Picture of Laser Etch a Baseball
I made it at Techshop

Last week I learned to use the rotary attachment for the Trotec Laser. Usually this attachment is used to etch cylindrical and conical objects like glasses and bottles. I wanted to try something different, something... spherical. Also, I wanted to etch some leather. Putting two and two together, I decided to etch a baseball.

I'm not really crazy about the design on this ball - it was sort of a 2nd draft to work out the kinks in the process - but I thought I'd take a break and get this Instructable written.

I've attached the template i used for my design as a PDF.
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Step 1: Materials and Preperation

Picture of Materials and Preperation
Genuine Leather Baseball
If you want to etch a baseball, do not use one with a synthetic leather cover. The type of synthetic leather used contains PVC. According to wikipedia, "plastics with a chlorine content (such as vinyl, PVC) produce corrosive chlorine gas when lasered, which combines with Hydrogen in the air to produce vaporized hydrochloric acid which can damage a laser engraving system."

Sandpaper (optional)
I sanded the markings off my baseball. It seems to me you should probably be able to buy baseballs without any logos or anything from somewhere out there on the internet, but I haven't really looked.

Toilet Paper Roll
Without the toilet paper roll or some other cylindrical/conical object, one side of the rotating bit on the rotary attachment will be in the way of the laser. (If that's not clear, see the attached picture of the ball in the attachment.)

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design
Etching a small block of text onto a baseball is a pretty straight forward operation, but my goal was to be able to cover a baseball with images from seam to seam. To do this, I needed a template the same size and shape as the etchable area of a baseball cover.

Credit to vectorgeek at deviantart.com for making this baseball pattern. The baseball cover shape from his design got me about 80% of the way to a usable template for etching my baseball. After some trial and error, and some stretching and resizing, I arrived at my template.

My template is still a smidgin off (it's a little too fat at the center and too skinny at the bulby parts), but I'm attaching it as PDF. If you fix it up, let me know!

Step 3: Laser Settings

Picture of Laser Settings
Take a look at the attached screen shots to see some important settings for this project.

Step 4: Clean up and deodorize

Picture of Clean up and deodorize
As you can see in the pictures, the ball got pretty charred where it was etched. A little water cleans it up nicely.

Also, burnt leather smells more or less like burnt hair. Not much to be done about stinking up the the shop, but unless you like the smell of burnt hair, I suggest setting your baseball outside for a day or two before taking it into your home.

With these final two steps finished, you're ready to display your baseball!
jlsajfj8 months ago

you could also put masking tape all over the ball to reduce the charred areas around the etch

Hey I run a screenprinting company and have a laser machine and various other equipment but anyhow I was gonna let you know we use whats called a spot gun with spotting fluid for dried plastisol ink after reading your instructable I took a baseball spotted it and everything came right off. If you need info I can tell you where to get you a spot gun and some fluid.

adamwatters (author)  chad.bellamy.399 months ago

Hey Chad - thanks for the tip! I'd never heard of a spot gun before - checking them out online now. I haven't been etching any baseballs recently, but i'll keep this in mind next time I run into some tough-to-remove ink.

tcone2 years ago
Very cool. Been thinking about neat things to do that are baseball-themed. To be corny, you hit it out of the park with this one
adamwatters (author)  tcone2 years ago
Thanks tcone. I appreciate the corniness! Now I'm regretting not inserting as many baseball analogies as possible into this Instructable... I may have dropped the ball on this one.