Silver Whistle

Can a whistle, that produces a note, be made from metal clay? Surprisingly, it can. It’s tricky and requires a lot a trial and error, but you can do it.

I have only used silver for whistles. I have heard that base metals tend to slump, and do not work. I can’t say if this is or is not correct.

Let’s start with the ‘anatomy’ of a whistle. The mouthpiece needs to have a rectangular hole through it. This is best done by building the mouthpiece around a strip of laminated plastic, and then removing the plastic when the mouthpiece is about half dry. You need a hollow body. There are any number of ways of producing a hollow form. The method I used here was to sculpt a bird body out of silver clay, let it start to dry, then carefully slice it in two down the middle. The inside is still wet when the outside is dry. You can scoop out the wet clay, producing a hollow body. The mouthpiece need to connect to a sound hole. It is important that the sound hole be square, lined up with the mouthpiece, and of equal width to the rectangular opening in the mouthpiece.

To make a whistle work, the sound hole needs to bisect the airflow coming from the mouthpiece. This will require a combination of trial and error in placing the mouthpiece, and in filing the sound hole to make it a ramp instead of a square edge. If the whistle is going to work, it will sound in dry greenware.

If you want the whistle to produce more than one note, drill a small hole in the body. The whistle will produce one note with the hole opened and another with it closed with a finger. In firing, this hole might become plugged. If so, it can be re-opened by sticking a broom straw through it.

Whistles are challenging pieces of work. That’s why I have given a sketchy description of how to do one — explaining it in words alone is difficult. However, you now know that it can be done.

The tail is the mouthpiece. The sound hole is on the bird’s top. There is a tiny hole drilled in its stomach, so two notes can be produced. As usual, the coin is for scale.


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