Canadian Woodworking

Captive ring rattle

Author: Paul Ross
Published: December January 2004

This form of turned rattle has been around, in various forms, for many years. It is used here to offer good spindle and skew practice.


There are specific tools to make the rings, but traditionally these rings were cut with a skew. It is with a skew that I cut these rings.

The tools that are available to produce captive rings (such as on this rattle) come in a couple of different sizes and are called ‘captive ring tools’. They are scrapers, so you have to remove or rough out some of the bulk, or waste wood, before you use them. The tool is simply half a concave bead. It is presented to the wood on the left side and rotated in, towards the bead being cut.

Next it is turned over so that the open side of the concave bead of the tool faces the opposite direction that it was facing. To cut the bead in the wood from the other side, you will cut back and forth on both sides of the bead, until the ring is freed. Start with a piece of wood that is suitable for the size of rattle. I started with a piece of 2”x 2”. Mount the piece between the centres and set the rest as close as you can. Make sure that the piece is able to rotate freely and that the rest height is a little below the centre of the spindle. With a roughing out gouge, turn the piece down to a cylinder as shown in Photo 1.

Next, with a parting tool, define where the rings are to be cut. Use the parting tool to cut the inside of the ball on the rattle,

Shape the ball end with a spindle gouge.

Lay out the rings with a pencil and part either side of them using a 1/8” parting tool.

Rough out the beads with a spindle gouge to make the rings.

Then use the skew to undercut the rings. It is the long end of the skew, or the ‘toe’, that does the work. Material along the shaft of the rattle (the part where the rings spin freely) has to be reduced. This can be done with a skew or a spindle gouge.

Keep under-cutting the rings with the toe of the skew. Reduce the shaft and the ring will come free. An alternative tool to undercut these rings is a 9-in-1 tool.

This tool is being used like a skew, although it is a lot narrower. When the rings are cut, shape the handle. All you need to do now is to sand it. To sand the inside of the rings, a piece of abrasive paper is taped to the shaft and the ring is then held over the abrasive.

On this particular rattle, I cut three rings but you can cut as many as you like. For this particular project, I think that the best finish is no finish. Try different sizes and vary the number of rings. It’s a great way to practice using your skew.

This rattle is strictly a decorative piece. If it were a child’s rattle, the ends would be large enough so that a child could not get it into their mouth. Please take this into consideration when proceeding with this decorative rattle.

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