Making Wooden Balls
Making wooden balls sounds like an easy enough task but it isn’t. I’ve tried a few different methods. The obvious way is to turn it on the lathe and there are methods to do this accurately though they’re neither quick or easy. If you need to make many balls then this isn’t a satisfactory method.
The Poor Method
To make smaller balls of around one inch, I’ve cut cubes, taken the edges off with a knife, then left them sitting in an upside down box set up on top of a belt sander. This method is very poor, it takes a long time and the balls don’t come out anywhere near round. The end grain and the long grain of the cube wear down at different rates.
A Better Method
After seeing an expensive CNC lathe setup, with a cutter like a holesaw you use on a drill. I decided to try something similar. I made a simple sled with fixed runners to hold my cordless drill. With a holesaw mounted in the chuck (the pilot drill removed) and the lathe spinning, I fed it into the lathe. The outcome is a pretty good sphere. It does leave a rough finish though and needs a bit of sanding.
This setup sounds a frightening prospect and while I took it very easy on my first attempt it wasn’t too bad. As long as the sled is secure, no play in the runners and the holesaw is fed in slowly, then everything should be fine. But you should only do this if you’re comfortable with it and you do so at your own risk.
It takes less than a minute to make each ball then a few minutes of sanding. This has to be the easiest way to make them but it does have limitations. I made two inch balls as that was the size of my largest holesaw. I don’t think you could go much bigger.
I decided to make some swish ones by gluing together alternate coloured segments to make a blank. When finished I screwed in an eyelet then tied on a piece of ribbon to make a Christmas tree ornament.
So there it is, an easy and quick way to make wooden balls.