Turn A Perfect Wood Sphere Or Ball – No Expensive Jig

One project during a week long woodturning class a few years ago was a wood ball using a jamb chuck. I failed miserably to get the ball smooth. It ended up very rough and out of round. With this failure, I feared being able to make a good ball.
Since then, I’ve looked for a jig or a process to turn a perfect ball or sphere. I doubted I could do it myself. I looked at commercial jigs – expensive and plans for DIY jigs – difficult to make and potentially inaccurate.
More recently, I watch Dale Larson and Alan Lacer both turn perfect balls using only simple faceplates. Now I can do this.
Here’s the process I used:
1. Make two faceplates with small cup centers. I’ll make another video to describe these.
2. Turn a cylinder between centers a little longer than the target diameter of the ball.
3. Measure the cylinder diameter and transfer this to the side of the cylinder.
4. Mark the mid line of the cylinder.
5. Part down outside the end lines leaving only a small tenon on each side of the ball.
6. Round over the cylinder corners into an approximate ball shape.
7. Saw off the two end tenons.
8. Mount the two faceplates to the headstock and tailstock
9. Mount the ball between the two faceplates with the axis rotated 90 degrees. The mid line now runs across the ball from one faceplate to the other.
10. Carefully cut and/or scrape the ball to eliminate the ghost image on the back side of the ball as it rotates, making sure to leave the pencil line running from side to side.
11. Draw a new mid line.
12. Rotate the ball so that the new mid line runs from faceplate to faceplate.
13. Repeat step 10.
14. If I’ve cut too deeply, repeat steps 10 thru 12 until the ball is perfectly round.
15. Sand repeating steps 10 thru 12 using sandpaper instead of a cutting tool for each grit
16. Apply finish (I used beeswax and mineral oil) repeating steps 10 thru 12 using finish.
After a couple of balls, I could make another ball in very little time.
Success – my ball turning phobia is gone.
My next video will describe the faceplates for turning wood balls.
Another video will take the process to a new extreme.
Enter your email at & I’ll let you know when the next woodturning project video is ready.

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42 thoughts on “Turn A Perfect Wood Sphere Or Ball – No Expensive Jig”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I am going to try and turn the perfect ball. Mine aren't round at all! You make it all look so easy:)

  2. Excellent spheres, I agree commercial jigs are not worth the cost unless you turn spheres all the time and you also miss out on a skill of doing them the old way.

  3. Or … Buy a spare plane blade, mark out the desired radius,… grind it out… sharpen it to return you the exact replica of a cabinet scraper tool. Yes ? No ?

  4. My woodturning club challenge this month is a sphere on a stand. I will be putting this to use. Thanks for the tutorial.

  5. Hiya! I’m just wondering well i found this ball it was okay but shiny and a few scrapes so i re varnished it and everything now I’m wondering how much i could sell it for…!

  6. I think the headline is a bit misleading. What if you have only hand tools? That machine looks pretty expensive to me.

  7. Too much work. All you need is a lathe and cup bit locked in a drill press. Take out the center bit of the cup, and very slowly drill as tge the lathe spins. Two tools, one move.

  8. totally excellent demo vid. wood balls would be perfect for my 18m old grandson to play with over xmas. whats a safe finish for babies sticking everything in their mouths?

  9. I saw a Spanish Guy on YouTube all he did was place a pillar drill over his lathe with a hole cutter fitted, he turned on the lathe and the lowered the pillar drill down onto the wood by gentle lowering the pillar drill he cut out the perfect ball, it was as easy as that! Perhaps my friend you might try it and film it! Just a thought! Take care & thanks for your work its stunning

  10. Great video, made it look very easy, I'm starting in lathe art, wooden balls is a passion, I soon want to be doing like you. Have you ever used the technique using light shadow?
    Thank you from Brazil

  11. You make it look so easy. Right now I am terrified to try making spheres. Maybe someday will get over that. 😛 – Heidi

  12. please try to make a GOOD KENDAMA, not one of the ones that lots of people make that have horrible proportions, or miss one of the lips, so on.

    A kendama is what my picture is….

  13. Thank you for this video, I tried it myself and was very happy with the results! I tried it on a waste block of pine just to try it out, but it worked very well for me:



  14. but expensive and highly artificial machines and materials you use. expensive jig. not createable or investable for natives like me.

  15. Warping isn't a problem as much as uneven shrinkage and eventual cracking is. Wax those babies up and throw them in a dark drawer and leave them there for a couple of years.


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