Making Giant Wooden Balls

One day, we hope, we’ll be as awesome as [Keith Holaman]. He makes humongous wooden balls with a chainsaw, crane, and a truck-mounted lathe.

[Keith] got his start making wooden balls on a small lathe at home. For some reason he always wanted to make a bigger wooden ball, but his equipment at the time couldn’t handle this size in [Keith]’s imagination.

To make his gigantic wooden balls, [Keith] skulks around his local forest looking for downed trees and stumps. After getting these huge logs home, he roughs out the sphere with a chainsaw, mounts a chuck on the log with huge bolts, and attached it to a diesel motor.

Because the logs are so huge, he can’t turn the log very fast. to remove a whole lot of wood very quickly, [Keith] spins his tool head at a few thousand RPM.

There aren’t many build details or even an indication of how big these wooden balls are. We’d guess they’re easily over a meter in diameter. If anyone knows where we can see these balls in person, drop a note in the comments.

37 thoughts on “Making Giant Wooden Balls

  1. “If anyone knows where we can see these balls in person, drop a note in the comments.”

    Check out a ‘turning’ group in your town. Large wooden balls are fairly common.

      1. Objects larger than 48″ are common unless it’s a highschool club.

        What’s more impressive is that they turn those with hand tools and not a nearly hands-free system like this.

      1. It’s a Freightliner 60 on a short frame with an unknown type of articulated crane with a hoist. Odd but fun combination. It probably weights in excess of 10,000 pounds (normal length box truck runs about 14k) but could be licensed to haul up to 34,000ish depending on state. Though with such a short frame he is likely to be maxing out lightweight bridge (as on most rural roads) limits as it is.

        This thing was not cheap. If you knew what you were doing a high mileage truck with a used knuckle boom could be scored and assembled for less than $30,000. It would not be as versatile as this guy, though could lift more.

        Personally I would find it hard to not try and make a design involving a moffett style forklift. A big honking m55 with 4-way steering, add an aux hydraulic booster and rotary. Tada! Would be impressively fun but so much more expensive.

    1. I was thinking of the handicap you need on a golf-course. Imagine your golf-cart-size-of-a-truck and handling a club-size-of-a-rocket-tower.

      Might actually par the whole course with one ball covering all holes at once ;-)

    1. Some balls are held for charity,
      and some for fancy dress
      but when they’re held for pleasure
      they’re the balls that I like best.

      My balls are always bouncing,
      to the left and to the right.
      It’s my belief that my big balls
      should be held every night.

  2. @Tony

    No kidding. A bus pirate hack involves ~$100 worth of components and a couple hours of environmental setup. This guy probably spent $50,000 on that truck lathe, 100s of hours building it, and ~12 hours per ball.

    1. You’re right. There’s more work here than any silly Bus Pirate hack. However, I’m far more interested in the build process than the final product.

      Without documentation, this article is just a superficial appreciation of the work. That’s why compared it to The Verge. They skimp on details, swoon over meaningless virtues, and then try to turn the products they approve of into a counter-culture.

  3. Man those are some impressive balls! Wonder if he ever has the urge to drill three holes in in one and paint it black? Anyway the huge lathe is what’s really cool about this, I wonder what else he could do with it? Maybe a a Louisville Slugger from an old phone pole.

  4. I hate how “art people” always try to turn what they do into some super deep reflection on the meaning of life or the universe.

    The guy carves really big wooden balls. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing about life, the universe, etc, it’s just big wooden balls.

    1. “there’s a surrender to it”….
      Ya, you push the ON button and let it do the work.

      “ don’t know what’s going to happen”…
      Spoiler ALERT…it makes large wooden balls.

      “there’s an impact a size has when it’s so huge”..
      Old news. Google ‘momentum’.

      “finding my pieces is sort of intuitive”…
      Big stumps?

      “I’m ultimately crashing these two forces together”….
      Totaly…..well not so much ‘crashing’ per se, as…. ‘pushing’.

      “The process is the art”…
      So why do you charge money for the big hunk of wood left over?

      “What I’m doing is honoring these great trees”..
      How’s that now? Carving up grave robbed corpses is honorable? Tell that to my probation officer.

      “As I’m carving the ball, I’m able to find so much”…
      Is it wood? I bet it’s more wood.

      “It’s a conversation about life and history”..
      Possibly….. but I’ll bet is mostly one-way.

      HaD, please no more ‘artists’ with questionable mustaches.

  5. Try stone, gem and quartz. Some guy in town had what it took 20-30 years ago. Up to 3-4 inches, down to polished perfection. No ends seams butts about it. Awesome to hold. Then there is the stone balls of middle America, pre-Mayan.

  6. Amazing! I dabble in woodworking, usually in support of my machine shop projects, and this is just a fantastic build. There’s something mesmerizing about a perfect sphere that you can actually reach out and touch!

    The shot at 2:11 scares me a little, though. He’s got his handle pretty close to the unshielded belt drive for the cutting tool. His hand is really close to getting pulled in to that pulley, yet his eyes are on the tool tip!

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