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How to Carve a Willow Whistle

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.


Make a variable-pitch whistle that you can use to signal, play a tune or just show off your carving skills.


  • Pocketknife
  • Small piece of willow branch, 3 to 5 inches long, about the diameter of your little finger



1. Cut a 45-degree bevel on one end of the stick. This will be the mouthpiece of the whistle. Just forward of the bevel and on top of the whistle, cut a notch with a 90-degree edge close to the bevel and angle off the top. This will be used for airflow. Cut the bark around the stick at the desired length of your whistle.


2. Tap the whistle with the handle of your knife to loosen the bark from the wood. After tapping all sides of the whistle, twist the bark loose. Keep at it until the bark eventually comes off, but be careful: The bark must remain in one piece.


3. Take the stick and cut off the beveled part flush with the 90-degree cut of the air hole. Cut a small sliver off the top of the beveled part of the stick. This will make the hole needed to allow air to go into the whistle. This part of the stick will then become part of the mouthpiece. Insert this mouthpiece part into the angled end of the bark piece.

4. Put the remaining part of the stick back into the other end of the bark, and the whistle is complete. Blow into the whistle and slide the stick up and down in the bark. This will give you the range of your whistle tones.


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65 Comments on How to Carve a Willow Whistle

  1. Anonymous // May 10, 2021 at 5:35 pm // Reply

    can u use more than just willow

  2. Amazing!!

  3. I remember my Grampa making these whistles when I was a kid (late 1930’s). I had forgotten until refreshed here. I have an 8 year old greatgrandson that will learn the skill from me. A skill that will stay with him always.. Thank
    You. “0ld guy” from Ohio.

  4. My dad showed me how to make this when we asked to go on walks I was about 8-9 years old (now in my 40s) so glad that I found your site to give me a wee refresher know going to show my kids how to do this

  5. old fart 54 // May 24, 2020 at 6:52 pm // Reply

    Made these in the 60s, poplar works the best, enjoy

  6. Used to make these in the early 60`s , try Poplar , good thick bark , have fun

  7. the great cactus // July 17, 2019 at 5:59 pm // Reply

    i wonder what it sounds like

  8. FlowerLampWood // May 18, 2019 at 3:03 am // Reply

    That looks hard!

  9. ok. extremely hard (in my opinion.)

  10. i gonna make mine in like 30 minutes! this is so cool!!!

  11. whistle blower // January 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm // Reply

    Reading some of the comments, I see why there is a market for plastic whistles. Hang in there, you can do it.

  12. where do I get willow wood

  13. Willowsintheyard // September 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm // Reply

    How do you get the mouthpiece to stick in the bark after you remove it and cut the air vent.

  14. Dark ninja // May 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm // Reply

    Cool I want to make mine right now🙂🙂

  15. Soccer7player // April 8, 2017 at 7:10 pm // Reply

    Can I use the white lead tree ( also called the tangan tangan tree in Chamorro ).

  16. where can I get willow in south florid, Can I buy some need 35.
    Thank You Willow whistler

  17. I want to try it but my parents wont let me.
    So cool!!!

  18. Does it have to be a willow

  19. how do you slip the bark off???

  20. GtheSwimmer007 // May 19, 2015 at 9:00 pm // Reply

    Will the size of the whistle affect the sound?

  21. Awesome😀

  22. basketballjock // February 7, 2015 at 11:57 am // Reply

    that is awesome

  23. awesome!!! gonna try’d

  24. I once almost cut my finger off cutting / carving wood with a knife / saw

  25. This is so cool! Im Going to Make mine right now!

  26. I want to do that

  27. gonna make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Wish I could do that!!!!

  29. darkshadyperson // November 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm // Reply

    slipping the bark off is hard

    • plantsciencemomma // October 7, 2014 at 9:46 am // Reply

      To slip the bark off, do it in the spring, the cambium will be more slippery as the “sap is running”

  30. Should I make one?

  31. ok I didn’t do it yet

  32. To loosen the bark, you can both tap it and roll it on a railing, pressing pretty hard.

  33. my name is elmo // August 5, 2013 at 1:57 am // Reply

    how do u do this it is so confusing

  34. dragonryder // July 31, 2013 at 9:15 am // Reply


  35. does It need to be a live branch.

  36. I screwed up when I tried. How are you supposed to cut the branch with a pocketknife?

  37. Can you use an oak tree branch?

  38. Awesome! im gonna try this now!

    I have a willow tree in my back yard =)

  39. do you have to use a willow branch and if not what else can you use

    • You can use lots of things but the bark on the willow tree will come off in one piece easier than just about anything else. After you make a few (for yourself and your friends) then you can branch out and experiment with other stuff.

  40. does it have to be a willow branch?

  41. Easy fun and effective way to get stitches! 🙂

  42. This is a dangerous task I cut my leg

  43. really difficult looking

    • Do You Have Your Totin' Chip? // October 13, 2020 at 4:17 pm // Reply

      Um, sounds like you need to learn basic knife safety. One rule is not to carve directly over your leg! Also, don’t start a carving project expecting it to be 100% safe

  44. I stabed my hand with this almost got stiches. I don’t like it.

  45. minecraft101 // June 23, 2013 at 8:29 am // Reply

    I have no idea how they figuire that out,but I will make one someday!!

  46. Trying out the whistle. The tapping to get the bark to slip is the tricky part.

  47. SurvivorGuy101 // June 20, 2013 at 6:06 pm // Reply

    This is cool

  48. this is great! i’m making mine right now!

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