Introduction: Building a Giant Baseball Chair (from 2x4s)
It's that time of the year and baseball is back this week!! The grass is finally turning green again and what better way to celebrate than by building a giant 3' diameter baseball, Jackman style. Other than the bats and conduit, this chair is built entirely from pine 2x4s (and a little bit of wood glue, per usual). The two halves are basically just massive segmented bowls that I carved down to shape using the TurboPlane and then added laces to it using the Power Chisel, both from Arbortech. The disks were also laminated from 2x4s and were used to cap off the top of the domes. The seat was dished out, just like any classic piece of furniture... Then lastly, the baseball bats (t-ball bats actually, shhh) were threaded with a tap and die set and then screwed into place as a couple of arms and also a couple of supports for the back. The back is held in place with some black iron pipes inserted through the base and then the arms are held in by being thread into the back and supported in the front with conduit. The whole thing is finished with lacquer.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
- (24) 8' long 2x4s
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/2pOZB6y
- Washer head screws https://amzn.to/2uqyG6I
- Blue tape https://amzn.to/2J4dsPa
- Black iron pipe (to hold on back)
- Electrical conduit
- T-ball bats https://amzn.to/2GjU5Qt
- Red paint for laces
- Lacquer finish https://amzn.to/2uyHIye
- Arbortech Turbo Plane http://bit.ly/2upf82w
- Arbortech Contour Sander http://bit.ly/2pDVs5g
- Arbortech Power Chisel http://bit.ly/2I4hBBv
- Miter Set angle setup block http://miterset.myshopify.com?aff=30
- ISOtunes bluetooth hearing protection http://bit.ly/2uIsq7M
- Wood rule https://amzn.to/2uvg5pW
- Glue brush https://amzn.to/2IbvUnD
- Band clamp https://amzn.to/2uyEmf0
- Jointing sled http://amzn.to/2qtonYV
- Pipe clamps https://amzn.to/2pSSICb
- Glue scraper https://amzn.to/2pSSYRF
- Angle grinder https://amzn.to/2pPUrHg
- Fence clamps https://amzn.to/2IciFDg
- Belt sander https://amzn.to/2uBIRFF
- Palm router https://amzn.to/2E3Nh7p
- Random orbital sander https://amzn.to/2uzdWcG
- Forstner bits https://amzn.to/2Gn4aMf
- 1" wood tap and die set https://amzn.to/2I9aAz2
Step 2: Sizing the 2x4s for Segmented Rings
This build starts at the table saw with a handful of 2x4s, 28 of them to be exact. I rip down the rounded edge on the table saw to remove it. Also, some of the rings for the giant segmented bowl don't need to be the full width, so I rip some of these in half based on measurements I pulled from my sketches.
I have a spreadsheet that I use to determine the length of the segments that make up the ring. With this I can punch in the number of pieces in the ring and the diameter of the ring and it will spit out the length of the piece I need. I transfer that measurement to the 2x4 for each ring.
A sub-fence is clamped to the fence of the table saw to allow for repetitive cuts and also to keep the pieces from getting stuck between the blade and the fence. My miter gauge is set to 9 degrees since the rings all have 20 segments and then I just cut a ton of little pieces from longer pieces (aka "woodworking").
Step 3: Gluing the Rings
I carefully keep each of the ring segments organized while I cut them (13 rings total for each dome). They are simply glued together with wood glue that I apply with a silicone brush to both ends of each segment.
Then with glue on all of the piece, I use a band clamp to pull all of the pieces tightly together into a ring and set it aside to dry. Seems easy enough, just need to turn all those segments in the background into rings.
It's all worth it in the end though...
Step 4: Sizing 2x4s for the Disks
Almost half of the material is used to make a couple of giant 3' diameter disks to cap off the 2 domes. These are also laminated up from the 2x4 material, so I cut those down to lengths to fit the circle based on my drawings.
The pieces for the disks will be laminated together along the length so I need them to have a really straight edge. I run them through the table saw using my jointing sled and then cut them down to width using the regular fence with the new straight edge as a reference. This also takes off the rounded edge in the process.
Step 5: Disk Glue-up
I use my biscuit joiner to cut a slot in the center of all the pieces to help with alignment of the middle of the boards during the glue-up. Then I just apply glue to all of the edges, insert the biscuits, and clamp everything tight (which is probably easier said than done).
The pipe clamps pull all of the joints tight, but since they're 2x4s they are far from perfect so I use screw clamps at each of the joints along the edge to make sure that the surfaces are even with one another. This is achieved in the center thanks to the biscuits.
Step 6: Cutting the Disk to Size and Rough Layout of Rings
With that glue-up dry, I use a nail in the center of the circle along with a string to make my own giant compass and I trace a circle out that is 3' in diameter.
Both of these disks are cut down to size on the bandsaw. I also do the same things for a couple of smaller disks that will cap the domes off on the opposite side.
Then with all of the glue dry, the pieces can be removed from the clamps and I get to see it start to come to shape for the first time. It looks like a baseball! Two me at least...
Step 7: Sanding the Segmented Rings and Assemblying
Now these rings were larger than anything I could flatten in any reasonable way, but I'm lucky to have some really great friends, so I hopped over to my buddies shop to sand down the surfaces of all of the rings smooth and remove the glue to prepare for the next glue lamination using his open ended drum sander.
