring 2017 Final Project
Step 1: Design Proposal
For my final project, I would like to construct a turkey box call. The box of the call will be constructed of mahogany with birch ends. The paddle will be constructed of Purple Heart. The bottom of the box will be made out of birch and mahogany ends to match the box. I will also need a #8 1 ¼” wood screw, a coil spring, wood glue, and polyurethane to finish it. The moving part will be the paddle.
Step 2: Wood Selection
The first step in making a box call is selecting your wood. It is best
to use a soft wood for the box and a harder wood for the paddle that has a nice straight grain to make tuning easier. A few good lumber choices for the box are: Poplar, Butternut, Mahogany, Walnut, Cherry, & Cedar. For Paddles: Maple, Walnut, Cherry, Purple heart, Zebra wood, Osage, and Yellow heart.
Step 3: Cotton Ball Test
This step helps with the final tone of the call. The Idea is to have opposite grain direction for the paddle and the box. The results of this little test will determine the front and rear of the box, as well as the screw end or handle of the paddle. Do the same for the box part but it will be opposite of the paddle. If it grabs From A to B put the screw in the A end.
In this project I used a 5 3/4" piece of 2x2 mahogany and 3/4" pieces of 2x2 birch on each end. Glue those together and let set for the given amount of time. You will eventually cut the box down between 7 1/4" to 7 3/4" long.
Cut an arch off the top of the box.
Next were ready to cut the angles for the sides of the box. I used 5 degrees for my box. Try to keep the bottom of the box at around 1" wide. with a 5 degree angle to the top of the call, it will leave you with around 1.25" width at the top.
Step 7: Inlays (optional)
I'm going to be putting some purple heart inlay into the box. I've set my table saw at a 5 degree
angle and about 1/16" height. Set your fence to wherever you would like the inlay on the box, and cut the mortise for the inlay on both sides. Place the vertical inlay over the glued part of the mahogany and birch. Cut out pieces of purple heart to fit in the inlays and glue.
Step 8: (optional)
Now your ready for checkering on both sides of the box. I'll first draw the pattern on the sides. I've taken the traditional 1/2" square pattern and changed it to a 1/4 x 1/2" rectangle pattern, and added a hexagon in the center with a cross. I did this to make the call different from other checker patterns, and I would encourage you to come up with a design that you can call your own. You can experiment with different ideas until you find one that you like. I don't checker all of my calls, but when I do, I use this pattern as my signature for my calls. The checkering is not only for looks. It also makes the call a little easier to tune. It allows the sides of the box to vibrate when running the paddle across the sound boards. This will mean less material you will need to remove from the inside walls to achieve the sound you want. Use a razor blade to do this.
Step 9: Sound Chamber
Your ready to hollow out the inside of the box to create the sound chamber. Mark the top of my box where you want to hollow out. I usually stay inside the left and right sides of the call about 3/16" or a little more this will not be the final thickness as that will come later in the tuning process, but It will give you a good starting point, without going to thin on the sides. The length of my sound chamber for this call will be 5 1/2". Use a 1/2" forstner bit with the tip ground off to do most of the work. Drill about 1 1/4" deep into the box. Use a small sanding block to smooth up the inside but don't take off too much material leave that step for the tuning process.
Step 10: Channel
Create a channel at the rear of the box for the paddle. You can use a sharp knife, sanding disk or wood file, whatever works best for you.
Step 11: Paddle
I've chosen Purple Heart for my paddle and the end grain is very close to what I'm looking for. It will work out fine. This blank was ripped down to 1 5/8" wide. You can go with 1 5/8" to 1 3/4" width for you paddle. I need to rip down the blank to the thickness I want for the paddle. I'll rip it down to 3/8" or a bit more to allow for sanding. Determine the front and rear then cut the handle out from the front. You can also have the option of putting inlays in to the top of the paddle. I choose to put mahogany inlays in mine to match the box. I also wood burned a design on top of the box which is also optional.
Step 12: Box Bottom
I cut a 1/4" thick piece of birch and 1/4" thick ends of mahogany to match the box. Glue those together you can cut them to size after it dries.
Step 13: Paddle Radius
Your ready to put a radius on the bottom of the paddle. I've drawn the radius on the end of the paddle
to give me an Idea where I need to be when I cut the paddle and begin to sand it to shape. You can take it straight to the belt sander or angle the table saw to get a head start on the sanding.
Drill your hole about 1/2" below the front edge of the paddle and then use a 1/2" countersink
bit, so the screw seats nicely flush with the paddle top. The screw hole will depend on the size screw you
use. I'm using a #8 brass 1 1/4" screw.
