Introduction: Wood Ball Without a Lathe

Picture of Wood Ball Without a Lathe

I wanted to make a wood ball, but I didn't have a lathe or a fancy router jig. I decided I would carve one then sand it a lot to get the final shape. This is my first instructable so bear with me.

I know this wont be perfect but it doesn't require any fancy tools either.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

you will need.

-Some type of wood. I am using a honey locust branch.



-Sandpaper. (Up to 1500 grit gives it a nice shine even without finish)

-Some type of oil to finish it with, if you want it finished.

-Optional heat gun for finishing.

Step 2: Beginning Carving

Picture of Beginning Carving

On a scrap piece of wood make a cut into the wood, then carve a curve on one side of the cut. Cut the groove deeper, then recarve your curve.

This was just a test I did before I started so I wouldn't mess up on my ball. My dad had me go buy a Bowsaw for trimming, and I wanted to try it out in a project. So I decided to make a ball.

Step 3: Starting the Ball

Picture of Starting the Ball

To begin carving the ball draw guide lines on the branch the same distance apart as the branch itself. Then saw these guide lines down a little bit all the way around the branch. Start carving the curve of the ball on the insides of the lines. I just eyeballed it.

Step 4: Keep Carving

Picture of Keep Carving

Continue sawing and carving until you have it mostly round. Saw one side off and then start sanding that end while you still have a handle.

Step 5: Releasing the Ball

Picture of Releasing the Ball

After some sanding with a low grit. Around 80 or 100. Release the ball using the saw. After that, start sanding.

Step 6: Sanding, Sanding, Sanding.

Picture of Sanding, Sanding, Sanding.

The most important sanding in this process is the low grits, to actually get the desired round shape. After this just progress through the grits. I finished sanding with 1500 grit.

Step 7: Finishing.

Picture of Finishing.

Oil or some kind of finish will bring out the grain and give it a shine. I just used coconut oil because I absolutely love the smell.

(this is optional) I use my heat gun to heat up the wood and expand the pores in it. I then melt the coconut oil and let it seep into the wood. This makes the finish penetrate much deeper, and even after it loses some of its shine you can just work the ball in your hands a little to bring some of that oil back to the surface before you show it off again.

Again I know this isn't perfect or the only way to do it, but a lot of people don't have fancy tools so i thought i would see how it went.

Please vote for me in the "on a budget" contest.

Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below with thoughts or suggestions.


CHIEFGR8TWOLF (author)2016-10-10

Thanks Corinbw, for taking time to share these hints. This was just the inspiration I needed to start messing around in the shop again. I have few projects that I want to try to do within the next month for my piece of mind as gifts I drew plans for. some times the small and simple things bring on light bulb ideas. Hope to reference your project in my own instructable later. So I am making this a Favorited for future reference." Chief Gr8 T Wolf"

maurvz800 (author)2016-07-01

Seems labor intensive,but came out beautifly

tomdoff (author)2016-04-20

Brilliant little instructable, I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the weight and strength of such a ball? I've got an idea to make my own pool set with wooden balls.

MaryJaneOK (author)2015-08-30

This is exactly what I need for my current project. Other options were 1) ask my brother to make me one on his lathe (and hope he does it before one of us dies of old age or drive to craft store to but one. Neither was acceptable because I didn't make it. Thank you for a well thought out instructable. You qualify as an Inatructable Pro now!!

alba100 (author)2015-02-13

This is job you do for the journey, rather than the outcome.

No one could afford to buy this from you.

The tactile experience of handling something like this, knowing you have mad it with basic hand tools and sanded it to 1500, would be great.

I hope it becomes a family heirloom.

My only suggestion is that, if you want to enhance the grain further, you give it a couple of coats of Tung oil. in between coats give it a rub with 0000 steel wool, which is equivalent to about 2400 grit

Corinbw (author)alba1002015-02-14

thank you. I had no idea that the 0000 steel wool was actually that fine. I have been leaning away from using steel wool because I thought it couldn't be very fine.

alba100 (author)Corinbw2015-02-14

Be sure you use 0000 steel wool, you will get it in a hardware place, not a supermarket. steel wool comes in many grades, I think 0000 is the finest.

