How to Make a Chinese Puzzle Ball

Written by sarah poirier
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A Chinese puzzle ball is an ornate ornaments originating from a single piece of material. Carved puzzle balls consist of a series of concentric globes, each of which rotates freely. The outermost layers of the puzzle ball feature the most intricate carvings. The puzzle ball gets its name from the fact that you can align all the layers at once. Traditional Chinese puzzle ball carvers used ivory, but you can find modern puzzle balls in synthetic ivory, wood, soapstone and jade. Chinese lore has it that puzzle balls have a spiritual purpose and that the balls strengthen family unity.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • A sphere of wood
  • Lathe
  • Set of L-shaped carving tools

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  1. 1

    Shape the wooden ball on the lathe, ensuring it is spherical.

  2. 2

    Create a conical hole large enough to fit the L-shaped tool and deep enough to create the innermost globe.

  3. 3

    Lower the longest L-shaped tool that has the shortest cutter through the conical hole into the centre of the wooden sphere.

  4. 4

    Use the L-shaped tool to cut the innermost circular globe free. This will be the smallest globe in the puzzle.

  5. 5

    Work outward from the centre by repeating Steps 2 through 4. Each time, carve out a globe slightly larger than the previous one (adjusting L-shaped tool cutter size as necessary). Puzzle balls generally have between three and 10 layers.

  6. 6

    Finish the puzzle ball by adding intricate carvings to the outermost globes. Your carvings may include traditional Chinese symbolic figures, dragons and a phoenix.

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