Rolling Baby Rattles




Introduction: Rolling Baby Rattles


A few years ago some close friends celebrated the arrival of their first grandchild. To recognize this milestone in their lives my gift to them would be something that they could use to entertain the little one when they had to baby-sit. As a woodworker I would make a toy with the following characteristics;

  • Easy for small hands to hold
  • Make some kind of noise
  • Can be rolled around
  • Be a safe toy

After a bit of research I decided on an old classic that would meet these objectives plus it could also end up as a keepsake or as a decoration on a toy shelf after the infant has outgrown the toy. I ended up choosing the simple rolling rattle. I got inspiration from David Wakefield's book "How To Make Animated Toys"

The gift was so well loved by the toddler, parents and grandparents that it has ended up being my go to gift for newborns in my circle of friends. It is a very simple build for anyone with basic woodworking skills who can probably just look at the pictures and get going.

For this ible I decided to write it for the less experienced in woodworking, who would like to make one themselves, and accordingly I have added more pictures, descriptions and included a couple simple jigs that may make the build an easy one.

Additionally, as a challenge I decided to make the rattle in different sizes which would result in each rattle having a different sound. And with several sizes it can also be used as a stacking toy set.

I will provide the steps to make one size of rattle and you can apply the techniques to make rattles of what ever size you want.

For anyone who prefers to buy one instead of making it themselves you can jump over to my Etsy shop to get one;

You can also follow my Facebook page;

Step 1: DESIGN

The pictures in this step illustrate the design used. You can use any wood that you have. Even construction wood from a hardware will work.


  • Wood for

Circular Sides or wheels qty two - 4 1/4” diameter, ¾” thick

Connecting dowels qty three - 3/8” diameter, 4 ¼” long

Knocking dowels qty three - 1” diameter, 3 ¼” long

  • Glue
  • sandpaper
  • paint or stain
  • mineral oil


Jig saw

disc/belt sander

drill press or hand drill

hand saw



Use ¾” stock (1” also works) and using a compass draw two circles 4 1/4” diameter. Cut out the circular sides using a method that is convenient and safe based on the tools that you have. This can be done using a jig saw, a band saw, router or even the table saw with a circle cutting jig. The latter can be dangerous so it is not my recommended approach. After you cut out your sides you want to sand them smooth.

Disc Sander method

I have a small disc/belt sander so for this project I elected to use that tool. I find that this is a simple and safe way to make small wheels.

The idea here is to start with a square blank, trim off some excess outside of the drawn circle then rotate it from a fixed distance (equal to the radius of the circle) away from the disc sander. By carefully rotating the blank on a pivot point (nail), which is the centre of the circle, you can get a perfect round wheel and since the pivot point is fixed you can repeat the process to get identical wheels or discs to make your sides..

Cut two square blanks from ¾” stock, at least 4 ½” per side (Figure 2a.). Locate the centre of each blank by drawing lines from opposite corners. The intersection of these two lines is the centre of the blank. Drill a pilot hole equal to the diameter of the nail you will be using as a pivot point into the centre of each blank. Mine was 5/64” so I drilled a hole into the centre of the blank to a depth of about 1/8" less than the thickness of the stock. This will ensure that holes are not seen on the outside wheels of the rattle resulting in a cleaner and more professional look to the finished product. Rough cut the circle ensuring that the pencil outline remains intact. This reduces the amount of wood that you have to remove on the disc sander. This will result with less wear on your sanding disc and make it easier to rotate the blank.

A simple jig (Figure 2c.) is used to spin the blank on a nail. For this rattle the nail was placed 2 ¼” (ie radius of wheel) from the end of the jig. After driving the nail into the jig, cut the protruding nail to a little less than the thickness of the blank (Figure 2f.). By slowly rotating the blank and carefully moving the jig in the slot as needed the spinning disc cuts out a perfectly circular wooden wheel.



Layout the holes for the connector dowels using Figure 1a. The holes are located on radius lines drawn at 120 degrees to each other. Drill three 3/8” holes ½” deep 5/8” from the end of the wheel. It is important to drill perpendicular holes so that when assembled, the sides will be parallel and square resulting in a rattle that rolls smoothly. A drill press is the perfect tool for this job. If you use a hand drill then take extra care to drill perpendicularly.


Cut three 4 ¼” lengths from a 3/8” dowel rod. These will be the connecting rods that join the two sides of the rattle.

Dry fit the parts and test rolling action.


Cut three knockers each 3 ¼” long from a length of 1” diameter dowel.


Drilling holes in round stock like dowels can be challenging to get the hole centered on the dowel and also to prevent tear out. To do this I built another simple jig (Figure 3b.) which will remove these challenges and make this task pretty easy as you will be drilling through rectangular stock which is easier to work with..

Start with a short length of 2” x 2”. The one used in my illustration was used for 1” and ¾” dowels. Draw a line across two faces. That line will represent the centre lines of your dowels. On the centre line of one face drill a 1” hole right through the 2”x2”. (1” is the diameter of the dowel knocker). On the adjacent face drill a 7/16” hole 5/8” from the end right through as shown in the picture. A 7/16” hole in the dowel knocker will give it room to swing freely around the 3/8” (6/16”) dowel connectors.

To use the jig (Figure 3b.), insert a dowel knocker and hammer it flush to the end. Place it on the drill press table, chuck a 7/16" bit and set a depth stop so that the bit will drill about 3/4 way into the dowel. Lower the bit into the hole, set the fence and clamp the jig in place. With this setup drill into the dowel, flip the jig over with the same side against the fence, align the hole and complete the hole from the other end. This will prevent any tear out in the dowel leaving a very clean hole.


Parts can now be prepares for final assembly.

Sand all parts (except the ends of the dowel connector rods which are to be glued) using 120 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit sand paper. Bevel the ends of the dowel knockers with sandpaper. Similarly, bevel the edges of the sides with whatever tools you have access to; router, belt sander, file or sandpaper. I have a router so I rounded over the edges of the sides with a 1/4" round over bit.

At this point you should dry fit and check to ensure that the rattle rolls smoothly.

Decide on your finish. For the knockers I used non-toxic, water based, acrylic paint. For the natural wood I used a polish that I made out of mineral oil and beeswax.

Apply some glue in the holes for the connector dowels, assemble, tap the two sides into place and let dry.


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The pictures here show different sized rattles which all make varied sounds when rolled and which also vary depending on the surface rolled upon. Dimensions are provided in the picture. Construction method is the same.

I hope this has been useful. Happy woodworking and please post a picture if you do make one.

Thank you.

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 3 years ago

    you're most welcome. Glad you liked it.


    3 years ago

    My go to gift is a baby quilt. Now maybe I can use the quilt to wrap a really cool toy. I love the jig for holes in the dowels. I am new to woodwork and was trying to work through that idea for another project. Thanks.


    Reply 3 years ago

    That would be a great gift. I'd love to see a pic, so remember to post a pic if you ever do. Good luck with your other project.