Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013



Tune A Call

Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013

insertBegin by taking a piece of cork and a reed (or two if making  double reed) and inserting them into the cork notch. Tuning a call, with no experience is going to be tough the first couples times. You are better to listen to some good callers calling and listen for the sounds, pitches, and tones that they make. Your call typically should be able to have all of those sounds made on it. I am a firm believer that the best way to learn how to tune is by trial and error, but also learning how the call actually works to produce sound. Experimenting is the best way to really learn.

Tuning the call itself really isn’t hard to do. It involves sanding lightly in spots, and shortening, or lengthening the reed. Sometimes sanding the reed, just in front of the cork notch also helps to let the reed flex easier. Sometimes you also may want to put a slight bend in the reed by flexing it up or down.

First insert your insert into the barrel and blow. Does sound come out? Does it sound like a duck? If so, you are on track. If not, don’t fret, there is still hope.

If your call doesn’t sound like a duck, what is it doing?

If the air is going right through the call with hardly any resistance, your reed is not vibrating or is locking UP towards the top of the call. This could mean your reed length is too long or too short, you drilled your tone channel too deep, or the angle of your radius is too steep.

If hardly any air comes through the call, either tone channel is not drilled deep enough, your reed is locking down, onto the toneboard, or your toneboard is too flat. Usually, just a little bit of sanding on the end of the toneboard will fix it. You can also run your finger between the toneboard and reed to “flex” the reed up slightly, allowing air to get under it. You can also try to blow very soft and see if you get some sound. Another cause of this is exhaust port being drilled to small, not allowing enough air to escape fast enough.

If you call sounds sorta like a duck…

If the tone is too high pitched, your reed is most likely too short. If the tone is too low pitched, the reed is most likely too long. When lengthing or shortening a reed, do it in VERY small increments. It takes VERY little difference to change the sound.

Practice, Practice, Practice…

The info above is NOT a fix all. There are other problems you will run into that you can only learn how to fix by doing it over and over again. Experiement. Try a longer reed, shorter reed, thinner or thicker reed. Sand more, sand less. You WILL ruin some toneboards so I suggest not putting a ton of time into them until you get the hang of it. No sense in spending hours finishing a beautiful toneboard to realize you drilled too deep and it is junk. Time, patience, and practice is the only way to truly become a great call maker.



Make A Call

Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013

photo 3I am not going through every step in detail, because this is part of the learning experience and everyone will have their own way they do things. I am just going to cover the basics.

Turn the barrel of the call: Put your drilled blank on your mandrel, on the lathe and turn your lathe on. Turning speed is different based on various opinions. I like turning very fast. Using your gouge tool, true the blank so it is round. If you haven’t decided the shape you want to make your call, this is the time you may want to figure that out. Roughly shape your barrel shape. If you will be using a band, use your caliper to measure the width and inner diameter of your band and turn the end of the call towards the head stock of the lathe to just a hair bigger than the band diameter and just a bit longer than the band thickness. This leaves room for find turning it to the exact diameter. If you are making a lanyard notch, you can measure where you want this, and turn that. Once the basic shape is there, you can now start finishing the call by sanding. You can very carefully turn the band area down to where the band will fit on snug when tapped on. I prefer to cut a couple grooves in that area for the glue to go. Finish sanding the barrel moving up in grit until it is as smooth as you would like. You can now finish the call with whichever method you have chosen. Using glue, put a small amount on your barrel where the band will go. Tap your band on and let it set and dry. Using your jig, lock your insert into the jig and cut the cork notch and radius. Once the glue is dry on your barrel, you can place the barrel back onto the lathe using your mandrel, this time reversed, with the band end facing out. You can now trim off any excess to be smooth with the width of the band. You can now finish the end of the barrel and if needed, flip it around to sand inside the barrel. The barrel is now complete.

1013586_434164503347803_636123033_nTurn the insert: For a solid blank, I start with my tailstock with a live center pushing a blank between the head stock and tail stock. Rough shape the exhaust and turn the rest of the insert down to exactly 5/8″ that tapers up just a hair towards the exhaust bell so it will sung into the barrel. The insert will be longer than you need right now and that is fine. Once you get it turned down, you can remove it from the lathe and place it in your collet chuck. If you are using Pintail Waterfowl’s precast insert blanks, you can skip this step and put the insert blank directly into your 5/8″ collet chuck.

