Sunday, May 23, 2010

Willow Whistle

I have a very special guest artist today. My Father. When we were little he would make us willow whistles in the spring and early summer when the sap was still flowing. It has been years since he made one but he came out of willow whistle retirement just to teach me how he made those wonderful whistles. I have great memories of watching him whittle away the wood and of running barefoot through the grass whistling as loudly as I could on my new whistle once he was done. While Dad worked on this whistle he told me about how his Grandfather had taught him how to make the whistles. Thank you Dad for passing this knowledge on to me so I can share this with my future children. First you need to find your stick. It needs to be cut fresh while the sap is still flowing. Choose a branch that is about the width of an adult thumb, fairly straight, a minimum of 6 inches, and has few knots. We chose a branch that was rubbing against another branch and would have been taken out anyway. Next using a sharp knife cut a mouth piece at an angle and then blunt the end. Then cut a small rectangle opposite of the side of the mouth piece. Just cut deep enough to remove the bark (just think of how a recorder looks). About 6 inches from the mouth piece cut a straight line all the way around the branch. Cut just deep enough to go though the bark. Then gently tap the twig along its length and all around. Be careful not to tap so hard that you crack the bark. Once the bark is cracked it will not work properly. Finally, twist and pull along the bark till it slips off of the branch. Hold the bark carefully so it does not crack.
For this next part I needed my Father's help. My hand is still in a splint from Mother's day so I was unable to use the strength I needed to whittle away the wood. On the wood part he cut a thin line along the top of the mouth piece and a long groove. I used a red line in the second picture to indicate where to cut. When I was younger he would make the groove longer and put holes along the bark above the grove to create finger holes. Once you are done; carefully slip the bark back over and line it up to where it was before you slipped it off. Your done! This may take a few practice attempts to get it right. As the sap dries out your whistle may stop working, if you re-wet with water it may start working again. You can also use Maple or any other wood that the bark slips freely from. Thank you for reading, good luck and have fun! I leave you with something my Father used to say, and said again while teaching me how to make this willow whistle.

"I once made a wood whistle, but it wooden whistle.
Then I made a steel whistle, and it steel would not whistle.
Then I made a tin whistle, now I tin whistle."


  1. How lovely to have your father along side you.Sharing knowledge. cheers Marie

  2. It's nice to learn firsthand from your Dad and to now be able to teach others how to make a whistle. Hope your hand mends soon.

  3. Hi: How nice to have your father with you today. I saw your post with the candle tea cup. It is very pretty. I am so sorry about the Linky on my blog not working. I promise I will do better next week. Please join us again. Have a wonderful week. Blessings, Martha

  4. Lovely post...:)
    Its wonderful to have a craft that we can pass down to our children. Im teaching Katie how to knit my mother taught me how to knit and sew. My sewing not that great but I can do the basics...:)

  5. My dear friend,
    thank you for joining my followers and leaving your sweet comments. I'm now your newest follower and I'm sure this will be but the beginning of a long bloggy friendship.
    Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us. You brought me back to my younger years when my dad was still alive. and realize only nowadays how many things I've learnt from him. Was not fully aware when he was still with me.
    have a great day.
    until my next visit

  6. What a wonderful legacy!! Thanks for visiting my blog & I am going to be a follower of yours!! Love it....
    Have a Wonderful Day!

  7. Hi..nice to be here and read you!

    your blog posts are sweet..
    i do hope you'll come by again sometime.

    ciao bella

    ps. i love the post with your hubby 's hands..i found that extreemly sweet and touching....pardon the punn! lol

    creative carmelina