Varmints Inc. Custom Calls



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,


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