Quick & Easy Duck Call

Turn a barrel, add the kit parts, and get quacking.

Luring ducks to close shooting range has been a centuries-old quest for wildfowl hunters everywhere. For lathe-owning duck hunters, that quest has just gotten a bit easier (and more fun) with the call insert kit parts shown at right. Designed for close-in calling, the assembled call (insert and barrel) creates a raspy duck sound that mallards can’t refuse. The insert slips into the barrel–either wood or acrylic–that you turn at the lathe. Two accessories you can add are a metal accent band to prevent the barrel from cracking and a lanyard for hanging the call from your neck.

Note: To make quick work of the barrel turning, use a pen-turning mandrel and the duck call tooling kit. You’ll find both in the buying guide.

Kit Components and Accessories

The call kit consists of a

1) polycarbonate insert,
2) short Mylar reed,
3) long Mylar reed, and
4) rubber wedge. 

Accessories include a
5) lanyard and
6) metal band. 

Find them in the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide. The inserts and bands are available in several colors and finishes.

Form the barrel

1 Prepare or buy a 11⁄2 × 11⁄2 × 3"  hardwood or acrylic blank. Mark the center at one end of the blank, and drill a 5⁄8" through hole (Photo A). (I clamped a drill press vise to the table for this.) If using acrylic, drill the hole at a slow speed to avoid melting. Back out the bit to clear the debris.

2 Mount the blank on the mandrel using the duck call tooling kit (Figure 1). Snug up the components. Ensure that the tailstock’s live center is firm against the mandrel before turning on the lathe. (I cut the center tube of the kit to 1⁄2" long to accommodate the blank length.)

3 With the lathe running at approximately 2,000 rpm, use a roughing gouge to round the blank. Work the cutting edge from end to end, turning the cylinder to the widest diameter of 13⁄8" (Figure 2).

4 Trace or make a copy of the Barrel Template in Figure 2 on a piece of cardboard. Cut the template to shape. Now, at 2,500 rpm, round the insert end of the blank with a spindle gouge in keeping with the template (Photo B).

5 Measure 1⁄2" in from the cylinder’s insert end, and, with the lathe running, use a pencil to mark the location of the lanyard slot. Make the second mark 1⁄8" in from the first (Photo C).

6 Use a spindle gouge to establish where the barrel’s taper begins beyond the slot (Photo D).

7 Now, rough-shape the tapered portion of the barrel with a roughing gouge, moving the tool’s cutting edge “downhill” from the widest to the narrowest portion (Photo E).

8 Round over the mouthpiece end of the barrel with the spindle gouge (Photo F), and use the same tool to final-shape and smooth the barrel.

9 Double-check the barrel’s shape against the template (Photo G).

10 Cut the 1⁄8" lanyard slot 1⁄8" deep using a parting tool (Photo H). With the lathe stopped, test-fit the lanyard in the slot. It should be flush with the surrounding wood.

11 Sand the barrel. For American hardwoods–such as maple, cherry, or walnut–sand through 320 grit. For oily exotic woods such as cocobolo, sand through 800 grit. For acrylic, sand through 1200 grit, using wet-dry Micro-Mesh cushioned abrasives.

12 To add decorative burn lines, mark the barrel, where shown in Figure 2. Using a skew, score a fine (1⁄32") crease in the wood to guide the burn wire (Photo I). Increase the lathe speed to 3,000 rpm, and hold a wire to each crease to help the wire track (Photo J). (I made a simple wood wire holder to avoid being burned when the wire heats up. In lieu of that, you could hold the wire with vise grips.)

13 Finish the wood. (I applied a clear, soft paste wax with my fingers and buffed with a paper towel at 1,000 rpm. I followed this with a harder coat of carnauba wax (Photo K) and buffed it with a paper towel to a pleasing shine. For an acrylic call, I use four-step Polarshine Woodturner’s Polish. Remove the barrel from the mandrel.

Assemble the duck call

1 If installing a band, apply CA glue to unwaxed barrel tenon and fit the band on it, carefully wiping away any excess to avoid marring the polished finish.

2 Place the longer bottom reed on the flat of the insert. Set the shorter reed on top of the longer reed, dimpled face down. Flush the square ends and press the reeds and rubber wedge into the insert’s slot until it bottoms out. The tapered edges of the wedge should conform to the sides of the insert.

3 Fit the insert in the barrel, and press them together.

4 Finally, loop the lanyard onto the call, fitting it in the slot. Snug it up with the sleeve. Make a test “quack.” I do this by cupping my fingers over the insert and blowing in the mouthpiece to create the duck sound.  

Online Extra

To see the duck call video scan the QR Code at right or visit woodcraftmagazine.com and click on Online Extras.

About Our Designer/Builder

When he’s not serving as the director of the Occupational Lung Center at the Charleston Area Medical Center, West Virginian Byron Young is at his lathe, creating artistic vessels, deer calls, ornaments, and a variety of other impressive turnings that he sells at galleries and craft fairs.

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