Random thoughts....posted at random.

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The Much Maligned Enclosed Reed Call...

Posted by Lonehowl on February 8, 2017 at 9:40 PM

 The most common, and simplest of all hand calls to run for predator calling...is the enclosed reed call. These calls are very easy to use and are extremely deadly. They are sworn by, and at, by callers all over the country.

This type of call has  been around for many decades in one form or another. By definition, the reed (the part that makes the noise) is...wait for it..."enclosed"..as in...inside the call. All you have to do is blow on the call and it makes noise. Pretty simple. These calls have pros and cons, as any type of call does, so lets take a look at a couple.

 First a couple "pros". As mentioned above, they are very simple to use., and have a relativley short learning curve.  You simply blow into the call and it makes  noise. When you learn to manipulate the call, you can make great rabbit distress sounds with it. Very realistic ones at that.  A guy just starting out can get a couple enclosed reeds (that sound a bit different  from one another preferably) and call a lot of animals in with them. Untold amounts of coyotes, fox and cats have fallen to this type of call. These calls are also easy to maintain, and can, in most cases, be refurbished with a new reed every once in a while if need be. A good enclosed reed call can be kept in service for many years if you take care of it.

 Speaking of reeds, these calls have many different reeds available for them so you can make a lot of different distress sounds, with a little experimenting.

Some "cons". Enclosed reed calls have reeds inside that can be rendered inoperable in certain circumstances. In real cold weather they can freeze up. This is the biggest complaint about these calls. Its the nature of the beast...you blow hot moist air into the call, and after your done calling, if the call sits outside your coat or whatever, the moisture on the reed freezes and it's done. It can happen while calling to, in between sequences. Also, reeds can get debris in them, clogging them up. By this I mean almost anything that can wedge in the reed somehow, or making the reed sticky, not allowing it to work. The biggest culprit is your saliva, in any weather. If your a "wet" caller, a guy that naturally spits a lot of saliva into a call while calling, your going to have more trouble than guys that arent. This is true for almost any type of call though. Sucking down sugary snacks and sodas while out calling makes it worse. Sugar makes saliva super thick. If you try to manage these things you will be a lot better off. 

 Reed fragilility is another con here. The reeds in these calls are made of thin shim like material, and are a bit fragile. If you constantly blow hard into the call, it can ruin the reeds. They get slightly tweaked by the pressure and the sound and ease of blowing get wrecked. The reed can also get sort of work hardened sometimes and stop working altogether. Again, just the nature of the beast with these things. Most guys really overblow these calls trying to get max volume, or they simply get excited and blow the shit out of em, thinking they are really doing something. If you learn to control your calling, you will avoid this.

And yet more cons...stigma.  Two things here...These calls are commonly thought of as one trick ponies, as in, you can only make one sound on them. For the most part this is true. You have a reed that is tuned a certain way, stuck inside the call with no way to really change the sound much. The thing is, there are other ways to make the call sound at least a little different, like changing your air presentation into the call, or changing cadence etc. Sort of "advanced" techniques for lack of a better term. Things like this can "liven up" the call sometimes.

Also, the stigma of "beginners" call. Most handcallers start out with enclosed reed calls. After that they advance on to open reeds or diaprhagms or whatever. After that, they think that enclosed reeds are for beginners, and stop using them, because somehow they are some sort of pro caller now. We have all done it, and this is a mistake. I stopped using them for years, then got interested in them again because  I realized just how great they sound, period. These things are killers, and at this point in time, the most under rated tool out there in my opinion. 

 Thats it in a nutshell. I can think of a couple more things to mention, but thats probably enough for now, and hopefully will get more guys to consider the "lowly" enclosed reed call more.


