Comedy central, the big ball that didn't (yet)

linnea2(z5 NY)August 21, 2005

I have one of those big "exercise balls" that everyone at home's had fun with

but me, so far. I don't exercise.

I read Laura's thread about the Quikwall sphere and thought, yay,

time to make that big ball I've always wanted! Something quick and easy,

just what I need!

I called my local box stores for the scrim and drew a negative, oh, well, I'll find

something else, it's gotta be today (yesterday).

I found some loose weave fiberglass cloth left over from a bunch of big signs

we made years ago. Cool, that might work, draped obligingly over

the big ball in the mist/drizzle, resting on a garbage can.

I mixed up a batch of the quikwall stuff and had a fabulous time

spreading it on, thinking all the while what a great idea this quikwall stuff is.

It didn't seem to be curing after several hours, still very soft.

Oh well, go plant some stuff that's been waiting. Then It seemed like

it was getting firmer. I decided to turn the ball and do the other side.

SLOOSH! Like a wet nightie off an upside down girl on a trapeze!

I stood there laughing for a good ten minutes, thinking about America's

funniest home videos.

Then: Dammit, i want a ball! So I got some chicken wire and carefully

formed it around the ball, no more than 1/8" off the surface

and very well attached.

Having had enough of quikwall for the day, I mixed up a batch of

vinyl patching cement I had left over from an earlier (successful) project

and commenced to spread it on (still having a great time!)

First hemisphere done, pretty close to the mesh, I went home after wetting it down.

This morning it looked...odd. I touched it here and there and a few hexagonal

"cookies" fell to the ground. On closer inspection, it was clear that

the concrete was not really touching the ball, there was a layer of air

between it and the surface. It was pretty much cracking along the wire,

in many places. Oh, it must be on too thin, let's turn it and

do the other side thicker. Said and done, cover with plastic, go feed the Koi,

give it a few hours.

A few hours later, still some "cookies" and air under the concrete,

this thing is BREATHING dammit! It was like a p.o.p mask under the throat

where the victim had been swallowing and the p.o.p never set properly.

Meanwhile, layer one, where it was holding together, is getting quite hard.

FINE! You sit there til you're set! I'll re-coat this thing til it's

a ball, one way or another. Maybe I should move it into the garage..

It's definitely moving all the time, must be expanding/contracting with the


I'll use the quikwall yet, on something less volatile, no slur on you, Laura,

you obviously succeded wonderfully with your ball, it's beautiful!

I'm curious now, about these blow-up balls, what ABOUT the expansion as the

temperature changes. It must move. This is a big ball, granted, but even

smaller ones must have some movement while the 'crete's setting.

What's up?

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rickharmer(z4British Colum)

Um,have you given thought to actually using the scrim or detail mesh?And,if no Quikwall,how's about the recipes that Laura and I are using?
The mesh will be found at a masonry store.If they give you the idiot look(them not you!)tell them that the stuff is used for exterior stuccoing.Maybe the lightbulb will go on then.
BTW,I'll be trying the execise ball thing,too.As soon as my wife goes out of town.It IS hers,after all!
Cheers from here

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 5:19PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

You certainly have a good attitude! Your hilarious comparison to a wet nightie sliding off an upside down girl on a trapeze reminded me of the disbelief I felt when one of my balls lost air and the whole thing jumped off its stand and rolled on the floor. It IS kind of funny the first time. However, after your other attempts I think you are deserving a trophy for good sportsmanship.

I must have been the luckiest person around when I slapped some quickwall on that ball and everything went right. I think it is the mesh that you need to change. I am out of my free scraps and have to find a source. The mesh you need is used in the stucco business. A search for EIFS or stucco mesh should help online.

About the expansion of the ball - My attempt with a one dollar cheap-plastic-feel blow up beach ball was a complete failure. The walmart ball that was 16 inches in diameter with a much thicker-feeling wall made me 3 perfect spheres with no trouble and then failed during sphere number 4. For 2.50 $ I didn't expect it to last forever but it sure is a mess when they fail. So - for 3 sessions there was either no expansion due to temperature changes or the resulting sphere was not effected by whatever tiny expansion there might have been. Our temps here lately have been a very humid 98 during the day and down to 70 at night. I have used Quickwall and a regular portland mix with the mesh and the ball and never had any trouble unless the ball actually sprung a leak during the night and shrunk to nothing.

good luck! get better mesh and try again

ps. how in the world did you get chickenwire to take a ball shape over a ball? I can't get the nasty stuff to do anything I want.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 5:31PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

How big are these exercise balls you are talking about ? How much are they?
I want to make a BIG sphere someday.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 5:32PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Rick, the masonry store wasn't open, it was Saturday.
It saved me one of those 3-hour shopping trips anyway
("while I'm out, I might as well get the groceries, the hose wand, etc.")

