How are wooden balls made for production?

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Forum topic by quvia posted 01-26-2014 10:14 PM 3640 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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103 posts in 1691 days

01-26-2014 10:14 PM

I’ve often wondered how they mass produce the craft wooden balls you buy in the craft store. I use a lot for different projects and when I run out of 3/4 inch or 1 inch balls I always wonder how they do that. Who wants to run the lathe to produce a few of these!!! Crazy question I’am sure but does any one know a simple way??

-- Ted ,Conesus,N.Y.

19 replies so far

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2098 days

#1 posted 01-26-2014 11:59 PM

once set up they are not difficult or time consuming. start from the tail stock end with no tail stock. swing the cutter around full depth till the newly cut ball is parted from the feedstock dowel. advance the dowel and repeat. take the nib off the finished ball on the sander or by hand. here is a high speed specialty lathe for the purpose

some use a hole saw on a cross feed

a jig for a traditional lathe

I included some links but they did not show up in the post.

View quvia's profile


103 posts in 1691 days

#2 posted 01-27-2014 02:15 PM

Thanks. Now I know. It drove me nuts how they can sell them for only a few dollars for a bag of 12. I just got some on Ebay

-- Ted ,Conesus,N.Y.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3109 days

#3 posted 01-27-2014 03:28 PM

If you want to make a ball making jig, David Springett has a great plan for one in his “Woodturning Wizardry”
book. They do have professional made jigs available, but I am having too much fun making my own to waste
time and money buying one. These were for balls about 3” diameter, but could be adapted for smaller ones.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Woodbum's profile


813 posts in 3089 days

#4 posted 01-28-2014 08:51 PM

What a cool post! Somebody on here still has a sense of wonder about how something is made and actually asks about it. I for one would like to see a factory where sewing needles are made, or straight pins or nails or how they spray that fake looking finish on commercial office furniture or the sh**ty humidors that are sold in cigar shops. I can live without the dumbass duck people, but don’t take away “How its Made” Examples of product engineering at it’s finest.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View ChuckV's profile


3123 posts in 3551 days

#5 posted 01-28-2014 09:24 PM

My 10-year old son asked me how they “fork split” English muffins. I looked online but didn’t find a good answer for him. Any ideas?


-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2158 days

#6 posted 01-28-2014 09:35 PM

Buy your wood balls, as you need them, stop wondering.

It is a lot of fun learning to turn balls/spheres on a lathe if have lots of scrap wood and time. Do think bigger than ¾” or 1” starting out unless need lot of frustration. One time want to think big, learning to turn balls!

Actually harder to turn small ¾” & 1” wood balls uniformly on a wood lathe without a special jig. Most commercial and homemade jigs will not let you turn balls that small. I made two different jigs shown in David Springett’s book, he has a metal version online these days. So size does matter if want a jig to turn balls!

-- Bill

View quvia's profile


103 posts in 1691 days

#7 posted 01-29-2014 03:58 AM

Thanks everyone for all the input. For wildwood I do buy my wood balls and was just wondering how it was done.

-- Ted ,Conesus,N.Y.

View socrbent's profile


612 posts in 2293 days

#8 posted 01-29-2014 04:32 AM

This video helped me learn to make wood spheres when I wanted some from cherry to match the rest of the wood on a project –

After 2 practice spheres I was able to make the 4 needed. By number 4 it got pretty easy.

-- socrbent Ohio

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2989 days

#9 posted 01-29-2014 05:54 AM

My guess in production they would use a centerless grinder. Or probably more correctly, a centerless sander. Hard to explain the process, but as the name suggests, there are no centers capturing the wood.

There would be a belt sander and rubber coated drive wheel that would pull the spheres (spinning) across the belt and contains them from launching out of the rig, and progressively making them smaller as they travel.

Again, Hard to explain, but this is pretty common way to make spheres in general that require some amount of accuracy

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Woodknack's profile


11774 posts in 2404 days

#10 posted 01-29-2014 05:59 AM

Not the same but there is a guy on youtube who makes wood balls with a tumbler but they are not perfectly round; basically it’s a vibrating bucket lined with sandpaper.

-- Rick M,

View oldnovice's profile


6896 posts in 3392 days

#11 posted 01-29-2014 07:36 AM

I have never seen them make wooden balls but I have seen them tumble acrylic spheres to be perfectly round. I assume the same can be done with wood by using the appropriate grits of abrasive.

My brother tumbled rocks, when he was into that hobby, into perfectly round spheres too but it took a long time.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2098 days

#12 posted 01-29-2014 02:10 PM

Rick the bottom of the can is live with sandpaper bonded to the bottom and the sides of the can. the idea is that if there is a high spot on a moving surface there is a higher percentage of time that the irregularity will be exposed to act upon.

Now I think i have it down here is the hole saw setup
automated setup
one of the ball makers for traditional lathe

View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2158 days

#13 posted 01-29-2014 02:52 PM

Ted, only trying to say continue buying your balls and explain difficulty of turning uniform small size balls. Many of the commercial & homemade jigs will not get the job done.

Having said that do not be afraid to have a go at turning balls!

Not going to drag out my xmas ball ornaments and post several pictures of perfect and not so perfect hollowed out balls to make a case for turning balls. I do not use a jig today but have in the past. Think other posters have done better job with information & links provided.

-- Bill

View Jim Baldwin's profile

Jim Baldwin

56 posts in 2382 days

#14 posted 01-29-2014 07:26 PM

It’s called a “variety lathe” and they’ve been around a long time.

-- Jim Baldwin/

View quvia's profile


103 posts in 1691 days

#15 posted 01-30-2014 12:07 AM

Wow. That variety lathe is something. You think youv’e seen everything and then this comes along.

-- Ted ,Conesus,N.Y.

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