This grade of steel wool, is what French polishers use between coats of French polish to ensure a smooth surface for the next coat. A light rub is all it takes.

Corinbw (author)alba1002015-02-15

okay. Thanks guys. I have another question if anyone could answer. I want a finish that penetrates but then hardens,but i want it to be food safe, what should I use? Epoxy isn't food safe right.

dart70ca (author)Corinbw2015-05-26

You can use walnut oil, tung oil or flaxseed oil. These all penetrate and harden. Flaxseed takes many months to dry, but it is nut-allergy safe. You can blend them with beewax (recipes online) in a ratio that leaves you with a paste that you spread on your wood, let dry, then buff to a shine.

zapskate (author)2015-04-12

hey bro great job !!!

kylie.nay (author)2015-03-26

Great job Corin, it's fantastic! :)

dsantil71 (author)2015-02-25

That is really great.

shazni (author)2015-02-23

This is really nice :)

milesnorth (author)2015-02-22

Like the close up pics and the specifics of walking through it. NEAT!

Corinbw (author)milesnorth2015-02-23

thank you

Corinbw (author)2015-02-21

Thanks, thanks everyone for helping me get to the finalists spot in the on a budget contest. Thanks for the traffic and all the kind comments and ideas. I couldn't have done this without all you guys.

CJA3D (author)2015-02-21

Great ible,well done.Thats a lot of patiences ..

tarek004 (author)2015-02-19

loving your Aloe Vera little puppies, I'm growing my baby a few weeks now

Corinbw (author)tarek0042015-02-19

thanks. Haha yeah I thought it would make a good picture. :)

bpark1000 (author)2015-02-14

Here's a way to get the ball round after you have roughed it out. Get 2 pieces of steel pipe about 2/3rds the ball diameter (can be electrical conduit, or iron pipe). Cut the ends of the pipes square if not already. File teeth in one end of one of the pipes. Clamp one pipe (with smooth end) vertically in vice, and set the ball on top of it. While holding ball in place on pipe with fingers from side, place toothed pipe on top of ball, press pipe down on ball, rotate on its axis, and swing it around so it abrades all over the upper half of the ball. It will knock down the high spots, and leave the low spots untouched. Keep repositioning the ball on the lower pipe so you work all around the ball. A piece of thin rubber between the ball and lower pipe will help prevent the ball slipping. A glove on the holding hand will prevent getting your hand nicked by the cutting teeth. You can use a circular hole saw (the type used to drill holes in doors for lockset installation, or for drilling large conduit holes in sheet metal, that has a toothed blade all around) if the teeth are fine, and the center drill is removed, instead of the home-brew saw made from pipe. Do this by hand only for safety. The pipe can be covered with sandpaper for further polishing up.

Bowtie41 (author)bpark10002015-02-16

THAT is a great tip I've never heard of before!

bpark1000 (author)Bowtie412015-02-16

This scheme is used to grind out spherical optics. The cutter is a cup with diamond grit bonded to the edge. The cutter is spun on its axis, fast, open end down, the axis being canted. The optic being ground is facing up and rotating slow on its vertical axis. By varying the angle of the axis of the cup cutter, the radius of curvature of the optic can be changed. If the cutter's edge just crosses the optic at its center, no "blip" will form on the optic.

ohbejoyful (author)2015-02-15

Great idea.

Great communication style of instruction.

Wonderful pictures - they showed the process just right.

Thank you for this!

Corinbw (author)ohbejoyful2015-02-15

You are very welcome...Thank you for reading and enjoying the instructable.

jaybraxmaier (author)2015-02-15


sdodd jensen (author)2015-02-13

Go vote for family friend, Corin's Instructable.

