How to make a rainstick

How to make a rainstick

Rainsticks were used by the Indians of South America and Mexico. The rainstick is a type of rattle that has been used by many cultures in various ways. The Indians would hollow cactus stems, fill them with seeds and use them in worship ceremonies. They would use them to bring rainy weather. The rainstick is a tubular instrument usually filled with seeds and when it is turned it sounds like rain.

It is the interior of the rainstick that makes it different from other rattles. Today many rainsticks are made from bamboo but they can also be made from recycled materials such as cardboard tubes (toilet paper rolls, carpet tubes, mailing tubes, paper towel rolls, gift wrapping paper rolls, etc.). Both kinds will be discussed in this article.

Bamboo Rainstick

Materials List:

  • Handsaw
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Scrap ½ inch thick wood
  • Drill
  • A long drill bit
  • ½ rounded file
  • wooden shish-ke-bob skewers
  • drill bit the size of the skewers
  • bamboo—one foot to three feet long (3 inches or so in diameter)

Directions:

  • Cut bamboo to length. Hollow out the inside of the joints with a long drill bit or other object that will reach. Some use a hot coal to drop inside a long piece of bamboo. That will burn out the joint material. There should be no obstruction inside the bamboo. File the inside till it is fairly smooth.
  • Drill holes in the bamboo from the top to the bottom in 2 spiral rows. Use the small skewer size for these holes. Space the holes about 1 inch apart. Put the skewers in each hole after putting a little wood glue on the skewer. Push the skewer in till it touches the other side of the bamboo. Do this with each hole. When the glue has dried completely, trim off the skewer ends that are sticking out of the bamboo. Now you will have the skewers just inside the bamboo tube for the seeds to hit.
  • You will need to cut 2 wooden plugs from the scrap wood. They should fit snugly. Put some glue on one of the plugs and put the bottom plug in place, let dry. We will put the top one in later. These plugs keep the seed inside the tube when turning the rainstick.
  • Use corn kernels, peas, sand, kitty litter, tiny pebbles, millet or small glass beads for the filler. Depending on the sound you want will help you decide on your filler. You can also mix some of these together.
  • Fill the bamboo tube 1/5 of the way with the filler of your choice. Try it out first by covering the opening with a cloth and securing with a rubber band and listen to the sound it makes by turning the rainstick over. Adjust the filler till you get the sound that is pleasing to you.
  • Glue and place the other plug in the remaining end of the bamboo tube. Let it dry well before using it.
  • Keep the rainstick in a dry place.
  • Decorate as desired.

Recycled Rainstick

Materials List:

  • Cardboard tube, any length
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Tape (masking or packing tape works well)
  • Drill (if the cardboard is thick and tough like a carpet tube)
  • Glue (hot glue works fast)
  • Nails or toothpicks
  • Scissors
  • Hammer
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Decorations (fabric, leaves, shells etc.)
  • Filler (corn kernels, small seeds etc.)

Directions:

  • Cut the tube to your desired length.
  • Drill (if the tube is a tough carpet tube) holes around the entire tube. Make sure the holes are smaller than the nails (for a carpet tube) or toothpicks (for a paper towel tube) you use. If you use a paper towel tube then just poke holes in it with any sharp instrument.
  • For a carpet tube, hammer the nails into the holes you have drilled. For the paper towel tube, insert the toothpicks into the holes you poked earlier. Now the inside of the tube will be full of things for the filler to hit and make noise.
  • Use the cardboard to plug one end. Trace around the tube and cut out a circle of cardboard. Do the same for the other end. Attach one plug by using glue or tape. Now one end is sealed so the filler will not fall out of the tube.
  • Add a few cups of filler into the tube. Depending on the size of the tube will determine how much filler to use. Do not add to much filler, as the rainstick will be too heavy.
  • Cover the remaining open end of the tube with a piece of fabric secured with a rubber band. Listen to the sound the rainstick makes when you turn it over. Adjust the amount of filler till you get the desired sound.
  • Once the desired sound is reached, you can now seal the remaining end with the cardboard you cut out earlier.
  • Decorate the rainstick with paint, fabric, feathers etc. It is good to repeat designs and colors and to keep it simple.
  • Add shells and other decorative ornaments if you wish.
  • Keep in a dry place.

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