Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Billiard balls


#1

I know this falls more in the catagory of ‘crafting’, but I am
wanting to incorporate a cut up billiard ball and parts into some
work. Does anyone know how to cut up a billiard ball? Safely? I have
googled and googled. On etsy and pintrest there are pieces for sale
but I cannot find instructions as yet.

thanks, brenda


#2

I’m on my phone so I’ll be brief. Old billiard balls were ivory. Not
many of those still around. Modern ones are plastic. Either can be
cut with sharp woodworking tools. Look out for the dust…


#3

Brenda- I used to know a guy in Minneapolis/ St Paul who carved
bowling balls. His name is Alan Christian and he has The House of
Balls. He does a bunch of sculpture with found materials, but his
bowling ball carvings were amazing.

Try to contact him and ask him if he’s done any billiard balls or
what he used to carve his bowling balls.

We used to belong to the Art Car Community when we lived there for a
couple of years while we worked in at Acme Tattoo Shop.

Also as an aside, I used to work for an old timer who was a jeweler
once in a Vegas Pawn shop 50 years ago. He had two white cue balls
that were made of solid Ivory. That’s what they used to be made of
before plastic.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#4

I bought 2 old billiard balls with the intent of cutting out the
numbers to incorporate. I have googled and googled and cannot find
how to cut these. One person said too hard and dangerous to do. So,
I guess I will drill holes and use for yard ornaments… haha.

Has anyone worked with billiard balls?
brnda


#5

Hello Brenda.,

I don’t know how to cut up billiard balls. I could probably figure
it out eventually - but my first impression is that it is quite a
challenge without some well-developed skills, good tools, and
versatile ability to make jigs and tools.

This is very hard material. It is round and slick with no flat
surfaces to grip in a vice or clamp. Are you sure you really want to
do this? Why billiard balls? I enjoy a challenge as much as anyone -
but I don’t want to spend a lot of brain power and time unless you
are a person well-equipped to make use of any ideas that I or others
may come up with.

What do you have to work with? Bandsaw? Lathe? Drill press? etc. And
what shapes are you hoping to make? Be specific.

Thanks,
M


#6

If you’re trying to slice a piece then I would suggest a band-saw
with a metal cutting blade, keep it oiled and put the ball in some
sort of firm holder, not holding it in your hands.

KJ


#7

I found this forum and one post did have successful results on
cutting the balls in half. He also was nice enough to put what saw
blade he used.

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep80gn

Also found a tutorial on cutting bowling balls in half, which are
also made out of resin.

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep80go [PDF file]

Hope these are helpful!
Krissy


#8

We use old ivory cue balls for scrimshaw and carving. I drill 1 1/2’
holes in two pieces of plywood and sandwich the ball between the two
pieces. using the plywood to hold the ball push it through a bandsaw.


#9

Might be able to do it with a lapidary diamond saw.

Jerry in Kodiak


#10

I visited the House of Balls several years ago, bought a piece. When
I went there, the place was littered with beer bottles, cups,
napkins, etc, from a party the night before, and Alan was hung over
but friendly.

His set up involved a ferociously sharp steel bur in a flexshaft,
used in front of a high-powered air scoop. I don’t recall how the
billiard or bowling balls were held-- that might be the biggest
challenge.

As for cutting off the part with the number, I would try a lapidary
saw!

Noel


#11
As for cutting off the part with the number, I would try a
lapidary saw! 

I agree. Gripping the ball in the saw vise can be accomplished by
first sanding a flat on opposite (waste) sides of the ball. My
thought is that if the ball is nestled into drilled holes and clamped
down tight, there is a good chance that the force of the blade might
spin it out of position, especially since the lapidary saw uses an
oil coolant.

The speed of the advancing vise should be VERY slow so that the
blade isn’t deflected by the smooth, round surface of the ball. In
other words, the blade will be spinning against the presenting sphere
long enough to create a notch and slowly cut it’s way straight into
the ball.

It might be well to plan your cut a deeper into the sphere than your
finished design to allow for the thickness of the blade kerf as well
as leaving some room for error should the blade mar/chip the entrance
or exit surfaces. Then the “base” can be flat-sanded to eliminate
such flaws.

Good luck.
Pam Chott
songofthephoenix.com


#12
Might be able to do it with a lapidary diamond saw. 

There are two references this morning to diamond saws. No, you can’t
cut either ivory or plastic with diamond blades, as they aren’t hard
enough. Diamond blades only cut materials that are around 4 on Moh’s
and up. You can putyour thumbnail against a diamond blade and it
might burn but it won’t cut. Your thumbnail just isn’t hard enough.
I’m not saying you should do that, but you can. Plastic and ivory
are worked with wood saws and maybemetal lathes and the like. They
are more related to wood than stone. I used to work ivory some, back
in the days when it was legal.


#13
Might be able to do it with a lapidary diamond saw. 

There are two references this morning to diamond saws. No, you can’t
cut either ivory or plastic with diamond blades, as they aren’t hard
enough. Diamond blades only cut materials that are around 4 on Moh’s
and up. You can putyour thumbnail against a diamond blade and it
might burn but it won’t cut. Your thumbnail just isn’t hard enough.

I’m not saying you should do that, but you can. Plastic and ivory are
worked with wood saws and maybemetal lathes and the like. They are
more related to wood than stone. I used to work ivory some, back in
the days when it was legal.


