Making a Sycamore Twig Whistle

I am still receiving hate mail from the parents and teachers of all the kids I’ve shown how to make one of these nifty Sycamore whistles because they are incredibly LOUD.

In fact they are so loud that they could be used in an emergency situation to attract attention from potential rescuers.

The international distress signal is 6 whistle blasts in quick succession.



The best thing about a Sycamore twig whistle is how simple they are to make. The whole thing is made from a single twig, and all you need to make one is a sharp knife, and a bit of practice.

These whistles don’t have to be made from Sycamore. Other woods such as Willow will work, but I prefer to use Sycamore whenever possible because it’s easy to remove the bark in one piece. The best and straightest twigs are found in areas of secondary growth, particularly in hedges or places where Sycamore trees have been cut back. This technique will only work during the spring and summer. It won’t work during the winter because there isn’t enough sap under the bark to allow it to slide off without splitting.


Step 1

You will need to find a straight shaft about the thickness of a pencil, and at least 15cm long. Cut this piece as close to the ground as possible (This will encourage future growth for making whistles). Once you have cut a suitable shaft look along its length for a straight section in between the buds. Using a sharp knife cut just below the bud at an angle. This angle will form the mouth piece of the whistle.

  Step 2

The next thing you need to do is to cut a notch into the top of the whistle (See photo). This is where the sound comes out, take your time, you don’t want to make it too big or it won’t work. The flat end of the notch should be deep enough to mark the underlying wood of the twig.


Step 3

Place the twig onto a firm surface and cut through the bark all the way around. This should be done about 4cm back from the mouthpiece of the whistle. (You don’t want to cut any deeper than the bark or you risk snapping the whistle).
Place the twig onto a firm smooth surface, and using the handle of a knife or a small wooden baton gently but firmly tap the surface of the bark. This process bruises the underlying layers of bark (Cambium) and allows it to become separated. Take your time to ensure that you have tapped the entire surface.


Step 4

Hold the stem of the whistle firmly and twist. If you have loosened up the bark sufficiently by tapping it, you should hear a small “POP” as the bark comes away from the underlying wood. Carefully remove the delicate tube of bark and put it in a safe place.


Step 5

Using your knife carefully cut a thin layer (2-3mm) of wood off the top of the whistle. This forms the channel for air to go into the whistle. Next cut out the sound chamber and remove as much wood as possible without snapping the whistle, this takes practice. Once you have created the sound chamber, carefully slide the bark back into position.

  You now have a completed whistle so go ahead and annoy your parents/ teacher/ wife.

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