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Make A Native American Rattle

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

The rattle is important in various Native American ceremonies. Traditionally, they are made from things such as rawhide, deer hooves, turtle shells or gourds. You can easily obtain an ornamental gourd from an arts and crafts store, grocery store or farmer’s market. Just make sure it‘s totally dried before you use it. A dry gourd is light and dry to the touch, and sometimes you can hear seeds rattle inside.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 ornamental gourd, dried (preferably baseball size and smooth)
  • 1 1⁄4-inch-diameter dowel or stick, 14 inches long
  • Dry popcorn kernels or small
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • 1⁄8-inch and 1⁄4-inch drill bits
  • 1 12-inch-long coat hanger wire
  • Woodworking glue
  • Paint (optional)
  • Thin leather lace (optional)

What You’ll Do:

1) Carefully drill a 1⁄4-inch hole in the base of the gourd. Don’t drill too fast or the gourd can split. Ask an adult for help or permission if you are new to power tools.

2) Take the coat hanger wire and scrape out the seeds and membrane.

drill.jpg3) Drill a 1⁄8-inch hole in the top of the gourd opposite the 1⁄4-inch hole. Set aside gourd.

sand-to-taper.jpgbent-hanger.jpg4) Carefully stand the stick to a delicate taper, then gently fit into the holes in the gourd. The stick should fit snuggly in place.

paper-cone.jpg5) Remove the stick and place the pebbles or popcorn inside until the sound is right for you..

6) Put the stick back in place and carefully glue at each of the joints. Don’t play until completely dry.

painted-rattle.jpgThough painting and wrapping it with leather is a nice touch, the rattle is complete as is. If you use the leather lace, wrap a thin coil around the top and bottom of the gourd where the stick joins, and then glue the leather in place. Another attractive addition is wrapping leather around the handle to make a firmer grip.

20 Comments on Make A Native American Rattle

  1. The gourd is the hardest part for me to find. All the other supplies were pretty easy. Sounds awesome with my drum Good job

  2. This is a very cool project. I agree, it’s not too hard to find all the items needed. A little work maybe, but worth the outcome! GREAT work!!

  3. These rattles are very fun to use at spirit gatherings after ingesting large amounts of peyote cactus! especially if there are other instruments gathered around the fire in song. God is awsome.

  4. This is cool but think it could be more interesting. I am part Cherokee so this was nothing new, I just wanted to know if this is around the way i make my rattles. It wasn’t.

  5. nice work

  6. little eagle // October 15, 2007 at 7:09 pm // Reply

    part blackfoot and want to try it.

  7. This is a wonderful craft. My father is native american, and growing up in southern Utah, my brothers and I were always able to find and gather dried-out gourds when we would go on hikes.


  9. Derrick, Age 10, Florida // July 26, 2007 at 12:12 pm // Reply

    I made this about a month ago, and I thought it was really fun. My sister got a kick out of teasing me and calling me a baby because of the rattle, but all sisters are probably like that! She didn’t understand the whole idea of the rattle being Native American!

    I know it is hard to find all the suplies, especially the gourd, but here are some tips: You don’t need to get a real gourd, instead, ask your mom to get out the fake gourds you use to decorate the house in fall or buy one from any store like Wal*Mart® or Target®.

    You might not want to use the leather lace, that being very hard to find.

    A dowel can be found at any craft store or place like Home Deopt®. Everything else is really easy to find at most stores! Thanks! :) ;)

    • leathar lace is actually pretty east to find you just have to know where to look. You can find some at hobby-lobby, tandy leather or, any leather working shop.

  10. Kooky KFC kid // June 26, 2007 at 11:14 am // Reply

    This thing is way too hard to find all of the supplies!!

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