Wooden Ratchet Noise Maker




Introduction: Wooden Ratchet Noise Maker

I build props. I've built props for theatre, including Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway, ...

Here is a wooden ratchet noisemaker I made, also known as a "gragger" when used during the Jewish holiday of Purim. For mine, I used a few scrap pieces of 3/4 inch thick oak, a 1/2 inch wood dowel (less than 6 inches worth), a piece of 1 1/4 inch dowel for the handle (about 5 inches long), and some 3/16 inch dowel for the wooden pegs. I also used two 1 1/2 inch 8-32 machine screws with washers and bolts.

For tools, I used a table saw, a miter saw and a drill press.

Step 1: The Gear

I decided to make a gear with 8 teeth. I used a 2 1/4 inch hole saw to give myself a gear a little larger than 2 inches in diameter. First, I drew the pencil lines; it was easy to layout with a combination square. Then I ran the hole saw into the center of the pencil marks, just deep enough to mark out the circle. Now I can drill the smaller holes where the pencil lines cross the circle I just cut. For this gear, I used a 5/8 inch spade bit.

Now I can put the hole saw back on the drill press and finish cutting the circle. Perfect gear! Next, you need to enlarge the center hole to the size of the dowel that will be running through it.

Step 2: Attach the Gear to the Dowel

In order to keep the gear attached to the dowel, I placed a peg through the dowel and slid the gear over it. First, I drilled two holes in the gear. The holes were the same diameter as the peg I would use, and the depth I drilled was also the same as the diameter of the peg. You can see it in the first photograph.

Next, I chiseled the holes into a rectangle so the peg could slide into it. The second picture below shows what I'm talking about. The peg will determine where on the dowel your gear will sit, so measure carefully, than drill a hole the same diameter as your peg, and slide your peg through.

The last picture shows it all assembled. You can glue it together if you want, but when your noisemaker is fully assembled, the gear won't have any room to slide off the pin, so it's not necessary.

Step 3: Body and Handle

For the two side pieces, I decided they would be 10 inches long, and 1 inch wide, made out of 3/4 inch thick oak as well. I started with a piece around 2 1/4 inches wide, and drilled a hole through the end where the dowel holding the gear would pass through. Then, I ripped this piece into the two 1 inch side pieces. Doing it in this order enabled the hole for the dowel to be in the exact same place on both side pieces.

With a larger piece of dowel (around 1 1/4 diameter), I made a handle. I drilled a hole through the center which the smaller dowel could slide into. I then drilled a small hole through both pieces which I could slide another peg through to hold it all together. You can see it before it is assembled in the picture below.

Step 4: Stiff Board

For the stiff board, I ripped a thin section of oak on the table saw. Set your table saw so the thin piece is the cutoff so you don't have to place the rip fence right next to the blade. I found a ripped piece to be better than a piece resawn from the face or crosscut from the endgrain; both of these tend to split when bent and twisted.

I sandwiched the stiff board between two boards (about 3 1/2 inches long, and slightly less than 3/8 inch thick) and bolted the whole thing together. It's very similar to how a knife handle is held on. The width of these boards is slightly larger than the width of the stiff board or gear. This gives the gear a little bit of breathing room to spin freely.

You can then hold the whole thing together, and drill through the two sides and the middle piece and hold it together with the same wooden peg method we've been using. I kept my pegs toward the top, so the hole ran through only one of the sandwich pieces, rather than running through the stiff board.

I should mention that before making everything permanent, you should check the length of your stiff board. It should be short enough that it is not rubbing against the gear at its thinnest point. But it should be long enough that it slaps the next gear tooth after slipping off the previous one. Experiment a bit to find the optimum length for maximum slappage.

Step 5: Put It All Together and Give It a Spin!

With everything assembled, you can give it a spin and see how it works. For the moment, mine seems to hold together well without any glue. I like having the middle piece bolted together in case the stiff board ever cracks or breaks; then I can just unbolt it and put a new stiff board in. My noisemaker is fairly loud, and it spins freely in either direction. Have fun!



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    20 Discussions

    I made 18 of these for my wedding. They were fun to make, I had a poor shop set-up, and I was still able to cobble them together because of the ease of the instructions. They are LOUD! (especially all at once :) Totally awesome.

     I would've Thought  you would've used a router for the hear  But your way is very Simple .. I like it

    If you want to make it 'double noisy', you can add an ekstra gear and stiff board, - symphony orchestra style - with the gear wheels slightly offset.

    2 replies

    Wow, that would be pretty loud. I wonder how many stiff boards you can get on one and still have it work?

    As many as you like... I think the best wood for the stiffboard would be ahs (e.g. from an old garden tool handle if not otherwise available). Its durable, bends well without cracking, and beeing a "soundwood" (commonly used for electric guitar and bass-bodies) it would make a louder, - mayby more 'musical' or pleasing sound than the very hard and stiff oak. =o)

    Dude! I'm Jewish, so I've seen and used many graggers before, and by far this looks the best. I love the design, it's much better than any one I have used before. The design looks really original, and it probably makes a sufficient noise. I'd love to use this at Purim this year. xD (In case anyone is interested, gragger is pronounced grogger)

    1 reply

    You could use it in a bar when requesting more rum, and be grogging for grog. LOL. Couldn't resist that one!

    In the verse in Alice in wonderland referring to Tweedledee and Tweedledum loosing their "rattle" this is what they were referring to.

    i had heard the little metal toy ones originated from WWI and was an alarm for mustard gas .but i'd bet the chinese had made something like it long before then

    i'm making one for a bar mitzvah. i hope no one minds.

    Really nicely presented. These things were used in the UK for making noise at football (soccer) matches, whether or not they were introduced by Jewish immigrants I couldn't say. But the British designs usually had a square-cam, if I remember it correctly. L

    Neat! I wanna make some. One for myself, and some others for sale. Would using it be "Gragging"?

    amazing woodwork and pictures. This looks like a very fun thing to build. Is the peg-type design your own?

    1 reply

    Yes, I pretty much made up this design as I went along, with some research images as a general guide for proportions. I've seen pegs used in a number of wooden automaton toys. I started by using one to hold the gear to the handle axle because I was worried glue might eventually wear out, and a nail or brad might split the gear. I liked the look so much I just continued using pegs through the rest of the project.