Introduction: How to Make a Sumac Pocket Whistle

Making a functional whistle that can fit in your pocket can be a difficult process that takes some practice, experimentation, and tuning, but I hope that this guide will well inform you in how to create a Sumac Pocket Whistle.


  • straight branch of staghorn sumac (or any other wood with a soft pith, such as willow), 3-4" long with a 1/2" diameter
  • a few twigs, stripped of bark, with a 1/4" diameter


  • hand pruners
  • hacksaw
  • small, sharp knife
  • drill
  • 1/4" drill bit


Since this Instructable deals with power tools and knives, work with caution and wear safety equipment when necessary.

Step 1: Hollowing Out the Sumac

Using the pith in the middle of the sumac as a guide, drill a hole lengthwise through the sumac using the 1/4" bit.

Keep the RPM of the drill high while you are drilling, but don't apply too much pressure. Take your time to decrease the chance of splitting. Be sure to keep the bit in the middle of the sumac as best you can. If the bit is shorter than the sumac, drill from one side and then the other.

Step 2: Stripping the Bark Off the Sumac

Strip all the bark off of the sumac until you reach the wood. If the sumac is fresh, there will be a thin green layer coating the wood, which can be easily scraped off with a knife, or even one's fingernails.

Using fresh sumac is the easiest when it comes to stripping bark.

Step 3: Cutting the Notch, Part 1

Using a hacksaw, cut halfway through the sumac. This cut should be made half an inch from one of the ends.

Saw slowly to keep the cut clean, straight, and precise.

Step 4: Cutting the Notch, Part 2

Measure half an inch from the hacksaw cut and mark this point with a pencil. Using a knife, slice out a notch from this point towards the hacksaw cut. The angle should be anywhere from 35° to 45°.

Cut carefully, making sure not to slice past the cut made with the hacksaw.

Step 5: Making the First Plug

Cut one of the twigs to 3/8" in length.

Cutting down this plug to be the right diameter will take some patience and a few tries. This plug should fit very snugly in the end of the sumac opposite the end with the notch.

Be very careful when cutting the plug to the right diameter. Cutting such a small object requires caution, precision, and a very sharp knife (my knife of choice for this project was the Buck 102 Woodsman).

Step 6: Making the Second Plug

Follow the same procedure as the previous step to create the second plug, but make sure this one fits snugly into the opposite end of the sumac (the end with the notch).

Once you have a replica of the first plug you made, slice 2/5 off of the plug, lengthwise. This will create a small slot for air to travel through when the plug is inserted and air is blown through the notched end.

Step 7: Inserting the Plugs

Insert each plug into their respective ends, ensuring they are flush with the end of the sumac.

The mouthpiece plug should be inserted so that the gap is on the same side as the notch.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Carve down the notched end of the whistle to create a more comfortable mouthpiece.

I kept this whistle simple by only carving down the other end and carving a ring around it.

Feel free to personalize this whistle by carving patterns, which, unless they are carved too deep, will not affect the functionality of the whistle.

Experiment by using different sizes of mouthpiece plugs and different overall lengths of the whistle in order to adjust the tone and pitch.

If you make this whistle, please let me know in the "I Made It" section. I'd love to see what you make! If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for following along through this Instructable. I hope you were able to create this whistle with little difficulty.

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