Introduction: Bowling Ball Wood Carving Vise

About: I'm just a guy that likes to make stuff.

This is a fully adjustable wood carving vise made to hold wooden workpieces securely in any position.

I made it mostly as an experiment because I thought some kind of vise-like apparatus would be useful for power and hand carving. But it ended up working a lot better than I had expected!

The bowling ball is nested in a bed of concrete and pivots in all directions. It is locked in place by clamping the lid down with a heavy-duty toggle latch clamp.

It's ridiculously heavy and definitely not mobile. I suspect it weighs 200 to 300 pounds, but I really don't know. It takes all my effort to push, pull and drag it around my shop. But I can put a small log in this at 45 degrees and go to town on it with a chainsaw or angle grinder and it doesn't move.

The following steps outline how it was made.

Step 1: Materials

This could be made any number of ways, however I used the following items:

  • an old pine table top
  • a section of old hardwood butcher block countertop
  • an old bowling ball
  • scrap metal pipe and piece of 1/4" steel plate
  • heavy duty toggle latch clamp
  • heavy duty gate hinges
  • lag screws

Step 2: Build a Sturdy Box

I started by cutting up an old pine table top to make a sturdy wooden box. A couple of pieces had to be glued together to make a panel for the bottom.

All of the pieces are glued and screwed together into pilot holes.

The interior of the box is 17.25" by 17.25" and 9" deep

The top lid piece was made from a piece of hardwood butcher block countertop. It was cut to size to match the box and set aside for now.

Step 3: Support the Bowling Ball

This metal pipe was from an old trailer jack. It has a diameter of 1 5/8" with a threaded nut attached into one end.

I cut a 4-inch long piece from the end with the threaded captive nut, and positioned it in the middle bottom of the box.

I used a lag screw and a washer to fasten the pipe to the box into a pilot hole, through the nut on the bottom end (see last photo).

Any other way to securely fasten a piece of scrap pipe to the bottom center of the box could be used.

The bowling ball was set on the pipe and pieces of Gorilla Tape were used to hold the ball firmly against the pipe.

Some shims were added under the box to make it level on my sloped garage floor.

Step 4: Mix Up Some Concrete, Fill the Box

I happened to have a supply of all the ingredients to make my own concrete from scratch, so this is what I did.

I used a 4:2:1 ratio of aggregate (small crushed gravel), sand, and cement.

The concrete mix was scooped into the box being careful to not disrupt the taped ball and knock it out of position.

I ended up having to mix a smaller second batch of concrete to get up to the halfway point on the bowling ball.

After a couple of hours, a lot of water had pooled up so I gently sopped up most of it with a rag and used a small trowel to smooth the top of the concrete, then left the box of concrete to cure.

Step 5: Let It Cure

After about a week I grabbed the bowling ball and with a little tug it popped right out. I cleaned up the ball as well as the box.

I pushed the box into the corner of my garage and left it alone for another few weeks.

Step 6: Make the Metal Post

The remaining piece of metal pipe that I used to prop up the ball earlier was about 16" long. I took a 5" by 4" piece of scrap 1/4" steel and welded this to the end of the pipe, and then drilled 1/4" holes in the corners.

Step 7: Bore a Hole in the Bowling Ball

This step is the hardest and messiest, and while I eventually got it done with the tools I had, a core drill bit would have probably worked a lot better than my hacky approach.

I started by drilling a 1/4" hole with a standard drill bit as deep as I could go.

Then I switched to a 1 3/4" hole saw and used this to go as deep as possible.

After this I used a 1 1/2" spade bit to spin and chip out the middle section. This is wild and messy and shoots hard bits of resin all around at high speed. If you try this, make sure there are no other people around, wear all the protective eye and face gear, and hang on tight. (Perhaps a forstner bit would have worked better, but I didn't have a big enough one.)

I then went back and forth between the hole saw and spade bit boring deeper each time, until the hole was about 3 inches deep.

The next smaller hole saw size was then used to make the outer circular groove showing in the last photo wide enough to fit the pipe, so it would settle down further into the hole.

Step 8: Epoxy Time

I mixed up about an ounce total of common 2-part epoxy and poured this into the groove at the bottom of the bored hole shown in the last step, and pushed the pipe into place.

I then shoved three popsicle sticks into the gap around the pipe to both center it in the hole and tightly wedge it into place while the epoxy cured. The protruding ends were cut off and the inside bits left in place.

I then mixed up some 2-part epoxy putty and shoved this into the gaps around the pipe as much as possible, and then formed a fillet around the pipe where it entered the ball with the remaining putty.

Step 9: Wooden Lid

This part required a little trial and error, and you will likely need to do the same to fiddle around and land at the right fit depending on the position of your bowling ball.

A circle was marked in the center of the butcher block piece mentioned earlier.

A gap was cut on the band saw to reach the center hole, and then the table adjusted to 25 degrees. This gap was cut inline with the grain and the board will be positioned on the box so the clamping pressure will be against the grain for strength.

The board was slid onto the band saw table from right to left, so the angled blade was properly lined up to begin the angled circular cut.

After the initial cut I had to make the hole a little bigger, and then a little bigger again, until it mated against the bowling ball with just a small amount of gap remaining that prevented the lid from sitting flush on top of the box.

This is critical - if the hole is too big you can't clamp down on the bowling ball!

Step 10: Attach Hinges, Then Toggle Clamp

Two heavy duty gate hinges were attached to the back side of the box using lag screws fastened into pilot holes.

The lid is then placed on top and settled down against the bowling ball.

The upper halves of the hinges are now attached in the same matter as the bottom using lag screws fastened into drilled pilot holes. Doing it this in order ensures the lid stays locked into position directly nested over the bowling ball as needed.

The front toggle latch clamp is now added using lag screws. The latch has nuts that can be threaded up or down and locked in place to adjust the pressure applied by the clamp.

I may add some handles at some point. As is, it's really hard to move around - but that's acceptable because it works so well for what I wanted.

Step 11: Use It

My first project using this vise was my Grim Reaper carving.

Thanks for checking this out. If you use this instructable to make something similar, please let me know!