Hand Calls...Wood vs Plastic

Posted by Lonehowl on September 10, 2016 at 1:25 PM

A few calls... both wood and plastic.  L to R...African Blackwood (with matte finish), Delrin, Cocobolo and PVC


When it comes to open and enclosed reed type predator calls, there are many different materials available to out there to make them from. Wood, plastic, antler, horn, bone, soft rubber, penguin penis and on and on and on. ( Im kidding about the penguin part...I think?),  but I stick to two basic materials mostly...wood and plastic. For this conversation, I am talking about hand/scratch  built, hard reed calls...not anything latex related or molded stuff...that is a whole nother topic. 

 Im pretty simplistic when it comes to call making stuff. I like good sound, good function,  sturdy build, simple shapes and good clean, crisp lines. That is my style, if I have one. Sticking to good wood and sturdy plastics lets me do that.

 So...plastics...I have built a lot of calls from different plastic materials. Delrin, ABS,PVC, acrylic, nylon, etc.  I buy it in rod stock form and machine it by hand. Plastic is a very consistant material, and once you understand the properties of each, and build a few calls from it,  getting your design down, you can pretty much count on your calls being consistant from call to call. It is also a material that isnt bothered much by moisture, which can be a concern with wood. I tend to lean toward the utilitarian side of things in call making and plastic is definitely that. Plastic calls also tend to be a bit more "brassy", or sharper sounding than wood calls...which has its place...especially in big open ground or windy days...one reason I like to make and carry both...some days it definitely makes a difference.

 Each plastic material has a different sound, some better than others. I have used a LOT of Delrin/Acetal. It is a great material to build from because it machines great (pretty much the best out of any plastic) is tough, and it has good sound somewhere between acrylic and wood. A tiny bit rubbery, for lack of a better term, and slippery....which makes it very wear resistant. Can be machined to tight tolerances. Downside is that it realistically only available in black and white. You can order several  different colors of it but it is pricey and doesnt pencil out for the predator call market imo. Lots of high end waterfowl calls are made from it.

 Cast acrylic is another great material. This is a high end material that has a great sound. Super crisp and sharp sound. This is still THE high end material for waterfowl calls and commands a high price because of the sound it gives, looks (it comes in many colors) but mostly because it takes a lot of work to turn by hand, sand and polish correctly.

 Nylon..specifically Nylon 6/6...is a great material. Using the right tools it machines good, (not as good as Delrin) is tough as nails and has a great sound. Honestly, I like the sound of Nylon better than most any plastic I will mention here. It is sharp and brassy..very crisp, almost acrylic like. Very tough like Delrin but without the slipperyness. It will machine to tight tolerances as well. Again, generally only available in black and white in rod stock form.


 PVC...there are a few different variations of this, and I do build calls from it....usually the gray colored stuff. It has good sound and is pretty tough. It makes a good predator call in my opinion if it is built right. It will machine well and take a great machined finish, looking very clean and crisp.  It is softer than the other two materials above but I do like it. It makes a great call at a great price point if you are selling calls. I generally only build barrels/bodies out of it. I have built open reed toneboards from it but I dont really like that.

          A couple more well used calls...Delrin Suckerpunch and African Blackwood. Both have built in 2 way squeakers for coaxing.

 Wood...not to much in depth info here, but I will say right now that wood is my favorite material to build from. I think that all in all, it has the most natural sound for a distress call, if built right. Obviously there is a bunch of different kinds of wood out there to make calls from,each having a bit different sound, but I like to stick to good, tight grained, dense woods. Exotic woods are generally the most dense of all woods. Most of it is very tight grained and has the advantage of being pretty to look at. Most of it is a joy to turn on a wood lathe as well, compared to a lot of domestic woods. I am not a wood worker per se, but I love turning wood calls, its just a hobby within a hobby.

 Woods like African Blackwood, Cocobolo etc. are generally considered top of the line woods to build from. They give great, crisp sound and finish up great. A couple of my favorite domestic woods are Osage and Birdseye Maple. Good walnut is tough to beat for sound as well. Another option is a hybrid...(professionally) resin stabilized wood...a real killer, I love this stuff.

