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Big Wooden Balls
June 8, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

One man's quest to craft big wooden balls.
posted by secretdark (49 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
This will truly be an epic game of Skee-ball.
posted by Fizz at 10:37 AM on June 8, 2012


BALLS.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:39 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The giant, polished orbs that result are a lot prettier than I initially thought they would be, especially where the piece of wood with which he started was too small for a complete sphere.
posted by fatbird at 10:40 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"For me, the size matters."
posted by drlith at 10:43 AM on June 8, 2012


Very cool. Dude could use a website. The only thing I could find to see more of his work is this video.
posted by gwint at 10:46 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Excellent video. I'm assuming the root-trunk is analogous to a burl, which would lower the chance of splitting along the grain.

He needs to wear eye protection ALL the time when wood chips fly.
posted by Tube at 10:48 AM on June 8, 2012


This is incredible art.
posted by 256 at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish there had been more about the process -- most of the film is him sitting and talking.

However, I need to repeat myself.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


His spirit animal must be Ron Swanson.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I really like his "yeah, this may seem kinda nutty but I really love it" attitude.
posted by orme at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this guy would make me a massive D20.
posted by xedrik at 10:53 AM on June 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yep. That feller made him some pretty damn big wooden balls.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:53 AM on June 8, 2012


Cool.

I appreciated how the filmmakers were able to provide enough detail about the process without relying on an explanatory voice-over. Just a few shots of the artist and the machine at work, edited together sensibly.

That said, I would like to know more about the technique -- how does the artisan manipulate his tools such that perfectly round (or nearly so) spheres result. Especially at that scale.
posted by notyou at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2012


And they're such big balls
fancy big balls
And he's got big balls,
And she's got big balls,
But we've got the biggest balls of them all!
posted by Eekacat at 10:56 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is cool. It made me think of Chris Burden's big things artworks (like the flying steamroller) when he was setting about making them.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:56 AM on June 8, 2012


People are weird.

That said, I want a big wooden ball.
posted by slogger at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is he going to sell them to Parisian sewer cleaners?
posted by kickingtheground at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jealous now.

how does the artisan manipulate his tools such that perfectly round (or nearly so) spheres result. Especially at that scale.

I guarantee you that there is a *lot* of hand finishing work going on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't tell if that's a dirty joke or a sound piece of woodworking advice.

...Huh huh he said "woodworking" DAMMIT!
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:01 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


how does the artisan manipulate his tools such that perfectly round (or nearly so) spheres result.

It looks to me like three things, all of them attached to the truck:

1. A rotating mount on which giant hunks of wood can be mounted and rotated.
2. An arm on a joint that rotates around the center point of whatever hunk of wood is mounted. So if the axis of rotation of the wood is X, and it's parallel to the axis of the truck because the rotating mount is off the back, then the axis of rotation for the joint, Y, is up and down, through the center of piece of wood rotating around X.
3. Mounted on the arm is a burr grinder (?); by spinning the arm from 2 around the Y axis, the head of the grinder moves in a (horizontal) circle around the wood, grinding away any part of the wood that comes into contact with it. What results is a roughly finished sphere.

From the finished pictures, it looks like a lot of polishing follows, but the mount/grinder mechanism (all serviced by a crane on the back of the truck) gets him about 98% of the way there, I'd say.
posted by fatbird at 11:02 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of this scary project I found yesterday.
posted by DU at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If only Pinocchio could get a hold of these, he'd be a real boy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I really like his "yeah, this may seem kinda nutty but I really love it" attitude.

I agree, these balls are totally nuts.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:05 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got big balls
I got big old balls
Big as grapefruits,
Big as pumpkins
Yes sir, yes sir.
And on my really good days
They swell to the size of small dogs

posted by The White Hat at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


3. Mounted on the arm is a burr grinder (?); by spinning the arm from 2 around the Y axis, the head of the grinder moves in a (horizontal) circle around the wood, grinding away any part of the wood that comes into contact with it. What results is a roughly finished sphere.
Oh, I see. Once he's decided on the finished radius, he works his way down to that.

Here's a video of a guy making a small metal sphere that illustrates it.
posted by notyou at 11:14 AM on June 8, 2012


Me too, I want one, they're gorgeous! Thanks for posting.
posted by mareli at 11:20 AM on June 8, 2012


I came in to make the Pinocchio joke, so I'll just bow out now, but those are cool balls!
posted by trip and a half at 11:41 AM on June 8, 2012


Back in the day (the day being when most of our great grandparents were kids) they used machines kind of like this only with a follower, so that it was half lathe and half machine that makes car keys at the hardware store to rough turn wooden lasts for shoe making, the stocks for guns, that sort of thing.

