My version or the rainstick is a bit less exotic. I decided to make it out of an old wood window blind I had in my garage for years. The idea comes from this excellent video from Steve Ramsey. I reproduced his version of the rainstick. My 2 cents are for the recycling of these old wood window blinds.
A rainstick is a long, hollow tube which is filled with small pebbles or beans and has small pins or thorns arranged hectically on its inside surface. When the stick is upended, the pebbles fall to the other end of the tube, making a sound reminiscent of a rainstorm as they bounce off the pins. Rain sticks have become very popular in the last 200 years, and are often sold to tourists.
The rainstick is believed to have been invented in Peru, and was played in the belief that it could bring about rainstorms.
- Wikipedia -
My kid, Thomas, showing the final result.
Step 1: Deconstruct the Blind
You need 6 boards out of the blind to build a full length rainstick. If you want to make a smaller instrument, you can cut these in half and use only 3 boards.
Except for the boards, there is not much to save in an old blind. I saved the boards, the control ropes and sent everything else to the garbage.
Step 2: Cut 30 Degrees Bevels on the Sides of the Boards
On a table say, cut 30 degrees bevels on both sides of the boards. This will end up making an hexagon tube. To make a tube with more sides, adjust the angle so that the total always sum to 180 degrees.
Since these are thin boards, it may be difficult to cut it perfectly right. Thin boards can bend if too much pressure is applied while cutting.
Step 3: Assemble the Boards With Tape
It is now time to assemble the tube. Lay down the boards, bevels down, over a flat surface. Align all boards at one end using a square or a straight board.
Once the boards are perfectly aligned, tape all the pieces together using masking tape. Start by applying three perpendicular pieces of tape and then apply long pieces over the joints. Make sure the surfaces are clean so that the tape stick firmly to the boards.
Step 4: Apply Glue and Close the Tube
Turn the assembly on the other side and fill the bevels with wood glue. Spread the glue evenly along the bevels to maximize the strength of the joints.
Close the tube using masking tape. Once the tube is closed, "clamp" the assembly using multiple pass of masking tape. Let the assembly dry for a few hours.
Step 5: Cut the Two Ends
Pick any pieces of scrap wood in your shop to make the two ends of the rainstick. To make sure it fits both ends, trace the shapes using the ends of the drying tube. The assembly is not perfect so this will insure you that the ends will fit the shape of the tube.
Once both ends are cut, find the center of the pieces and drill a hole the size of the wood dowel you will use for the project. I used a Fostner bit to make the hole and stopped about 1/16" before piercing the other side so we dont see the wood dowel when the rainstick is finished.
Step 6: Cut the Wood Dowel to Length
Then length of the dowel must be the length of the tube plus twice (2 ends) the depth of the holes you made on both end caps. Not much to say here ...
Step 7: Glue One End to the Wood Dowel
Glue one end of the tube to the wood dowel. This assembly will hold the metal baffles in the rainstick. While the tube ant these parts are drying, start cutting the metal baffles.
Step 8: Cut Expanded Metal Lath Baffles
The number of baffles you cut depends on the length of your rainstick and on your patience. Cutting all these small screens is not the most interesting part of the project. I stopped after 18 of these. That make an average of 2.5" between each baffle in the tube.
The expanded metal lath I used is made to apply plaster on irregular surfaces. Make sure to wear gloves because the the lath is very sharp.
Step 9: Assemble the Baffles on the Wood Dowel
Mark the location of all baffles on the wood dowel and put it all in place. Once all baffles are in place, use a glue gun to fix it to the dowel.
Try to align them as much as you can. You will be able to make some minor ajustement when inserting the assembly into the tube.
Step 10: Rainstick Final Assembly
The final step. Insert the baffles into the tube. While pushing the it in the tube you may have to cut some miss-aligned baffles to be able to fit it in the tube.
Once the baffles are in place, glue the end to the tube and let it dry for about an hour. Then, add one to two cups of rice or whatever you want to produce sound. You can try different materials to obtain the sound you want before to glue the other end.
Once the tube is filled with the material of your choice, glue the other end to the assembly and let it dry.
Because there are small holes in the boards to let the ropes pass through, you will need to find a way to close it. I opted for black electrical tape.
Step 11: You Are Done!
You are done! The sound of this rainstick is a bit metallic but the site allows easily to produce rain sound for more than 15 seconds.
The kids love it. That is a good way to initiate kids do exotic musical instruments ... until they break it and spill the rice all over the place.