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Game call making

Last summer, my dad gave me his old wood lathe. He wanted garage space, I wanted to make round things, win-win. I started out making some fly tying tools that turned out pretty good and have been useful. These are half-hitch tools for tying finishing knots, as well as a flared bottom end that you can use to help push materials back on the hook for a few tying applications.

Let me just say the guy who makes and sells these things through his business is making a ridiculous profit on these things. I'm only marginally dangerous on the lathe and I can crank one of these out in short order. He's selling walnut versions (a walnut blank is under a dollar to make one of these) and selling them for $40. More for exotic woods, which would be a whopping $3-4 a blank. Anyways, that was the gateway drug to get me interested in making calls. I started out simple, single barrel calls with a 1/2" bore to accept either an open reed predator sound board or a closed reed distress reed/bushing, all press-fit. The open reed calls are less distress and more howler-ish, but sound good. This one is unfinished bocote.

The closed reed distress calls I have used a "cottontail" reed that is marketed as used for an open reed call, but I think they sound better closed with the reed pressed down into the barrel. I shaped them to make them fit your hand well and they are comfortable to hold and squeal on. Drives the cat batshit. Also bocote, this one finished.

I transitioned to a two piece call to make a grunt tube, and it required a lot more precision to make them fit and work. My drill press is small and makes boring the wood a PITA, but I make it work. I sampled deer grunt reeds from two different companies, the first was no bueno. The reed required way too much pressure to blow and you couldn't call softly with it. Loud or nothing. The reeds I sampled from company #2 were perfect and I've used them ever since. You can call softly, you can call loud, and it sounds good at all ranges. This was my first deer grunter that I have been carrying with me in the woods, this one is rosewood (unfinished).

And finished. And in the woods for live animal testing.

This one is cherry, super easy wood to work with and blanks aren't expensive. I made this one for a buddy.

And this one is bocote, made for a friend's coworker who will be my first paying customer.

More recently, I made this doe bleat (attempt #1) for myself, also rosewood. I made the shape different so there was no confusion as to what I'd be grabbing in the stand.

And then I saw the Foxpro Furshaker predator call and decided to give that a shot. All was great until I got the really dumb idea to try to drill the holes while the call was on the lathe. And...this happened. It was late at night and I had a dumbass attack. It happens.

I managed to glue/clamp the call and save it, so here's the finished product. It makes more of a bird distress call, sounds pretty cool.

Anyway, that's been my journey through starting to make custom game calls. Not gonna lie, it's addictive, and I'll probably end up with 10 calls for my personal stash that are all the same just because I need the practice. I may make a set of calls this winter and throw them online and see if they sell, can't decide if I want to try that or not. It all comes down to time. Gotta have the time to do it.
Looks good man. Any interest in Elk calls?
Not really, personally, but that's because I have never elk hunted. That's not to say I won't try to make one.

Good looking calls! I've been dabbling in the turkey calls myself. About to retire my ancient craftsman lathe I got off Craigslist for a brand new Jet variable speed.
That will be fun! I'm working on my dad's old Craftsman, myself. I oogle Jets in the catalogs, maybe someday down the road I'll make the jump, too.
Likes: asy2
I've had the parts for a while to make a squirrel call and finally got around to it. I got brave and decided to try the CA glue (superglue) finish option I have seen on YouTube. I figured if I'm going to cock something up, I'd rather it be something easy like this. Good thing, because I did. My CA attempt left some milky spots over the middle of the barrel and also built up in the decorative burn rings I like on my calls.

So, I sanded it all back down and started over with what I know works for me. I used a little Danish oil on the cherry body, then finished with lacquer. The dark band across the middle is a burn band done with a butane torch. I just wanted to break up the more pale colored wood a bit.

Searching online, it looks like my oil finish could be what caused the CA to go milky. Any moisture or oils under it can apparently cause the milky color. Either way, I didn't like how it built up in my burn rings and the fumes from the CA were pretty rough. Not sure I will try it again.
Likes: Jackalope
I did one more squirrel call, this time using a dual reed setup instead of a single. The other call sounded OK, but I think the dual reed sounds a little more raspy and natural. The wood on this one is western figured maple, again with a butane torch burn across the middle. Danish oil in dark walnut, followed by several coats of lacquer.



Village idiot and local whore
Supporting Member
In a bar
I think my boys need some of these...go ahead and post a price or PM me, if you’re interested in selling a couple.

And...that thumb still looks broke!
Likes: Creamer