What I wonder is does he have a really big compass plane and cabinet scrapers somewhere or does the irregularity of the grain force him to use abrasives? For a project that big, it could be worthwhile to make a custom plane for each one you made.

You don't really need to listen to the whole spiel on how to sharpen a cabinet scraper - just watch him put a shiny finish on a piece of maple in the first 30 seconds and understand that it really is that quick.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2012


Those balls are beautiful, and I love wood. But dam, he's a sweety.
posted by Goofyy at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2012


These are really wonderful. I wonder how much they sell for - I can see an office or a big institution (hospital, city hall, etc.,) paying a fair chunk for one of these gorgeous things for an entryway.
posted by odinsdream at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those balls are beautiful, and I love wood.

I mean, I just... I just... STEADY, STEADY.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I want one. I love the ones with the imperfections in them, where the wood has rotted away. I wonder if it's possible to finish them enough where they could be used as a fountain?
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2012


I just emailed the artist, Keith, at the address on Vimeo to ask him if there is a place we can see more of his work. I let him know about the thread, maybe he'll drop by and answer questions.
posted by maxwelton at 12:38 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Never has the word 'amazeballs' been more appropriate.
posted by marginaliana at 12:41 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weird, my high-school garage band's name was Hippie Death Star. These are awesome. I'd love one.

These are exactly the kind of thing that are in an art shop in upcountry Maui that you stumble into in your shorts and after you've had an ice cream cone and look at them and think they're awesome and then see the $5000 price tag and think...hmmm...and then say goodbye to the proprietor that looks a distressing combination of hopeful, enthusiastic, bored and sad and then you have fantasies of winning the lottery.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:42 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know from art but I know what I like and I like this.
posted by rlk at 1:17 PM on June 8, 2012


>> I just emailed the artist, Keith, at the address on Vimeo to ask him if there is a place we can see more of his work. I let him know about the thread, maybe he'll drop by and answer questions.

I hope he appreciates all the 12 year old humor we have on display here regarding his art.
posted by erebora at 2:09 PM on June 8, 2012


I appreciate his burly balls and wish for a similar pair for my pants.....drawer.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:32 PM on June 8, 2012


This immediately made me think of Chris Burden, too, and then I flashed on an imaginary collaboration between the two resulting in WORLD'S LARGEST NEWTON'S CRADLE OMG but of course rotting wood would be a stupid thing to build the balls of a Newton's cradle from.....

Still.

This is fucking cool.

"The process IS the art."

Tell it, Keith.

I love giant machines put to seemingly frivolous uses. I love art involving power tools. I love art that explores methods and mechanisms, that is less about the result and more about the intricate steps taken to achieve it.

To put it simply: I love Keith's balls.

And if anyone has an empty swimming pool I can ruin, I have an idea involving a backhoe, a bulldozer, a cement mixer, and a buuuuuuuuunch of rebar that I'd like to discuss with you.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:00 PM on June 8, 2012


I would love to rub my hands over his balls. They seem like they are begging to be stroked. The feeling must be so silky. I'd like to hug one of his balls. There, I said it.
posted by Splunge at 4:08 PM on June 8, 2012


He's a wonderful crazy dreamer. I love that he sold a farm to be able to amass the equipment to do this. I'm guessing he had some interesting conversations with family and friends over that decision.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:47 PM on June 8, 2012


If Ewoks built their own Death Star.
posted by robotot at 6:15 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Needs more rope bridges.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:32 PM on June 8, 2012


Not many people remember the now obsolete other meaning of "wood" - "violently insane", which is probably a good thing for this guy.

I do like his art though.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:36 PM on June 8, 2012


Keith replied, and gave me permission to post this:

"At present, this is the only way to see my work (along with the YouTube vid that was mentioned in the dialogue). I tend to be a bit reclusive and really only sell work to private collectors by word of mouth. I keep a shop in western N. Carolina and one in Brooklyn (where I do studio visits). At present I am trying to link with venues, like public parks, with dead trees to try and create some projects."
posted by maxwelton at 8:14 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think eye protection would be a primary and basic investment when carving big wooden balls.
posted by bydand10 at 10:52 PM on June 8, 2012


I tend to be a bit reclusive and really only sell work to private collectors by word of mouth.

Don't worry, your miniscule online presence was enough for a herd of people to lecture/critique you on your use of safety equipment and the rest to make ball jokes. You're missing nothing.
posted by jscott at 1:04 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


World's Largest Bowling Pin, Tampa, Florida.
posted by cenoxo at 12:30 PM on June 9, 2012


What a fuel.
posted by hal9k at 6:04 PM on June 12, 2012


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