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A box call can make a remarkable variety of sounds that mimic those of a wild turkey. The call is a simple wooden box with a paddle-shaped top that, moved back and forth over the walls of the box, simulates the gobble or squawk of the bird. You’ll need a handful of tools, wood and a spring to make your own.
Measure an 8-inch-by-2-inch rectangle for the bottom and two 8-inch-by-3-inch rectangles for the sides of the box caller. While the measurement for the base doesn’t have to be precise, the box of most calls is about 8 inches long and 2.5 inches deep. The paddle is about 2 inches longer because it has a handle.
Cut out the rectangles for the bottoms and sides. The tops of the sides are curved, and there are many methods for creating the arched shape. Note that, at this point, the sides are half an inch taller than the finished depth of the box. Make a paper template with an arch shape that is 2 inches tall at each end with a 2.5-inch arch in the middle. Use the template to cut the curved top. This must be precise, as the sides must match for the call to work. Sand the curved edges smooth.
Use the Dremel tool with the sanding disk to create a channel, or groove, on each of the long sides of the bottom piece. The sides will slide into the channels to form the box, so the channel needs to be as wide as the wood you’ve chosen to work with. This step is optional if you want to simply nail or glue the sides to the bottom.
Use the scrap lumber to make a block for the inside of each end of the box. Measure the inside dimensions of the box and cut a block of that width, about 2 inches thick.
Run a bead of glue along the bottom of one of the sides and insert the side into the slot in the base. Repeat with the other side. Wipe up any drips of glue. Put glue on the bottom of the end blocks, and glue them into place. They should be flush with the ends of the sides. You should now have a rectangular box with sides that arch in the middle and no top.
Make the paddle by cutting out a rectangle that’s 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. The underside of the handle typically is curved so the finished product looks like a cross section of a bottle – flat on one side and curved on the other. Use a belt sander to create the effect.
Make a 2-inch-long handle on one end of the paddle. Traditional box turkey call handles have an oval shape at the free end that pinches in near the box or two inverted arcs. Trace the shape onto the end of the paddle and cut it out.
Finish the assembly. Drill a hole in the square end of the paddle about a half inch from the end and centered side to side. Make sure that when you insert the screw, it will hit the end block. Insert the screw partway and slip the spring onto the screw inside the box. Finish screwing the paddle onto the box. The screw needs to be tight enough to hold the paddle on top, but not so tight that the paddle doesn’t move freely. Experiment with moving the paddle back and forth across the box until you achieve the right sound.
Consider making your first box caller from cheap lumber in case it doesn’t work well.
You can make the box and the paddle from the same wood, but the quality of the call may not be as good. Try walnut with walnut or cedar with cedar.
If you don’t have a Dremel tool, you can create the channels with a wood file, chisel or sharp knife.
Countersink the screw for a more finished look.
Things you need
Straight grain hardwood like walnut or cherry for the box, 3/8 inch thick
Dremel tool with sanding disk
Soft wood like maple for the paddle, 1 inch thick
Belt sander or other sander
Drill with 1.8-inch bit
- Build your turkey call box with any kind of wood you like. If you choose cherry, you can find cheap cabinet cherry wood at a hardware or lumber store.
- Your first turkey call box may not be your best. Once you build a few, you will learn how to build a better turkey call box for the sound you want.
Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She has extensive experience in tent and RV camping, hiking, backcountry exploration and cycling.