Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Kettlebell
Recently I started exercising with a Kettlebell and my son said it looked like fun and wanted to try working out with me. But the kettlebell I was using was too heavy for him. So I took to the internet and searched up small kettlebells and quickly realized that the smallest kettlebell they make is 5 lbs. Which I thought might work for him but I was hoping to find something smaller maybe something around 2 or 3 lbs just to start him off. I wanted him to easy in to the workout and not get burned out and quit because it was too hard. I really just wanted something for him that had a little weight that he could use to go through the motions with and get the feel for the kettlebell exercises. Eventually I gave up on my quest to find a light weight kettlebell they were either too expensive or out of stock.
Then one night while discussing this with my wife she said the 7 magic words, "why don't you just make him one". After first I thought about using concrete but I thought getting the weight right would be tricky and I would have to make a mold of some sort. I thought about using some plastic casting resin but again getting the weight just right would be difficult and I would have to make a mold of some sort and it would be expensive. Then while cleaning up my wood storage the idea hit me, on the foot, a piece of plywood fell on my foot. I figured I could try and make it out of wood. I had a lot of plywood off cuts that I could laminate together and maybe turn on my mini wood lathe. So I decided to give it a try.
7 lbs. of Plywood
Mini Wood Lathe
Various Grits Sandpaper
1/2 Drill bit
1-3/8" Forstner Bit
1-3/8" Hole Saw
5 Minute Epoxy
I used 1/2" inch plywood off cuts for this build, I also used two pieces of a 3/4 inch pine board. I wanted to try and make the kettle, the actual bulbous portion about 6 inches in diameter. So I ripped the plywood in to 6-1/4 inch pieces.
I then cross cut each piece to 9-1/4" inches. I chose this height because I was using my kettlebell as a reference and it was about 9 inches tall. Once all the pieces were cut I tried to stack them in repeating pattern and glued them together. I clamped them and let them dry over night.
When the glue dried I took the piece to my table saw to flush up the ends. The boards shifted during glue up so I had to trim each end flat. At the point I decided to weigh the wood blank to see what I was starting with, it weighed 6 lbs. 12-3/8 oz. My goal was to end up with a final weight of 3lbs.
Next I marked the center of the wood blank and center punched the block. At this point I figured it would be a good idea to trim off the corners of the blank to make the turning a little easier. So I measured and marked the corners I would be removing.
I used my table saw to cut off the corners. I weighed the block again and it was now at 5 lbs. 10-1/2 oz.
In order to turn the wood blank on my lathe I first had to drill a 5/16 inch hole so that I can mount it on my Wooodworm screw. With the hole drilled I mounted the piece in my lathe using the Woodworm screw and a live center. I also made sure to turn down the speed of the lathe to its lowest setting. This is my first time turning something this big on my mini wood lathe I didn't want the lathe to flip over on me. Did I mention I'm new to turning.
I kind of had a plan going in to this, but not really I knew I first had to make the whole thing in to a cylinder. This was my first time turning plywood so I wasn't sure how it would go. I half expected it to come flying apart.
I made a few pencil marks to give me an idea of where I wanted to add my contours. I was just sort of winging it here and going with what looked about right. I first isolated the lower portion of the kettlebell and rounded it off. Then I shaped the top handle portion. I wanted it to have a sort of "V" shape to it so I cut a steep angle in the top portion. Once I was happy with the rough shape of everything I sanded the entire piece up to 400 grit.
I used my belt sander to clean up the bottom of the kettlebell. And I weighed it to see where I stood, it weighed 3 lbs. 6-3/8 oz. I was little worried at this point because I didn't expect it to have lost so much weight. But I forged ahead anyways.
Now it was time to cut out the handle. I measured off of the center mark and made some parallel lines which I extended down the sides for reference. Then using my bandsaw I cut the two slots lengthwise and then made the cross cut to reveal the handle.
I chucked the piece back in the lathe, I thought I would be able to clean up the sphere portion but I was not able to at least not with the lathe tools. I had to use a handsaw and chisels to round off and clean up the shape.
The rounded areas needed to be touched up so I used my palm sander and some 220 grit sanding pads to clean up the shape. I sanded it up to 400 grit. Next it was time to tackle the handle portion. I drew what I thought looked about right for the handle shape and drilled a couple of 1/2 inch holes for my jigsaw blade.
I weighed the piece before cutting out the handle section and we were already down to 2lbs. 3/8 oz. This was awkward to cut out using a jigsaw. I may have been better off using a coping saw but I managed to cut out a very rough shape of a handle.
After cutting out the handle I weighed the piece again and we were at 1lb. 14-1/2 oz. I used a variety of rasps and hand files as well as sandpaper to refine the handle shape. Being able to clamp the piece in a vice was very handy as it made for removing material a lot easier.
Unfortunately the piece had lost too much weight and I decided that I could add some weight back in the form of BBs but I had to make room for them. I decided to drill a 1-3/8 inch diameter hole in the bottom of the kettlebell to add the BBs. There was some trial and error here because the more wood you remove the more BBs you have to add. So there was a lot of drilling and filling with BBs and testing out the weight. Eventually I got to a good depth that would hold enough BBs to bring the weight back up to 2 lbs. 8oz. which I felt was a good weight.
I used a hole saw to cut out a wooden plug for the hole at the bottom of the kettlebell from some scrap plywood. The plug was slightly undersized but the epoxy would hold it in place and fill any gaps.
Next I mixed up a small batch of 5 minute epoxy and BBs and poured it in to the hole in the bottom of the kettlebell. I then mixed up another small batch of epoxy and BBs and poured that in to the hole. I did it in small batches because 5 minute epoxy sets up fast. Once I got close to the top of the hole I weighed the kettlebell to see how close I was to my target weight. I removed a few of the BBs because I was a little over my target weight. Once I was close enough to the target weight I coated the bottom and sides of the wooden plug and set it in place to dry for a couple of hours.
Once the epoxy was dry I sanded the bottom and added a few coats of spray on shellac. The final weight was 2lbs. 8-1/4 oz. which was good enough for me.
This was a fun project and turned out way better than I expected; I really like the way the exposed plywood edges look in the final form. I'm going to have to use this for a few of my workouts and see if I need to clean up or round off the handle some more, at the moment it feels a little blocky but we will see. Most importantly though my son really likes it, especially its size as its about the same size as daddy's kettlebell. Thanks for reading.
First Prize in the
Exercise Speed Challenge