 So, those are my humble opinions, short and sweet.  I run all different types of calls, but I prefer wood calls generally.  I love the simple utility and toughness of a plastic call, but for my money a wood call is tops in my book. Maybe a bit old school? Yeah, probably.

Good calling to you,


Crow Call Stuff

Posted by Lonehowl on May 2, 2016 at 6:30 PM

A short note about my crow calls...particularly my standard call with the injection molded mouthpieces.


The mouthpieces that I use are an older, discontinued type, that has an MT2 (morse taper #2) shank that fits into a reamed hole of the same taper. Its the same taper that you will see on most popular lathe, or other woodworking equipment attachments.


The reason I like this style is because if the reed stops working or the call is full of moisture, frozen, or whatever, you can easily pop the mouthpiece out and clean the call. It takes only a few seconds to do, once you are used to it. Old school design that has stood the test of time. It also makes the call easy to tune quickly as well. You will see this type on many crow calls from the 1930's on up.

So...my main point...

   I usually do not use premade parts in my calls, with the exception of JC Products reeds in my enclosed reed predator calls, the industry standard. I have learned however, over the years that most guys do like and except a premade part or two in a custom call, if its good.  It sort of goes against my grain though. I believe a guy should learn to make any part of a call that he is going to call "custom" or "handcrafted"...especially  the part that makes the noise, the heart of the call  By sticking premade toneboards/reeds etc. into a barrel, you are generally considered a "barrelmaker"...not a custom callmaker.  Having said that, I have taught myself to build small reed assemblys for predator calls, and I can also build custom wood mouthpieces for crow calls...so I know I can do it, and have sold them here and there, posted them up on the forums etc., so others know I can do it as well.

So...long story short, these premade mouthpieces that I use for my crow calls are generally regarded as very good , if not the best, among hard core crow callers...so I have no problem using them. They take some work to get them tuned up right for use in a custom call,  (sometimes culling pieces that dont make the cut)  but they are worth it, they sound great, theyre tough and also economical.

  Ive had many of the really good wooden mouthpiece crow calls out there today, and I have also tried most all of the plastic mouthpieces available, and I still like the set that I use the best.  Just my humble opinion.


New Product...Mouth Call Cans

Posted by Lonehowl on September 12, 2015 at 8:45 PM

Diaphragm calls are great, but a little fragile. You need to take care of them a bit.  You dont need to baby them, but a little care goes a long way. Ive tried just about every carrying/storage case on the market, and I came to the conclusion that I just prefer a simple can.  The little man-purses are just irritating. The cloth cases that are out there that have the little elastic pouches etc. work great, but I found that if Im in a hurry, it's easy to rip the latex on a call when it snags on the edge of the pouch.pulling it out. The small folding cloth cases that hold 4 or 5 calls are pretty good, but when you open them, they fold down, and it's easy for calls to fall out. This has happened to me several times, and I never even noticed it till I was already back to my truck or at home. I have calls scattered across California. 

So, I brought these in because Ive been asked numerous times to come up with something to carry mouth calls in. These cans will hold 3-4 calls. The lid is perforated ( looks like a shower drain) to allow air to circulate and keep your calls from getting moldy. These will fit in your pocket no problem, and keep your calls safe and dry. Simple and relativley inexpensive as well. 

Enclosed Reed Calls: Mounting/Tuning Reeds

Posted by Lonehowl on July 18, 2015 at 4:55 PM

So this is a little tutorial on mounting and tuning JC Products reeds for enclosed reed calls. There are a lot of ways to do this, and everyone has there own style of doing it. Some guys are particular about it, and some (most imo) are not. So here goes...my way...but by no means the only way...maybe not even the right way...you decide.

