STEFANG'S CHINESE BALL QUEST #8: Learned Something New Today?

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Blog entry by stefang posted 03-16-2012 05:03 PM 15148 reads 2 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: A Small But Significant Victory Part 8 of STEFANG'S CHINESE BALL QUEST series Part 9: Having a Ball (or at least making one) »

Today was a total success! I proved that my wooden plugs just weren’t good enough! Now to be fair I have gotten some good advice on how to make my plugs from Yuri, but apropos to JimA1’s latest blog on advice, I choose to ignore it and I have been duly rewarded with a new learning point, Aka disaster.

I was determined to continue today and I felt a little uncertain about Yuris method and the time it would take for me to experiment with it, so I continued with the wooden plugs. I reckoned that I would use his method on my next ball.

The wood plugs stayed tight in the first two holes, but I suspect they didn’t give uniform support to the 4 inner layers. This resulted in a breakout between #2 and #3 holes at level three and four where they intersect. The damage is too great for any kind of fix.

Now I have to turn a new ball and drill the 20 secondary holes I will need before I begin turning the inner balls again. That is ok, because I had planned some tactical changes in the way I will do that ball and of course I plan to use Yuri’s plugs. Below are some photos to show what I did today.

Here is some experimentation with making the plugs a new way (which failed of course). I have put the large diameter end of the plug at the tailstock end instead of the headstock end as before. This is so I can test it for fitting and remount it on the lathe to refine it if necessary, which I couldn’t do before with the plug the other way around.

Here the plug is being tested for fit and it needs some adjustment.

2nd test fit after a little more turning and it seems ok. Now hole #2 is ready to be plugged and the work on hole #3 can begin.

Hole #3 with the catastrophic result as explained above. If you look closely you can see where a section is broken out between the two main holes on layers 3 and 4.

So another chapter in this exciting turning melodrama comes to a close. It’s looking dark right now, but soon the light will shine through and you will be able to say “He did it!” (maybe).

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend. The links to this project blog are below. #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

20 comments so far

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3516 days

#1 posted 03-16-2012 05:39 PM

You Sir, have my undying respect.

Your patience makes Job seem like a whiny 5 year old.

I was up half of the night catching up on your project blogs after I just happened upon your most recent blog.
I am hooked on this project blog thread, as are most LJs from what I read.

God’s Speed (well easy on the speed part)

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4585 days

#2 posted 03-16-2012 06:11 PM

well live and learn mike

it got us this far
no sense in giving up now

still makes me wonder
how these were done before

i always imagined
they used dental picks
and just whittled away

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#3 posted 03-16-2012 06:44 PM

Well Len it’s all part of the fun. “Live and learn” as David says. Dental picks sound like an interesting idea right now. I’m beginning to feel like a research scientist (minus the brains of course).

Honestly though, I am not discouraged in the least. How we experience things has a lot to do with our attitudes. My attitude on this project is that I learn something from every event, positive or negative. Of course sometimes the negatives outnumber the positives or alternatively as sung in the Robin Hood animated film from the 1970’s “sometimes the ups outnumber the downs” Do you remember that one?

I will admit that I thought I would be very disappointed if this ball failed, but surprisingly, even to myself, I’m not. My experience with this project so far has only strengthened my resolve as I go through the steps. Eventual victory will be sweeter because of the many set-backs I’ve experienced so far. Now I just have to stay alive long enough to finish!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


22410 posts in 4920 days

#4 posted 03-16-2012 07:59 PM

I was afraid that might happen;-( Glad you are taking it in stride. How about waxing the holes for release later and epoxying the plugs in place for total support?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#5 posted 03-16-2012 08:13 PM

Hi Bob. The wax part sounds good. I am planning to try making the plugs out of candle wax and sawdust like Yuri suggested. He has made these balls and he knows it works well. Just pour it in, let it cool and bingo, everything is held in place! I’m still not sure about the getting it out part. I think I will try it out first on my ruined ball to get a feel for the method. If that ball isn’t enough, I have others…...............

Now I am dying to know if you have done any turning with that lathe you bought?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3783 days

#6 posted 03-16-2012 08:18 PM


This is absolutely incredible. Keep it up, you will succeed for sure and go down in LJ history. The photos at every step are very informative.

Good luck!

-- I never finish anyth

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4042 days

#7 posted 03-16-2012 09:17 PM

Sorry to hear of the setback Mike, but every day you learn something is a good day.

I don’t understand why these plugs are turned freehand. Maybe I’m missing something but if the holes are all cut with the same tool (which you made), why then aren’t the plugs all cut with a matching profile knife (that you make to match the taper)???

The fit should be as much a given as with cope and stick shaper cutters. They would fit so well that yo may need to design a puller. Anyway I’m sure Yuri’s way works and I know that you will prevail. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, there are lots of us out here pulling for you.

