Steven Kauder
Elbing, Kansas
(316) 799-2989

Making a Shaman Rattle

I make shaman rattles with the gifts of Bear, Buffalo, Elk, Horse, Moose, and Wolf.

I obtain the best hides I can. I treat them with ceremony, respect, prayer, and gratitude.

Making a shaman rattle is a more complex process than making a drum. There are many steps to soak, lace, fill, dry, empty, and fill again. It takes more days to make a rattle than it does to make a drum.






Cutting and Shaping Rattle Head Pieces

NOTE: Ignore this step if you have a ready-to-lace rattle kit

Soak the rawhide overnight until workable. Cut and shape the rattle head pieces and punch lacing holes following the diagram and instructions I provide.

1. Soaking the Rattle Head Pieces

Soak the two pieces that will form the rattle head in a tub until soft and pliable. Thinner hides, such as bear and horse, may be ready in 4 hours. Most other hides are ready in 8 hours, but the thickest buffalo and moose require up to 16 hours.
2. Start Lacing the Rattle Head

Place the two pieces of hide together to form the rattle head, making sure the rougher sides are facing each other. Thread the tapestry sewing needle with the artificial sinew and pull the artificial sinew about 3 feet through the first hole (at either end) of the rattle head. Tie a knot tightly using both ends of the artificial sinew.
3. Finish Lacing the Rattle Head

Switch the tapestry sewing needle to the other end of the artificial sinew. Continue making the rattle head by lacing through each hole in sequence and tightly looping the artificial sinew twice through each hole. At the last hole, lace twice through the hole and tie a knot using just the one end of the artificial sinew. If the rattle head starts to stiffen during this process, spray it with water.
4. Packing the Rattle Head

1. Fill the rattle head with sand -- a funnel is useful if you have one.
2. Pack the sand firmly with your stick.

Repeat these two steps until the rattle head is tightly packed and has the look and shape you desire.
5. Preparing the Rattle Head for Drying

Lace the two ends of the artificial sinew tightly around the neck of the rattle and tie the ends together. This lacing around the neck is temporary. It will be undone and redone before the rattle is completed. Use your fingers to give the rattle head a pleasing shape.
6. Drying the Rattle

Tie some string to the bottom end of the stick. Then use the other end of the string to hang the rattle with the rattle head down and so that the rattle hangs freely. Leave the rattle this way until the head dries in a day or two.
7. Removing the Sand

Take the rattle down from its hanging place and remove the string. Unlace the artificial sinew and remove the stick. Pour out the sand and save it for your next project. Fill the rattle head with corn, small stones, beads, or anything similar and shake it vigorously to remove any remaining sand. Empty the rattle.
8. Assembling the Rattle

Pour your corn or other materials into the rattle head. Position your stick inside the neck of the rattle about 1 to 1-1/2 inches to become its handle. Shake your rattle! Does it have the sound you want? If not, add or remove corn or other materials until your rattle has its perfect sound.

(Some of the materials I use to fill rattles are in this picture. Those are yellow corn, blue corn, ant hill stones, wooden beads, quartz crystals, and tumbled pebbles.)
9. Finishing the Rattle Head

Carefully pull back, just a bit, the neck of the rattle head and put a small amount of glue between the neck and the handle. Use the ends of the artificial sinew to lace the neck of the rattle securely over the handle and tie off the ends of the artificial sinew. Let the glue dry for several hours.
10. Wrapping the Rattle Handle

Put a thin line of glue along the exposed part of the handle from the top to the bottom. Wrap leather around the handle, starting at the top (and overlapping at the top). When you are near the bottom, put a little glue completely around the end of the handle just a little above the bottom, and finish wrapping the handle. Trim off extra leather. Finally, use a rubber band to hold the end of the leather on the handle while the glue dries.
Let the glue dry for one hour, and the rattle is finished!

Three Views of the Completed Rattle

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at the left to go to the
Shamanic Art:
Ceremonial Drums
and Rattles

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Steven Kauder
P.O. Box 11, Elbing, KS 67041
(316) 799-2989
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The small fine print: © 2002 - 2015 by Steven Kauder.