Introduction: Captive Ring Baby Rattle
I wanted to practice my wood turning skills and at the same time I wanted to make something other than candle sticks. I decided that these captive ring rattles would be just the right thing. You can develop lots of different techniques, including beading, v cuts, roundovers and tapers. You can even practice doing coves in areas that will eventually be removed.
In this instructables article I will be assuming that you know the basics of woodturning, especially with respect to the skew chisel. This video is where I learned the most when I was starting out.
Note: A commenter on my youtube video pointed out that there are potential problems with captured ring rattles. The wood ring had the potential to be fragile and break when a baby is using it. This would leave small pieces that a baby could choke on. I only let me 4 month old son use the rattle under my supervision and I do not leave it in his reach when I am not around.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
2"x2" wood (I used cherry, but there are lots of options that would work well)
Wood lathe - (I used a shopsmith, but any lathe will work)
4 Jaw chuck (note: the one linked is specific for a shopsmith, please verify if it will work for your application)
Optional - Belt sander
Note: The amazon links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at
no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Mounting the Work Piece
I started out with a 2"x2" square stock of cherry. It was 16" long, which is more than twice the size you need. As I was learning a lot, I kept the stock long that way if I made a major mistake I could just cut that bit off and move down the stock.
I drew lines from corner to corner of the ends of the piece to locate the center. I then hammered in the drive spur. In my lathe the drive spur is mounted into the 4 jaw chuck, but yours might be different.
Most lathes the headstock remains in place, while the tailstock moves. The shopsmith is the opposite. I moved the headstock into place and locked it down and then advanced the quill so that the stock was supported by the live center. I then locked the quill in place.
The wood is now mounted "between centers".
Step 2: Rough Turning Round
Before you start turning you need to adjust the tool rest into place. When roughing out I generally place it as close as possible to the edge of the stock, ensuring that it is parallel. For roughing I set my tool rest so that my tool's edge will be at the center line (or just below it).
I used a roughing gouge to turn the material round. Make sure that when you present the tool to the work piece that you start it a bit high and come down until the bevel touches the wood and starts cutting. If the bevel gets too low you will catch into the wood.
Once you get close to round it can be difficult to see if all of the flat spots have been removed. You can either stop the machine and look, or if you are comfortable you can rest the back of the gouge on the wood. If the gouge vibrates, the wood is not round.
As my tool rest is only 6" long I had to complete rounding the stock in multiple stages.
Step 3: Changing to the 4 Jaw Chuck
Turning between centers is fine (and some techniques require it) but I find that mounting the work piece into the chuck provides much more support. This is especially important when learning as you will often have small catches that can launch a piece if it is only supported between centers (don't ask me how I know)
I created a small chamfer on the end of the work piece, then removed the work piece from the lathe. The drive spur was removed and the work piece was put in it's place. Everything was tightened down and I ensured the end of the work piece was back in the same spot on the tail stock.
Step 4: Rounding Over the End
Before you start rounding over the end, remove some material at the end to leave a small section that will be round (~1/4"-1/2"). If you don't do this you will end up with a hole in the top as show in picture two.
Now the real fun starts! Using the skew chisel I rounded over the end. You start by presenting the heel of the skew a bit high on the work piece. You move it down until the bevel touches and then rotate it to 90 degrees while moving it in an arc. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Just take a little bit of material off at a time and it really isn't that bad.
If you really don't want to learn how to use a skew chisel, this can be completed with carbide tools, it just means more sanding in the end.
Again, this video is where I learnt how to use a skew chisel. If you are having issues with the skew, or want more information on using it, please refer to that video.
Step 5: Creating the Top Ball
Using the tip of the skew I first created a V cut where I wanted the top ball to end. This creates the necessary clearance for my tool so that I can rotate it to make the round over.
I turn the skew over and using the heel again I round over the other half of the top ball.
Step 6: Rough Sizing the Ring
I measured about 2" down from the top ball and made a V cut with the tip of the skew to mark out the length of the shaft. I then used a roughing carbide chisel to remove the waste and leave behind the part that will eventually become the ring.
The size of the ring is really up to you. You can make a wide one, a skinny one or even put multiple rings along the shaft. I will note that the smaller it is the more likely it will break.
Step 7: Shaping the Ring
To shape the ring I treated it as if it were a beading detail on a railing and I used my skew chisel to round over the edges.
To shape the inside of the ring I used a diamond carbide chisel. You can also use the tip of a skew chisel, but because I only have a 1" wide skew, this can be a difficult task. The diamond shaped carbide chisel makes it much easier.
One thing I learnt during this process is you should consider releasing the ring as the final step. If you release it too early it may bang against the tool rest. I didn't do this because I sometimes broke the ring. When that happened I would just make another one down the shaft and make a longer rattle. But once you are comfortable with making the rings it should be released closer to the end of the process.
Step 8: Sanding the Ring
Before releasing the ring I ensured that the outside was sanded. Once it has been released sanding is much harder because you cannot use the lathe to turn it and sand at the same time.
Step 9: Releasing the Ring
Using the diamond shaped carbide tool I released the ring. I just kept creeping up on the middle from both sides until it was released.
You can use a skew chisel to do this, but I found it much easier with the diamond carbide.
After it was released I used the carbide roughing tool to shape the shaft.
Step 10: Sanding the Inside of the Ring
Sanding the inside of the ring is actually easier than you might think. Using some double sided tape I attached sandpaper to the shaft of the rattle. I was then able to turn the lathe on at a slow speed and sand/shape the inside of the ring. I started with 60 grit and went to 220.
Step 11: Shaping the Handle
To shape the rest of the handle I used a combination of my carbide roughing tool and the skew chisel to make something that looked pleasing to my eye. This is where I was able to practice different tapers and round-overs.
Note: if I were to redo this project I would do this step before releasing the ring. I found that releasing the ring from the shaft made it hit the tool rest, which caused some nicks that needed to be sanded out. I suggest completing the rest of the rattle before releasing the ring.
Step 12: Sanding the Entire Rattle
Sanding on the lathe is a breeze! Just make sure you slow down your lathe and put the sandpaper underneath.
Between grits it is a good idea to sand the wood by hand in a down the length of the work piece.
Before the final grit of sandpaper I suggest slightly wetting the piece to raise the grain. Then letting it dry and sanding one final time.
Step 13: Parting the Top
Using my skew chisel I removed the material from the top of the rattle. This released it from the live center on the tail stock. As my work piece was mounted in a 4 jaw chuck, I was then able to sand the very tip of the rattle.
Don't forget to move the tail stock out of the way so you don't hit your hand on the sharp live center!
Step 14: Cutting the Rattle End
To remove the rattle from the rest of the work piece I used a handsaw. As this left some saw marks I then used my belt sander to sand it smooth. If you don't have a belt sander you can just use normal sandpaper, it will just take longer.
Step 15: Adding Finish
As this is a baby toy, and it will likely end up in someone's mouth, you need to use food safe finish. I use a finish that is part beeswax and part mineral oil. It is easy to apply, you just rub it onto the wood and wait a few minutes and buff it off using a clean rag.
Step 16: Enjoy
Now you know how to make the captive ring rattle, so if you are like me, you will make a whole bunch of them to practice your lathe skills.
Of course, the best part is giving one to your child and seeing them play with it. l
I hope you found this project as fun as I did. If you did I would appreciate if you check me out on other social media:
If you make this project (or something inspired by this project) I would love to see some pictures! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask them in the comments.
Runner Up in the
Toys and Games Contest