I'm not really sure why we make a lot of noise to ring in the new year. Somewhere I seem to recall it has something do do with scaring away evil spirits. At any rate, here is a simple project you can easily put together in a couple of hours and I guarantee: it's noisy!
You've probably seen these before. It's a simple gear that ratchets against a thin strip of wood to make a loud noise as you spin it. It is known as a gragger, used in the Jewish festival of Purim, as well as a watchman's rattle, to be used as an alarm.
It's only a rattle
In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Alice encounters Tweedledum who is angry because Tweedledee has broken his rattle. After examining the object, Alice remarks, "It's only a rattle...not a rattlesnake, you know." Alice was always quick with a quip.
In both of his Alice books Carroll employed John Tenniel, a brilliant, if somewhat temperamental artist to provide illustrations. Tenniel was a master at carefully reading Carroll's text and provided amazingly detailed drawings. In this scene we can see Tweedledum's rattle on the ground. He's angry, Alice is attempting to console him over his loss, and Tweedledee is hiding under an umbrella.
The White Knight
Interestingly, the White Knight (who is forever falling off his horse) can also be seen with a watchman's rattle in Tenniel's illustration in the frontispiece of the book. (Look carefully on the front of his horse. Click through for a larger image.) Both the red and the white knights move quite erratically throughout the story: naturally, they are chess pieces and well, the knights do move in an odd manner in the game. I suspect the White Knight would often need to signal for help using his rattle, considering how often he fell from his mount!
John Tenniel also drew cartoons for Punch Magazine. Here's a great picture of a rattle from the Jan. 19, 1856 issue. I like that the body of the rattle appears to be one piece, so this is the style I wanted to copy in my design. It's yours to guess what's going on in the illustration. I tend to think the fellow is frightening a flock of birds to take air before firing upon them. Or perhaps he's acting as a scarecrow to protect a crop.
Well, that was a long way to go to get to my rattle. I made it out of a piece of oak and three thicknesses of dowels. Enjoy the video and the project!