It's a lot of fun making special gifts for friends, especially gifts that will be used and enjoyed. I have several friends that are either days away from having a baby or had one several weeks ago. A turned wooden baby rattle is a fun gift to make for such a special occasion.
I try to select two different colored hard woods to start with because I like the contrast. The basic materials that you will need are 2 - 3/4" thick boards that are over 7" long and at least 1.5" wide. You will also need a filler material to give the rattle it's sound. In the past I have used small metal slay bells which where great but rocks work just as well. When possible, it is a cool touch to have something different in each side of the rattle so they make different sounds. For this rattle I used small rocks and gravel.
Step 1: Wood Prep
While not completely necessary, I ran both boards through my planer to make sure they were both smooth and the same thickness. You will want a tight seam on the finished rattle and having smooth mating surfaces helps achieve that. A helpful hint at this point is to label the smooth sides as "Inside"; this will help you keep track as you progress. Next I laid out how big each half of the rattle blank will be. I am aiming for a 6" long rattle so the blank has an extra 1/2" of waste on both sides that will make turning much easier. The blank width should be equal to the thickness of the glued up blank, so for me the blanks are 1.5" wide. Using my band-saw I cut both halves to size. I sanded the inside edge of each blank to prevent anything from interfering with a tight fit.
Step 2: Drilling the Rattle Pockets
Now that the rattle blanks are cut to size it is time to layout the basic details of the rattle. This will be a two sided rattle with the handle in the middle. You could get creative and do a single elongated pocket for connect the two pockets through the handle so small objects can trickle through when turned! I'm not going that fancy so I laid out a 1.5" square on both sides with the 1/2 waste portion included. Its always a good idea to do a center punch when drilling to the bit is less likely to wonder. It is important to mount the forester bit in a drill press for several reasons. First reason is you need to be able to measure how deep the hole is and second, because it need to ve drilled straight. Once the halves are glued together there is no way of knowing how close you are to cutting too far if you weren't careful when drilling.
For the size of wood that I started with, a 1" forester bit works great. With this size I should be able to have a maximum of 1/4" of wood to play with around the pocket. The parts of the pocket bottom that are closest to the sides will have the least amount of extra room because of the geometry of the pocket. You could mount each blank on the lathe and turn a spherical pocket but that would be a lot more work and spinning wood like a propeller blade make me a bit nervous for my finder's safety!
For the depth of the hole I went with 3/8" because that would be half through the board and will generate a finished pocket depth of 3/4".
Step 3: Breaking Rocks Under the Hot Sun
Ok, I broke the rocks under the cool lights of my work shop. I didn't have any rocks that were small enough to work in my rattle so I had to customize those that I did have. Using the flat portion of my vice I crushed one rock at a time. An important safety step is to place a rag or fabric over top the rock as you are smashing it. You really don't want small sharp rock fragments shooting all over your shop so you can step on them latter. The rag does a great job of keeping everything where it needs to be but you will end up with holes in it. I used a hammer to strike the rocks until I had the sizes I wanted. Its helpful to play around with the configuration of rocks in each pocket. To get an idea of the sound you can place the two sides together and give it a shake. The sounds will be louder and sharper in the finished baby rattle.
Step 4: Lots of Glue
I really don't want to risk the baby rattle breaking apart and having sharp stone fragments cover a small child so I used lots of wood glue. As you can see from the picture above all mating surfaces are evenly coated. For this blank I used my vice to clamp it while drying. I made a second rattle and used bar clamps, either way make sure it is help tightly while drying.
Step 5: Initial Shaping
I let the blank dry over night before sanding each end flat. To drive the blank on the lathe I selected my smallest multi toothed driver with a spring loaded center. I then set an external caliper to 1 1/2" because that is the maximum diameter that I could hope to achieve and have a smooth surface. Using a parting tool I made sure to cut either side of the pockets to insure that their location is not lost. You should end up with a 1 1/2" long cylinder on either end that is 1 1/2" in diameter.
Step 6: Final Shaping
The initial picture above shows the initial shape on the right side of the rattle and the desired final shape on the left. Adding the center line, as shown on the right side, helps keep both sides of the rattle ball evenly shaped. While still shaping the rattle I leave the end nubs large enough so they will keep the piece on the lathe even if I catch the wood wrong. The 2nd picture above shows the final rattle shape after turning. In the third picture I have already finished sanding and have decided to add some extra detail. I didn't want any stains or marker on the wood so burning the lines on seems like the best option.
Step 7: Adding a Finish
For something that might end up in a babies mouth (along with everything else) I decided to use pure bee's wax on the surface of the rattle. Bee's wax is really easy to apply to a spinning work piece and produces a nice warm shine. To apply all you need to do is press it against the rattle while its spinning and slide it back and forth. Once all of the finished surfaces are coated you can take a rag and press it against the wood. Wait until you can see heat building up and the was melting into the wood before slowly sliding it across the wood. The 2nd image above shows how the surface looks after being treated. Now that I am done working on the body of the baby rattle I can reduce the size of the end nubs. Cut them as small as you feel comfortable without cutting the off. Sand and apply wax to as much of the ends as you can. Its much easier to do this on the lathe then by hand!
Step 8: Final Touches
Remove the baby rattle from the lathe and cut each nub off as close to the rattle body as possible. Hand sand each end to remove any evidence of the nubs. Rub the bee's wax all over each end of the rattle. Using a heat gun, melt the wax on both ends and use a rag to wipe off any extra melted wax. If you can still see a different between where you hand sanded vs. sanding on the lathe just add more wax. Once you have finished with the heat gun you should be left with a fully coated baby rattle ready to give as a gift.
I already know who this rattle is going to and she should be welcoming her new daughter in less than two days! Hopefully this Instructable has inspired you to make your own creation and put a unique twist on it, thank you for taking a look.