Hi, Alan Stratton from As Wood Turns dot com.
Several years ago I went to a five day class by Mike Mahoney. I enjoyed it very much – except
for one project near the end. And, that project was to turn a wood ball. This is the ball,
about half the size that it should have been. And, up close, it’s really ugly.
So, I’ve been a bit in despair over that ball since then. I’ve been researching different
ways to make wood balls. I’ve looked at commercial jigs. I’ve looked at home-made jigs. I guess
it’s developed into a bit of a phobia for me.
Recently, I saw Carl Jacobson turn a ball with a commercial jig. It looked attractive
until I looked at the price. Then I said, oops, that’s a bit much for a single purpose
tool. Then, I didn’t know what to do. Then I saw Dale Larson turn a ball with just
simple faceplates. And, I saw Alan Lacer turn a ball with simple faceplates. So, maybe there’s
hope. I have to face my phobias; face my fear; and
I got to get over this. I decided: I got to do it.
In this video, I’m going to turn a 2″ walnut ball and a 3″ Oak ball. For practice, I did
a maple ball. Later I did an apricot ball. The oak is wet so it may distort — we’ll
see what happens. Apricot is wet — it may distort also. We’ll see what happens there.
In the next video, I’ll get into the simple faceplates that make this whole process easier
– enabled me to get over my phobias. Then, in another video, I’ll go way beyond
that and see if I can totally wipe out the old phobias and get going with wood balls.
So, let’s turn a couple of perfect spheres, perfect wooden balls.
I’ll spare you from rough turning the cylinder. When the cylinder is ready, I need to mark
the width of the ball. This is no larger than the diameter of the cylinder. I’ll also mark
the middle which is also the largest diameter. I’ll use a skew this time to reduce the excess
wood on both sides of the new ball. But with this hard walnut, I’ll switch to a parting
tool and clean up with the skew. I want to leave just enough to support the ball during
the first phase of turning. Then I’ll use a spindle gouge to shape the
two ends of the ball. Easy does it. I want the best smooth curve I can get without going
below the invisible edge of the ball. I’ll do this part just by eye. Everything is fair
game except the mid line. This line must be left intact. It’s hard to visualize the curve
extended down into the nub that connects the ball to the spindle. I’ll do the best I can.
I could use a template but didn’t. When it’s ready, I’ll darken the mid line
to make sure it will be visible in the next phase.
I’ll mount one faceplate to my scroll chuck. I’ve previously marked the jaw locations so
I can always return to the same mounting position. The other faceplate goes on the tailstock
live center. It’s threaded to seat snugly. I’ve cut the tenon stubs from the ball, making
sure I don’t cut too closely. I’ll turn the ball 90 degrees so the mid line now runs between
the two chucks. I’ll use a gouge to cut or shear scrap and
a skew as a scraper. I’m watching the ghost image on the back side of the ball to see
where I need to cut. But easy does it — I cannot cut away that pencil line that is running
across the ball. If I do, I’ll have to remove it in the next phase and get a smaller ball.
So I’ll turn very gently and gingerly, stopping frequently to check the pencil line.
When I’m close, I’ll mark a new mid line on the ball then turn the ball another 90 degrees.
With the third set, I should be turning the final axis of the X, Y, and Z axes.
Now I’ll just use the skew to scrape. If I’m careful, this can be the final phase of tooling.
If not, I’ll have to keep rotating it 90 degrees until it is perfectly round. I don’t want
to be overly aggressive. Sanding follows a similar pattern for each
grit: Sand until smooth; rotate 90; Sand until smooth; rotate 90; Sand until smooth. I’ll
start with 80 grit. Here’s the first rotation. — still 80 grit.
Here’s the next rotation — still 80 grit. Then repeat this sequence for each grit.
When the sanding is done, I have to do the same sequence to apply finish. Here’s I’m
using my utility finish of beeswax and mineral oil.
I’ll again mark the mid line and the end lines. The distance between the two end lines must
equal the diameter of the cylinder. Then waste away the excess this time with
a gouge. While I’m at it, I’ll round over the right end before turning the other end.
A little shear scraping and I’m ready to rotate the ball and change to the faceplates.
For this larger ball, I’ll use a set of faceplates with slightly larger ends to hold the ball
securely. I cut off most of the end tenons. I’ll carefully use a gouge to shear scrape
or a skew in scraping mode. Again, easy does it. Any catch or excess groove will result
in more rotations to form the ball and the ball will be smaller.
Then mark the new mid line and rotate the ball’s axis 90 degrees.
And here’s the third and hopefully final axis rotation.
This time for sanding, I’ll start with a mix of mineral oil and beeswax for sanding to
cut the dust and ease the friction. Then rotate and sand a little more with 80
grit. And the final rotation for 80 grit.
I’ll add more beeswax and mineral oil and move to the next grit.
Finally, I’ll apply more wax and oil and rub it in at high speed.
With this process, I also made 2 inch balls from dry maple and wet apricot. The wet turnings
will distort some — I’ll have to see what they look like later.
Now — I’ve conquered my ball turning phobia and without having to buy an expensive single
purpose jig which would not have done anything for my phobia. Come back for the next two
videos for more on turning perfect wood balls. So, be sure to like this video; subscribe
to the channel so we can keep you updated. Have fun and be safe — always wear a full
face shield. This is Alan Stratton of As Wood Turns dot
com. We’ll see you on the next video.