First up, I prefer wood calls...and for these I use the metal reed sleeve originally made for this. (JC Products makes 1/2" rubber bushings that hold the reeds as well, but they do not perform or sound as good in a wood call as the metal sleeve/reed setup does if done right...just my opinion) You can just drill a hole into the wood call and simply shove a reed into it and it will work fine. Some older calls were made like that, but when the wood swells or moves, the reed can fall out real easy. The purpose of the metal sleeve is to have something permanent and solid to mount the reed into. Also, it makes the reeds easy to replace when the time comes.

The actual reed gets inserted into this sleeve. They are designed to work with each other and there are certain things you need to do to make them work correctly as a unit. Not a big deal obviously, but if you dont slow down and do these things, you may have problems in the long run.

Metal sleeve and reed

See how the reed and sleeve have a seam in them? Gotta be arefull with those, they have to be adjusted correctly to work together. its an important detail most call makers miss when using the metal sleeves.

First up...the sleeve.

The sleeve gets inserted into whatever hole you drill in your call. I use  a 9/32 hole but the top of the sleeve is a bit larger than that so I ream the top 1/3 or so of the hole slightly so the sleeve just fits, but NOT snug and definetly NOT tight. Just so it slides in and sits there. If its tight, the top of the sleeve will crimp together and cause the smaller (exhaust) end to splay out, and your reed will get blown out of the call at some point. Make sure you look at the sleeve when you pull it out of the package. Make sure the seam/split is close and uniform, as in the pic below. If it is not, work it untill it is right. After you have all that right, epoxy the sleeve into the hole. I use Devcon 2 ton epoxy. Almost anything will work but thats what I like..it's clear, water proof, and slow setting (strong). Overkill is good. Dont get crazy slathering it all over just a little bit towards the top of the sleeve where the 2 ridges are, and a bit on the sides. The bottom of the sleeve does not need any, as it will not be touching the wood really, but if you want to build up this area with epoxy go for it. Keep in mind though, how it will look when you look up inside the barrel. It might look nasty, if you care. I like everything nice and clean looking, so Im frugal with it.

Sleeve seam  needs to be like this

NOT like this!

 I mount my sleeves/reeds about midway down the call. This is because I want an air inlet that has a bit of length, so when you blow into the call, it pressurizes the reed, and gives you great control and killer backpressure rasp. You simply have better control  with all that air stacking up, and you will not have to blow hard at all to get any sound out of the call.  Most guys mount the reed right at the top of the hole, or maybe 3/8" deep, this is ok, but nowhere near as good as what I described, again, just my opinion. Obviously, your call size will need to be designed around this. Shorter calls will not be able to utilize this as well as longer ones.

 Also, my inlet hole is bored to about 3/8 inch diameter...all the way down to the top of the reed sleeve(9/32 hole). This is the same principle applied by duck and goose call makers. You have to match the hole size to the reed imo, 1/2" is to big and takes to much air...it just doesnt keep that reed pressurized correctly imo. Try it....you may be suprised.

The reed....Ok, sleeve is epoxied into the hole and allowed to set up and dry. Now its time to insert the reed. You have went to great pains to get the sleeve adjusted correctly, and you need to do the same for the reed. The reed has a seam in it just like the sleeve did ( see pic below) The sleeve is tapered (inside and out) and is designed to capture the reed with a friction fit. The reed also has a taper to it to match the sleeve. Adjust the reed seam so that it will push snugly into the sleeve. Do this with your thumbnail or whatever. I spread it apart a bit, then sort of push the smaller bottom part back together just a tad. If its spread apart to wide it might not go into the sleeve. A little trial and error will let you know. So drop the reed into the hole and you will feel it go into the sleeve. Use a reed tool or something with a flat face and CAREFULLY push it into the sleeve until its just snug. The rod pictured is pushing against the reed frame, not touching the reed itself.  Its very easy to bend the reed if you hit it with your tool, so again, be careful.

