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This photo gallery is a duplicate of the one found on the Hamlett Ocarinas Facebook page which shows the process of making an ocarina. I start with rolling out the clay and photographed my progress to the completion of the initial tuning.
Eventually I will create a part 2 of this gallery and show the steps involved after the clay has dried, ending with a finished ocarina that is ready to ship.
- This is the plaster mold that I currently use for Alto C ocarinas. Molds will last a long time if cared for properly, but every so often the plaster right around the edges wears down and the halves of the ocarina won't meet properly. Hopefully I won't need to make a new mold for a while, 'cause it's a real pain.
- Rolling out a clay sheet. This one is exactly one quarter inch thick. I use two flat hardwood pieces for the thickness gauge. I have learned that using round dowels will eventually cause problems as they flatten under the constant pressure of the rolling pin. Then the clay sheets aren't as thick as you expect and the tuning of the ocarina will be affected.
- The clay sheet is fitted into the mold. I'm always careful not to press the sheet in, or do anything else to deform it and affect the thickness. It may not sound important, but the wall thickness is crucial to getting each ocarina tuned consistently.
- The top half edges are cut level with the mold. I use a silicone kidney for this, instead of a fetling knife, since the silicone will not scrape the edges of the mold. You can see I have a homemade mini fetling knife (left of mold) that I made from a small piece of brass and wrapped with masking tape for the handle. Yeah, high tech stuff here. I use that to cut larger pieces that overhang the mold. The small blade cuts cleanly without pulling the clay out of the mold. The finger hole positions are marked so that I can see where to place them after the ocarina is put together. I find that it's more consistent if I mark them ahead of time, and I know where the edges are and don't have to worry about punching a hole too close to the wall or the end.
- The bottom half is cut level and the thumb hole positions marked. Another high tech tool at work here, a disposable chopstick from the local Chinese takeout place is what I use to mark the hole positions.
- I use my homemade bamboo slot stick to mark the position of the wind way channel. When I say home made, I really mean it this time. I cut that bamboo from a thicket near my house last year, and split off a small section and used a power sander to shape it down to the right thickness and taper that I need.
- The wind-way channel has been cut, the voice hole position marked, and a small piece of clay ready to fill in the wind way channel after the slot stick in placed. I use a little canola oil to lubricate the slot stick so that it doesn't get stuck and pull the clay when it's time to remove it later. The little scoring marks inside the wind way channel are to make sure the slip (that stuff in the little container to the right) will bond with the clay. Slip is nothing more than watered down clay used as a glue to hold pieces of clay together.
- The slip has been applied and the slot stick in place. The end of the slot stick is placed where the voicing hole will be. The slot stick determines the dimensions of the wind-way. There are a lot of different way to create the wind-way. This method may seem complicated, but it's the best way, I think, to achieve the level of consistency that I want.
- The wind way has been filled in and the slot stick covered over.
- The two halves are almost ready to be put together. I use a small scoring tool to rough up the edges where the clay will meet. This helps the slip to bond the two halves together.
- The slip has been applied. Slip is your friend. I like to make sure I use enough. The last thing I want is gaps in the seam on the inside of the ocarina. That happens a little anyway, because the slip shrinks as it dries, and it can affect the sound. Finding the right balance between enough slip to bond the ocarina together, and too much, so that extruded slip builds up inside, can be a challenge. Before these halves are put together, I'll run my finger around the inside edge on both sides and clean of any excess that's already on the inside.
- Now we wait. Usually about an hour at least. I used to wait a full 24 hours, but I've found that's not really necessary. An hour or two is fine.
- The mold is opened, and this is what it looks like.
- Fresh out of the mold. You can see where some of the finger hole positions have been marked from the inside, but others don't show up as clearly. Now I'll smooth over the seam around the outside where the two halves meet, make sure all the finger hole positions are clearly visible, and smooth out any areas where the clay shows minor surface fissures from drying inside the mold.
- The next steps are to stamp the serial number, stamp the logo, drill a hole through the mouth piece for an optional neck strap, and stamp the key to which the ocarina is tuned. (@ All music theory geeks: I know the ocarina is fully chromatic and not actually tuned to a key. This is just easiest way to say it without using an entire paragraph to describe pitch ranges within transposing instrument families.)
- Some of the larger finger holes are pre-drilled with a smaller diameter. For reasons to complicated to go into here. It helps with tuning and voicing if there is already some means for air to flow through the ocarina.
- The basic diameter of the voicing hole is cut and the slot stick removed.
- Using a round ribbon cutter, the voicing ramp is sculpted roughly in a fan shape around the voicing hole. There is no real reason for the shape and size of the ramp, but there has to be some kind of ramp. This is just an easy way to shape it, and it's the most commonly used ramp shape for some reason.
- The voicing has been sculpted to it's final shape and the wind-way exit cleared and sized appropriately. The voicing will need some additional tweaking after all but the top three or four notes are tuned, and again after the ocarina is fully dried. For now, though, this is good enough to do most of the tuning.
- The wet clay stage of construction is complete. The ocarina has been fully tuned, although it's about a whole tone low at this point to account for the rise in pitch as the clay dries.