ADDISON – Tom Ebbole of Addison teaches physical education for a living, but about two years ago, the handyman started handcrafting custom baby rattles in his free time.
While at a wood shop, Ebbole spotted the same wood used to make baseball bats, ash. That's when he thought of using it to make a gift for a baby shower his wife, Melissa, was attending.
"I just got the idea of making a rattle," Ebbole said.
Using a lathe to hand turn the wood, he carved the about 4.5-inch-long baseball bat, sanded it until it was as smooth as it could be, and engraved the baby boy's name in it with a pyrography pen.
He finished off the miniature bat with a homemade, all-natural sealer made of extra virgin olive oil, beeswax and a touch of tea tree oil.
After the shower, more and more friends and family began asking for the custom rattles. Ebbole has since launched a website to sell the baseball bat rattles, which are available to order in maple and walnut, as well as the original ash wood.
"It just kind of took off from there," he said.
Ebbole fills the rattles with BBs to create the percussive sound. While the rattles are made of all-natural woods and sealer, they are only for decoration because the size of the rattle could be a choking hazard.
Nevertheless, the rattles became a standard gift for Ebbole's pregnant co-workers at an elementary school in Melrose Park.
He credits his dad for passing on his handyman talents, which he's employed around the house to redo bathrooms and build an espresso bar, among other projects.
"My dad is pretty handy," Ebbole explained.
He's also built signing benches for couples to use at their wedding. Guests sign the benches, and Ebbole seals them afterwards as a keepsake for the newlyweds.
The handy gene doesn't seem to stop with Ebbole though. His two daughters, Julia, 6, and Marian, 4, enjoy watching their dad build new projects in his workshop.
"They both have a little tool bench," Ebbole said.
He said the sisters like to work on their own projects while dad is busy making rattles or other items. One of their favorite crafts made by their dad is a set of pointers with apples on one end like the ones their teachers have.
"They love school," he said.
He also makes traditional baby rattles out of walnut and cherry hardwoods. In addition to personalizing the rattles with a baby name, Ebbole said he also can engrave birth dates or other custom designs.
Because they are handmade, the rattles vary slightly. Although he would like to get a lathe duplicator to make the base rattles perfect every time before adding engraving, the distinctiveness is part of what Ebbole thinks makes the rattles so popular.
"I think it's unique," he said. "You really can't find it in the store."
To learn more or purchase a rattle, visit www.ebbsdesign.com.
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