An ‘All Aboard!’ Train Whistle


An ‘All Aboard!’ Train Whistle:
John Swinkels and Bernie Leadbeatter make wooden train whistles on a lathe.

Make wooden train whistles on a lathe

Bernie brought some wooden train whistles to the club – Woodturners of the Hunter – and was happy to share with us how to make them. The whistles have four holes and Bernie designed and built a jig that made drilling those holes in a blank an easy procedure.
We made a few from radiata pine (Pinus radiata) but found the sound seemed to be richer if they were made from hardwood. So we made four whistles from local hardwood. We made the whistles using jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), merbau (Swintonia floribunda), coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalem) and macadamia (Macadamia ternifolia). 

Things you will need
• Tablesaw
• Lathe
• Bandsaw
• Disk sander
• Pyrography tool
• 22mm Forstner bit
• 12.7mm drill bit
• Abrasives
• Try square
• Jig to support blank during drilling of four holes and support for cutting out small triangular parts
• Finishes – I used polyurethane varnish
• 330mm long section of hardwood – 35 x 35mm
• 12.7mm dowel

1. First, cut a 35 x 35 x 300mm long section of wood. Mark the centres on both ends, fit the blank between the scroll chuck and tail centre. Shape the mouthpiece

2. Next, drill 50mm deep into the mouthpiece using a 22mm Forstner bit. Prepare a support for the blank, which will make it safer to cut openings where the air can exit

3. Make two cuts at 90° and 45° to give clearance for the saw blade to make the cuts in the whistles. Cut off the 50mm long mouthpieces

4. Bernie’s jig supports the blanks during the drilling of the holes, and here’s how you make make it…

Bernie’s jig
1. There is an unseen piece of wood that just fits between the lathe ways.
2. Under that is another smaller piece that can turn and lock the jig in place.
3. The visible lowest piece is fastened to the unseen one and has a bolt with a wingnut that locks the jig in place.
4. The trapezium-shaped uprights support the actual channel.
5. Bernie made his channel from a solid section and routed the recess in it.
6. Another option is to build the channel from three sections of timber. Getting the channel in the correct position, just 4mm below the drill bit requires careful measuring. It can, however, be accomplished by measuring with the drill bit in the Jacob’s chuck and checking exactly where the channel should go so its inside lower surface is the required 4mm below the drill bit. The channel is 35.5mm wide so that the 35mm square whistle blank can move inside it. Mark on the jig how deep to drill. 

5. Now, begin with a 12.7mm Forstner bit and follow that with a longer drill bit. The holes should be: 100, 130, 160 and 190mm. Fasten the jig to the lathe and push the job into the bit. The channel for the blank has spaces of 4mm below and to one side of the drill bit

6. Cut the recesses 25mm from the end – as indicated in the drawing

7. On the disk sander shape a flat on 25mm of four 12mm dowels, 3mm deep

8. Next, glue 22mm long sections in the holes, level with the cut ends. Then glue the mouthpiece back on

9. Round all corners and edges on the belt sander and then varnish the whistle


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