Wednesday, June 13, 2012
I've started making my own rawhide rattles. I'm making two for now. One is for Black Hawk and the other is for use with my other spirits. I'm also thinking of making another one strictly for the ancestors. I will post photos of the rattles when they are finished.
If you are interested in making your own rattles and need instructions you can go online. Googling will give you multiple pages with instructions on how to make them. If I knew who the first person was who posted the information online I would give them credit. Unfortunately there's just so many pages of instructions that I can't tell who was the first person who gave this information out.
I will give some tips for those who want to make their own. The rawhide you will use comes from dog chews. Don't get the kind that is fashioned into bones, with ties or knots at the end. Instead look for the long sticks of rawhide that is rolled up. They look a little bit like giant cinnamon sticks accept they are white. You can purchase them at Wal Mart. Once you have them you will need to soak them until they are pliable. It may take up to a couple of days until they are ready to use. Most of mine took only a few hours but one of the dog chews took overnight before it was ready.
You will need a some form of stencil. I found a tip online about using a plastic butter bowl lid. So I cut one down to size and used it. I used an exacto-knife to trace it onto the rawhide. Then I cut it out with a good pair of scissors. Rawhide can be very tough so make sure you have good scissors. Cut two pieces out and make sure you leave a little rectangle on the end so it an be placed on the handle. You will then need something to poke holes through the rawhide. I used Momma Starr's advice and used an ice pick. Instead of using artificial sinew to sew with I used dental floss instead. I don't recommend using a balloon to inflate them. I found that it doesn't quite work that good. Instead, I recommend using sand or salt. Once you have sewn the pieces together use a spoon and fill it with sand or salt. You need to pack it in real good so that it inflates and stretches. Then you set it aside to dry. Be careful with the drying process. I emptied one of mine too soon and now I have to re-soak it and fill it again because one side caved in because it wasn't dry enough.
When you have them packed with sand or salt you let them dry for a few days. Make sure the rawhide feels rock-solid before you empty it. Then you need to place it in water so that only the part that will go over the handle is wet. This will soften the rawhide so that it can be fixed to the handle. So you fill the rawhide with your items to make it rattle and then you will place the rawhide part onto the handle, wrap strips of rawhide around where it connects to the stick, and then wrap a string of yarn tightly around this portion until it is dried. When it is dried you can remove the yarn. Doing this makes the rawhide fasten securly to the handle.
For the stick or handle I recommend using a sacred wood. I work with oak a lot (FYI - I also make oak wands). Go out in nature and gather a good straight stick. If you find a good size branch look for a strait portion. Use a handsaw to cut it off. Use a strong knife or strong box-cutter to scrape off the bark.
As to what to put in the rattle, if you want to only use natural items then corn, beans, rice, and pebbles can be used. However, the problem with using these natural items is that they will break down with time. For example, if you use beans then with time the beans will break down into small pieces. This will effect the sound of the rattle. Because of this I have chosen not to use natural items for use inside the rattle. Instead, I'm using pony beads. You can purchase pony beads practically anywhere. Wal Mart has them but I would recommend you purchase them at the Dollar Tree as they have them for only a $1 a bag. Pony beads are pretty much all the same and they make a good sound when used in the rattle. Because they are plastic they won't break apart when they strike each other.
As for decorating, that is up to your imagination. You can draw on them, paint them, and add leather, fur, or feathers as you seem fit.
Now, I provided some good tips my readers can use to make their own rattles. There's a few things I haven't shared because they are my personal tricks that I use with making my oak wands. Once again, if you need further instructions just google as there are many pages of instructions online.