It wasn't the scrim, or lack of it anyway, or the chicken wire/patching cement
would have worked (it still may). I swear it felt like trying to set p.o.p
on a moving object, that odd, soft feel, not the reassuring stillness
of setting concrete.

The size of the ball (28-30") and the weight of the cement, some flexing too,
it's pretty bouncy, must be part of the movement issue.

You can stretch chicken wire towards the "poles", run a wire through it
to hold one side, then pull up the other side, and squeeze the hexagons to
oblong. Fine tune by grabbing the little twisted sections and torque them sideways
and by cutting off any excess.
The trickiest part was not puncturing the ball with the cut-off ends.
I'm off to check on the latest development.

Next time I'll pump up the ball more, too, it's lost some air in 10 years.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 7:24PM
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rickharmer(z4British Colum)

Well,from the sound of it,you've developed a new exercise routine using the ball.One the manufacturers had not a clue about!
cheers from here

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 7:32PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Exactly, that's why I don't exercise.
I usually get results though, but his one's eluding me.

I just went up to check on the ball, the chicken wire is now 1/2" from the surface.
It was at 1/8-0" at noon, all around. This ball is breathing!

I may still try the scrim on it, climate controlled.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 11:12PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

That ball is out of control! If it can breathe on its own it may be planning to escape once it builds up strength.
Since you have the chickenwire on (and thank you for the great description of how you made that work!!) you now have a firm base to work on. I wonder if that plaster-of-paris impregnated bandage or whatever it is would be worth the money to use as a first coat over the wire. It is packaged and sold as a craft material. (perhaps called rapid set??) It would provide a hard coating over the wire that wouldn't let the concrete smoosh through and would give a scrim layer something to work against. I would be worried that if you tried to scrim right over the wire you would still have to use a remarkable amount of concrete to "round up" the ball and fill in the area between the wire and the ball wall. At the size you are using, that would add up to a lot of weight in a hurry.
Keep us posted!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 8:57AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Laura, that's an excellent idea, I think I'll try that.
I have several rolls of the p.o.p stuff.
I had considered using it directly on the ball, but this sounds better.
The chicken wire will move less than the ball.
I need a little firmness here!
P.o.p tends to mush in contact with wet concrete, I'd better seal it
before doing a thin coat.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 10:43AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Proved beyond doubt, I brought the ball down to the cool garage from full sun
out front. It lost 1 1/2" of diameter in half an hour.

I removed all the "cookies" before they cured completely, inflated the ball
to the chicken wire size and put a roll of p.o.p bandage on it.
The temperature has stayed even all day and there is no change in size.
The plaster is set and I'm doing 'crete next.

The movement was the whole problem. For the next one, I'll try concrete over
scrim if I can find it. only one place over an hour away had it at 78.00
for 30"x150', only. Don't need that much yet.
But now the problem is identified I may just stay with chicken wire
(I have tons) and a fairly thick shell for this size.

Laura, here's a link for the balls. I hope they mean DIAMETER.
I got tricked once, the fine print said "circumference".
One ball blown to bits :-o

Here is a link that might be useful: Exercise ball

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 5:06PM
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Wayfind(8 PNW)

Great post! I would have stabbed that ball to bits then kicked it around the yard after the 3rd failure. Then went out and bought another one to try again, feeling stupid.
I can't imagine trying to work chicken wire around a ball, though, my only 'tufa and crete projects have been spheres and half spheres (no, not purposefully, I started half then got sidetracked by my pond, oops!) and they have all worked out great every time, but I'm using the sticky drywall tape.. I wrap the whole ball with the tape connecting 1/4 inch overlaps, got that idea from someone else on this forum and it works very well..
Can't wait to get back to the mud hole when this pond is done..

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 5:21PM
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rickharmer(z4British Colum)

Remember that chicken wire will bleed thru when it rusts.Unless you've got galvanized.And mesh should be available in a 9.5 inch role,for about 38 dollars(CDN).And,it's light,easy to cut,and doesn't poke you when you're inattentive(damned wire...).
cheers from here

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 5:24PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Keep... the... ball... out... of... the... sun!

The air inside will expand when the ball is left in the sun, covered with concrete or not.

This is how we all learn physics! There's nothing like failure to teach a good lesson! (I should be approaching BRILLIANT by now!)


