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  Making an Elder Whistle    

Elder wood is particularly suited to whistle making because it has a very soft pith which can be easily removed to create a hollow tube.

Note: In this article I have used freshly cut Elder wood which is still green, however, It is best to use dry dead wood, otherwise the wood may shrink and cause the whistle to stop working. For best results pick a suitable stem and leave to dry out before making the whistle.

Elder usually grows only a few meters tall and tends to like areas with poor quality soil.



typical thinner branches and leaves
(Young leaves - spring time)


Thicker limb of an Elder tree.


Please Note
Elder wood is said to contain toxins, I feel I should mention this, however in my opinion the whistles are quite safe to use, perhaps children should use with caution and should be discouraged from excessive use.
Whistles have been made from elder wood for generations and I have never heard of anyone coming to any harm. If you prefer, whistles can be made from other hollow wood such as bamboo which is perfectly safe. If you choose other wood types check their toxicity first.

  Cut a small branch that is already the correct width. You can see how thick this piece is in comparison to my fingers.

It is important that the wood has a large pith in the centre as this allows plenty of room for the sound chamber, however you will need the layer of wood around the pith to be thick enough so that it is not too fragile. A shoot of wood about 2 years old is usually good. You may have to cut several branches before you find the perfect piece.


Cut a finger length section from your wood.


Scrape the bark off.

  Push the pith out and scrape the inner walls with a small stick until totally free of pith.
  About 2cm in from the end you need to cut a notch in the whistle, a few cuts at 90 degrees and then some more at 45 degrees. The pictures explain it all...
  Now you need to make a small piece of wood to fit into the mouth end of the whistle. Carve a stick down to make a dowel the correct diameter to fit the inside. Keep testing how well it fits until you have it perfect.
  So that there will be a small gap for air to pass through towards the notch, a shaving or two of wood needs to be taken off the side of the dowel so that it has a flat side as shown.
  Cut the small piece of dowel to the correct length; as long as from the mouth end to the vertical cut of the notch.

The dowel should be a tight fit and will need no glue if it fits snugly.

Fit the dowel so that when you blow through the small gap the air runs level with the notch.

  Once you have fitted the dowel in the end you could carve the mouth end to a nice shape as shown, although this is not necessary.
  Here You can see how the air passage is created by carving one side of the dowel flat.

At this point you can test the whistle to see if you get a sound. Put your finger over the other end to block it, then blow. You should get a nice clear sound.

  If you get sound, you can now block up the other end of the whistle with another piece of wood. Do the same as before but make it totally air tight.

Note: The smaller the sound chamber, the higher the pitch of the sound.

  Whistle complete... Have fun!