Corinbw (author)sdodd jensen2015-02-14

Thank you...

annieannie (author)2015-02-13

what a meditative project to do!! This was a wonderful instructable thank you for sharing :)

T Bomber (author)2015-02-12

Pretty cool,man.I just started getting into wood carving last year so I can appreciate the work you put into that.Pretty fun though,right?I'm in the process of making myself some proper carving knives out of sawzall blades,including a hooked blade,that's how addicted I got just from trying to carve a fork when I needed one for lunch at work one day.

Quizicat (author)2015-02-12

I just cut up a cedar tree that was knocked over. I think I may try making a ball from it. You should try different woods. The different textures and grains would be interesting contrasts next to each other.

Corinbw (author)Quizicat2015-02-12

thanks for the idea. I think there is some cedar up the mountains by my house, maybe I'll try some of that and some other woods. Thanks for the idea.

Omarybob (author)2015-02-12

That was really cool! I might try it myself. Thanks for sharing

Corinbw (author)Omarybob2015-02-12

if you do try it, post a picture of how it turned out.

heavyweather (author)2015-02-12

Any idea how many hours went into this work of art?

I couldn't do this without tools.
Maybe you could have used a disk sander? Or use a swing sander that only moves in one direction and sands the ball in circles against some more sandpaper? That would be a really cheap jig but pretty much speed things up?
...see...I am that lazy ;)

Corinbw (author)heavyweather2015-02-12

I don't know how long it took me but I did it in one weekend. It didn't take as long as I thought it would.

CECILIASWARDROB (author)2015-02-12

This was a great instructable!

fixfireleo (author)2015-02-12

i'll take 100 of them. can you have them by next week? lol. great job. nice looking wood also.

ronald.ferreira.39 (author)2015-02-12

amasing very neat dremels i know my fathers friend built a 3 story house out of wood. and a dolphin very very smooth finish.

plantprof (author)2015-02-12

Great project and presentation! I will be looking forward to seeing what you carve next--a lost art it seems, and one that my dad taught me as a kid. But in this day and age of power tools, carving too often takes a back seat. Inspires me to get back to carving something again myself. Keep posting your projects!

reverbflange (author)2015-02-12

That is definitely impressive! You did a really good job with the finishing.

ozerob (author)2015-02-12

fantastic ! just shows that a great result just takes time and patience. it might go quicker on a lathe, but mistakes can happen mighty fast, too. whittling and sanding is way more satisfying, anyway.

robolimbo (author)2015-02-12

Great patience you do have! Nice locust sphere!

jlathem56 (author)2015-02-10

What a great project for your first instructable. I would be safe in saying that you learned more than just how to make a ball without express tools.

I will tell you like my best friend would have told me if I had made that, "Now that's using your head for more than a hat rack!"

I feel we have just seen the start of your imagination at work. I will add you to my favorites so I can come back and see what else you are doing.

oh & don't forget to give your dad a hug & let know how much you are glad he is in your life. Not everyone has or had a dad that took an interest in their kids like you have.

Corinbw (author)jlathem562015-02-12

Thanks for the great comment, I have a lot of ideas, and I will be posting more instructables soon. I don't live with my dad, however I will give him a huge hug next time I see him.

I talk to my dad a lot and he helps me with ideas about what I should make next, he is the best dad ever.

aa60 (author)2015-02-12


I too have added you to my favourites and look forward to seeing what other good ideas you come up with (include your Dad......he will love it)

WyldStyl3 (author)2015-02-12

This is a really cool little project!! I want to go make one now, lol.

crank_girl (author)2015-02-12

Nicely done! You may get wanna revise the order of some of your photos as I don't not think they are consistent with the steps you outline.

Corinbw (author)crank_girl2015-02-12

thank you for noticing. I'll have to keep that in mind.

ClenseYourPallet (author)2015-02-10

Very cool!! I love how it turned out. Great ible. Thanks

jiangswei (author)2015-02-10

I 服了 you

About This Instructable



Bio: I am currently on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in El Salvador. when i return i will continue ... More »
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