Transform a Ballpoint Pen Into a Survival Whistle Mini-pen




Introduction: Transform a Ballpoint Pen Into a Survival Whistle Mini-pen

About: Please contact me if you'd like to commission a piece! I enjoy making a wide range of things--whatever strikes my fancy. My most successful creations end up being in the paper crafting realms.

This Instructable shows you how to transform a common ballpoint pen into a survival whistle which will fit inside an Altoids tin and still work as a pen. This multi-functionality helps to save space in the tight confines of the tin.

DISCLAIMER: Though this whistle is ear-splittingly loud when configured properly, I have not tested it in a survival situation. Please use your own judgment on whether your end product is good enough for a real survival situation, if that is its intended use. If it isn't good enough for that, please consider shelling out the money for a factory-made whistle.

Here are some pages I viewed which were very helpful in learning about the construction of whistles:

Step 1: Materials

Consumable materials:
--small piece of sandpaper
--glue (optional)
--Papermate Eagle ballpoint pen
   --it is quite possible there are other pens which will also work; I have selected this one for several qualities. First, there is no hole in the barrel of the pen--for some reason many ballpoint pens have a tiny round hole somewhere on it. Second, the ink cartridge is easily removed with your fingers. Third, the end piece is a separate piece that can pop out.


Step 2: Remove the Ink Cartridge From the Pen

After removing the cap, pull the ink cartridge out of the pen with your fingers. Most of the ones I have made have come out VERY easily, but there were a few that resisted removal. I would suggest if you have one that resists removal you might want to save that for regular pen usage.

Step 3: Mark and Cut Pen Barrel

Mark the pen barrel at 2 1/8 inches from the start of the straight part of the barrel. Cut at this point with scissors. Be careful--one or both pieces are liable to go flying off into the nether regions of your room. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will call these two pieces the mini-pen barrel and the original end piece.

Step 4: Sand the Cut End

Sand the cut end of your mini-pen barrel until it is basically smooth and even.

Step 5: Mark and Cut at the Original End

Place a mark at about 3/4 of an inch from the original end piece. Cut here with scissors. This also poses a projectile hazard. After you find it, set aside the larger middle piece for later use.

Step 6: Grip and Squeeze Original End

Grip the small original end piece with your pliers, on the open side. Squeeze with the pliers, rotating as necessary, to force the black end cap to slide out. Discard the squeezed plastic; retain the end cap.

Step 7: Insert End Cap Into Mini-pen Barrel

Insert the black end cap into the mini-pen barrel.

Step 8: Cut a Line (window) Perpendicular to Mini-pen Barrel

Using your knife, cut a line perpendicular to the mini-pen barrel. This cut is called the window. The positioning of this cut is immediately at the point where the black end cap ends on the inside of the pen. Go about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through the pen barrel.

Step 9: Cut a Wedge (lip) at About 45 Degree Angle

Holding your pen upright, or angled slightly, use your knife to cut at about a 45 degree angle aiming towards the bottom of your prior perpendicular cut. This ends up being about a 1/4 inch from the perpendicular cut. This cut is called the lip. It is better to cut too little than too much. If your whistle does not sound correct, this is one parameter you can fix--you can increase the cut/lip.

Step 10: Cut Side of Barrel to the Bottom, to Create an Air Passage

Next we will start on making an air passage, called a windway.

If possible, remove the end cap. You can sometimes remove it at this point by using the point of the lid, or some other pointy tool. Be careful, though, as there is the possibility of snapping off the cut end of your barrel. If you cannot remove the end cap, that is fine. You can do this step either way.

If you can remove the end cap, you can use your scissors to cut just over a third of the middle of your barrel end out, making a mushroom shape when looking at it straight down. If you cannot remove the cap, use your knife to shave down that same area. This is part one of the windway.

Step 11: Grip and Sand End Cap

Grip the end cap with your pliers so that one side is available for sanding. Sand the side of the end cap until there is at most a quarter of the side gone. The end cap of the Eagle pen is hollow, so if you go too far you will ruin this end cap and have to start over. You can always sand more later if you did not sand enough. This is the other part of the windway.

