A long time ago I saw a picture of a wooden bocce ball set on like… tumblr. I TOLD YOU IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO!!! I loved the idea of it but that particular set was very expensive and sold out. In fact most bocce ball sets are pretty expensive, the cute ones are often sold out and the rest are very ugly. NO OFFENSE TO UGLY BOCCE BALL FANS.
So of course I did what any normal person would do and decided to make my own set! I figured… how hard can it be? I scoured the internet for some 3″ wooden balls (the largest size available, this is smaller than ~regulation~ bocce balls but a nice size for little kids hands, and the wooden ones are also quite light and easy for them to throw) and ordered them, along with a 1 1/2″ ball for the pallina, from an Etsy shop based in Ukraine. Why Ukraine? I think it was just the best price I could find. However it took forever for them to arrive and by that time the bloom had gone off the rose somewhat and I had no interest in completing the project.
I’m not actually sure exactly when I ordered all these wooden balls but I did find an Instagram picture from when I was sanding them- they were quite rough when they arrived and more ovoid than spherical, which was a little annoying. But there is evidence that I did eventually sand them, it was in June 2017 and after that I put them in a ziplock bag in my craft cupboard and left them alone.
I have a couple of ideas for why I never got around to finishing this project. First of all, option paralysis: since I was painting them myself I could pick any colours I wanted, but I couldn’t decide between a bright, pastel or neutral color scheme. Secondly, I was worried I’d fuck it up. Drawing a design onto a curved wooden surface neatly and evenly and then painting inside those lines by hand? I was terrified! And finally, time. Each color took several coats and I could only paint 2-3 spots at a time. When, exactly, would I find the time to work on this?
Enter a global pandemic. Now I’ve got all the time in the world AND I’m desperate for things to keep me busy.
As you can see I decided to go with an Easter-y pastel colour scheme, which the kids really like. If I was to make another set (which I want to do, it was fun!) I think I would do a neutral set with black, grey and white, like my minimalist wooden doll family.
Originally I had planned to add black stripes to one ball of each colour and white stripes to the others so in addition to a four-player game of pink, purple, blue and green, there could be a two-player game of black and white. I eventually abandoned this idea as being too hard, but partway through painting I realized I should have painted the spots on one ball of each color and the negative space around the spots on the others. Innies and outies. I’ll do that next time!
To make the spots I used a biscuit cutter as a template and traced it with a pencil. I had to sand off some marks where the pencil slipped so I think for lighter paint colors using a white pencil crayon for the design would work better. I didn’t measure where I put the spots, just eyeballed it, so some are a little too close together but I think it’s fine. They’re rustic, ok?
To finish & seal the balls I used a simple, natural polish made from 4 parts jojoba oil and 1 part beeswax- I got the instructions from this site. It’s very easy but I do recommend getting the wax in pellet form; I have a big block that needs to be grated and it SUCKS. I actually made Taylor do it for me.
I finished the whole project yesterday afternoon and we went out in the backyard with the little kids to play. We played to five points and I modified the rules to allow two players to score per round so Gwen and Nicky would have a better chance of earning points. In the end the final score was Taylor 5, Gwen 4, Nicky 2 and Tanie A BIG FAT GOOSE EGG. All that work and it turns out… I am terrible at this game.
2 Replies to “bocce babies”
It isn’t whether you win or lose: it’s how you make the balls in the first place.
And they are terrific!