Bear, Buffalo, Elk, Horse and Moose Drums and Rattles

Steven Kauder

I have retired after 20 enjoyable years of drum making. Click here to see drums from my personal collection.

Rattle-Making Instructions

Things Needed:
...two hide pieces for rattle head
...stick for handle
...leather to wrap handle
...corn (or other filling)
...artificial sinew
...a tapestry (or other) sewing needle
...and a bit of string

Rattle Diagram
Rattle Making Diagram

1. Material
Gather the sand, glue, string, and rubber band. Gather whatever you want to put in your rattle. Corn is traditional. Other materials might include local stones, stones from an anthill, wooden beads, crystals, hematite, fluorite and whatever else gives you the sound and feel you desire.

2. Preparation
Soak the hide pieces overnight. Leave the hide wet. Place the two pieces of hide so the holes line up. Make sure the rougher sides are facing each other.

3. Lacing the Rattle Head
Use the tapestry sewing needle and the artificial sinew to tightly lace up the rattle head. Start at one end of the rattle head and lace several times through the first hole. Leave about 3 feet (.9 m) of the artificial sinew free as you lace this first hole. Then tie a knot around this first hole using the two ends of the artificial sinew. Switch the tapestry sewing needle to the other end of the artificial sinew. Proceed by tightly lacing and looping the artificial sinew twice through each hole.
You want to pull the tapestry sewing needle straight through the rattle head holes, so that the needle does not bend or break.
At the last hole, lace twice and tie a knot using just the one end of the artificial sinew.
If lacing takes a while and the rattle head starts to stiffen, spray it with water.

4. Packing the Rattle Head
Pack the rattle head with sand. Use the stick to pack the rattle head tightly. Push the stick deeply into the rattle head and use the ends of the artificial sinew to lace the neck of the rattle head tightly around the stick. (This is temporary lacing; it will be undone and redone before the rattle is completed.) Use your fingers to give the rattle head a pleasing shape.

5. Drying the Rattle Head
Tie some string tightly to the bottom end of the stick and then hang the rattle with the head down. Do this so the rattle hangs freely. Leave the rattle this way until the head dries in a day or two.

6. Removing the Sand
Take the rattle down from its hanging place. Remove the string at the bottom end of the stick. Unlace the artificial sinew you temporarily laced around the neck of the rattle head 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 the rattle vigorously to remove any remaining sand. Empty the rattle.
If you do not thoroughly clean out the sand, then you will be shaking sand out of the rattle for the foreseeable future.

7. Assembling the Rattle
Put 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 (2.5 to 4 cm) to become its handle. Test your rattle! Does it have the sound you want? If not, add or remove corn or other materials until it is the perfect sound for your perfect rattle.

8. Finishing the Rattle Head
Carefully pull back, just a bit, the neck of the rattle head that is covering the handle and put a small amount of glue between the neck and the handle. Then put a small bead of glue along the outside of the neck, and use the ends of the artificial sinew to lace the neck of the rattle securely over the handle. Tie off the ends of the artificial sinew as you finish lacing the neck. Let the glue dry for several hours.

9. Finishing the Rattle Handle
Put a thin line of glue along the exposed part of the handle from the top of the handle down to the bottom. Wrap the leather around and around the exposed part of the handle, starting at the top and overlapping at the very top and then continuously wrapping around from the top toward the bottom.
When you are almost done wrapping the handle with the leather, put a little extra glue completely around the end of the handle about 1/8 inch above the bottom, and then finish wrapping the handle with leather. Cut off extra leather with your razor tool or sharp scissors. Use your rubber band to hold the end of the leather onto the handle while the glue dries. You can remove the rubber band in an hour or so.

10. Celebrate
Rattle your rattle and thank the spirit of the animal who provided the hide and the spirit of the tree who provided the handle.

Making Your Rattle: Step by Step Images
Making Your Drum: Step by Step Images
Drum Making Instructions
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