How to make a Kendama

Kendama is an old japanese toy similar to a cup-and-ball game. The principle of these toys are to catch one object with another where both  are joined by a string. The original kendama is made out of hard wood to ensure the ball is heavy enough to provide the right balanace during the game.

The toy has three parts:

  • the main body called ken
  • the middle cone part called sarado
  • the ball called tama

In this post I’ll show you how to turn a kendama using segmented wood on the lathe.

To prepare the segmented wood I’ve glued together 10 piece of 6mm thick ash and walnut slices and let them dry for 24 hours.

The diameter of kendama ball has to be 60 mm, so I’ve turned a 60 mm diameter and 65 mm long cylinder. To turn the ball I’ve used an inexpensive homemade jig made of a large cylinder which has a 60 mm conical hole in the center so it can fit my 60mm cylinder.

Once the cylinder is secured in the jig you have to mark the equator using a compass. This is a key step which will lead you to a perfect sphere so don’t skip it.

Using a bowl gouge chisel round the edges and try to make an “approximate” semi-sphere, then invert the work piece and repeat the step for the other half.

Now that the ball is almost a sphere turn the ball with 90 degrees and ensure the equator line is on the rotation ax. Repeat this step until you reach a perfect sphere.

The ball is ready so let’s move to the rest of the parts.

Making the handle (aka. ken) is plain lathe turning technique, nothing fancy.

The middle part is easy as well, just pay attention to the right sizing. You need to have one “small” and one “big cup”.

After assembling all  the pieces the Kendama is ready !

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