How to Make a Clay Whistle
Making a whistle at home is a fun and rewarding experience. If you've already tried making wooden or grass whistles, try making a clay whistle for a change.For thousands of years, humans have been creating whistles out of clay. Stoneware clay is a perfect medium to make a neat whistle out of. You can even shape your clay whistle, also called an ocarina, to look like a small critter! Just note that a clay whistle does take more effort and patience than making another type of whistle. However, with practice, you will be able to make them with ease.
Making the Body of the Whistle
Start with approximately 455 grams (1 lb) of clay.
- Purchase clay at arts and crafts retail chains, like Michaels, or retailers such as Target/Walmart.
Make two balls of clay, and make two small pots.Take the ball of clay and press your thumb into the middle of it. Keep your thumb inserted into bowl and pinch clay to form the pinch pots. Press clay until pinch pot has an even thickness on all sides.
- Pinch clay between your thumb and your four fingers. Using four fingers, instead of one, will ensure even thickness around the pinch pot.
- Rotate the ball in your hand as you pinch.
- Ensure that the pinch pots are approximately the same size.
- Make the walls of your pinch pot around ¼ inch thick.
Score the rims of the pots.Score the lip of the pot using a fork or similar tool. Dampen the rims with slip (very watery clay) or a little water.
- Don’t forget to score and slip the edges of the clay. If you forget to score and slip, the clay is likely to fall apart when you try to combine the pinch pots.
Stick the rims of the two pots together to make a hollow ball of clay.This becomes the rounded part of the whistle.Work the seam closed using a tool or your finger.
- Move clay back and forth over the seam until it is no longer visible.
- When combined, pots should make a ball or egg shape.
- You want to create an air tight hollow within the combined pots.
Flatten one side of the ball.Achieve this by gently tapping the ball on a table.
Creating a Mouthpiece
Break off a small piece of clay to create your mouthpiece.The mouthpiece should be about the size of the top of your finger.
- Make the mouthpiece approximately 1 inch by ¾ inch thick and 1½ inches long.
- Make a mouthpiece that has squared sides and tapers slightly from back to front.The shape should resemble a wedge.
- Ensure that the mouthpiece is thick enough to have an airway created inside of it.
- Use a Popsicle stick to help you form your mouth piece.Flatten clay and lay Popsicle in the middle of it. Fold clay over Popsicle stick, creating a square shape. After forming the shape, remove Popsicle stick from clay and you will have your mouthpiece.
Attach the mouthpiece on the side of the ball, near the base.Align the top of your mouthpiece with the top of your sphere.
Make the whistle's opening.Insert a craft stick through the mouthpiece and into the hollow ball near the flat side. Leave the stick inserted.
Use another craft stick to push a hole on the bottom.This should be done using the flat side of the stick. The stick should be inserted at a 45 degree angle until it makes contact with the first craft stick. The hole will be near the edge of the hollow ball near the mouthpiece.
Use a different method to create a mouthpiece.Make one of the pinch pots with a nib on the end. Use your thumb to create the nib. The nib will slightly resemble the mouthpiece of a whistle. Join the two pots together; remembering to slip and score the edges before joining them.
- Insert popsicle stick horizontally into the nib once the two pots have been sealed together. Push stick all the way into the end of the whistle's body. This will create the whistle's airway.
- Use a second stick and make a square incision between the nib and the body of the whistle. Remove the cut square of clay from the whistle.
- Use the stick again to create a 45 degree angle on the square incision.
Making Sounds with Your Whistle
Remove the sticks and gently blow into the whistle to get a sound.If you do not succeed, reinsert the mouthpiece stick and adjust the air-hole on the bottom. This may take quite a bit of practice (see Warnings below).
- If there is no sound, that may mean that the hole was placed improperly. The whistle will produce the best sound when the opening is placed directly above the spot where the mouthpiece enters the clay body.
- The size of the openings created can also affect the quality of the sound produced by the whistle. Too small and there will be no sound or poor sound. A larger square shaped opening will give you the best quality of sound.
- Clear any loose bits of excess clay from the mouthpiece, as they can clog the opening and stop the whistle from producing sound.
Add holes to change the pitch of your whistle.Add more holes to increase your whistle's pitch. Adding larger holes will also increase the whistle's pitch.
- Consider making different shaped holes if you plan on adding more than one hole. This will maximize the number of tones produced by the whistle.
- Give your whistle a test blow after adding each additional hole. Do this to check the sound and to ensure that the whistle is still making sounds.
Tune your whistle.This way you can play real musical notes. Make at least three holes. Having three holes will let you make up to 8 musical notes. These notes are: doe, ray, mi, fa, soe, la, ti, doe.
- Start with no holes to establish "doe".
- Cut the first hole to create the "ray" note.
- Cover the first hole with your finger and cut a second hole to make "mi"note.
- Blow into your whistle and try out the scale at this point. You should be able to play"doe", "ray", "mi", "fa".
- Cover the first two holes and cut hole a third hole to be able to make the "soe" note.
- Create the “la” note by covering the second hole with your finger, leaving the first and third holes uncovered, and blowing into your whistle.
- Make the “tie” note by covering the first hole and leaving the last two uncovered as you blow into your whistle.
- Leave all holes uncovered and blow into your whistle to create the last “doe” note.
Completing Your Clay Whistle
Decorate the whistle.Have fun with it! Add arms, eyes, and tails to make your own unique creation.
- Let your imagination run wild and make any additions to your whistle that you like.
Add texture to your whistle.Use tools to make textures and designs. Use household items as tools to create texture.
- Buttons, feathers, needles, toothpicks, etc; can all be great tools for adding texture to your clay.
- Pressing small objects against your whistle will leave an imprint.
Fire the whistle in a kiln.Once the clay is bone-dry (not cold to the touch), you can fire it. If all goes well, the whistle will still work after it is fired.
- Make sure that the piece of clay that you put inside the oven does not have any bubbles of air. If you leave air bubbles, there is the risk of losing your masterpiece by the high temperatures that the oven produces. The temperatures can cause the clay to burst into pieces if air bubbles are present.
- To ensure that there are no bubbles, you should press the clay in different directions using your fingers. Finally, put it in the oven without any fear.
- The kiln will harden the clay to a stone like form.
- Know that clay may shrink during firing. This will change the sound that the whistle makes.
- Practicing making clay whistles will help you determine the appropriate size your whistle should be before firing.
If you desire paint or glaze the fired whistle.Keep in mind that glaze requires three coats. Let one coat of glaze dry before adding another.
- When you are sticking the two pots together, use a needle tool to score the edges of the pots and add slip (very watery clay) to the ridges of clay. This makes it easier to stick the pots together.
- If you glaze the finished whistle, it needs to be fired a second time to set the glaze.
- To make the whistle into the shape of a critter, add any additional pieces before making the air holes.This includes: legs, eyes, etc. Once the whistle is perfected to make noise, you will not want to mess with it too much because you may move the air-holes and lose the sound.
- Supervise children using sharp tools.
- Be sure to use non-lead based glaze when firing your whistle.
- Getting sound from your whistle can take a very long time and be very frustrating. Keep trying! As you improve, you will learn the ways that work.
- Be aware that glazing the whistle may change its tune.
Video: How to build a clay whistle (ocarina)
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