Baby Rattles: The Easy Way April 28, 2007 by Joel Oksner
(Text by Joel Oksner with photos and editing by Ron Lindsay)
I like to start my rattle projects with 7 or 8-inch by 1 ¾ to 2-inch stock. I have chosen these dimensions because they give the least waste and still comply with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 16 C.F.R. part 1510. In essence, this section suggests baby rattles to be at least 1.68 inches in diameter to avoid the choking threat.
I have used several different woods, including maple, cherry and walnut. I now make all my rattles out of hard maple because there seems to be no allergy problems associated with maple. We see maple used in cutting boards, wooden serving utensils and children’s cribs are made of maple.
I place this blank between centers and turn a tenon large enough to place into my scroll chuck. I remove the blank from the centers and place it into my scroll chuck, bring the tailstock up, and turn it round. Do not reduce the diameter of the blank below the 1.68” requirement. Next I mark the blank about ½ to ¾” from the tailstock end and part it off with a thin parting tool. The thinner the parting tool is, the better to match the grain when gluing later.
Next, I replace my live center on the tailstock with a drill chuck on a Morse taper and place a 1 ½” Forstner bit in it. I drill into the blank between 1 ¾ and 2”, marking the outside of the blank where the bottom of the hole is. This leaves a very thin wall on the rattle body and allows for better sound when shaken.
Next I remove the blank from the scroll chuck and place it tenon down on a work surface. I then place about a dozen glass beads, 3/8” in diameter, into the cavity. I place glue onto the lip of the rattle body and, aligning the top’s grain to the body, place the parted-off lid on the opening. I then clamp the rattle with a bar clamp and leaving the top in the up position, let it harden over night.
I usually use Elmer’s ProBond because it has very good end grain holding and seems to discolor the glue line the least.
After the glue has set, I place the blank into the scroll chuck and bring up the tailstock. I place the pin on the live center into the depression made in the above step to align the blank in the scroll chuck and tighten the chuck. Next, I remove the pin from the live center. I don’t use a live center with a centering pin to avoid extending the hole when I shape the rattle body. I now bring the tailstock up to the rattle (without the pin) and tighten it. If you are going to burn the rattle body or decorate the rattle to hide the glue line, now would be the time to do that, with the tailstock supporting the work.
I extend the depth line I made earlier with a shallow groove. I then carefully round the rattle body and start shaping the rattle. First I round over the body at the tail stock end and remove most of the stock. I leave enough to be supported by the tailstock. I then reduce the handle portion of the rattle, noting the grove I made earlier. I turn the handle, leaving a large end as shown below. I have found that babies make good use of the large base and it falls under the safety rule spelled out above.
Before I remove too much from the handle, I remove the last of the rattle end and sand it to 220. I then carefully reduce the handle while supporting the rattle body with my left hand and cutting with my right. I part the handle off while the lathe is stopped and use a fine tooth saw. This avoids an unexpected separation.
The remainder of the nub on the handle is sanded off smooth.
I finish the rattle with Carnauba wax. I apply Carnauba to my Beal buffing wheel and apply the wax to the rattle that way. Carnauba wax is a food-safe finish, approved by the FDA. It is often used on fresh fruit to make them appear shiny. It is also approved in foods to smooth the consistency.
As added enhancements, a captive ring could be added to the handle, chatter work could be applied to the rattle or surface decoration could be applied.