How to Make Wooden Balls

wooden ball

Not quite a sphere, but getting there…

A week or so ago I saw this video about making wooden balls without (advanced) tools.  Apparently the video said that it was possible (I didn’t watch the whole thing), but I decided to try scraping the wood with a hole saw instead of the custom cut piece of pipe that the video uses.  My original results were quite marginal, as shown below, and my hands were cut up as I hadn’t used gloves originally.  It seems power tools are the way to go with this one.

Unfinished hand technique, 2 balls on left, milling machine method, ball on right

Unfinished hand technique, 2 balls on left, sanded milling machine method, ball on right

I also tried doing this on my milling machine with a hole saw.  My thinking was that if I were to cut less than half way through a piece of wood, and progressively rotate it, the cuts would be like that of a constant-diameter Nautilus shell.  The edges could then be broken off and sanded, making for a perfect(ish) sphere.  This worked better, but sanding everything was quite tiring, and the sphere was never quite what I wanted.  The video below shows the process used:

Fortunately, I saw another ingenious method on reddit.  Basically, one sets up a box for the rough-cut ball to sit in, then lets it bounce around randomly on an orbital sander – This model, I believe (Amazon).  I didn’t feel like making a box for it.  I do, however, have a small milling machine, and a set of hole saws.  This saw isn’t part of my “official” set, so I took the drill bit out, and used it to constrain the ball on top of the orbital sander.

orbital ball

Smoothing a ball on a milling machine

The ball didn’t come out perfectly, (see the first picture on this page) as it was somewhat lopsided to begin with.  Eurethane/stain was added, and it’s kind of a fun piece.  Given enough time and a good starting point, I think it would.  Here’s the original ball from Reddit, it looks like that one was quite close!  Here’s a video of my hole saw/orbital sander/milling machine ball sander rig in action:

The obvious solution – I have a metal working lathe, but the tooling required to cut a sphere out on one (as seen in the video after the “read more” seems like it would take a lot of effort to set up*.  Doing it by hand on my lathe seems like it would be inaccurate and possibly dangerous.  There’s also a clever video about making a sphere on a jig saw here, but I don’t have one of those, and my garage is full enough as it is.

*As of when I wrote this.  I’ve actually been working on something for this with limited success so far.  Joe, if you’re reading this, thanks for the inspiration!  Maybe I’ll post something on it later.

  1. Fun with Wooden Balls - pingback on January 24, 2014 at 4:01 am

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