Mary Anne's Whistle - handtool version #1: How to with handtools!

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Blog entry by rwyoung posted 06-11-2010 05:58 AM 2473 reads 4 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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OK, so Mary Anne posted some blog entries on making whistles. I decided to make one using only hand tools.

Here's a link back to Mary Anne's post.

So, we start with some rough lumber. In this case a piece of wacky cherry. The board has lots of pitch inclusions, crazy grain and cupped something awful. But it will be fine for a whistle.

By the way, no rulers were harmed (or used) in the making of this project. All measuring done by the Mark-I eyeball.

1) Cross cut a blank. Eyeballing it to around 6” long. Board is about 5” wide and 1” thick.

Use a plane to clean the edge. In this case I grabbed my #7 because I knew it was already set up for a relatively heavy cut.

2) Use a plow plane with a 1/4” blade. In this case a Stanley 45. Make a pencil mark where the groove is to start.

The depth stop was set to something resembling 1/16”, maybe even 3/32”. Really doesn’t matter much, just has to be shallow.

3) Groove is done. The groove will be sloped because the plane’s rear skate is held up by the un-grooved portion. Doesn’t matter. Now I stake in about 1” from the end and at my pencil mark with a 1/4” chisel.

4) Deepen the groove between the two chisel marks with a router plane. In this case a Stanley 71-1/2 with a 1/4” blade. A 1/4” chisel used bevel down would also work but I like playing with the #71-1/2.

My 71-1/2 has no depth stop. Instead I just keep moving the blade down a little bit at a time until the groove looks like it is in the neighborhood of 1/4” deep. Note that I’ve left the shallow groove at about the first 1” to 1-1/4” of the blank.

5) Now use the plow plane again, or in this case a second plow plane – Record 044 – with the narrowest blade (1/8”). The fence is set to about 3/4” and the depth stop is set for maximum depth. Start cutting along the face side until the groove is around 1/2 through the board. Flip the board and cut from the other side.

Once the two grooves are close to each other I just rock the piece back and forth to snap the “vein” of wood left in the middle. It might be hard to tell but I’ve still got the blank in the vice and I’m holding the plane sideways. Here is the bottom portion of the whistle cut free, the center “vein” is clearly visible but at this point I don’t care and will just leave it alone.

6) Now clean up the larger blank again with a plane. I’m still using the #7 for this.

7) Back to the Record 044 to reset the fence about 1/8” from the blade. Maybe a heavy 1/8”, really doesn’t matter. Repeat the two-groove-meet-in-the-middle trick.

Now I should note that if it was important to me that the grain on the side of the whistle match, that is look like a single piece, it would be better to cut the “cap” away first, then make the lower portion.

8) Now to the bench hook for a little sawing to separate the cap piece into a short one (1” to 1-1/4” looks like) and its longer portion. I burnished the cut edge with the back of my chisel to remove the fuzzies caused by using a rip saw for a cross cut.

9) Now put the bevel on the larger piece. Mary Anne calls out 30 degrees. Anything close to that works and it so happens that the bevel on my chisel is 25 so I have a very handy visual reference as I pare down the workpiece.

Again, you might be able to see the vein along the back of the cap piece. Just left it alone, it will be easier to remove after the whistle is glued up.

10) Glue up! I had already unplugged my hot glue pot so instead I’m using some white Gorilla Glue (PVA, not polyurethene). This stuff can do a “rub joint” almost as quickly as hide glue. Just spread a very thin coat on both pieces and let it tack. Then press the two pieces together and rub them back and forth. After about the third “rub” they will freeze so make sure the small piece lines up over the step-down portion of the groove like Mary Anne illustrates in her posting. The long piece is glued the same way and lines up maybe 1/4” back. You can hold the long piece in place by hand, no glue, and blow through the whistle to tune it first.

11) Now that the whistle is glued up I can start to clean it up. Remove most of the vein with a chisel (bevel down). Be careful because the whistle will be wobbly on the bench hook. Just remove enough so it can be flipped over and the other vein removed with a plane. Now flip back over and smooth the opposite side. Now the left and right sides. Light cuts and pay attention to any grain issues.

A #3 or #4 in the Stanley numbering system works well here as would a block plane.

12) Cut the bevel for the mouth piece. I just sawed this at an angle that looked right. Still no measuring.

13) The tail end is rounded, I traced a quarter and then pared down with a chisel. And used the same chisel to bevel around the edge at the mouthpiece and the tail.

14) Finally a little chamfering with a block plane and done.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

6 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118309 posts in 4917 days

#1 posted 06-11-2010 06:08 AM

Great job and good blog


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4455 days

#2 posted 06-11-2010 08:43 AM

yes this is great,
unplugged is what I like,
thankĀ“s rwyung
for sharing it


View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 5053 days

#3 posted 06-11-2010 02:46 PM

Interesting, thanks for posting this.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4549 days

#4 posted 06-11-2010 02:53 PM

Well done blog! Thank you for adapting my whistle project for a hand tools only approach. Very cool!

One of the things I love about this site is the way everyone can add their own flavor or style to projects and we all get to learn new things and techniques. I have a LOT to learn about planes.

View mafe's profile


13695 posts in 4429 days

#5 posted 06-11-2010 04:53 PM

Really nice blog, inspirering, thank you.

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

View swirt's profile


7141 posts in 4312 days

#6 posted 06-11-2010 05:11 PM

Nice RWYoung, a whistle lesson for Gatoots ;)

-- Galootish log blog,

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