    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 6:12PM
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Making a sphere was probably the most challenging thing I have ever tried to make...I certainly can relate to the problems everyone has had! Its only funny later...well, especially if you can get it on video!

I have made a few spheres using a Walmart ball and also a big cheap beach ball. One thing I did that helped was to first wrap the ball in baling twine. This is nylon multi-strand string. I wrapped the ball up like a spider-web. I also taped the string to the ball where ever it started slipping off here and there. I had 3 inch x 24 in strips of lath that I could tuck into the spider web of string. I worked my way around the ball over several days - tucking more strips of lath into the web and patting my mix over that area. The lath never punctured the ball (pure luck) but tucking some mix under the sharp edges of the lath helped too.

The big beach ball lost air every day. I made sure to reinflate it often. That was the hardest part because I was so afraid of exploding the thing! Oh, my big sphere is not quite round but if you roll it right, it looks ok.

Good luck making spheres...I think the exercise ball would work great, I have one too and will try my luck with it soon. If you are brave...Target has a 50 inch diameter playball! = Carol

Here is a link that might be useful: big sphere

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 6:18PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

You are sure making fast progress! That is what I love about this forum; people from all over have helpful experiences and share them. Just seeing the photos spurs my mind. A 50 inch ball at Target????? I have to go see it. I found the 32 inch sphere amazing. I want to at least think about making a really big ball. I suspect the surface area of a 50 inch ball means lots of yards of mesh. I have to try and remember the formula for figuring surface area of spheres.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 7:43PM
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After concreting a 32 in ball...I think it would be very hard to do a 50 inch one. You would definately need to have help. The problem would be stabalizing it while you are working on it. It could roll right over you. Thats why I have not tried it for just that reason. Imagine the field day the local newpapers would have! Roll the video!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 7:58PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Christine, I felt pretty stupid myself, refusing to pay attention to what I
learned in grade school. (Duh, just did it again, had to run up and
drag the thing inside, it's going to be cool tonight! It's got concrete on it now.)
And an engineer's daughter to boot, for shame!

Intercourse with reality tends to do that, keeps us young!

Rick, it's all galvanized. I'll try the mesh when I find it. I think chicken wire
may be a good idea for bigger things, but it needs something smaller-meshed too,
tying those "cookies" together.

I've actually considered a geodesic sphere for a really big ball,
but the Target one sounds intriguing, 50", oh my!!
Carol, what have you done!

THANKS PUP! Where were YOU Saturday!?

You know, I always wanted to try one of Bo Atkinson's 5' tire pots,
built on a sand bottom over a truck innertube, beautiful!
He never mentioned anything about the rubber expanding and contracting.
Suppose he figured any dumbo would know that.
Hmm, that would be an interesting base for a 5' ball..

Soo.. are we on the verge of a big ball epidemic?
Come on Laura, what are we waiting for, frost?

Here's a link to Bo's web page about sand molding, the basin is towards the bottom
of the page.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bo Atkinson

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 9:07PM
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rickharmer(z4British Colum)

For God's sake,don't try to stop a big concrete ball if it starts to roll away from you!At 52 inches....Egads!That's almost 4 1/2 feet in diameter!You could put up the kids in the space;you could re-enact scenes from that classic series"The Prisoner" with Patrick MacGoohan(Sic).
Just loads of fun for you and yours.
cheers from here

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 9:10PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

I still have dreams of the "big one" but after finding the formula for determining the surface area of a sphere (so I would know how much mesh it would take) I may not be able to save up enough money by frost!

area of surface of sphere = 4 X p X r (squared) (p means pi which =3.14) so for this 52 inch diameter that would be 4 times 3.14 which = 12.56.
r squared is 52 times 52 = 2704 so now we have to multiply 12.56 times 2704 which gets us 33962 sq inches of area on that ball surface.
33962 divided by 1296 (inches in one square yard) = 26 SQUARE YARDS of mesh for one ball. Adding 20 % for overlapping edges means we need 31 square yards of the mesh.
One source sells mesh in my city for $30 for one roll that is 150 feet long by 9 inches wide. That is 12 square yards so I would need 3. If my many calculations are correct I would need to invest $ 90 in mesh for this project. YIKES.
Heeding Rick's warnings about the potential for being run over by the dang thing, I think maybe I will try a 30 inch ball first!!