Now you can begin shaping the exhaust bell. Once your exhaust shape is how you want it, you can do most of the final sanding and finishing. You  can also drill your tone channel before finishing. Whichever way works better for you. I prefer to drill first so I can finish the sanding in one shot. You will want to use a drill chuck on the tail stock of your lathe. By putting a 1/4″ drill bit in the drill chuck, and spinning the insert, you can index the bit in to drill your tone channel. This will take some time to learn the depth. Typically drilling stops 1/2″ before the end of of the toneboard. LOTS of measuring will help. Putting a piece of tape or a stopper on your drill bit will ensure you drill to your desired depth. Once drilled, you can use a stepper bit or tapered bit to taper the inside of the exhaust bell. It is also okay to reverse these steps and drill your taper before drilling the tone channel. Lastly,  you can finish your insert with whatever method you have chosen if you didn’t previously complete it before drilling.

Next you will need to cut your insert with your toneboard jig. A band saw works best for this and I have found,  smaller blade tends to work easier than a larger one, but is also more prone to breaking. Carefully cut the toneboard radius from the end of the jig, all the way back to the back of the bottom cork notch. Next you will cut straight down in front of the cork notch. Your last cut is the top of the cork notch. You can make a few small cuts inside the cork notch then a slight twist will usually knock out the rest of the cork notch.

Duck Call Barrel Part 1

Duck Call Barrel Part 2

Duck Call Insert Part 1

Duck Call Insert Part 2

You can now proceed to tuning your call!
Duck Call Toneboard Cutting on Jig and Installing Reeds

Tools Needed

Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013

  •  Lathe: There are quite a few tools used when making a duck call. the most important one of those, being a lathe. Some people use mini lathes, such as the Jet Mini lathe. Others use larger lathes, metal lathes, and bigger companies use CNC lathes to quickly duplicate calls.
    photo 1

    Simple Turning Shop

  • Wood Tools: Wood tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Wood tools can be very inexpensive or
    Basic turning tools

    Basic turning tools

    range into the 100’s of dollars. When making duck calls, it is important to have both large and small tools. While larger tools can be used for making your blank round and basic shaping, finer tools work better for smaller details such as lanyard notches.




  • Mandrel: A mandrel is a very important tool as well. This is what the blank is held on by, while turning the call. The blank is drilled with a (usually) a 5/8″ hole. The blank then slides onto the mandrel to beexpanding-mandrelsheld in place. The mandrel is attached to the head stock on the lathe. The main two types of mandrels are a pin-lock mandrel and an expanding mandrel. A pin-lock mandrel can be made fairly simply. It is essentially a piece of steel red, in a 5/8″ diameter, with a small notch cut out. A small pin is set in the notch, which “locks” the blank in place. And expanding mandrel uses a set screw, which when turned in, pushes “fingers” outwards and against the inside of the hole in the blank. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but both will work for making calls.



  • Collet Chuck: A collet chuck is a great tool. It is basically a small cylindrical piece of steel, that is slipped over your insert, then a larger piece of steel tightens around that to hold the part in place.
  • Tail stock Drill Chuck: Tailstock drill chucks are used for drilling inserts and can also be used for drilling the hole in your barrels when the barrel is held with a 4 jaw chuck or similar method.
  • Call Jig: If you plan on making your own inserts, you will need a call jig. A jig is used for cutting the cork notch and the toneboard shape of an insert. These can be custom made for a unique sound or you can purchase a public jig, which will allow you to make your own insert without the hassle of designing your own. A good supplier of public jigs is Pintail Waterfowl
  •  Other Tools: There are a number of other tools you will need. Sandpaper in lots of grits, basic safety gear (safety glasses or shield, dust mask), a drill press for drilling blanks, a band saw for cutting toneboards on a jig, rasp files, a caliper for measuring thicknesses, and many more that you will come across as you delve into call making.
  • Finishing: If working with wood, you will want to experiment with various finishes. Most common ones include CA Glue and polyurethane.  A lot of older call makers choose to only lightly finish the wood using things like linseed oil or bees wax. You may also want various waxes (automotive work fine) for polishing to a shine after final sanding. Some people use a jewelers torch for flame polishing acrylic calls, but the same result can be achieved by working your way up through grits of sanding.
Collet Chuck

Collet Chuck


Toneboard jig

Click Here to see the materials needed to make a call

Materials Needed

Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013

duck_call_reedsLuckily with duck calls, there isn’t many “parts” involved. Most of the parts are fairly inexpensive, other than some wood types and acrylic.