Note: I like my reeds just a little ways into the sleeve. I like a good portion of the reeds to stick up and out of the sleeve  (as in the bottom pic below) so they have plenty of room to work. If you shove the reed all the way down flush inside of the sleeve, it really changes the sound and how the air flows over the reeds, and there is a greater chance of the reed being blown out of the call if the owner gets crazy on it. This is why its important to get the sleeve adjusted correctly as well as the reed. The snug friction fit will usually be more than enough to prevent the reed from falling out of the call in any way. An old trick is to put a tiny dab of fingernail polish or something similar on the reed body, let it dry a bit and then insert it into the sleeve. This helps the reed stay snug inside the sleeve.

Reed Tuning

 Ok, so Ive tried, in my convoluted way, to explain how I install reed sleeves inside the call. All that is left is to tune a reed and put it in.

Nowdays, I typically use a double reeded reed for all of my distress calls. I like them better than a single reed for various reasons, but that is topic for later.  The simple technique I will show here will work for single reeds too.

 The first thing I do is grab a reed and put it in the call. I blow the call a bit to see what the reed sounds like. Every reed sounds different out of the box, so you have to try them to see where they are at in terms of performance. They could be to high pitched, low pitched, a little hard to blow or they may not make any sound at all.  All of this is why you have to tune them. Sometimes you just have to throw it in the trash and grab another one.

 Next...and this is all I do...I take a simple guage of some kind (I use an old spark plug gap shim) and run it up under the top reed, just about all the way to the base. Be gentle and use some finesse here, you dont want to damage anything.  After shimming the top reed, re-install the reed into the call and try it. If it sounds the way I want, I stop. If not, I may do the bottom reed a little as well. Typically I leave the bottom reed alone, unless it is preventing the reed from making any sound or making it hard to blow etc. Sometimes the bottom reed is sort of clamped down to tight and blocks air. All of this will take some practice. Trial and error. You will  typically ruin a lot of reeds untill you get the feel for things. Just the way it is.

^^^ Shimming top reed

A word on the shim size...I normally use .005-.008 thickness, Some guys just use a business card or whatever. The thicker the shim the more the reed will be bent upwards, causing  the sound to deepen.  Again, trial and error will get you where you want to go.

 There are other ways to tune these reeds.  Some guys simply use they're finger and flick the reed upwards . This works good on single reeds especially. Fast and simple. Another way is to shim the reeds as described above, but press down on the reed with your finger, while the shim is under it, and sort of  give the reed a light crease. This technique works good as well, and is handy for fixing a reed that is to low pitched...bending the reed slightly downwards, giveing it a higher pitch.  Experimentation is the key to finding what you like.


Diaphragm Call Build-Along

Posted by Lonehowl on July 18, 2015 at 4:20 PM

Diaphragm calls....I get hit up often by  guys asking about the tools that are used to make em. Pictured are some of the tools used to do it. The press on the right is used to actually put together the diapragm call. The one on the left is the tape cutter. A lot of guys have these presses now days, but alot of them give up on them out of frustration. A definite learning curve to make a diapragm call, but a fun one! 

So I thought Id do sort of a step by step tutorial here...a video would be way better, but I am not setup for that right now, maybe in the future? Anyways, I shot a few pics as I was making a call, and Ill try to explain the process the best I can. Keep in mind, I will not go into great detail here, just sort of an overview of the whole operation, mainly because every call maker will build them differently than the next guy, with each having thier own tricks, preferences etc. Any particular mouth call, whether it be predator, turkey or whatever, takes a good deal of experimentation with how you stack the latex, stretch the latex, and cut the latex. A guy just has to dive in and make a bunch of calls, and decide what combination of all those steps works best for him, overall, for that particular call model. 

Some of my pics aint that good, so my apoligies up front.

So lets start. The basic steps are stacking latex, and locking in the side tension, and back tension.

This will be a 2 reed distress predator call. I have the parts of the call laid out so you can see what goes into them. You have an aluminum frame, pieces of latex, and tape. The scissors and tweezers are tools used along the way to build the call. 

The first step is to stack your latex (for multi reeded calls)  The top reed of the call goes down first, as your stacking the latex. You are basicly building the call upside down.