#14

I am not sure whether a diamond saw blade is the best thing for
cutting resin. But I don’t see how it could hurt to try. One of the
more laborious ways (but very safe), that rock hounds cut round
material is to mix some plaster, put some into a quart milk carton
with the ball squeezed in. You can layer the balls (rocks)
alternately, and then it fits comfortably into the vise. Another
simpler option is grinding a flat, gluing that to a piece of wood,
then clamp the wood into the vise. This has the addition of letting
you get every last slice of material, down to the wood. Thomas III


#15
Diamond blades only cut materials that are around 4 on Moh's and
up. 

I’ve used diamond blades to slice up soapstone, goes through it like
a hot knife through butter. That said, I’d probably use a fine
bladed woodworking saw or a jeweler’s saw on ivory, that is what I
generally use, though I only cut fossil ivory. For roughing out
soapstone I usually just use a hacksaw.

Ben Brauchler Fredonia Coin & Treasure


#16

Sorry John and Jo-Ann, I have cut numerous billiard balls on both my
10’ and 12" saws with absolutely no problem. The nice thing about
cutting them on my slab saws is the use of the auto feed feature.
They cut nice and straight and smooth. The problem is gripping them
in the vise but after one or two slips I was able to get them in nice
and solid. I have a student who loves to use the slabs in her
jewelry. So, there has been no damage to my blades either. Ivory I
cut with a regular wood saw… small jig saw works well. Cheers, Don
in SOFL.


#17

OK - Nothing is impossible to the great minds on Orchid. After all
there are people amongst us who can cut even diamonds.

Between us all we can probably invent a dozen ways to cut up
billiard balls.

But what does “cut up billiard balls” mean? In half? Into slices?
Into segments like a tangerine? Is just one piece wanted or is the
whole ball wanted? in other words, can one drill holes into the
"waste" portion of the ball or make other modifications to the ball
to enable it to be held safely? The question simply didn’t contain
enough to allow a useful answer.

Some of the suggestions had some merit, or might have had, if we
knew what was wanted. For example, someone suggested sandwiching and
clamping the ball between two pieces of plywood which had round
holes into which the ball might nestle. I thought that was a pretty
good start. But how tightly would you have to clamp the wood
together to keep the ball from rotating under the influence of the
saw, whether the saw was used with reciprocating motion (like a hand
saw) or if it were some kind of circular saw? And if the ball did
turn, what would guarantee it would rotate without its axis shifting
and thus deviating from the intended plane of the saw cut? And if it
were held tightly enough, how soon would the pressure close the cut
against the sides of the saw?

It is probably no deep secret, but who has taken the trouble to find
out what kind of plastic billiard balls are made of? We know from
their intended use that they must be very hard material to withstand
repeated point impacts from others of their kind. But how would the
material behave under a drill or saw? Would it melt or create an
impossible gunk or unclearable chips? Abrasive cutters (diamond
wheels and the like) seem to get nowhere but into trouble with most
plastics. The little work i have done with drilling and cutting
(some) plastics tells me that drill bits and saws have to be shaped
much differently than for cutting in wood or metal or stone. Edges
have to be ground into quite surprising shapes - nothing I would
have guessed at without informed advice. Cutting speeds and pressure
also is different. Wrong shape or too much pressure and wild
chipping, melting, or fractures suddenly appear to spoil your day.

I really am sorry if i seemed to Brenda to be discouraging. It was
not my intention to discourage. Quite the opposite. I’m not any kind
of expert on plastics or billiard balls, not having squandered my
youth in pool halls. But the question was a sort of "blue-sky"
effort, not specific enough to attempt an answer - except by the
rare bird who actually has cut up billiard balls. Anyone? By the
way, by observation I am fairly confident that bowling balls are
made of a very different material than billiard balls, if for no
other reason than that bowling balls have to be easily drill-able
for finger holes, something which is done post-manufacture.

Marty the cheerful old grump.


#18
It is probably no deep secret, but who has taken the trouble to
find out what kind of plastic billiard balls are made of? 

Over the years, a lot of different materials have been used to make
billiard balls, including ivory. During the first half of the
twentieth century or so one of the materials used was celluloid, the
same material used for making photographic film. Celluloid has the
potential to be extremely flammable, if not down-right explosive
under the right conditions, hence the urban myth that hitting one
billiard ball with another hard enough could cause an explosion (it
actually takes much more force and heat than that to cause a
reaction, a rifle shot or torch flame for instance). They are now
made using other compounds based mainly on silicates that are much
more stable. Unless the actual age (made after the forties or
fifties) and/or composition of the ball in question is known, I would
make sure that any cutting procedure used is cooled with some type of
water drip like that used in lapidary or masonry work. Just in case.

Dave Phelps


#19
Diamond blades only cut materials that are around 4 on Moh's and
up. 

The coarser sintered diamond blades will go through anything with
gusto.

Fingernails, no problem, been there done that L


#20

This has been a good and informative discussion. No problems, Marty.
I am getting the picture that the work is not what I have equipment
to accomplish. I may just cut by hacksaw. Nothing to lose, really. I
am mostly wanting the number with sufficient material around it to
use as a cab, and the extra to drill and somehow hang. Not sure yet.
I have looked at pics of many different pieces.

I was too vague unless someone has done this.

brenda