STEFANG'S CHINESE BALL QUEST #3: The Big Chuck Challenge

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Blog entry by stefang posted 02-07-2012 08:14 PM 9981 reads 4 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Some Tool Details and My Ball Cutting Jig Part 3 of STEFANG'S CHINESE BALL QUEST series Part 4: Making a Wooden Ball - part 1 »

Here is what I’m trying to make.

Essential to this type of work is a chuck to hold the blank ball for drilling the 22 holes at different locations and to hold it in various positions for the turning of the 4 internal balls.

The outside dimensions of the chuck are flexible as long as there is enough ‘meat’ around it to hold a faceplate or to accommodate whatever other way you might want to hold the chuck onto the lathe with, and also for the screws which hold the collar in place to lock the ball securely into the chuck.

This blog will be somewhat tutorial because I have made a better chuck than the one recommended in the book ‘Woodturning Wizadry’, and this might help out someone else doing this project.

This is my third chuck. The first one sucked, the 2nd one was a good concept with a flaw, and the third one is in my opinion bomb proof. That remains to be seen, as I haven’t actually used it yet!

So let’s get started!
1. Glue up

I started out face gluing a couple of 4-1/2” squares of 3/4” wood together as shown above. I used white oak because I wanted a heavy wood to run more vibration free on the lathe.

2. Drilling holes for the 1/4”(M6) collar screws
The next step was to add one more square of the oak and the 1/2” mdf for the collar, both fastened using double sided tape to prepare them for drilling the four collar screw holes, which, as you can see have already been done.

3.Installing threaded inserts for the collar screws
After drilling deep enough to insure the proper depth to install screw-in threaded inserts, I removed third layer and drilled the holes out big enough to accept the threaded inserts. They are shown being screwed in above. I could have glued all 3 oak squares at one time and screwed in the inserts from the top, but I didn’t want the screwdriver slots on the top, so I inserted them from the bottom, which will then be glued onto the other two boards.

4. Final glue-up

After gluing on the 3rd board with the inserts and with the mdf collar still attached, I added a 4th board to protect the MDF while in the glue clamps as shown.

5. Getting the chuck body ready for turning

A faceplate has been mounted onto the chuck body and cut round in the bandsaw.

Before mounting the chuck onto the lathe I wanted to makes sure my headstock and tailstock were properly aligned.

The chuck body is now mounted on the lathe and the tailstock brought up to mark the center for hollowing out purposes. The lathe was aligned to make sure the center marking would be correct.

6.Turning the chuck body
The outside is first turned smooth and then a ball shape is turned into the center of the chuck using a half ball template. The diameter is 62mm or about 2-7/16” in diameter.

Here it is the finished hole in the completed chuck body.


1. Marking out the collar

Here you see the marked out collar. There is a line 1/2” from the center line bisecting the circle. That is the same thickness as the collar and it’s length denotes the diameter of the hole to turned in the center on the top of the collar. The bottom of the collar hole will be turned to the same diameter as the hole in the chuck body. In this case the top hole diameter will be our first target. Please note that the screw holes have been countersunk.

2 Turning the collar

The collar is being attached to the chuck body with the four screws which are held by the threaded inserts.

The outside edge of the collar is turned to the outside chuck body diameter, and the center hole cut out. The next step is to enlarge the internal opening of the collar hole to the same diameter as the chuck body (2-7/16”. This is a curved cut that follows the shape of the ball 1/2” out from the front of the chuck body.

Here is the completed chuck with the tailstock center pushing the ball in tight before screwing the collar. the 2nd photo shows the chuck holding a ball ready for work!

These are the three chucks named From left to right ‘Chuck’, ‘Chucky’ and finally ‘Chuckles’. I hope this blog wasn’t too boring. I just had to get it out of my system, lol. Thanks for reading.