    • Wood Blanks: These are simply blocks of wood. Usually around 2×2″ square cut down to 3-4″ in length then drilled with a 5/8″ hole before turning on the lathe. The wood is usually dried in a kiln or left to dry over time. Other woods, such as burl, may have spots where the wood has deteriorated, also known as “punky”. In order to use these woods, they will need to be stabilized, by a process where acrylic resins is pressure forced into the wood to fill in any voids.
    • Acrylic/Polyester Resin Blanks: Cast acrylic or polyester resin blanks come in tons of colors and sizes. They are usually already round in a rod, but some are still in a square shape. They make great looking calls, with a different sound that wood. They can be a little more difficult to turn and take more care and time to drill and turn than wood. Some acrylics, known as extruded acrylic are very hard and brittle and not usually advised for hand turning.
    • Other Blanks: Calls can be made out of nearly anything. Legal ivory, antlers, plastic, metals, pressed/laminated wood, etc.
    • Reeds: Reeds are thin pieces of mylar (sometimes other materials like metal) that make the sound in the call. Typical thickness is .010″ or .014″. A thinner reed will move easier than a thicker reed.
    • Cork: Rubberized cork or rubber pieces used to hold the reeds in the call.
    • O-rings: Some call makers use o-rings to hold the insert into the barrel, while others use a taper on their insert to “wedge” the insert into the barrel. Neonprene O-rings are better than nitrile if you can find them.

      Cast Acrylic Blanks


  • Bands: Metal rings that are glued on the outside of the barrel. These are not mandatory but do help to keep wood calls from cracking as the insert is forced into the call and the wood shrinks and expands from moisture. They come in unfinished or finished with intricate details. You can also get them anodized and laser engraved. I highly recommend doing a search for Ron Gould’s Bands.
  • Inlays: These are optional. You can buy premade inlay material or use things such as coffee grounds to give a unique look to corkyour call.

If you need to purchase call making supplies, click here!

Alright, now it’s time to Make A Duck Call – Click Here!

Buy Call Supplies

Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013


Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013


Posted by ryan | Posted in | Posted on 14-02-2013

This site was built solely as a reference site for those interested in learning how to make a duck call.

Making a duck call isn’t hard to to speak, but it does take time and patience, as well as practice.

Throughout this site, you will learn the basics of making a duck call, from what tools are used to what materials are needed to make a call. We will also touch on the basics of tuning and troubleshooting a call.


There are 2 main parts of a duck call. The barrel (sometimes called a keg) and the insert (also known as the toneboard). The barrel is essentially the bigger part that holds the insert and is where the back pressure (air pressure) is created before passing through the insert. The insert has two main parts. The toneboard, which is the curved part that fits inside the barrel and the exhaust which is the part you see and where the sound comes out of. The outside shape of the “bell” on the exhaust has no effect on the sound. This is also true for the barrel shape, although length of the barrel and/or insert can have an effect on the sound.

There are two main styles of duck calls. There are also a number of variances in these types of call as well as different whistles for different species of ducks. We are going to be covering the most common type of call, the Arkansas style call.

Arkansas style calls usually come in one of two styles. A timber call or an open water call. The difference is mostly in the sound of the call. Over the years, these two styles have almost blended together, where, to the untrained ear, it is difficult to tell the difference in the calls. The most obvious difference is, an open water call tends to be louder than a timber call.

Most calls usually have one or two reeds. A double reed call tends to be a raspier call and is more difficult to tune, while a single reed usually has a sharper sound. Both have their pros and cons but I highly recommend experimenting with both single and double reed calls.

Click here to learn about the tools used in making duck calls