How to Make a Sweet Potato Ocarina out of clay, instructions on how to make a ceramic 10 finger hole ocarina... Ocarinas - clay whistle flutes, sweet potato. Ceramic musical instruments.

Ocarinas by K. Dunster

How to Make a Clay Sweet Potato Ocarina

Page One


ocarina parts

In this tutorial I will show the method I use to construct an ocarina using ceramic clay. This is the type of clay that must be fired in a kiln to be hardened permanently. If you have never done pottery or used ceramic clay before, read this page. The book "The Potter's Primer" by Morgen Hall is an excellent resource for people new to working with ceramic clay. Ceramic clay is very different from polymer clay in how it is worked.

The techniques shown here will work for most types of ocarinas, including the four hole pendant style ocarina and the ten hole "sweet potato." On the following pages I will be making a 10 hole sweet potato style ocarina with a rectangular voicing.

From what I have observed over several years, most ocarina builders assemble their ocarinas completely before they cut the voicing (the whistle sounding hole). They then push a stick or knife through the mouthpiece stem to open up an airway. The maker has to be very accurate when doing this, because the airway must exit into the voicing just right or the ocarina won't work properly.

Since I am clumsy, I find it very difficult to do it this way, particularly with smaller ocarinas. There was never enough room to maneuver and I was always managing to push the stick in crooked, ruining the mouthpiece. This happened with many of the ocarinas I made. I spent most of my time either repairing the damage or just starting over again. It was very disheartening!

The method I now employ is called "open construction." The ocarina's body (which is in two pieces) is not assembled until after the voicing and finger holes are cut. The advantage I found to doing it this way is that the inside of the ocarina is completely visible, and any clay trimmings that might muffle the sound can be easily removed.
The mouthpiece is made separately and is attached after the voicing is cut. It is then very easy to align the mouthpiece/airway with the voicing. If the sound isn't to my liking, I can just reposition the mouthpiece.

Please note that there are links throughout the text to picture(s) or more detailed explanations.

Tools and Materials

Most of the tools used are pictured on the right.

(1) Serrated metal rib (Kemper S10)

(2) Clean-up tool (Kemper B3)

(3) Ribbon or loop tool

(4) Fettling or potter's knife

(5) Basic tool (Kemper BAS)

(6) Needle tool

(7) Cut out tool (Kemper COH)

(8) Cut out tool (Kemper COR)

All the above tools are sold through pottery or ceramic supply stores.

(Click on pictures for a larger view)

pottery tools 1

Tools available through ceramic supply shops.
In this second list of tools, some will have to be made special. The remaining can probably be found in your kitchen.

(9) "Slot sticks" are used to make the airway in the mouthpiece. The ones I use are thin strips of metal that I had cut at a sheet metal shop. They measure 4 inches long and are varying widths. The ones pictured are 3/8, 1/2, and 5/8 inches wide. I added
strips of masking tape to make them thicker.

(10) Frosting knife or any flattened tool such as a paint stirring stick (used to paddle the clay)

(11) Knife without a serrated edge

(12) Short pieces of wooden dowels with tapered ends. These are optional, and are used to "round" the finger holes

(13) Two pieces of each of wooden dowel, 12-18 inches long. (not pictured) The diameter varies - this ocaarina used 1/4 inch diameter dowels. Larger ocarinas need thicker dowels, smaller ocarinas, a smaller diameter dowel. These are used as spacers for rolling out a clay slab of even thickness.

(14) Drill bits, assorted sizes. These are very handy for cutting the finger holes

(15) Round pencil, not with angled sides (not pictured) to wrap clay around to make the mouthpiece

(16) Rolling pin (not pictured)

(17) Bowl of water to moisten the fingers (not pictured)

(18) Spray bottle of water (not pictured)

(19) Plastic bags (not pictured) for storing the ocarina-in-progress. Produce bags from the market work fine.

(20) Paper towels (not pictured)

Other Supplies

(21) Moist ceramic clay. Smooth or lightly sanded works best. (not pictured)

(22) Clay slip made with the same clay you are using to build the ocarina.

(23) Access to a kiln that will fire pottery (many ceramic supply stores will fire pottery for a fee).
ocarina pottery tools 2

Some of these tools are made special and others can be found in the kitchen.

Also needed is an ocarina mold. I use two types - a plaster mold, and a mold made from clay. These you will have to make yourself.

Next: Forming the Body using a Plaster Mold>>
Forming the Body using a Clay Mold>>
Forming the Body using a Paper Pattern>>

Introduction and Tools 1 | Forming the Body 2 3 | Making the Mouthpiece 4 5 6 | Position Mouthpiece-Cut Voicing 7 8 9 10 11 | Finger Holes 12 13 14 | Align Mouthpiece 15 16 | Adjust Voicing Size 17 | Attach Mouthpiece 18 19 | Tuning 20 | Assembling the Body 21 22 | Tidying up the Ocarina-Finishing 23 24 25 26 27 | Plaster Ocarina Mold | Clay Ocarina Mold | Make an Ocarina using a Clay Mold | Make an Ocarina Without a Mold | Glaze a Ceramic Ocarina | Glaze a Dragon Ocarina

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