Carving a Santa Whistle

Holiday Carving / Patterns & Projects

Carving a Santa Whistle

Capture the sounds of summer all year long with this easy to carve Santa whistle

By Roger Beane

Whistles are easy to make—you just need a twig, a drill, and a knife. The fun and creativity come in when you start decorating your whistles. I use them to practice carving faces, like this Santa.

I learned to make whistles a few years ago from Mike Noland at the International Woodcarvers Congress in Maquoketa, Iowa. In return for the lesson, I taught Mike how to carve a basic triangle eye. That’s what I like about going to shows and taking classes: new friends and sharing ideas.

Step 1: Cut the branch to length. Drill a 3/8″ (1cm)-diameter by 2 3/4″ (7cm)-deep hole in the center of one end. The deeper the hole, the deeper the sound.

Step 2: Measure 1/2″ (1.3cm) in from the drilled end. Make a cut down to the bottom of the hole. Then, make a cut at a 45° angle positioned so the cuts meet at the bottom of the drilled hole. Use 320-grit sandpaper to clean up the angle cut and the hole.

Step 3: Cut a 5/16″ (8mm) dowel to 3/4″ (1.9cm) long. Flatten one side of the dowel with 120-grit sandpaper (See Pattern). This will be the whistle’s fipple. Insert the fipple into the hole and blow into the end to test the sound. Move it back and forth, checking the sound each time. If you don’t get a good sound, sand a little more off the flat side. When you get a pleasing sound, use wood glue to fasten the fipple into the hole. Let the glue dry overnight. Cut off a small slice to create the mouthpiece. If you like, taper the other end to make it easier to hold. You can also drill a small hole in the end and thread a leather thong through it to make a necklace.

Step 4: Outline the area you plan to carve. Stop-cut on the line and remove the bark.

Step 5: Draw a centerline. Use a knife to angle the wood toward the line. That will be the high point for the nose.

Step 6: Draw lines to indicate the eye socket area and bottom of the nose. Make a vertical cut straight down on the eye line. Scoop in from the end of the nose to the eye socket cut to begin the nose and eye sockets. Don’t make the scoop too narrow.

Step 7: Draw the bulbs of the nose and the smile lines. Use the knife to make an angled cut from the nose back to the smile line. Stop-cut this area and take out a small triangle. Repeat for the other side.

Step 8: Draw the sides of face and mustache. Carve along the lines with a 1/8″ (3mm) V-tool. Narrow the temples. Round the mustache and cut up to it; the mustache should be higher than the beard.

Step 9: Carve the eyes. Use the knife to carve slit eyes. Use the 1/8″ (3mm) V-tool to carve wrinkles and eye bags.

Step 10: Carve the hair and beard. Use a 1/16″ (2mm) and the 1/8″ (3mm) #11 gouges. Carve flowing strands, making sure they are different lengths and widths and are not placed in unnatural parallel lines.

Step 11: Add the details. Carve the Santa hat, or other decorations as desired.

Step 12: Paint the Santa (optional). Thin acrylic paints with water to create washes. After the paint dries, apply several coats of Deft spray satin finish and allow it to dry.

Materials & Tools


• Birch stick, 1″ (2.5cm) dia.: 5″ (12.7cm) long
• Dowel, 5/16″ (8mm) dia.: 1″ (2.5cm) long
• Sandpaper: 120, 320 grits
• Wood glue
• Acrylic paint, such as Delta Ceramcoat: medium flesh, tompte red, ivory white
• Finish: Deft satin spray


• Drill with bit: 3/8″ (10mm)-dia., twist
• Detail knife
• V-tool: 1/8″ (3mm)
• #11 micro gouges: 1/16″ (2mm), 1/8″ (3mm)

CLICK HERE to download the pattern for the Santa Whistle


For more holiday patterns, check out Holiday Woodcarving Pattern Collection. Available for $9.99 plus S&H from Fox Chapel Publishing,




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