Step 12: Insert the End Cap Into End of Barrel

Reinsert the end cap into the end of the barrel, lining up the sanded area with the cut area to make your complete windway. Later after you are satisfied with everything, you can use glue to keep the end cap firmly in the position desired. It is not required, however, as it is pretty sturdy even without glue.

Step 13: Cut a Mouthpiece Section Off the Original Middle Section

Go back to the original middle section you set aside. Measure out about 9/16, and cut. This 9/16 length will be your mouthpiece section. Lightly sand both ends of this piece to remove any jagged areas.

Step 14: Cut Mouthpiece Down Middle of One Side

Use your scissors to cut the mouthpiece section down the length of one side.

Step 15: Cut the Corners Off One Side of the Mouthpiece

Cut a tiny bit of the corners off one side of the mouthpiece, on either side of your middle cut. Sand these lightly to remove jagged edges.

Step 16: Place the Mouthpiece on the End

You can use your original pen lid to force open the mouthpiece enough to get it over the end of your whistle. The positioning of the mouthpiece will be a variable you will have to adjust. Look at the next step for troubleshooting ideas.

Step 17: Troubleshooting Ideas

Positioning of the mouthpiece
--You can move it forward and backwards to figure out the area which produces the loudest tone.

Plugging the end
--Some whistles end up being loudest when you plug the other end with your finger, some when you don't plug the end.

Holding mouthpiece
--Sometimes it helps to hold the mouthpiece tightly while you blow your whistle. If that's the case, when you are satisfied with your configuration you can consider gluing the mouthpiece into place.

Try the above in several different configurations to find the loudest whistle. If none of the above work, you can try the next two steps.

Cutting/sanding your fipple
--If you've tried the above, you can try sanding down the end cap a bit more, and adjusting a bit the sides of the cut barrel portion. If you can't blow the whistle at all, this is definitely the area you need to fix.

Cutting lip/hole larger
--If you've tried the other things, you can try cutting your angle differently on the lip.

Step 18: Cut Ink Cartridge

Measure and cut the ink cartridge at 2 1/8 inches from the part which begins the straight portion. The ink doesn't generally come out, but if you leave it sitting somewhere on an angle, or touch the ends with your fingers, it can get a little messy.

Step 19: Place Ink Cartridge in Mini-pen, and You're Done!

Once you are happy with your whistle, you can turn it back into a mini-pen for storage. Slide the now-shortened ink cartridge back into the pen.

If desired, you should have enough room to also place the cap on the pen. Currently this takes up extra valuable space in the Altoids tin, but I will work on turning the cap into a small-game trapping mechanism to make it earn its place.

Consider adding instructions to the barrel of the mini-pen to explain about taking out the ink cartridge before use. Some pens will still work nicely with the ink cartridge in place, but most won't. In order to use the whistle you will need to remove the ink cartridge temporarily.

Now your whistle pen is complete and ready for your tins!

1 Person Made This Project!


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19 Discussions


2 years ago

I know this was a long time ago, but the holes on the body, and the cap. We're put there in case a child decided it might be "fun" to swallow either. Instead of choking to death, the holes allow air to pass through which gives the medical team more time to remove them. Just thought id let the O.P. know.


3 years ago

looks fun but I might be able to make a better one.


5 years ago

Took a while, but made a successful one on my first try! Thanks for posting this.


8 years ago on Introduction

я вообще не понимаю по английски


8 years ago on Introduction

u could use the cap from a bic crystal and suck on it idk why it works LOL


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Yes, some of the caps I tried you could just blow into and they'd work, but since I wanted to include a pen in my kit as well, I wanted to combine them.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

on the cheat 50 cent ones you have to spit a little in the caps and suck on it


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Fine. I had trouble with step 10 because I didn't realize I was trying to make an air channel.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the feedback! I added a bit to clarify that :-) Was your whistle pleasantly loud?


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

What do you not get? Could I perhaps clarify something?