Just think.. if we ever make the BIG ONE, it won't fit through gates or doorways. I think we better build it about where we want it to stay! Let's see, if I can make a 16 inch sphere that weighs just 9 pounds, how much will a 52 inch sphere have to weigh? I don't think I have the math skills for that calculation - even with help from the internet. wait... I just did the formula above for a 16 inch sphere and the surface of that needs 2 and a half yards compared to the 31 yards for the 52 inch ball. That is 12 times as much. I am not an engineer but something tells me that big ball is going to need a lot thicker coat of concrete too. I think we are in big trouble weight-wise.
sigh, Laura
Surely we could do it for under 300 pounds. I wonder how many concrete leaf makers it takes to move a 300 pound 52 inch concrete orb??? If anyone figures this out be sure to factor in that my yard is on a slope... easy to start but hard to stop .

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 11:20PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

ooops, diameter isn't radius. Sorry! The above calculations should have been: (hope I'm right this time) about 8 sq yards of mesh for the 52 inch ball surface and less than 1 yard of mesh for my 16 inch ball. Cost wise that is good news.... more like 20 $ for mesh for the big one.
Maybe my dire weight predictions are way off too. Perhaps we could make it so light we could toss it over obstacles in our way.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 12:54AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Laura, that's impossible.
The circumference of a 4.5' dia. circle is about 14'2", 14 FEET,
not even 5 yards. Imagine a 15' long cloth, 7 1/2' wide, that's 112.5 sq feet,
that tube would wrap the ball with a lot of extra to cut off.
divide by 9 = 12.5 sq.yds, with all the extra gussets cut out, should be
a lot less than 10 sq. yards.

Isn't it r squared x pi? R here being 27". I never remember these things when needed,
it's too late for math, but I know cloth and what it covers, I'm a costumer.

I read your "cheap beach ball" post and had a good giggle.
I really like what you made of it!

I'm lucky to have double doors everywhere, no way am I building that
out in the sun!!
How about a dolly, no, a chariot, Helios, you know, driving the sun out
into the pastures of dawn! It IS late. But I like the idea.
Gold leafed.

My off-hand guess is 10 40lb bags of whatever. 400 lbs, so what?
Don't want it to blow away, do we? I have a pair of lions that weigh 1200lbs each,
we moved them with a backhoe, up.
I figure three naked men with fig leaves and laurel wreaths on the level
and five on a slope.
When do we start?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 1:06AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Oops, crossed posts!
Well, it beats the HV forum, a post every three days or so.

Glad you figgered it out. See, cheap too!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 1:10AM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

Linnea, I just went to your web site. WHEN in the world do you have time to tufa?? Those costumes are gorgeous and your building and grounds are certainly impressive too!

Now that you have me picturing the naked men in fig leaves and laurel wreaths pushing my ball up the slope I am getting more interested than ever in making a big sphere.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 4:58PM
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rickharmer(z4British Colum)

Is it just me or has "sphere envy" entered into this thread?Hm?
Cheers from here!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 5:51PM
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Rick I'm still trying to understand the tremendous appeal of spheres in the garden.
I love the challenge of making them but I'm not nuts about them. Lately I'm making elongated spheres.:)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 6:21PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Laura, that was a gross overestimate. I just covered my poor ball with
about 1 40lb bag, figure 1 1/2-2 for the outer, heavier coat.
It's fine now, by the way, point taken Universe, thanks for the consistency,
and thanks for the support, guys!

One of my employees came out and wondered how "the death star" was doing.

I think 5 or 6 bags would be plenty for big boy, say 220lbs. A layer of
diamond mesh might be in order, lapped pieces, like your (still elusive) scrim.
The sphere itself, if the concrete is sound, is full of inherent structural virtues,
I think that's part of its appeal T.E.

Life itself is in love with the sphere, space is crawling with them and
you and I began as little balls.
From soap bubbles to dwarfed stars, versatile, mobile, ubiquitous, what's not to love?

A garden, our own little portrait of the universe, is a natural for homage
to the sphere.

What came first, the chicken or the elongated sphere?
I rather like the squashed ones too, like whatshername's pumpkin (a must-make).

Target, now, around here, has decided outdoor play season is over. Nada.
I found the beast online (California, play season permanent) for 33.00 +sh.
How much was the Target one Carol, are you still with us? You started it!
And chocolate boxes to you for that!

One other thing, I was going to close the "navel", once the ball is out.
Is that a bad idea? Some feature of physics I'm still blind to?

Laura, thank you, I'm gradually weaning my business from me.
I'm lucky to have a very competent and creative daughter and a great staff.
It took over 30 years to get it there.

As for the boys a-playing with the ball, isn't that what they always want anyway?

Here's a link for the marketing division to ponder:

Here is a link that might be useful: Expensive ball

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 8:46PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

Speaking of 'sphere envy'.... here are some spheres I think are wonderful- huge... I don't know the artist's name.