Upon returning home, it's time for yet another glue-up, something I find myself saying a lot more than I should. It's just a matter of spreading glue on each ring and stacking them up in the right order. You can see the thinner rings here where it is less steep of a curve and then the rings get thicker as you get higher up in the dome.
The best way I could find to clamp this monster up was by clamping it over my bench. I used a 2x4 on edge as a stretcher across the bench and then used a pipe clamp on either side to put the squeeze on it.
I actually ended up using these as a live power carving demo piece, so basically as soon as the glue was dry, I loaded them up in the Element and trucked them off to New Jersey, because that's where power carving happens I guess.
Step 8: Power Carving
To shape the dome, I just used my Arbortech Turbo Plane attachment. The lines from the segmented rings acted as general guides for the shape and I just free handed it from there.
Rough shaping was done by moving the Turbo Plane across the grain until I had the rough dome shape and then the final shape was done by carving along with the grain leaving behind a much nicer surface.
The top of the dome is carved to shape and then I flip it over to it's other side and attach the disk with some screws. This disk is what I cut down to a circle earlier and I use that as a guide to shape the bottom part of the dome and just carve the material up to that point.
Then for some reason that can't be explained, I came down with the urge to make sawdust angels..... and it turns out that this was all just a dream. OR WAS IT?!
Step 9: Sanding and Final Shaping
Anyway, with the domes back in the shop, I sand them down smooth first by using the belt sander. The Turbo Plane leaves behind a little bit of a texture still (especially with something soft like pine) but for this project I wanted baby butt smooth surface on the ball, the baseball.
The belt sander brings down the bulk of it and then I sand through the grits with the random orbital sander to bring it down smooth the rest of the way. Then the edge of the disk part of each of the domes is rounded over using the router with a round-over bit.
Step 10: Dishing Out the Seat
The bottom half of the dome has a flat bottom, but it also has a flat top that I want to carve out for my bottom... Anyway, I draw a line down the center to help align the shape and then sit on it to determine how far back I sit that is comfortable and actually free-hand the curve until it looks right.
I get the Turbo Plane in my grinder again and go to town carving out the seat. The curved line that I drew the shape of my butt acts as the limit of my cut along with the center line, or the crotch line.
Then it's just a matter of dishing it out, starting at the center of each butt cheek and working my way out to the edge. I was aiming for the finished thickness of the thinnest part to stay at about 1/2".
The random orbital sander can be used to sand down the contour of the butt scoop and then I can reinstall the screws in place tightening everything up again.
Step 11: Carving Out the Laces
It looks like a sphere, but it's not a baseball with out the laces! It's trickier to draw the laces on a giant baseball than you might think. Actually, I thought it would be stupid difficult and it was so it's probably just as hard as you can imagine. I made some rough measurements and then drew out the lines with tape and adjusted it until it looked perfect.
For the laces themselves, I made a guide from boxboard with a couple of offset laces at an angle and traced those out every 4 inches. You'll see later I actually ended up sub-dividing these and doubling up the number of laces because it didn't look basebally enough.
To carve out the laces I used Arbortech's Power Chisel, it's a vibrating chisel tip attached to an angle grinder body. It makes quick work of the laces with the large rounded chisel in it. The grain is pretty soft so I just have to go at it from both sides a little bit at a time until I reach a consistent depth.
These are a negative version of the laces that are concave instead of convex, so I spray them with red spray paint to cover them, wait for it to dry, scrape off the excess, and then sand off the rest to leave the color behind just in the laces.
Step 12: Installing the Back
To install the top dome that is the back side of the chair, I orient the back leaning on my bench until it is at what feels like the right angle and then save than angle with my angle finder, it's the right angle, but not a right angle. Angle puns!
The top is held in place with a couple of pipes. I drill a hole into the disk of the back of the chair using a forstner bit in the hand drill and then mark out the location on the seat to drill for the receiving holes. These holes are then drilled out in the same way and the top slips down into place.
Step 13: Installing the Arms
Apparently used wood baseball bats are pretty hard to come by, or at least I'm just too early in the season for that. I searched around because I just wanted something that was super beat up, but couldn't find the right thing. I finally came across these wood t-ball bats that were perfect though! I wanted a 1" end to thread and these were the perfect size. I cut the knob off the end and thread them with my wood tap and die set.
I then drill receiving holes in the back of the chair and tap the holes, then I can thread the baseball bats in place and I have baseball bat arms for my chair!
They were surprisingly strong as is, but I don't trust people to be smart enough to not sit on the bats so I drilled out the seat and the bottom of the bat to receive a piece of conduit. The holes I drilled for this were tight so this actually helped a lot to pull the chair together structurally as well.
Step 14: Applying Finish
The chair is quite back-heavy thanks to the shape, so I threaded a couple of other bats into the back to act as back legs (real baseball for scale).
Then the chair is pulled apart and finish is applied. I used lacquer because I wanted to keep the ball as light colored as possible and the lacquer ended up giving it a really cool look of weathered leather. Now it's always important to lock your eye contact during finish application or it may not adhere properly, that's always in the fine print on the can that you don't read.
Step 15: Glamour Shots!
Now off to the ball field for some glamour shots of coarse!
Thanks for checking out the build! For the full experience don't miss the full build video (seriously). Play ball!
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