This pea whistle project is small and fun, but requires patience and dexterity to get the pieces in place for a good strong tone. Students can experiment with making different shapes and additions to the whistle, or making several to compare how changing different variables changes the sound of the final product.
Tools & Materials
- Hardwood scrap piece approximately 1-½” x 2” x3” (Or larger if you choose to make a bigger design)
- Printed Whistle plans A and B
- ¼" diameter ball (metal, wood or plastic, whatever you have on hand)
- Food-grade finish, such as bees wax, chopping block or salad bowl conditioner
- Glue stick
- Wood glue
- Bandsaw (with a fence or clamps and a straight piece of wood)
- Drill press
- Forstner bit (1”)
- Sander or Dremel (optional)
Print whistle plans A, then if you choose to, sketch whatever extra shape you choose around the basic whistle pattern (make sure not to change the angles or sizes of the holes – see bottom of this print out for examples and ideas). Next, cut out your pattern and glue to the side of your wood block (the 2”x3” or largest side).
Using the band saw or coping saw, cut the outline of your whistle.
Set up a fence on your bandsaw and slice off 3/16” from each side of your whistle: these will be the side pieces, and the thicker remaining piece will be the centre of your whistle.
Print and cut out whistle plans B, then with your glue stick, stick it onto the face of your centre piece, making sure to line up the outer edge carefully. Using your 1” Forstner bit, drill out the hole.
Cut the remaining lines on your bandsaw or with your coping saw. This will give you two pieces, the body and the top. Sand the inner faces of your whistle to make a smooth path for the air to flow past; this will make a crisper whistle noise.
Assemble your 4 pieces (body, top, and sides, placing the ¼" ball in the centre hole). Clamp the pieces together and test your whistle. You may need to slide the top piece forward or back, adjusting the top hole to get the right noise. Also, you can slightly angle the top piece so that it narrows the air path (wider at the mouth piece, narrower at the inner hole – see Whistle Plan B)
When you have the sound you like, glue your whistle together with wood glue, adding the ¼" ball to the hole before sticking the sides on (use glue sparingly so it doesn’t squeeze out and accidently glue the ball to the inner face of the whistle). Clamp together and let dry.
Shape and clean up your whistle using a sander or Dremel as you choose, then sand it and apply your food-grade finish. Take it outside and play!
- Design a whistle with an eyelet or hole to attach to a lanyard or keychain.
- Experiment with different woods, different shapes, different Forstner bit sizes, and various air hole placements to get different noises out of your whistle.
- Before you glue your whistle together, experiment with different ¼" balls to see which material makes your favourite tone. You could try carving a ball from wood, from an eraser, from different types of plastic, you could use a dried pea or round seed (painted with a coating to protect it from moisture), or you could try a ball bearing, or make one out of modeling clay.
- Design a whistle with a door on the side so you can change out the ball depending on what kind of noise you want your whistle to make. Make a gift box for your whistle with a small section to keep the different “pea” options in.
- Instead of using one solid block to cut your whistle from, laminate a 1-½" x 2” x 3” block together from scraps of different types/colours/thicknesses of wood that you run through the jointer and glue together.
- Take your original block and cut it diagonally, then glue in a 1/8” or ¼" piece of contrasting wood to add a stripe to your whistle. Try doing this several times at different angles to see how it changes the look of your final product.
- Inlay a coin or piece of shell into the side of your whistle.
- Make your whistle wider and carve a 3-dimensional design (for example, you could start with the bird outline in the following sketch, and then shape your whistle into a 3-D bird. You could even paint it to look like a real bird!)
- Examples and ideas on modifying your whistle outline: You may choose to start with a piece of wood larger than the 2”x3”, or make it wider than 1-½". Just be sure NOT to change the angle or size of the holes too much, or to block them altogether