How to Make a Sweet Potato Ocarina
How to Make a Sweet Potato Ocarina
The ocarina is an ancient instrument. There is evidence that human beings have been using instruments like these for over 12,000 years! They are a type of wind instruments, related to the flute. Like a flute, you blow air into a hole to create sound and cover or expose other holes to alter the sound. But the ocarina doesn't look like a flute at all—in fact, with its oval shape and protrusive mouthpiece, it more resembles a sweet potato! This is how the instrument got its name—it's not actually made out of sweet potatoes.
Most ocarinas are made out of ceramic; however, on the market, you can find wooden, plastic, or glass ones as well. Here you will find step-by-step instruction of how to make a sweet potato ocarina with your hands. We will make a clay ocarina without a mold.
Sweet Potato Ocarina
How to Make an Ocarina
You Will Need:
- Low-fire ceramic clay
- Knife (a butter knife will do)
You will also need to have access to a kiln to fire your ocarina. If you don’t have a kiln, you can call ceramic studios and ask how much they’ll charge to fire it for you. If you prefer you can make your ocarina with air-dry clay, just make sure it’s non-toxic because you’ll be putting your mouth on it. You won’t need to glaze or fire it.
Step-By-Step Instructions for Making a Sweet Potato Ocarina
- Take a piece of clay and make it into a ball about the size of a large orange. Shape it so it’s somewhat oval and pinch out one end to shape it somewhat like a sweet potato, and flatten the bottom by pressing it down on the table. Smooth out the clay so it’s nice and slick. Wet your fingers if necessary.
- Cut the shape in half and scoop out the clay inside, just as if you were trying to make a bowl or cup out of it. Keep the edges a good 1/3 of an inch thick so it will retain its shape. Try not to manipulate the two halves too much—you’ll want to fit them together again later.
- On the pinched, pointed end, stick a knife or the end of a spoon through it to make the mouthpiece. It should run parallel to the flat bottom. This will be the mouthpiece that you’ll blow into.
- On the bottom, carve a shaft going up to meet the mouthpiece hole. It should be shaped like a v-notch, with the wall closer to the mouthpiece being vertical and the wall furthest from the mouthpiece being a 45-degree angle.
- Cover the back opening of the clay and blow into the mouthpiece. If it plays a music note, you made it right.
- Put the two halves of the instrument back together. Score the edges and add watered-down clay around them to help seal the seam. Then use your fingers to smooth over the seam to make it invisible.
- Drill tiny holes in the sides or bottom of your ocarina, where your fingers would be comfortable. The bigger the hole, the higher the note when you blow into it. Adjust the hole sizes so that your ocarina will play different notes. Make sure you get the sounds tuned exactly how you want them (use a tuner to help with sound if necessary). Whatever they sound like right now is what they will sound like forever—once your ocarina is fired, you can’t change the holes.
- Take the time to do the finishing touches—smooth your instrument, your seams, your holes. Add any light carvings or additional clay pieces if you wish to decorate it. Make it look just like you want it to look.
- When you’re satisfied, brush glaze over your ocarina and fire it in a kiln. Clean it—now you’re all set!