Drill the hole at the front of the box call. Set your paddle on top of the box and place a mark
where you need to drill your hole. Make sure you have the hole centered on the box, and drill with a 1/8 drill bit. Drill a countersink with a 5/16" forstner bit to make a seat for the spring. (most box call springs
are 3/8"). If you have a different size spring you can change bits to match the spring.
Step 16: Sides
Use a sanding block made with a scrap piece of wood form the first step. Lay the call on it's side and
work the sanding block back and fourth along the inside top edge of the soundboards. All you want to do is round over the edge at this point. I'm not removing any other wood inside the call. I leave a little flat spot along the top rails and the thickness will be adjusted once we start tuning the call
Glue the bottom of the box on to the top and once that is dry you can put a 45 degree angle on the sides for a nice look.
Once both sides are rounded over, it's time to put the paddle on the box. Put your spring and screw
in place and screw down the paddle. When looking at the side of the call with the paddle in the open position (as if you're starting a yelp). The paddle should rest at the center of the box or just in front of center. Give the paddle a few strokes with pressure. It may take a few tries until you can get any sound from the call. If you do get a sound it's most likely going to be a high pitch squeal at first. If you're lucky...it will sound something like a turkey. If not.....we need to remove more material from the inside to reduce the thickness of the call. Try not to remove any more along the top edge of the sound boards at this point. begin sanding or carving the center of the sound boards down to the bottom to reduce thickness. Keep checking the sound as you go, you will be surprised how much the sound changes with removing a small amount. If you can't grasp the sides of the soundboard and flex them a little bit by squeezing...you are too thick with the sides, and need to remove more by sanding, carving with a chisel or a sharp pocket knife. Keep going back and fourth with this process until your getting a good sound. Here are a few tips you should know about tuning the box call.
1. Thicker sides equals higher pitch
2. Thinner sides equals lower pitch
3. If you taper the sides of the box, so that the front of the sound boards are thicker than the rear, it will
help with the roll over from high to low, which create a realistic turkey yelp. Adjust the side thickness
of the sound board where you need too, to get that nice break over from high to low.
4. If you're still having trouble getting a good sound, try sanding the underside of the paddle and the top
edges of the soundboard rail with 100 grit sand paper. Make sure you sand with the grain!
Step 19: Finishing
If box call is tuned, finish sanded down to 320 grit and ready for your favorite finish coat. I used a satin polyurethane finish, but you can use whatever finish you would like but make sure you tape off the sound board top edges and the underside of the paddle that makes contact with the box you don't want to get any finish on those areas. Once the call is completely done you can chalk the lid with box call chalk or carpenters chalk if you would like. I just touch up the underside of the paddle and the box call rails (Very Lightly) with 100 grit sand paper if needed.
Step 20: Materials Cost
5/4 Birch 1ft:$3.39
8/4 Purple Heart 2 Ft: $18.75
8/4 Mahogany 2 Ft: $19.75
Satin Polyurethane Stain: $7.78
Compression Spring: $2.68
Stain Brush: .99
Wood Glue: $3.98
Wood Screw: .54
Step 21: Reflection of Work
During the duration of this project I learned new ways to use some of the wood machines. Such as I learned how to use the table saw to make channels for the inlays on my box and paddle. I also learned how to angle the band saw to put a 5 degree angle on the box. I would like to learn if there is an easier and more efficient way to make the box call. I would like to know a way to make the top angle cut on the box so it is perfect and even, and the 5 degree angle on the sides. I excelled at learning how to use the machines I needed to make the proper cuts. I excelled at thinking each step through to make sure I would end up with the product I needed. I also excelled at getting a realistic sound out of the box and had a gobbler answer to the call. I would do a lot differently. I would make an outline for the paddle and the top curve so that it would be a perfect curve and handle. I would so find something to place on the band saw in order to keep the box even on the 5 degree side cuts. Also I would wood burn the crosses into the sides instead of trying to cut them out. I would make the cuts more even and precise. I would also leave more of an arch on the top to allow for a smoother sound. I would make the sound hole wider to allow for a deeper less high pitched yelp. My favorite part of this project was hearing that gobbler answer back to my call after my brother had used several of his and he would not answer. I loved seeing the final product and knowing I worked really hard to get to that point. It was not an easy project at times and I learned many things from having to problem solve. I think if I had some templates of the paddle handle and the arch on the box I could start making some to sell. I really enjoyed making a project that I would use and be proud of.