The next blog with be about the special tool rest needed for the special turning tools. The following links cover all the blogs in the series to date. #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

24 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4546 days

#1 posted 02-07-2012 08:22 PM

congrats mike, three pats on the shoulder for a job well done, and thank you for getting it out of your sytem , so that we could see this in the works…saw the snow you got the other day, that is winter…it was beautiful….grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 4177 days

#2 posted 02-07-2012 09:11 PM

Mike, that’s some serious thinking outside the box (or shall I say chuck).

Although I am not a turner yet, I appreciate your tutorial.


-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5125 days

#3 posted 02-07-2012 09:47 PM

Wow Mike, I am late to the party here, but this is just so cool.

I saw an ivory one of these in the Chinese Museum that is in Taiwan about 30 years ago. I will never forget it. It took 3 (?) generations of craftsmen to produce. It was the most amazing piece of sculpture I have even seen.

Edit: I just found a picture of it:

But back to this project, I just love it. What a hoot trying to figure it all out. Good for you.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4577 days

#4 posted 02-07-2012 10:14 PM

Thanks to Grizz, Ian and Steve

The carve ivory balls are absolutely gorgeous masterpieces. It makes the wooden ones look pretty pedestrian, but still fascinating to me.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4230 days

#5 posted 02-07-2012 10:46 PM

I enjoyed the blog. Looking forward to the next episode.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View a1Jim's profile


118253 posts in 4820 days

#6 posted 02-07-2012 10:48 PM

Mike your sure showing your true nature ,super smart. This is a very interesting blog ,each step grows more and more clear as to how this all works. Good job.


View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4577 days

#7 posted 02-07-2012 11:04 PM

Thanks a lot Jim, but the super smart guy is David Springett who studied the history of these things, found some old books with drawings and began to experiment on his own to work out the tools and techniques to do this work. I am just trying to get things to work properly and I am applying some of my woodworking skills towards that end.

SASmith I’m glad you are enjoying it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4041 days

#8 posted 02-08-2012 12:00 AM

You are a patient and talented craftsman Mike. I’m loving every minute of this.
I also hope that after all the work you are putting in on the tools etc. that you make enough of these that we can all have one ;-).

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Yuri's profile


55 posts in 4658 days

#9 posted 02-08-2012 12:01 AM


-- Live to Learn

View toyguy's profile


1761 posts in 5080 days

#10 posted 02-08-2012 12:04 AM

well done. I’m still following along, even though you may not hear from me. This is great; such simple ideas that work…...... Two thumbs up !!

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4083 days

#11 posted 02-08-2012 01:11 AM

Mike you have us all on the edges of our seats. We will stay tuned for the next upcoming episode. Nicely and smartly done.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Dale J Struhar Sr's profile

Dale J Struhar Sr

522 posts in 4373 days

#12 posted 02-08-2012 01:48 AM

Fascinating blog from a true craftsman can’t wait for the next entry. I know your having fun with this.

-- Dale, Ohio

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4577 days

#13 posted 02-08-2012 11:47 AM

Thanks to all of you guys for joining me on this strange and wonderful journey. I am enjoying this a lot as you say Dale. I just hope it will end successfully. I have already ruined a couple of earlier balls because the first chucks I made wouldn’t hold them properly.

And yes Paul I will be turning 38,198 of these Chinese balls, one for each LJ member. I plan to deposit NKr. 6.00 or $1.00 in my bank savings account. This amount should accrue enough interest by the time I’m finished to cover the postage cost of Nkr.13,319,800 or $2,303,300. Of course this doesn’t include inflation, so it might take just a little longer. Meanwhile I am looking for a small forest to supply the materials.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4584 days

#14 posted 02-08-2012 11:56 AM

well mike

i am beginning to see the light
i never understood these balls before

figured some guy with a carving knife
sat on the porch and whittled them by hand

but your holder and the thru drilling make sense
look forward to see the ‘cut outs’
for the freeing of the inner parts

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 4409 days

#15 posted 02-08-2012 12:07 PM

Thanks for sharing!

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

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