Rattle Carving

Project theme:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • 2” X 4” X 12” Yellow Cedar or 2- 1” X 4” X 12”
  • Rattle template
  • Pencils: HB, F
  • Eraser (gum erasers work best)
  • Tracing paper
  • Graph paper
  • Thick construction paper (heavy weight that holds up to tracing)
  • Tape
  • Flexible clear ruler (knitting ruler)
  • Wood glue or epoxy
  • Plastic BBs
  • Rubber mat (cupboard liner)
  • Sandpaper – 100, 120, 150, 220 grits
Tool list
  • Exacto knife or scissors
  • Skew, straight chisel, #8L/30 gouge, #3/30, #11/30 gouge
  • Mallet
  • C-clamps, F-clamps
  • Straight knife, slight bent knife, bent knife.
  • Palm sander or orbital sander
  • Bandsaw (if you have access to one)
  • Eye protection
  • Ear protection
  • Dust mask
  • Safety boots

    This procedure can be used to create any size yellow cedar rattle.

  1. Choose a piece of clear, edge-grain cut yellow cedar with no knots. Knots in the wood on this size project will make it difficult to work with the wood.
  2. If you are using a 2” thick piece of yellow cedar, carefully rip it in half on the bandsaw. This will give you two pieces measuring 1”x4”x12”. If you are using 1” stock, there is no need to cut it again.
  3. Measure and draw a centreline around the entire length and width of the cedar board (front and back). To find the center of the board, draw a diagonal from corner to corner. The two lines’ meeting point is dead center. These lines act as guides to help keep your carving even on the front and back of your board.
  4. Fold a piece of transfer paper in half. Using the provided rattle template, trace the template onto a piece the folded paper using the fold as a centerline. Now, fold the paper, pencil side in, and trace over the design. This process ensures that both sides of the rattle are identical.
  5. Draw a cross (representing centerlines) on a piece of construction paper. Use the graph paper to transfer the pattern onto thicker construction paper and cut it out (you can re-use the template at a later date). Place your piece of tracing paper on the construction paper (pencil side down). Line the center lines up and trace over the existing pencil lines.
  6. Using your new template, trace the design onto the two pieces of wood. Line up the centerlines.
  7. Following the pattern, cut out the rattle shape using a bandsaw or scroll saw. To ensure your safety and prevent injury, use proper PPE, follow proper operating procedures, and use safety guards.
  8. Mark the area that you will be hollowing out for the rattle. Measure ½” in from the outside edge and draw a line all the way around. This will leave a lip to glue the two pieces together, once hollowed out.
  9. Using a #8L/30 gouge and a bent knife, hollow out the middle of the rattle. Stop hollowing the wood out when it is about ¼” thick.
  10. Add beads in the hollowed shape. Glue and clamp the two parts together with wood glue or epoxy.
  11. Once the glue has dried, draw the handle on the wood and cut it out using a bandsaw or a combination of the #3 gouge and a straight knife to cut the handle.
  12. Tip – I leave rounding the handle until the end so that I have a flat surface to clamp to my table.

  13. Clamp the rattle to a table or a rubber mat.
  14. Use a #3/30 gouge to carve away the rattle head’s edges. Note the wood’s grain and carve against the grain.
  15. Use the #3/30 gouge to round the rattle from the centreline to each end. Think in quarters and round each quarter until you have made the shape that you want.
  16. Round the edges of the handle off.
  17. Once you have a shape that you like for your rattle, it is time to sand it. Start with 100-grit paper. You can sand it by hand or use a finishing sander.
  18. Once you have sanded the rattle with the 100 grit, it is time to go back over your project with a knife (bent or straight, depending what you are working on) to clean up any uneven spots.
  19. Sand with 120-grit, then 150-grit and finally 220-grit sandpaper.
  20. Your rattle is complete: add a design with acrylic paint or leave it plain, then oil to finish.
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