Survival Whistle




About: Just an ordinary person who loves #thinking and #tinkering

A whistle is considered to be one of survival kits and should be in your EDC (EveryDay Carry) list. Most common international whistle codes are :

  • Three blasts : "Help Me!"
  • Two blasts : "Come here."
  • One blast : "Where are you?"

Each whistle blast should last 3 seconds. Another important code is morse code of "SOS" which is three short blasts (3 seconds each), three long blasts (6 seconds each), and then another three short blasts (3 seconds each). So when you are separated from your group, you can use these codes to get back to them if you are not too far away.

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Step 1: What We Need?

A pocket knife and a hollow branch or stick around 3 to 5 inches with a quarter inch of inner hollow diameter. Good if you can find bamboo trees. If not, the bark of willow trees can be used, but you need to remove the wood from its bark.

In this project I used bamboo about my finger size. Pick a yellow one, it will certainly has hollow core, or grab one that is turning yellow (brownish). The green ones are sometimes still solid inside.

Step 2: The Design

This is the basic design of a whistle. It is very simple.

  1. A hollow tube with one sealed end.
  2. Cut 45 degree at the open end. (called mouthpiece).
  3. Cut an opening at the top which is one straight cut and one diagonal cut (called the blade).
  4. Plug some wood at mouthpiece leaving only a little gap for air inflow at the top.

That's it. It is that simple, but the wood at mouthpiece need proper adjustment, because we don't have any glue out there unless you are lucky to get the sticky latex of a tree.

The second picture is curved to get a better and comfortable mouthpiece. A curvy blade is believe to get a different tone on your whistle, but I have not done a focus experiments on it

Step 3: Cut the Tube

  1. Clean the branches at one node of your bamboo.
  2. Straight cut at near the clean node. That is our sealed end of tube.
  3. Cut a 45 degrees just before the next node of bamboo. That is our opening end of tube, also the mouthpiece.

Step 4: The Blade

  1. Make a straight cut about half an inch from the mouthpiece, until you can see your knife from the hollow core.
  2. Cut a slope about a quarter inch from the previous straight cut until you meet its end at the hollow core.

Step 5: Get a Branch

Get any branch with the size of the bamboo's hollow core.

Step 6: The Wood at Mouthpiece

  1. Shave one side (that will be top side) of the wood.
  2. Plug into the mouthpiece until you see the wood is flat with the straight cut of the blade's hole. Then cut the excessive wood at mouthpiece.

Step 7: Give It a Try

Now you can see a little gap at the mouthpiece. That is where the air goes in and it will then splitted by the blade. Some goes out of the tube and some goes into the chamber and rolls back and out from the blade's hole. That produces the sound.

Step 8: Are You Ready?

On next experiment, I try two shapes of wood inside the mouthpiece. The slopped down below the blade produces lower tone. More bass. The straight cut below the blade produces higher tone, which is suitable for survival outdoors. If your whistle still mute, check and realign the wood inside the mouthpiece. Make sure it sticks well on the surrounding and leaving a little gap on top for air inflow. And also make sure it is not getting in too far passing the blade's straight cut.

At this point, if your whistle is blasting good, you are 50-50 to survive the zombie apocalypse. you need to analyze your environment. Blasting your whistle in the dark, you may call the other survivors. Or you may as well tell the zombies about your position. Blasting your whistle in daylight you may also activate the sound-sensitive drones from the outside world and telling them your exact coordinates.

Now can you tell me if whistle is really a survival tools? We will get the answer ... if I see you the day after tomorrow ...

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    20 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Nice.. will try it with my kid on weekend.. does it have different sound with different material ? wood for example ?

    Agen Judi Bola

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Different material does have different sound, but the sounding mostly depends on the size of chamber (larger = lower tone; smaller = higher tone). Try to make a long one and hear the sound. Then cut it shorter and listen. Cut and listen, cut and listen, this way you will learn the sounding and you can make one with your desire tone.

    For reference you can listen to the sound I provided on previous comment.

    I choose bamboo because it already has hollow inside. If you are crafting with wood, then you need power drill. Just stick to the basic of whistle : air inflow (mouthpiece), the blade, and sealed end.

    I would love to see your whistle ^^


    2 years ago

    I learned to make a similar whistle at Girl Scout camp in the Ozarks more than 50 years ago. We did not have bamboo, but used green Hickory sticks. The interior could easily be slipped out for the hollow part cut for the stop and mouthpiece. Don't know how the adults stood our noise. Thanks for your post.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes, cutting the plug of the mouthpiece is a bit tricky. You should peel off layer by layer and test fit in the hollow. If you have peeled too much, it become loose. Then you can slice some wood thin enough to slip in the gap and make it tight rather than rebuild the whole inner piece ^^


    2 years ago

    bamboo, grass is.Hmmmm?


    2 years ago

    Very cool! Would love to hear what this sounds like. Got my vote.

    5 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you! That is cool. I think the 52mm one makes the nicest sound. Maybe because of the length, or maybe it was just cut better. I'll try this out sometime as I have access to lots of bamboo here!


    Reply 2 years ago

    You are welcome. I love making these with my new toy (Leatherman Skeletool) ^^

    I make three for my kids and also try different sizes to compare the sound. The smaller the chamber is, the higher the frequency be. For survival, we need high frequency to be heard from far away. Leatherman Signal has a whistle on it, and the frequency is high enough.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for the vote. I am a very shy person to show up on video :D

    I will try my best to provide one. Maybe I will add some .wav files in my dropbox and share it here ;)


    2 years ago

    Good to see a fellow 'Ibler posting bamboo projects. :-)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Bamboo is one useful plant in human's life from crafting to rafting. From wood to food :)