00 Chinese Balls

 with Jean-Claude Charpignon at the Escoulen School of Woodturning


Part I: Turning a sphere


The first step in making a Chinese Ball is to have a perfect sphere with which to work. Jean-Claude taught us a simple way of turning a very accurate ball by hand. It is the method taught by Plumier in the ‘Manual for Turners’ from 1749.

01 Manual for Turners thumb 02 Manual Illustrations thumb


We want to turn a sphere with a precise 65 mm diameter. The first step is to take your wood stock and turn it between centers into a cylinder with a precise 65 mm diameter. At this point you can leave this a little large, say 65.5 - 66 mm to allow for sanding. This cylinder is then cut to 67 mm long with nice precise square ends. A line is drawn around the cylinder in the precise center, or 33.5 mm from each end.

03 Center Line thumb


First chuck. You then need a simple wooden jam chuck, with a recess that is 90 mm in diameter and 30 mm deep. This recess is tapered a bit on the sides but must have a nice flat bottom.

04 Flat Bottom thumb


It is made to hold the cylinder you turned sideways. Jam it into the chuck so that the side of the cylinder hits the bottom of the recess.

05 Seated in Chuck thumb


Turn away everything down to the line you drew in the center. Be sure to use a sharp chisel and rub the bevel. I had at first tried to use a push cut that has served me well for doing bowls, where the flute is completely open/level and the handle horizontal. Even with bowls, this is a tough cut, as the slightest turn inside can cause a catch. With the uneven surface spinning around, I had my cylinders flying all across the workshop. Jean-Claude finally saw what I was trying and said the obvious - that was the wrong cut. Lower the handle way down, rub the bevel and cut with the leading edge of the gouge. With the correct cut, I had no more trouble.

06 Leading Edge thumb


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Thursday the 21st. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.