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Reelfoot style duck call tutorial

Discussion in 'The Class Room' started by SENC, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    I promised to do this a while back, but finally got a stretch of time to do a complete call.

    Here is how I make my reelfoot style duck calls... many thanks to Fred Roe for his tutorial and guidance last year. This particular one includes a brass to wood lamination, but the same basic steps apply when making an all wood call.

    Here are my ingredients:
    20140322_131541.jpg

    The first step is to drill the barrel - my barrels are between 4 and 4.5" long, and I use a 3/4" hole all the way through. In this case, since I was doing a glue up, I drilled the barrel about 2" deep with a 24mm bit and then the rest of the way through with a 3/4" bit. The 24mm is a mortise for the tenon on the brass I'll be gluing.

    20140322_135103.jpg

    20140322_135602.jpg
    20140322_135815.jpg

    I'll use this measurement to make sure my brass tenon is right.
     
  2. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Next, I'll turn the brass tenon to close to my measurement, then test with the barrel until I get a perfect fit. I do undercut the angle just a bit to ensure a tight fit. Boy, brass is hard to turn... takes a lot of patience and a very light cut. Don't think I'll do this often.

    20140322_151528.jpg

    20140322_151543.jpg

    Once the fit is right, it is time to glue them up. I used System5 epoxy.

    20140322_155733.jpg

    Once dry, it is time to start turning again. Here it is rough-turned.

    20140322_182833.jpg

    You will need to taper the 3/4"hole at the exhaust end to create a friction fit for the insert and to secure the wedge to the insert. I use a 1/2"-1" handyman's reamer, taped off at my depth of cut
    20140323_092730.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  3. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Time to start on the insert. My inserts start out 4" or slightly longer. The first step is to make it round. I turn mine to 1-1/8" because that fits in my 4-jaw (and I later made my jig to match). Once I get close to 1-1/8", I finish the job with this modified wrench to get a consistent dowel.

    20140322_161306.jpg

    A light touch with 150 grit and it fits right in my jig.
    20140322_161555.jpg

    Then I chuck it up in my 4-jaw, using a live center to make sure I get it centered right so it turns true.

    20140322_161917.jpg

    Once everything is true and tightened down, I swap out the live center for a jacobs chuck and drill what will be the exhaust with a 1/4" drill bit (this will be expanded later). I have electrical tape on the bit where I want to stop (1-3/4" deep).

    20140322_162206.jpg

    While it is still chucked up, I mark 1.5" and 2.2" from the end and use a pencil and the rest to mark those lines while hand-spinning the lathe. These mark cuts for my insert and wedge.
    20140322_162439.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  4. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Time to cut the insert. I use the bandsaw and a jig I made for the purpose. Some have made router-based jigs, others milling machines. I'll probably move to the latter once I make another jig for my mill - but this method allows me to cut my wedge out of the insert, which I also like because it matches.

    My bandsaw jig is basically a sled with a movable piece of angled aluminum that holds the insert. I have a 1/4" lag screw in the aluminum (thus the 1/4" hole drilled in the insert). If you make a similar jig, just make sure it screws into the insert less than 1.5" so you don't hit it with your saw.

    Here is how the insert screws onto the jig.

    20140322_162837.jpg

    Once screwed all the way in and the aluminum is squared up, I begin my cut. I am cutting above the center line, roughly 1/32-1/16". Cut to, not through, the second line.

    20140322_163108.jpg

    My jig is built so that I can remove the angled aluminum with the insert still attached, flip the sled to the other side of the table/saw blade, and slide the aluminum in between two tracks on the sled - now the aluminum and insert are 90 degrees to where they were for the long cut. Now I cut at the first line... with just a little pressure from my finger on the end of the insert to ensure the blade doesn't turn the insert.

    20140322_163158.jpg

    Slide it a bit further and make the same cut at the 2nd line.

    20140322_163252.jpg

    And the result is a rough insert with toneboard (no tonechannel yet), a wedge, and a waste piece (don't throw it away yet).

    20140322_163347.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  5. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Time to make the tonechannel. I place a reed on the toneboard and mark the end. Then I make two marks inside that, one at 1/8" from the end and one at 1/4" from the end. I will want my tonechannel to be 1/8" shorter than my reed, so one of these marks the end of the channel, the other roughly where the center of my 1/4" mill bit would be. These are reference points only.

    20140322_170346.jpg

    I use a jig I made and my milling machine. I used to do this by securing the insert to an x-y table and using a mill bit in my drill press. Some do it with a drill bit from the end... you just have to get the right angle. The tonechannel is not parallel to the insert, it is at a slight angle. It is deepest at the end closest to the exhaust end (where you can see the drilled hold in the prior picture) and shallowest at the other end. Somewhere around 4 degrees of rise seems about right. I have a piece of hard rubber I put under the back end of my jig to get the angle... I may make another jig with the angle built in.

    20140322_171000.jpg

    Milling the channel is simple, whether with a mill or a drill press. I use a 1/4" round-nosed end mill. Some use regular end mills and get a flat bottomed channel. As stated earlier, the same could be done by drilling from the end at the right angle.

    20140322_171827.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  6. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Now it is time to finish turning the insert. First, I glue the wedge and the waste piece back onto the toneboard, so I have something round (or mostly round, now) to turn. I use medium CA with newspaper in between the pieces. The newspaper gives something that will give before the wood when prying the pieces apart later. Don't overdo the CA or you'll never get them apart. I err on the side of too little, and do periodically have the waste piece or the wedge fly off while turning if I'm not using a sharp tool and/or a light touch.

