Introduction: Aluminium Irish Low Whistle

Hi everyone,

I'm Arthur and this is my first instructable !

After searching in vain for a cheap D low whistle to play around with, I decided to make mine.

So if you ever want to make yours, I hope my explanations will help you so !

This was my first attempt in making one, so you will see I made some mistakes, you may not do the same !

Step 1: Supplies & Tools

I only used two materials here :

  • A pipe , I used an aluminium one but PVC is fine (outer diameter is 20mm and inner diameter is 18mm). One meter is far enough, mine is 62,3 cm long after tuning. Your pipe can be larger (a lot of people use 25mm ones), but a thinner one could make your lower notes pretty hard to play.
  • A wooden rod (mine diameter was 20mm but it will be far easier if you have one that fits the inner diameter of your pipe). We will only use a 5cm long piece but you may need to make several as I did.

Now the tools I used :

  • An iron saw
  • A drill
  • A dremel (not needed, but I love to work with it)
  • A hammer
  • A screwdriver
  • Files
  • Sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Wood varnish
  • Wood stain
  • My phone (as a chromatic tuner)

Step 2: Cutting the Pipe and the Wooden Rod, Then Shaping It

This is the most important part of your whistle, so take your time, make several ones to try them later and keep your favourit !

I started with the wooden rod and cut a 5cm long piece that has a 45° angle.

As my rod is a 20mm one, I had to make it thinner to fit in my pipe.

I also cut the aluminium pipe with the same 45° angle.

Once it fits fine, I used some sandpaper to create the windway by making the longer "side" flat. The more you will sand, the more your low whistle will sound breathy (but it will be more breath consuming).

I wanted a breathy sound so I made 2 pieces with large windways. The rounded edge I made didn't seem to affect the sound very much. I don't know how the width and the lenght of the windway affects the sound of the whistle, so when we will try them you may have to make other trials.

Step 3: Making the Lip

First I had to make the window, so I marked the edge of my wooden blocks on the pipe then drew a 8x12mm rectangle. I drilled some holes to file it to the good shape. After beveling the lip, I realized it had to be in front of the windway, so I used a hammer to lower it down.

Slip a wooden block in it and blow : if the lip is both low and sharp enough, you may produce a sound.

If you blow slowly, you may have the 1rst octave tone, and if you blow harder you should have the 2nd octave one.

Don't hesitate in trying several blocks, several window sizes and windway dimensions to get a satisfying sound, as well as a good 1rst / 2nd octave balance.

For instance, while manipulating the whistle, I realized I had better access to the lower notes with a tighter window (as in the picture with my fingers on it). As I didn't have enough aluminium pipe, I decided to make a plastic cap to tighten the window. It is not a very aesthetical solution, but it sound better with it by now.

Step 4: Varnishing the Wooden Block and Setting It

By far, you must have already blown several times / hours in your pipe and you may have noticed it quickly becomes soggy inside.

To preserve the wooden piece you just selected, let's varnish it. for the plane surface to remain smooth, use some fine sandpaper between each coats (I made 5 of them).

Once it's dry and smooth, I attached it to the pipe with a small screw : pasting it could suffer from temperature changes and may not be reversible.

I don't have any picture of it, but then I used sandpaper to shape the mouthpiece so it is more comfortable to play with.

Step 5: Tuning the Whistle

First of all, you need to shorten the length of you pipe, to get your fundamental tone (in my case, a D)

I tuned the whistle just below the target tones, to be sure not to make any irreversible mistake (if it's to low you can shorten the pipe, but if it's too high I don't know how to fix it)

I made marks of my future finger position, taking inspiration from pictures of low whistle on the internet, and drilled small holes to get started. (Note that It would have been easier for me not to drill them all at once, as I explain my mistake below)

The principle of tuning is that making a hole in the pipe will acoustically shorten it. The larget the hole, the higher the note will be.

It happened that my first hole started to make a decent tone around diam. 4mm, but was already too high for the low D whistle finger chart. So I decided to make another finger patern but I will have to plug the unwanted holes later.

You will have to tune the futher hole from the lip first, then the next further etc.. While tuning a hole, you will need to plug every untuned hole when you blow in your whistle. I used duct tape to do so.

Warm up your whistle by blowing in for about a minute before tuning a hole.

Step 6: Cleaning the Whistle, and Plugging My Unwanted Holes

I used sandpaper to soften the holes' edges, then used steel wool all over the pipe to have a nice brushed finish.

For my mistaken holes, I plugged it with littles nails (I don't really know what it is, but is fits well and don't look so ugly once installed)

For a first trial I am very happy with the result, but now I've learned from my mistakes I surely will make an other one, a better one !

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