Make Your Rawhide Rattle
Making a 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.
Treat your rattle hide, stick, and other materials with ceremony, respect, prayer, and gratitude.
I have retired after 20 incredible years of drum making. Click here to see drums from my personal collection.
1. Soaking the Rattle Head Pieces
Soak the two rawhide pieces that will form the rattle
head in a bucket 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 for the rattle head.
Make sure the rougher sides face each other.
Thread the tapestry sewing needle with the artificial
sinew and pull the artificial sinew about 3 feet (.9 m)
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.
2. Pack the sand firmly with your stick.
Repeat these two steps until the rattle head is tightly
packed and has the look and feel 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. 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
Add your corn or other materials into the rattle head.
Position the stick inside the neck of the rattle about
1 to 1-1/2 inches (2.5 to 4 cm) 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.
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 around
the end of the handle a little above the bottom
and finish wrapping the handle.
Trim off any extra leather. 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!
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