steel ball install

Finally received the bored-out steel ball from the machine shop. Proceeded to install this on the end of a piece of rattan. Fairly self-explanatory pictures follow.

The thing with the helical fins is a threaded insert, made for driving into soft materials such as wood, plastic, and rattan. The general idea is that after the rattan has been pilot-holed and shoved into the large bore in the steel ball, this insert is screwed into the pilot hole from the top using a large Allen wrench. As it goes in, it expands the rattan against the inner surface of the bore, creating an extremely tight fit. Finally a large flat-headed bolt is screwed into the inner thread of the insert, capping the ball and holding it in place.

Part of this went to plan and part of it didn’t.

First of all, the ball is rather large–1.875″. Originally I had supplied the machine shop with a 1.25″ ball of stainless steel, but it turned out that I had inadvertently purchased one that was made of an exceptionally hard alloy that was too difficult to cut. They sourced the larger ball, which is made of mild steel, polished to a shine that makes it look like stainless. They were unable to obtain one of smaller diameter.

The first part of the installation went well. The rattan fit snugly in the bore (I had to pound it in with a hammer) and became even more tightly wedged in place when the insert was screwed in. The only problem was that my pilot hole was slightly off center to begin with and the insert went in somewhat crooked, with the result that when I screwed in the flat-headed bolt, it did not go in straight, and ended up perched at an awkward and unsightly angle above the top of the ball.

So far, not so bad for a first attempt. The main problem with the result is that the ball is far too heavy. I have created what amounts to a stylish sledgehammer. It feels unwieldy even in two-handed maneuvers.

Interestingly, the ball looks to be of a nice, proportionate size and feels perfect in the hand. So the experiment succeeds on an aesthetic level. If made smaller it would look odd and feel wrong. But there is no doubt that it’s too heavy, which makes me wonder how Vigny did it. I am wondering if he used a hollowed-out ball.

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3 Responses to steel ball install

  1. T.W. says:

    The steel ball handles on my canes are hollow, but they both feature large socket arrangements that (I’m guessing) would bump their weight up close to this one. The steel ball will inevitably feel unwieldy at first, especially in comparison with lighter/shorter canes. Mine did until I started testing them against heavy punching bags; the effect of transferring momentum into a solid target is definitely factored into those Pearson’s techniques that are clearly intended for weighted canes.

  2. Jason Couch says:

    The couple of antique malacca and silver canes I have managed to pick up are definitely not a solid silver head because they are too light. I don’t know how they were normally constructed, but these seem like they might be a stamped sheet over a filler shape to give it form, possibly a piece of wood. Then again, these weren’t round heads either.

    Cool instructable–what’s your sense of how it will hold up to rough use? I wasn’t sure whether this was intended as a “thump the bag” or a “swish the air” cane.

    • E. W. says:

      I may end up eating these words, but it’s hard to imagine this thing succumbing to anything less than thermonuclear war. It was developed specifically out of exasperation with the fragility of our earlier practice sticks. The rattan is 0.9 inches thick at the ball end, which is pretty sturdy, and the ball itself, being a solid piece of steel, should be indestructible. The only possible failure mode is the ball flying off the end.

      Swinging it around this morning placed the art of La Canne in a new light for me. Previously La Canne’s huge circular movements had seemed suspect compared to the quick jabbing and punching motions used in Escrima. The mace-like properties of the steel-ball-headed stick make the sorts of movements shown in La Canne almost mandatory; you can’t start and stop the ball quickly. Just swinging it around in some of the basic drills shown in Craig Gemeiner’s video produce a workout that is reminiscent of Clubbells or Indian clubs.

      The one thing we absolutely won’t be doing with it is sparring.

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