    20140322_172346.jpg

    Chuck it up in the 4jaw again, exhaust end in the chuck, and use the live center to make sure you have it centered and spinning true. Using a light touch, turn the end down starting 1/3 of the way down the wedge (see "ledge" on wedge in photo). The exact diameter at this point is based on the taper in the end of the barrel. I think this will make sense as you look through the rest of the series of photos.

    20140322_173603.jpg

    Then, starting at the point where the wedge and waste piece meet, turn the diameter from there to the end of the insert down to 3/4" (the inside diameter of most of the barrel). Again, I have a modified wrench I use once I get close to 3/4" to get a consistent diameter.

    20140322_174053.jpg

    Then I begin work my taper on the insert to those two "ledges".

    20140322_174256.jpg

    Once I get this basic shape, I start sliding the barrel on and off checking for fit and fine tuning the taper until it matches the taper in the end of the barrel. I forgot to explain how to taper the barrel, but it is simple - I use a reamer with a constant angle (as opposed to a step reamer) and hand-turn it in the back end of the barrel - it is the inverse of the taper you see on the insert above.

    20140322_174446.jpg

    I keep adjusting until the barrel has a nice, smooth, friction fit - and make sure I have roughly 1/3 of the wedge visible outside the barrel (the barrel serves to hold the wedge, which serves to hold the reed). Once I get the fit I want, I start sanding the turned end of the insert with the lathe on slow speed... starting with 140 and running through 600. Don't skip grits, and sand with the grain between each grit. Finish will have an impact on how much I sand... if I'm using a finish, like CA, that builds up on the surface, I sand down a little further than if I'm using oil or another penetrating finish.

    20140322_175847.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  7. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Now, I take the 4jaw off the lathe and put my collet chuck back on. I flip the insert around and my new 3/4" tenon fits right into the 3/4" collet - and I turn the exhaust end of the insert.

    20140322_180009.jpg

    20140322_180208.jpg

    Once turned, I reinstall the jacobs chuck and another drill bit. This drill bit opens up the back of the tone channel, and size matters. The bigger the exhaust channel, the louder the call and the more air pressure it takes to blow the call. I typically use either 9/32" or 5/16". Again, electrical tape marks my depth, which is 1.5" (right to the back of the wedge).

    20140322_180357.jpg

    Now I'm going to open up the end of the exhaust channel with a step reamer, marked where I want to stop.

    20140322_180510.jpg

    And I use a handyman's reamer to smooth the steps (this is a smaller version of the reamer I use to put a taper in the back end of the barrel). Note, I had to grind off the tip of my reamer to make sure it didn't go too deep.

    20140322_180659.jpg

    Once this is finished, I do any final shaping on the insert, add any burn lines, lanyard grooves or other embellishments, and sand as I did the other end... 150 through 600.

    If I'm using a CA finish, I'll apply it at this stage - before popping off the waste piece and wedge. If I'm oiling or just polishing, as with this call, I'll remove the waste piece and wedge next. If I've been light enough with my glue up, this is pretty easy. A razor blade or sharp putty knife should slip under the front edge of the waste piece and cause it to pop off. Then I use the end of a chainsaw file to slip into the tone channel beneath the wedge and use it to pop the wedge off. Sandpaper quickly removes newspaper residue from the toneboard and wedge.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  8. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    And, voila, you have a reelfoot call! Enjoy, and don't hesitate to ask questions if anything isn't clear.

    20140322_192329.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  9. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Oops - I totally forgot about the reed.

    Reelfoot call reeds are metal - and you can't find them anywhere so you'll have to make them. Old timers made them out of whatever they could find and cut or stamp. Most used phosphur bronze, which you can still find pretty easily in the form of shim stock. Amazon and HobbyLink carry it. You will want .005" to .008" thick. You can easily cut this thickness with a decent pair of jewelers scissors, which is what I did for a while before getting a reed press/stamp made. I'll try to take measurements of mine and update this post later. You can also use stainless steel or nickel silver shim stock.

    Once you have your reed cut, the "magic" to making it sound like a duck is to tune the reed. Whereas Arkansas style calls have a curved toneboard and a flat (mylar) reed, Reelfoot calls have a flat toneboard and a curved reed. The easiest way to tune the reed is to slowly and carefully put some curve in it by pulling it between two smooth surfaces. I place the reed on a clean metal table, pin it down with a burnishing rod in one hand, and with the other pull it out and up to impart a curve. Do this in very small increments, as little changes make a big difference. You can reverse the process by flipping the reed and doing the reverse - but once a reed is fouled up it is hard to get it back. In general, you increase the curve to lower the tone. This part just takes lots of patience and practice.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  10. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Here is a pictur of a couple reeds to help with size. Below that is a picture of a number of different old reelfoots and their reeds, and an accompanyung chart I made as I was trying to learn about sizes and dimensions. As you'll see, there is no 1 solution. The sizes I use are almost identical to Fred Roe's, since his tutorial got me started.

    20140323_092640.jpg

    http://i1285.Rule #2/albums/a595/HCHpics/IMG_20130808_223241_zpsce297d88.jpg

    http://i1285.Rule #2/albums/a595/HCHpics/IMG_20130808_223117_zpsed706e1d.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  11. Wildthings

    Wildthings ASTROS 2017 WORLD CHAMPIONS Full Member

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    Thanks Henry - that is an awesome tutorial and gives me the confident to try one myself!! Hey mods don't delete the thread just those posts :scare3:
     
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  12. Molokai

    Molokai Knife Maker Full Member

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    Nice tutorial.
    i am kind of missing the last part of finishing, which will be the most interesting for me because i am not a turner.
     
  13. SENC

    SENC ... Full Member Thread Starter

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    Thanks, Tomislav... will try to get some pics of finishing next time.
     
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