General Question

rebbel's avatar

How would you fabricate a wooden ball?

Asked by rebbel (31197points) March 28th, 2013

Tonight I attempted to make a small wooden ball (for a wooden “noughts and crosses” game).
I guess you don’t need a trained eye to see that this ball isn’t perfectly round (yet)...
How would you fabricate a wooden marble?
Which tools do you need/which steps to follow with your method?

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14 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Having no experience in this regard whatsoever, my first thought is that I’d try to turn it on a lathe. You’d have to stop at the contact points, obviously, and finish those by hand, but I think you’d be able to get most of the roundness cut on the turning piece, and you’d only have those small areas to finish with hand tools and a sanding block.

EDIT: Thinking about this further, I believe you should be able to cut a round blank out of a piece of dimensioned lumber having the same circle diameter as the thickness of your blank. That is, a roughly 100 mm circle cut from 100 mm x 100 mm lumber (4×4 in the USA). Then you could mount that circle in the lathe, and your finish work would be limited to sanding and covering up those points of lathe contact.

rooeytoo's avatar

Lathe would be the easiest, but still not perfect unless your eye is perfect. I have carved ball in a chain and my eye is pretty good but again not perfect. I have also carved with a foredom and can come really close. Good question, I don’t know how you would make a perfect ball??? See what the thorn person says.

thorninmud's avatar

Yep, you’d turn it on a lathe. Even for a decent turner, it’s a tough job to get a good sphere.

You’d start by roughing the stock out to a cylinder the desired diameter of the sphere. It’s better to hold the stock in a chuck than to use a spur and live center, so that you have free access to the end. Face off the free end of the stock to square it.

Then measure back from the end of the stock and mark with a pencil where the equator of the sphere will fall. Use a skew to round off the end (it helps to have a diameter gauge to check your accuracy as you get close). Don’t turn away your equator mark; you’ll need it for the next step.

Measure again from the equator mark back toward the chuck, again the radius of the sphere. This is where the sphere will end. Mark it with a pencil. Use a parting tool to cut through about half the thickness of the stock exactly on that mark.

Now cut back some of the waste stock between the sphere and the chuck to give yourself some tool clearance. Take it all the way down to the bottom of the parting tool cut. Now comes the hard part: use the skew to begin rounding this hemisphere. Do as much as you can without cutting into the remaining connection between the sphere and the waste stock.

When you’re happy with what you have so far, and it checks out against your gauge, do most of your sanding at this point, while it’s still well supported. Then you’ll begin making alternating cuts with the skew, carrying down the curve on the sphere side and cutting away at an angle on the waste side. Eventually, the sphere will be connected by just a tiny neck of wood to the waste stock. Do a little gentle sanding on your recent cuts, and separate the sphere from the waste. Now you just have to trim away the “belly button”, sand and finish.

It’s a fun exercise to challenge your skills, but you really don’t want to have to make a lot of these!

rooeytoo's avatar

@thorninmud – do you do a lot of turning? do you do any carving, power or chisel?

thorninmud's avatar

@rooeytoo I’ve done a lot of turning, but no carving to speak of.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am just the opposite. We move around too much to take a lathe with us! So I use my chain saws, angle grinder and foredom. Do you have pics up anywhere, I would love to see!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

What kind of lathe works in 360 degree mode? I’ve just never worked with one that turns 360 degrees.

CWOTUS's avatar

I would like to revise my previous answer:

I would subcontract the project to @thorninmud.

thorninmud's avatar

@rooeytoo My lathe is very small, so I do mostly fussy little things, boxes especially. I’ve given most of them away, but here are some:

Camphor Box
Pau Ferro Box
Pill Box

There’s nothing in the pics to show scale, but the pill box is the smallest at about 1¾ in. tall, and the camphor box is the largest at about 3¾ in.

rooeytoo's avatar

@thorninmud – they are all beautiful, you are very good. The pill box is my favourite, great design. Thanks for sharing.

rebbel's avatar

Thank you guys!
I was thinking of the lathe myself too, but I have no(t so much) experience with it so I let that possibility go.
But I think it would be the way to go; so next time I will give it a small try.
Again, thank you for your insight!

Strauss's avatar

@rebbel It would also be a great way to enhance your skill…practice, practice, practice…

rebbel's avatar

@Yetanotheruser It certainly would.
That is why I will try it one of these days, and I will ask my experienced colleague to show me some basic and necessary first steps.
Thank you!

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