Introduction: Willow Whistle

Ah the good old days, when a kid could spend hours entertained by nothing more than a stick.

In this Instructable I will show you how to make the classic willow whistle. Make one for your kids. They'll be amazed to learn that cool toys can be made by hand out of a stick.

I made a short video of the whole process. It's only a minute and half long, and makes this Instructable much easier to understand. Highly recommended.

I think most people have heard of willow whistle, but how many people have ever actually seen one? I think the art may have all but died out a generation or 2 ago. Leave a note and let me know if you have had any previous experience with willow whistles.

Step 1: Get a Willow Stick

To make a willow whistle you need only 2 things, a knife and stick.

Get a willow branch with green bark. I am sure that plenty of other tree species will work. The important thing is that you need to be able to slip the bark off the wood without damaging the bark. Try to find a stick at least 1/3 of an inch thick.

Willows love water and are commonly found along streams and ponds. You might think of a willow tree, but bush shaped willows are probably even more common.

Step 2: Cut a Notch in the Stick

Cut a notch across the stick. Cut into the stick about an inch or so from the end. Make a shallow, V-shaped cut through the bark and into the wood just deep enough to leave a mark. Because of the curve of the stick, the shape of the notch comes out roughly eye-shaped.

Sometimes it works better if the front edge of the notch is actually more straight up and down into the branch as opposed to angled in.

Hint: In step 4 we will remove the bark from the stick. I find that the little buds on the stick which will later turn into secondary branches sometimes make the bark more difficult to remove. I usually try to place my notch so that I cut out one of these buds. By removing one bud, I usually have enough room to make the whistle without any additional buds in the way.

Step 3: Cut a Ring Around the Stick

Move back from the notch another inch and a half or so and cut through the bark in a ring around the stick.

Step 4: Remove the Bark

Remove the bark (all in one piece) from the ring forward.

I find that if I tap on the bark a little with my knife, it will loosen up. Grasp the stick above the ring with one and and below the ring with the other hand and twist. The bark should come loose from the wood with a satisfying crack.

Slip the bark of the end and set it aside.

Step 5: Extend the Notch

With the bark removed, extend the notch from step 2 straight down into the wood at the front edge and back maybe a half and inch or so.

Carve away at the notch until it is down to the center of the stick.

Step 6: Whittle the Air Channel

Whittle a flat plane on top of the stick in front of the notch. When the bark is replaced the air will travel into the whistle though this channel.

This is the final cutting step. The finished shape of the stick should look a like the photo.

Again, I think the video demonstration is much easier to follow. I recommend taking a minute and a half to watch it here.

Step 7: Slide the Bark Back on and Give It a Blow

Slide the bark onto the stick back into its original position.

The whistle is now finished. Just blow down the channel created by the removal of wood in step 6.

Sometimes you may have to twist the bark just a little to get the whistle to sound right.

Congratulations. You have just transformed a stick into hours of entertainment.