One way to make a duck call

Here is a way to make a duck call. For this tutorial we are going to make some bushings out of scrap wood that can be used on a standard pen mandrel to turn a call.

A company called Hut products sells an expanding bushing set that mounts on a standard pen mandrel.

The large set (shown above) consists of two expanding bushings and is used to turn the body (or barrel) of the call.

The small bushing is used to turn the stopper end of the call, where the reed or the ‘guts’ are inserted.  The Hut expandable bushing expands to either 1/2-inch diameter or to 5/8-inch diameter, whichever is required for the call you are making.

Shown above are some call blanks that have been cut and drilled. The body portion of the blank is cut to approximately 4 inches long and the stopper end  is cut to approximately 2 inches long. These dimensions are not critical.  The most critical length is that the body of the call is long enough to contain the guts, or reed(s) of the call you are making.

Above are shown a few wood scraps that we can use to make bushings. Let’s get started…

Start by drilling a 1/4-inch hole in the blank.  1/4 inch (0.250-inch) will just slide over a standard pen mandrel (0.246-inch).

Mount the scraps for the stopper bushings onto the pen mandrel with a spacer to take up the extra length of the mandrel. With a spindle gouge, round the bushings to approximately 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter.

Most of the measurements for these bushings are not particularly critical, however, we want to be pretty close to the size of the hole that was drilled in the blank.  I like to ‘sneak up’ on the final size.  To do that I set my calipers 0.025-inch larger than the hole size (for the stoppers, that is 1/2 inch, or 0.500 inch).  I use my small parting tool to cut a very small tenon at the center of the bushings, and once I am close to the measurement, I then use that as a gauge to cut the remainder of the tenon.

The size of the stopper hole can vary depending on which reeds you are using for this call. Make these bushings the correct size for the call you are making.


I have a nice 1/2-inch flat scraper to cut the tenon and when I am to within about 5/1000 or so of the final size, I finish it up with sandpaper.

Tale the bushings off the lathe and try them for size in a stopper blank.

Remount the bushings on the lathe and turn a taper on them.Leave a lip of approximately 3/32 to 1//8-inch to drive the blank when you turn it.

Now lets move on to the large bushings. Mount the scraps and round them over.

The more square you drill the hole (for the mandrel) in the bushings, the better off you will be.  On the mandrel like we are here, it is difficult to square them up.  They don’t need to be perfectly square as they don’t run against each other when turning the blank, but if they are crooked as shown here, your mandrel can bend slightly when you tighten the knurled nut.  This will throw off the cocentricity of the bushing ever so slightly.  The end result will probably not be visually noticeable, but if you can avoid it, it is better to do so. I trued these up before continuing.
(If I had to do this over again I would use my pen barrel trimmer to put a spot on each end of both bushings that was square to the hole, then I would place a pen bushing between the bushing blanks, which would give me clearance to square the end with my parting tool.)

The process is just like turning the bushings for the stopper, except the barrel bushing are larger.

Fit them to the blank. Also, make sure the bushings and the blank together will fit onto the mandrel.  For these bushings, I had them fitting pretty well, but the whole assembly was too long, so I had to lengthen the tenons on the bushings.

And them put them back on the lathe and turn a taper. For this set we are putting a feature on the stopper end where we can ‘store’ a reinforcement ring which will be a feature on the stopper we are making.  This will reduce the need to stop the lathe and take the blank off several times to fit the ring to the body.

On non-stopper end of the body, you need a fairly small lip as you want to be able to fashion a relatively small mouthpiece.

The completed bushings for the body are shown above. Let’s make a call.

Mount the blank for the body on the bushings and begin to turn it round.

Next, begin to shape the call.

Next we want to fit the ring.

And then continue to shape the body of the call. Don’t forget to include a groove for the lanyard. On this call we have a very simple shape and the back of the steel ring becomes the front of the lanyard groove.

Now it’s ready to sand.

I slow the speed of the lathe down for sanding. Actually, I sand with the lathe set to the speed slower than shown here. I turn calls with the lathe on the second to the highest speed setting, and sand them with the lathe on the second to slowest speed setting.

Final sand the body. And take it off the lathe.

The blank was not cut perfectly square, so I need to trim it up a little.  I use the disk sander for that. I am VERY careful to keep the call square to the sander and use very light pressure. One advantage of the expanding bushings shown at the beginning of this tutorial, is that blank can simply be squared up with a parting tool or sharp gouge.

We epoxy the ring onto the blank and while the epoxy sets up, we turn our attention to the stopper.

Mount the stopper blank in the bushings we created earlier. and turn it round.

I then set my calipers to 0.025-inch larger than the final size of the tenon I want to make. Most call bodies are drilled to 3/4 inch, which is also the depth (or perhaps length) of the tenon I  want to make on the tenon body. I mark that with my parting tool.

Work the tenon down to its its final size.  use the ‘sneak’ up on it method described earlier.

Finally, cut two o-ring grooves in the tenon.  these o-rings provide tension to help retain the stopper into the body.

Take the stopper off the lathe and test fit it into the body.  I have the body setting up after I epoxied the ring onto it. So I borrowed a similar body to use as a gauge.

As shown here, I can just start the tenon into the bore of the body.  This is good. We can simply sand the tenon a little bit and it will fit fine. Finally, put the stopper back onto the bushings and turn it to a final shape.  I tend to like a trumpet shape as shown below, but many people turn more of a plug shape.  It makes little, if any, difference to the sound.  Some hunters like a groove for the lanyard in the stopper in addition to the one in the main body of the call. As suggested before, you can research the internet for lots of ideas on how to shape your call.

In addition to sanding the tenon, I also sand the inside of the call body.  Here I have a wooden dowel chucked into my drill press.  The dowel has a slot cut across it. I cut a strip of sandpaper and put in the slot. I wind the strip of sandpaper around the dowel and guide it into the body of the call while it is running.

Here are the two parts of the call without the ‘guts’ (or reeds) inserted into the stopper. This was taken before I put the body onto the mandrel for its final sanding, and polishing of the ring. I also use the lathe and parting tool to remove the squeeze out from the epoxy that I used to fasten the ring to the call body.

I wanted to show a picture of the sand paper after sanding the ring, with a note that if I was not careful on this light colored wood, I would have spread the black sanding dust off the stainless steel ring across the wood and really made a mess of the call. I simply tear this off and throw it away so as not to absentmindedly touch the sandpaper to the wood potion of the call.

I use the flat table on the disk sander to sand some of the epoxy off the end of the call.

The picture above shows the call assembled, but before the epoxy is cleaned out of the lanyard groove and before final sanding.

Finally the call is completed (turning) and placed in BLO for soaking until tomorrow.

A year of life

Our little dog is almost a year old.  I suppose I could wait until the year of ownership was up, but here is a list of pictures from over the past 10 months that we have owned her (or that she has been developing her ownership of us!).

December (2011)



She sits funny – her back legs come up between her front legs.


Her blanket – she still sleeps with (and plays with) this towel.



Wearing her special T-shirt that Oma made her to wear after being ‘fixed’. Or, as my S-I-L says, we took her to be ‘tutored’. She lies on her back like this quite often – with the shirt on she doesn’t look quite as indecent.


She still sits funny – her back legs come up between her front legs.


This is the only month we did not a take a picture of her.




Freshly shaved.