Shop Jigs / Fixtures #1: The Bowling Ball Vise- my shop must have

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Chris posted 06-19-2015 04:17 AM 3737 reads 4 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shop Jigs / Fixtures series no next part

I had been wanting a Bowling Ball Vise for quite some time but couldn’t find a ball that was readily available.

I sent out some emails to some old friends; a few of them paid off. One of my friends responded with a phone call, “You are not going to believe this. I actually found one in a wooded area this past week while out walking through the woods.” Oh boy, the perfect opportunity to mess with him and I took it. I responded, “Oh really, that’s weird. I knew somehow that you had found one, that’s why I emailed you”.

He replied, “How did you know?” To which I responded, “I had a dream that you had come across a bowling ball while out in the woods. I didn’t really know why, but that you had. That is why I emailed you. I am needing one for a project.”“

Gave him a little time to soak on it….the phone fell dead. After he regained his composure….

As funny as the story was, I couldn’t even use the ball for it had a significant crack.

In the meanwhile, one of my other emails had rounded up a ball which was parked inside a friend’s closet collecting dust. Now I had this 12 pound bowling ball in hand and was attempting to convince it, that it needed to lose a portion of it’s sphere.

I thought -
-horizontal metal cutting bandsaw
-reciprocating sawzall with a long blade
-building a square box, inserting ball and then filling with expanding foam spray to hold ball securely while I cut it
-And a few more.

Woodworking bandsaw it was: A 3/8”, 14tpi blade on the 14” saw cut off a section of the ball without any issues at all. Just approached it very carefully and methodically. It worked fine. Advanced slowly and easily, cut it really well and with great ease.

After sanding flat…just drilled and tapped holes for my vise.

Made this ‘thinga-ma-jig’ of a base. The rubber pieces provide just the right amount of friction needed to hold the ball when its off-center. It’s ugly but it works and serves me fine.

Nice vise to keep around. I really like the way it turned out. Solid for the caliber of work it shall see and enough mass to absorb blows from embellishing hammer.

-- Chris Harrell - custom callmaker ---

7 comments so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3499 days

#1 posted 06-19-2015 10:43 AM

Wait, what? How in the world did you come up with this? Who woulda thunk that a bowling ball could be used like this? You must be some sort of maniacal mad-scientist genius!

And wouldn’t you know … I GAVE AWAY two bowling balls when we were moving here 2 years ago. So now I’m probably gonna hafta go find me another one!

GENIUS I tell ya, GENIUS !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Chris's profile


457 posts in 5578 days

#2 posted 06-19-2015 09:08 PM

Nigh Joe, I’m not the genuis on this one. I didn’t come up with this, can’t take the credit here in that regards, lol. These have actually become quite common amongst custom jewelers, knife makers and makers of musical instruments. Although some use a variation on the theme, they all essentially use the bowling ball as the critical element of the vise contraption.

I think the original idea probably germinated from someone viewing a piece of equipment in the yesteryear which used a metal/synthetic ball for the pivotal point of said equipment. Once we walked down this vein, it just kept being modified until we landed here. Just my guess. I really not know. I’ve never really researched it although I think I might now. Sounds like an interesting ‘dig’. Let me know if you ever stumble upon any information containing the history and I’ll do likewise.

I ran across the idea online several years ago and just tucked it away until recently. These are really, really handy to have if one ever works on engraving, etching, embellishing of smaller projects/parts. I had been needing some form of a vise for years to hold some of my smaller workings up in the air – off the bench top several inches. I just never came up with anything that really suited my tastings. I had tried my hand at various contraptions which never quite worked out.

You see what I really had been needing was something that could withstand tapping from a small hammer while part was being held. The bowling ball works perfect for that in that the mass of the ball absorbs that kinetic energy.

During that time frame, I had been searching online for some ideas from which to build from. I ran across the bowling ball vise and it was truly love at first sight- I KNEW it would fit the bill perfectly. And it has.

Here are some other variations on the theme:

-- Chris Harrell - custom callmaker ---

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 4182 days

#3 posted 06-20-2015 12:41 AM

That is a great shop made variation of a “Graver’s Vise” used in silver engraving. Very innovative. Graver’s vises are very pricey.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Chris's profile


457 posts in 5578 days

#4 posted 06-20-2015 06:23 AM

Yes they are…one of the reasons I decided to make a variation of them. I love techno and gadgetry but honestly I actually prefer handmade counterparts within reason. They’re fun to think up, design and to make. Plus, bring me a smile every time I use them…”I made it”

-- Chris Harrell - custom callmaker ---

View CFrye's profile


11487 posts in 3331 days

#5 posted 06-20-2015 09:09 PM

Very interesting! I happen to know where a bowling ball is that I’ve been wondering what to do with. Added this to favorites. Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View Chris's profile


457 posts in 5578 days

#6 posted 06-21-2015 01:50 AM

CFrye- you are welcome. You can cut them on a woodworker’s bandsaw fitted with a fine tooth blade, if you take your time. I didn’t have any issues with it wanting to roll on me. Just took my time and had firm grip (both sides) while advancing. No issues.

-- Chris Harrell - custom callmaker ---

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5140 days

#7 posted 08-18-2015 02:23 AM

pretty cool

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics