Make a whistle with your pocket knife and fresh wood.

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Blog entry by mafe posted 07-26-2012 09:00 AM 99452 reads 17 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Make a whistle with your pocket knife and fresh wood.
wonderful time with my fiancées son Karl.

Making a whistle with a pocket knife is a wonderful way to share a good time with kids, it gives a chance to learn, talk and just enjoy life in the quiet pace, away from the modern running.
Perhaps a chance to give a son, stepson or a grandchild his or hers first knife.
Hazel, willow, ash or rowan will do the job; the important is that the bark will separate from the wood easy.
In Denmark willow is the most common used traditionally.

My daughter Mathilde and I have made these over the years in this blog I will make one with my fiancées son Karl and he will carve a little also.

I made my first whistle on a trip to Venice with my grandparents and their friends, the friend Knud he always had a pocket knife in the pocket and one day he gave me one also, I was so proud you can’t imagine.
When we then passed a willow tree on a tour outside Venice he asked me to cut a branch, and in an hour or so I had made my first whistle – do I need to say I was proud? Proud as a pope.

This blog I will dedicate to Knud, he is no longer among us but always in my heart and in my mind each time I learn others to make a willow whistle, thank you Knud.

This is Karl blowing his whistle, he actually made it all by himself and succeeded in first try.
Way to go Karl
I was really proud of him.

Here some samples I made over the days we spend in the summerhouse.

First of all find a good place to sit.
Sharpen the knifes, there are nothing more dangerous than a dull knife.
(The old advice to dull the kids knifes is a really bad idea, this is where the most accidents happen).
So razor sharp if possible.
If possible also a cold drink, my wonderful Sisse (Karls mother) made us elderflower drinks, mine with a touch of Vodka, this is how lucky I am.
Then sit and cut a little with the knife, just to get used.

Also a good time to learn how to use a saw…

Or get photographed while sitting next to the chair…
I was not drunk!
Just a fool…

The stump I was trying to sit on in the background…

Karl carving a little before we begin.

We found some young rowan tree and cut a piece.
You need to find a piece that are straight and with no branches.
You will need at least two inches clean branch.
It can be any thickness, but like a finger is a good start.

The one on the left will be able to be used from each end.
The one on the right is really perfect.

Start by cutting the mouth piece.

Like this.

Perhaps it is time for a break.
Here I practice golf…
(I don’t play golf at all, but Karl does really well).

Clean up the end of the mouthpiece by making a straight cut.

Now practice to make this cut on a different piece of wood.
Make ten or so until you are good at it.

Start by making a straight cut.

And then sideways.

When ready make the cut like this over the mouthpiece.
So that the front meets the back.

Then make a cut through the bark all the way around.

Like this.

Time for a second brake.
Karl shooting an air rifle.

Me with an air gun.

Back to the whistle.
Now gently tap on the bark with the knife handle.
Tap all over the whistle end.

After this the bark will be loose and you can push it of like this.

Ta taaaaa.


Now time to cut the inside.
It’s important you cut from the back forward and keep the vertical end at the same spot, just working it deeper and deeper slowly.

Like this.

And so.
It’s up to you how much, the more you remove the more deep the sound becomes.

Now you need to make the opening for air.
A thin cut at the top front.

Like this.

And the bark goes back on.



Here the air ‘tunnel’.

And just put some air through that whistle.
If you followed the blog it should make you smile by saying a wonderful sound now.

Different sizes, different sounds.

Karl also made this little ‘Henning’ guy.
This was the practice piece.
I am quite impressed.

And the back.

We also visited a sand sculpture park where I made my own version in the sand box for the kids.

And few days later we had guests, Otto and Vester the cousins of Karl. Vester made some carving and Otto actually made a whistle also.

And the fool saying thank you for watching my holyday woodworking blog with Karl and all the others !!!

Hope this can inspire others to spend some wonderful time with some one you love.

Best thoughts,


-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

28 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2881 days

#1 posted 07-26-2012 09:13 AM

Mads wonderful project and a

great time had by all.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Schwieb's profile


1858 posts in 3486 days

#2 posted 07-26-2012 10:04 AM

Looks like you guys had a great time and the whistles are pretty cool too. Those boys will remember this experience all their lives.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1040 posts in 2337 days

#3 posted 07-26-2012 10:39 AM

Great project. Have you given up the pipe? I couldn’t see one in any of the pictures.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#4 posted 07-26-2012 11:00 AM

so cool.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2828 days

#5 posted 07-26-2012 11:06 AM

Gr8 blog Mads. This is what kids need today. Quality time for sure. Good memories, really good whistles

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Sodabowski's profile


2374 posts in 2857 days

#6 posted 07-26-2012 11:20 AM

Great use of spare time :) BTW dude, it’s “voilà”, not “viola”, which means “raped” (yes… as in rape) or the musical instrument also. I actually had already heard of such whistles but never learned to make one, this will be my first holiday project once home ;)

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Brit's profile


7385 posts in 2867 days

#7 posted 07-26-2012 11:45 AM

What a wonderfully fulfilling way to spend time with Karl and his cousins and no plasters on anyone’s fingers. :o)

However, I’ve got to say that if you see Mads with a handgun…

...the question you’ve got to ask yourself is: ”Is Mafe’s aim any better than his golf swing?

Personally I’d be out of there before he could say: ”Go on punk, make my day”, but then I’m only a hero from the waste up.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20594 posts in 3130 days

#8 posted 07-26-2012 12:12 PM

Way to go ,Mads. What a surprise the kids will have in the sand box,too!!!
It looks like you are having fun. Does Mathilde shoot, too?.......................Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2976 days

#9 posted 07-26-2012 12:47 PM

I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day, Mads. Thanks for posting this!

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View sb194's profile


196 posts in 3043 days

#10 posted 07-26-2012 01:43 PM

Looks like a great time. I am going to try making these with my kids and their cousins as well.


View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3673 days

#11 posted 07-26-2012 01:52 PM

hahaha… good writeup…. good times.

‘not drunk’...... rrrrright

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2643 days

#12 posted 07-26-2012 01:56 PM

Thanks for this, Mads! Enough to make we want to carry a pocket knife in the woods now! :-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Jiri Parkman's profile

Jiri Parkman

953 posts in 3837 days

#13 posted 07-26-2012 02:52 PM

This I did with my grandfather and my father did it with my children and I’m going to do it with my grandchildren. Thank you remind me.

-- Jiri

View Kevin's profile


555 posts in 2323 days

#14 posted 07-26-2012 03:05 PM

Great post, thanks so much. Definetly something I will do with my kids.

-- Measure twice, cut once, then sand a whole bunch

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3358 days

#15 posted 07-26-2012 06:32 PM

Wonderful blog Mads that everyone can put into practice this time of the year. I have never made a whistle like this, but I do remember reading Neville Shute’s novel ‘The Pied Piper’ with the Norwegian translation titled ‘Mannen med Selje Fløytene’ a world war two story well worth a read and featuring just the kind of whistle so well described above and a bunch of kids too. Might be a good book to read to the younger kids too. Thanks Mads, now I can teach my grandkids how to make them.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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