For predator calls, or any type of mouth call really, this step is important. It can affect how much rasp the call will have, how the call blows, etc.. You have to decide how much space you want between the pieces of latex. Here, you can see that I have a good amount of space. Normally on this call, it is a bit less, but just wanted to make sure it showed up well in the pics. 

After each peice of latex is arranged and laid down, tack it to the peice it is laying on with your scissors, or other pointy object. Just lightly tap all four corners, this will make the latex stick together so it wont move and will be easy to handle. Again, do this for each peice you layer.

So we are finished stacking latex, so now we grab the frame, and bend it  about 90 degrees:

Now place it into the press:

The frame has an adhesive on it, to help retain the latex in place. Peel it off:

Now take the stacked latex, and slide it into the frame, stacked edge first, in other words, pointing away from you. Get the edge of the latex close to the U shaped opening of the frame, where it folds over. Be careful not to shove the latex up against the frame to where it folds over or kinks up. Make sure it lays flat and is even on both sides( this is a really bad pic, sorry):

Now fold the frame over untill it's almost closed, maybe just touching the latex, and crimp that side.

Next, move the jig plate over, and stretch the latex to your desired tension. On this press, there is a clip that clamps the latex( in pic above), and you move it over to stretch the latex. It is connected to a dial that will measure stretch so that you can stretch your calls somewhat consistantly. Everyone has thier own call specs, so this is one of those areas you have to experimant a lot with:

Now, crimp that side of frame, locking in your side tension:

Now that the side tension is locked in, we need to lock in our back tension. This is done by hand, going by feel. There is an art to call making...with a little witch craft thrown in as well, and this is one of those areas that requires it. 

Move the jig plate to the last position. I use the tweezers to grab the latex and back stretch to where I want it. Gotta make sure you grab all the layers at once, in the middle, and pull your stretch. Some guys pull till they see a "smile" in the latex, some guys just pull the wrinkles out. Whatever you feel works for that particular call. If you see mouth calls for sale with a lot of wrinkles in the reeds, they likley have no backtension. In my opinion, they will not work as well as a call with proper backtension put in. JMO.

Slight "smile".

Now hold this stretch, and crimp the frame at the tab. (The tab is that ttle square peice on the bottom of the frame. It folds over to clamp the latex in place) Holding the ram down, I use the tab turner to turn the tab up and over the bottom of the frame, locking in backtension. One more little tap with the ram and you are done:

Trim access latex from around the frame:

So here is the(almost) fished call.

Now put your tape on. I lay the call down and put the tape on top, then turn over and fold tape over:

Get to the choppa! I mean, tape cutter:

Pull er down:


Now make your cuts. ( I didnt get this one cut like I normally like, I was in a hurry lol) This particular cut I have been making since 2012. It is very usefull. Anyways, another area that is crucial to making the call run right, and making the sounds you want. I use the small Fiskers scissors. These are super sharp and cut latex with ease. Most guys use fly tying scissors, like Dr. Slicks etc. I have a pair of them and they are ok, but I prefer the Fiskers hands down.

Done. In reality, building a mouth call only takes a couple minutes, if that. Some guys can sit down and make a couple hundred a day by themselves.  Some guys have several presses so several people can sit down and crank out a lot of calls.

The press setup that I have is a competition style press. There are different versions of this press available. There is a plain jane version, without the tab turner and dial indicator, all the way up to a sort of commercial version that uses air to activate the ram for high volume call building. There is also different  jig plates to accomodate small frame sizes as well.

Anyways, hope this little tutorial helps someone out in the future.

Delrin Predator Calls

Posted by Lonehowl on July 18, 2015 at 1:50 PM

A note about the Delrin plastic predator calls....they have been discontinued for over a year. I had to many irons in the fire, so I had to pick something to eliminate in my lineup, and they were it, and although Ive had many requsts to bring them back, I simply cant, as I do not have the tooling to build them.

Thanks : )