Here is a link that might be useful: try here

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 10:59PM
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These are 8-9 feet high concrete balls.:)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 11:02PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Ok, I'm feeling very modest now, conservative.
54" is just perfect for me, thanks for the links!
But no envy here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oops!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 11:23PM
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gottatufa(z5 ny)

If we don't succeed in making concrete or hypertufa giant balls, you might want to try making one like this for your garden. Just need alot of gal friends.


Here is a link that might be useful: donations anyone?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 9:14AM
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Quick Braman, to the Bra Cave! BRAMAN! BRAMAN!

An angry braball?
How would you placate it? Would it stalk you and roll over you if you made it mad?

I have visions of the giant bra in the Woody Allen movie Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex... that was brought in to capture the giant roving breast...

(must take medication)

Very strange, very strange. These kinds of people give artistic folks a bad name.

See you again next time Same Bra Time, Same Bra Station....


    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 10:04AM
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The braball is amazing. Just when you think you've seen it all huh? Amazing.

The big playball at Target was probably around $30. I just wonder if it could support the weight of the concrete? My original plan was to make several large spheres--34"--and put them out in a pasture. Paint them like pool balls (stripes and solids?) with cattle grazing around them. Someday. I love the pic of the big blue balls along the road. Really impressive.

Definately, do not try to stop a rolling concrete ball. Just grab the kids and hope the damage is otherwise minimal!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 12:36PM
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rickharmer(z4British Colum)

So,let me get this straight-there are 14,000 women out there who are,ahem,letting it all hang out?The mind boggles....
Cheers from here

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 2:16PM
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I found this rather titillating and on topic as well.
I'm assuming it's an underwire bra.:)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 2:31PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

Looking at those big blue concrete balls on that slope........ I just know that most people (well, surely a lot) want to go push on them and make them roll down that hill just to see what happens. How in the world would you stabilize those things so the public couldn't start them rolling?
Having taught school, I know just how resourceful and creative young people can be when trying to solve a puzzle of this nature. I am imagining my old fifth graders grown up to be 75 husky college guys with a determination to move one of those blue balls. They have strength, money, lack of regard for the law, access to earth moving equipment....
Can those balls really be safe?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 6:38PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Carol, thanks!
So california it is. You're quite a nut too, bless you;
-pool table pasture, huh.
The subject of context for a sphere is lovely! Wide open.

Did you leave that hole open?

I think once you,ve got a rigid skin on it, gradually reinforcing it
with mesh/lath/chicken wire, 50" should be fine.

The wind was from the north today, first reminder, thought I'd be pleased
after this summer!
And I'll be working 30 hr. weekends all September, drats!

Whatever would we do without google image search!?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 7:01PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Laura, I bet they're on footings, anchor bolted. Somebody funded them,
who didn't want bad press.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 7:07PM
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ltd123(6A southern Ind)

I was thrilled to track down the artists for the blue balls - called "Skyball" and ask my question about what keeps people from rolling them down the hills. Here is what he said:

Hi Laura, Your perception has been shared by untold numbers of high
schoolers who've left broken and bent pry bars attempting just what your
imagination suggests. In fact, there is a huge concrete caisson going ten
feet into the ground below each "ball" which has a heavy steel tube that
connects to a cast in structure in the bottom half and continues up to the
top where it indexes into a hole at the very top. Each sphere weighs about
ten thousand pounds. They might as well try to roll a house down the hill.

Thanks for your interest,

Steve Gillman

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 11:34AM
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FIVE TONS each. wow.

This question popped in my mind.
How many pounds of Tufa has everyone done in this group?
I've tried to add mine up.
Almost 3 bags of White portland 230 pounds.
2 bags of Gray 180 pounds.
40 pounds of peat.
160 pounds of of copper slag.
At least 400 pounds of misc sands and rocks.
So far this year I have made around 1000 pounds of Crete stuff and it wasn't that many pieces.
This doesn't include the several cubic feet or perlite and vermiculite.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 12:18PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

10' caissons, solid balls, that size, and they look like they just settled,
lightly, after hovering and could take off again any moment.
That's cool!

I decided to, uh, put wings on mine. Just cut one out of lath.
This is an older idea, not sure if it's going to work yet.
All I know is it won't look like an air force emblem.

I found a roll of "pest screen", fiberglass, at Lowes, 8" wide, price ok.
Seems like it's going to work. For me it's just to facilitate application,
the real reinforcement is the chicken wire.

P.o.p gauze appears to be strictly art material these days,
"surgical gauze" is no longer available at our serious pharmacies.
What do they use for fractures?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 8:20PM
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