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Shortly after I started turning wood I discovered a number of online woodturning forums where over the years I have received a lot of good information about wood, turning tools and techniques.  The various forums have been invaluable resources in my woodturning endeavors.  Seeing all of the various projects posted by other turners also provides inspiration so that any turner can find something new to turn.

Sometimes that inspiration comes in the form of a challenge.  One of my favorite woodturning websites is Woodturners Unlimited.  It is a very friendly little site where I have made many friends and it offers several innovative features not generally seen on other sites.  Among those are a formal critique process, member generated articles, member profiles and quarterly turning challenges to test and improve the skills of even the most accomplished turner.

Recently, Curt Fuller, an internet friend from Utah, issued a challenge to the Woodturners Unlimited membership to turn a kendama during the fall of 2015. Curt thought that turning the various parts of the kendama would offer a turning challenge; particularly figuring out how to hold the wood while turning various features.

What the heck is a kendama you ask? 

A kendama, written in Japanese as けん玉, is a traditional Japanese toy consisting of three turned wood parts; the ball, the stick and the dishes which when assembled make up the toy. The kendama has very specific names for its various parts as illustrated here. 

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To give you an idea of the possibilities of this toy after a little practice here is a link to some Kendama “ninjas”. After you turn your own kendama and practice for a while I am sure you will amaze friends and family with your skill? More about that later.


A kendama is three pieces of turned wood, two of which jam fit together with the third piece connected by a string.

For best appearance, unless you are going to paint the parts, all of the pieces should be turned from a single stick of wood so that the pieces will match in color and grain.  Any piece of hardwood about 2 ¾” square and 15” long is large enough for the three parts; the stick (ken), the ball (tama) and the dishes (sarado). I started with a stick of walnut this size and cut it into three pieces and then re-sawed two of the pieces to reduce the amount of wood that had to be wasted off on the lathe.

I cut my blank into three pieces: Ball (Tama) - 4 ¼” long X 2 ¾” square

                                              Stick (Ken) - 7 ½” long X 2” square

                                              Dishes (Sarado) - 3” long X 2” square

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All of the pieces are slightly oversized to allow for tenons where necessary and to clean up/square up the ends as needed. Sizing for the turning blanks was determined by this measured drawing provided by Woodturners Unlimited member Patrick Curmi. 

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Wednesday the 21st. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.