The Art of Making Ocarinas

Windsong's ocarina A few years ago, Gil and Jeanne Chappell gave me the 5-hole ocarina on the right for Christmas. They bought it at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. It was made by a company called Windsong. I enjoyed playing it a lot, and wanted to try others. However, when, a couple of years later, I tried to contact Windsong, the mail was returned1.

So I went out on the Web and found found several companies that sold Anita's Ocarinaocarinas, and ended up buying another ocarina from Anita Feng which looks sort of like this one on the left, except mine is blue.

Currently, this is my best-sounding ocarina but unfortunately, it's a 4-hole ocarina, and so some songs which can be played on a 5-hole ocarina cannot be played on it. Anita's ocarina has a wonderfully sweet tone that I've not yet been able to reproduce in the ocarinas I make.

I soon wanted to be able to make my own ocarinas, so I went and bought some FIMO clay -- which isn't really clay, but a polymer that is sort of like clay but which you can fire in an ordinary kitchen oven -- and attempted to make some. But I had no success, because all I had to go on was the ocarinas I owned -- I didn't know what I needed to do to get it to work right.

Fortunately, I found an archive on the ClayArt mailing list about tuning ceramic ocarinas. I wrote the people in that discussion and a number of them replied, including Cindy Strnad, Bob Wicks, Jennifer Boyer and Martin Arkowitz.

Jennifer was kind enough to send me a Ceramics Monthly article on making ocarinas by Delia Robinson which got me started.
This was my first successful clay2 5-hole pendant ocarina. icthus glossy plastic-like This ocarina was made out of thin, smoothed FIMO, and so has a glossy, plastic-like appearance.
egg, side view egg, top view This rather unique ocarina was my first successful 5-hole ocarina -- but it's not made out of clay -- it's made out of an old plastic Easter egg, a drinking straw, and some tape!

My early attempts to make ocarinas failed because they would always lose their whistle ability when I make the 4th hole. The plastic egg let me control it precisely enough to manage 5 holes and still whistle (though it didn't have a very sweet tone.)

lemon This lemon ocarina on the left became the African Mask ocarina on the right after I painted and glazed it. african
marble, side view
marble, top view
I achieved the marble effect on the left by mixing green FIMO with white Sculpey.

The ocarina on the right was my first successful in-line ocarina. It's a 4-hole ocarina with the holes in a straight line, so that you can (with practice) play it with only one hand.

scene, side view
scene, top view
cow, side view
cow, top view
These two animal shapes are not actually ocarinas but rather two-note 'trillers'. They make a sound like a bird's trill. turtle, side view
turtle, top view
favorite, top view This is my favorite 5-hole pendant ocarina of the ones I have made -- it has the clearest sound from the first note to the last. Unfortunately, it is not very loud.

The picture on the right is after I decided to paint its bottom as well, since due to the way the string loops into the hole, it is hard to keep one side facing forward.

favorite, bottom view
red icthus After a while, I realized that I should make the hole for the string to make it into a necklace sideways, so that it will like flat on the chest and not keep trying to bob sideways. shamrock

How to make an ocarina

Here's a diagram showing the most crucial part that is hard to figure out on your own:
[Cut-away diagram of ocarina construction]
For complete instructions, see Bill Kilbourn's Ocarina Construction Process at Harding Middle School's website, or Dwight U. Bartholomew's site.

Here's a YouTube on how to make a clay ocarina in 10 minutes.

Here's another YouTube on how to make a carrot ocarina:

Ocarina Links

Ocarina Club
Room of Ocarina
Bamboo instruments, including ocarinas
Ain't Whistlin' Dixie
Anita Feng
Tayberry Music -- mini ocarina: 1 octave + 1 note: c to d
Andean Showcase
Clayz with an Ocarina Songbook
Ocarina making
Suan's Ocarina page (has some instructions how to make ocarinas as well.)
K Dunster's Clay Ocarinas
How to make a cardboard ocarina
[1] I figured it had gone out of business, but since I put up this page, I was told that the guy who runs Windsong just keeps moving, so the mailing addresses for it are not reliable. The most recent address I have for them is Windsong Ocarinas, P.O.Box 473, Williams, Oregon 97544

[2] Actually, none of my ocarinas are made of real clay -- by 'clay' I'm actually referring to polyclay.

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