How to Make Bamboo Whistles

By Holly Giles | Boy Crafting

blowing a handmade whistle

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Can you make a whistle out of bamboo?

Learning to create something with your hands like bamboo whistles, can be one of the greatest educational lessons.  Setting a goal, overcoming obstacles, and developing a sound that can irritate your mother is all it takes to succeed in whistle-making. Grayson loves to work with his hands. He is always building, figuring, and crafting something that requires a saw and sharp objects. After a discussion with his aunt about what to do with the remaining wood from a branch after he finishes a slingshot, the idea of crafting whistles began.

bamboo canes for whistle making

Grayson dug up from the closet floor all the whistles he and his brother had collected over the years to study the holes and reed placement. What were they made of, and which ones worked better?

How does a wooden whistle work?

Grayson quickly decided that wood was not the best material for a whistle. So, he decided to try bamboo. Luckily our neighbors across the street have plenty to spare and were delighted when he offered to cut some down. You can make several whistles from one stalk of bamboo. Also, working with bamboo while it is green works well.

These are the tools you will need.

  • A hand saw
  • knife
  • clamp
  • flat metal files
  • a round metal file the size of a pencil
Tools you need to make and carve a bamboo whistle

Grayson starts by cutting near a joint in the bamboo to have one solid end and one open end.

Sawing a piece of bamboo to make a whistle

Next, he carved a slanted opening for the air escape.

Carving a wooden bamboo whistle
He uses a file to smooth the edges.
filing the air hole for a wooden bamboo whistle
Then he uses the file to open up the hollow middle.
Opening the blow hole for a wooden whistle

How does a wooden whistle make sound?

Whistles usually have a reed in the blowhole to control the airflow and help create a distinct sound.  Grayson makes his reeds out of a dowel and splits it in half using a knife and hammering it down. Then he carves the half into a wedge to fit it into the bamboo whistle.


Carving the reed for a bamboo whistle or wood whistle.


carving the reed for a wooden whistle
A little sanding and tuning of the reed and the bamboo whistle is ready to blow! In our homeschool, this is considered immersion learning. Digging in full force.

Grayson enjoyed making the whistle so much that we decided to teach a class.
carving a whistle
dad sanding a bamboo whistle
Grayson is an immersion kid, meaning when he has ideas, he barrels in and works at them in all his spare time.  The process of developing his bamboo whistle technique had many facets. He has researched books at the library, consulted face-to-face with a whistle-maker he met at a library class, watched YouTube videos on whistle-making, and used tools to create his design. 
display of whistles
Grayson has made whistles that do not work and has studied the reed and what went wrong. He also realized that he could make different pitches by shortening or lengthening the bamboo.
how to make a bamboo whistle by carving bamboo canes or wood.

Now he is studying flutes and how to create different tones. His new goal is to carve flutes for an upcoming conference.  This is real-life learning. I could not have even dreamed up this curriculum where he would learn what he taught himself.

New ways to learn

I share this as a reminder that learning takes place in many forms and, sometimes out of the ordinary, can produce the most knowledge.  My husband and I decided long ago to let our boys be free to learn on their own when a talent or passion arises.  We have seen the results that this type of learning can create, and I encourage you, especially when your homeschool may be struggling, to loosen the reins and let their passions take hold. You never know what they may come up with.

Although I really hope it isn’t a whistle. 
Your ears will thank you!


how to make bamboo whistles and carve wood


About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.

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