Introduction: Tireball Sculpture
This is a giant ball made from three intersecting semi truck tires.
It has no real purpose other than being a yard sculpture, but it might make a great play thing for your pet tiger!
The idea came from an acquaintance of mine who has made several of these, and I liked the idea so much that I decided to take a crack at it. I used a different approach and construction method than he did, but the end result looks essentially the same.
If you're in the mood to make a funky piece of recycled yard art, or you've just got a strong desire to abuse some power tools, this might be a great project for you!
I'll show you how I made this tireball, and share some useful tips on cutting tires along the way.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
If you've ever tried to cut up an old tire, you know how frustratingly difficult it is.
I've seen people cut up tires with angle grinders and even circular saws, but that seems to produce a lot of molten rubber and nasty smoke. I went a different route and used primarily a reciprocating saw.
For me, this project required a fair amount of planning and carefully laying things out, but the majority of the time and effort was spent actually cutting the tires.
Here are the tools and materials I used:
- Three large tires
- Non-wimpy corded drill
- Non-wimpy reciprocating saw (this is the one I have)
- Large pile of reciprocating saw blades (6-inch variety)
- Band saw (optional, but very useful)
- Cordless drill/drivers
- Sawhorses (I recommend making a some of these)
- Two 8-foot 2x4s and about 12 feet of 2x8
- Various screws
A few thoughts on reciprocating saw blades . . . I found no huge performance differences between a variety of blades I tried. Cutting the tires required more physical force than most people would consider appropriate to exert with a power tool (read: dangerous and abusive use of the tool). I think the only requisite features for blades are sharp teeth moving fast!
Step 2: Get Some Tires
I went down to one of my local tire stores and asked if they ever give away old tires "for free to artists."
(I do not consider myself an artist . . . but I've learned that if you throw that out there, people don't ask as many questions. Plus, they will tend to give away their garbage more freely. Perhaps they're subconsciously trying to "support the arts.")
Anyway, they said "absolutely, help yourself" and showed me to the to-be-recycled pile.
I picked out three semi truck tires that were the same size, loaded them into my truck, and took them to a self-serve car wash for a cleaning.
Step 3: Mark to Remove the Beads
For this project, I decided it would be A LOT easier if I first removed the beads from each tire. The "bead" is the thick, inner-most part of the tire that has a large steel cable running through it.
I made a simple marking jig out of some scraps to hold a marker about three inches away from the inside edge of the tire, and marked all of the tires.
Step 4: How to Cut Tires
Cutting through the sidewalls is much easier than cutting through the treads. However, this same basic technique was used for making all cuts.
For every cut, I began by creating a hole in which to start the blade. This was done by drilling two holes with a 3/8 inch bit very close together on the line to be cut. I then drilled back through one of them at an angle into the other hole, and applied sideways pressure with the drill so the bit would cut laterally through the material between and join the two holes.
I was able to just insert the saw blade through this hole for many of the cuts, and off I'd go. However for some cuts, I had to make a sort of plunge cut into the hole to get the blade through it.
To do this hole-assisted plunge cut, I would rest the foot of the saw onto the tire with the blade parallel to the wall of the tire. With the blade tip positioned over the drilled hole, I would start the motor and hold the saw firmly while I gently tipped it forward until the blade began to cut at the hole. Then I would tip it all the way in.
I would then stop the saw, leaving the blade in the tire, and reposition myself behind the saw as shown in photo 2.
Cuts were then be made by pushing the saw from behind, working slowing and following the line marked previously. For cuts through the treads, tires were positioned so I could push the saw downward from above.
If you're going to try this, be aware that it takes much more physical effort than you may suspect. However, a little trial and error will show you the amount of force needed to cut through a tire.
Step 5: Remove the Beads
Using the technique outlined in the previous step, I removed the beads from all three tires.
Step 6: Tire Ball Assembly Diagram
Here are a couple of diagrams to show how I cut up the tires, and how they fit together.
The other tireballs I've seen started with one whole tire that had two half-tires fastened to it, and then four quarter-tires fastened to that.
I like this intersecting version because every visible section is a complete half-tire, which results in a tireball that is completely symmetrical-looking.
Step 7: Create a Template
Based on my assembly plan, I created a template on some scrap 1/4" MDF to use as a marking guide for where to make the needed cuts on all of the tires. See photo notes for details.
If you want to make your own tireball, it is important to make a precise plan and template like this to match the size and shape of the tires you're using.
Step 8: Cut Out Template . . . and a Have a Fun Side Project!
After laying out the template I began cutting it out with my trusty jigsaw.
But then my jigsaw died!
Of all the tools I figured I'd kill with this project, I did not suspect it would be this one . . . and while cutting out thin MDF, no less!
Rather than buy a new one, I did some research and ended up ordering a few internal parts to fix it myself. A week and a new speed governor and main switch later, I was back in business!
Step 9: Mark the Tires
With a can of spray paint and the template, I marked the areas on the tires that were to be removed.
Step 10: Make All the Cuts
Using the techniques outlined in step 4, I cut up the three tires as needed based on the diagrams in step 6.
Step 11: Finished Cuts
Here are the tires with all the necessary cuts completed.
Step 12: A Few Ruined Blades
I only went through six blades. Only six!
Step 13: Prepare Wooden Internal Supports
The tires were too floppy to hold themselves together as they were, and needed some kind of internal support. Wooden blocks and braces were made and attached to the tires, both to hold them rigid and also to provide something to screw the various parts to.
These supports were cut out of pieces of 2x4 and 2x8, to be added to the tires as shown in photo 1.
Step 14: Attach Support Blocks and Braces
The various blocks and braces were attached to the tires with 1 5/8" decking screws.
There was no need to predrill for these screws. They were screwed straight through the rubber and into the soft pine with no problem.
Step 15: Finished Tires
Here are the finished tires all ready to be assembled.
Step 16: Assemble Tires 1 and 2
I propped up tire #2 onto a pair of sawhorses, and dropped tire #1 into place. It fit just fine, but I added a couple of clamps to hold it in place while I snapped a photo and fetched some 2 1/2" screws.
See photo three for details on where the screws are fastened.
Step 17: Attach the Halves of Tire Number 3
Both halves of tire #3 were then screwed in place as well.
This took a little bit of acrobatics and maneuvering to get the drill in position for attaching screws inside of the tireball, especially for the final half of tire 3.
Step 18: That's It!
This was an interesting project and I learned a lot along the way.
I'd love to hear any thoughts or feedback on this project, especially if you have experience cutting up old tires . . . what tools did you use, how did it go, any tricks, etc.
Thanks for taking a look!
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