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#8 posted 03-16-2012 09:39 PM

Thanks Philip. I’m not really trying to teach anyone with the blog. Quite a few others can turn these balls. I even have a book on the subject showing exactly how to do it, so it’s not like I’m doing anything original or spectacular. I just thought some of the other members would like to enjoy experiencing one average person’s struggle in learning how to do it and see if they can relate to my thinking process (or lack thereof).

Paul Even though the plugs are cut with a special taper cutter tool you still don’t get 100% consistent sizes like you would with a drill bit, especially after the different inner layers are turned with the individual cutters. The actual contact points with the plug are only about 2mm or less at each of the four levels.

I have to correct what I said above about Yuri’s advice. I reread it and what he really said was that he dipped the plugs in melted candle wax just before insertion to fill any gaps between the wooden plug and the hole to get a solid fit and support. I got a little confused with his text. So I will still be using the wooden plugs, but with the addition of wax.

I also see that Yuri has made his plugs in steps, which I now see can be much more accurate than the tapered plugs I made because the hole diameter can be measured at each of the five total levels and then turned to the precise diameter for each point. I’m so dumb that I just now understood it. I do believe this was the last piece I needed to complete the puzzle. Somehow the obvious always escapes me. Maybe I should talk less and think more.

For easy removal The plugs will have a small hole drilled in their center as they are installed while still on the lathe and in the ball chuck so that a screw can be inserted to act as a handle after all the holes are done.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SuburbanDon's profile


487 posts in 4238 days

#9 posted 03-16-2012 09:50 PM

You must have done everything else there is to do in wood working if you have started this. Bravo !

-- --- Measure twice, mis-cut, start over, repeat ---

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#10 posted 03-16-2012 10:27 PM

Hi Don You have way too high thoughts about me. I am a typical jack of all trades, master of none type of guy.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4084 days

#11 posted 03-16-2012 10:44 PM

Mike today I thought I would do something fairly simple or so I thought. I spent about an hour tearing down an old aluminum window to get the glass out of it. My goal is to cut the glass pains for picture frames. I have watched men at the hardware store do this. So I place the pain on the bench, mark a line, place a straight edge and drag my glass cutter down the glass. I tried 10 times to get it to break straight. I cant do it. My bench is not flat, I am not holding my mouth right or Mars and Venus are not alined correctly. A glazier I am not. Then my wife tells me that her father would do it like a piece of sheet-rock. Well may bee I need to go get a lesson. I will try again.
Well with all that said I am not going to quit and I am not bleeding.
Lets try again. Thats how we learn.
Thanks for what you do Mike it keeps me trying.

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#12 posted 03-16-2012 11:13 PM

I don’t know anything about glass cutting Dave, but the last time I got some cut, the guy placed the glass on a thin blanket. Kind of like the ones the moving and storage folks use only a lot flatter. He put a little paraffin on the glass before he cut it. After he made the cut he got the waste edge just off the table edge and inserted into the appropriate of tooth on the cutter and then he kind of gently moved the tool handle up an down all along the length of the cut until it parted cleanly. I doubt I could do it myself, but maybe you will find something useful in my description. But if in any doubt just ignore what I said. As they say advice is cheap. Thanks you for the praise. I am trying to set a good example of perseverance for others so they can experience the satisfaction of succeeding where they only expected failure.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Yuri's profile


55 posts in 4659 days

#13 posted 03-16-2012 11:29 PM

Mike, I would do two things now with this ball. I would pour some water paint inside the ball before doing any experiment. Then when you feel that nothing else you won’t to try cut the ball in to 2-4 peaces and examine how the turning took place. Different colors from the water paint may show you some problems.

About the plugs, thank you for putting the right words on how I did them. I’m still struggling with my English when I try to explain something. Anyway, to remove plugs I use heat gun just to worm the plug a bit and as you can see on the second picture I have predrilled holes for the screw to remove them.

I’m very happy you are not giving up. And if in any way I can help you, I would…

Warmest ever,

-- Live to Learn

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4084 days

#14 posted 03-17-2012 12:10 AM

Thanks Mike that does help. We will try again.

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#15 posted 03-17-2012 10:12 AM

Dave I will keep my fingers crossed for you. I really want to see some of those windows. I don’t know why, but I have always found window making interesting, but I have never taken the time to learn about it, so I hope you blog or video the full process.

Yuri I’m glad I finally got your method right. If I were a little quicker in the head, I would have understood that from your photos. Your English isn’t that bad, but sometimes a single wrong word can confuse. I’ve been here for about 35 years and I still have the same problem with Norwegian.

I am very happy to get this last information from you. The tapered plugs didn’t work well at all, and I can understand why when I think about it. Only a very small part of a taper could be tight against the 90 degree edge of the internal hole at each level. Your stepped plug should give complete or near complete contact for the whole thickness of each layer because the plug also has a 90degree angle around the circumference. I’m pretty confident that this new knowledge will give me success on the next ball. I can’t think of any other issues that can pop up.

I appreciate your help a lot Yuri. This is what LJ is all about and at it’s best. Thank you!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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