How to Carve a Willow Whistle with a Penknife

Test your penknife wood carving skills by whittling a willow whistle for your next outdoor adventure. 

By Matt Collins
December 2017

50 Things Penknife cover

In 50 Things to Do with a Penknife (Princeton Architectural Press) by Matt Collins, a horticultural consultant at the Garden Museum in London, showcases a practical guide for whittling with a penknife. Matt combines craftsmanship with savvy survival-skill projects that encompass a range of skills levels. Each project is accompanied by detailed step-by-step illustrations, making his book ideal for the creative adventurer.

Sculpting a whistle from the green and lithe stems of a springtime willow is a carving tradition passed down through generations of keen whittlers. As the sap rises and flows through young willow branches during the early summer months, their bark is particularly supple, and subsequently easy to separate from the stem. Because of this, willow is the ideal source material for this satisfying carving project, offering a malleable texture that may be sculpted with relative ease. As with many whittling exercises, this one can take a few tries to master, but the result will be noteworthy, and persistence is the key.

Finished Whistle

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