How to make a jack – the traditional way

TurningAPetanqueJack_theTraditionalWayIt is easy to find videos on YouTube showing how boules are manufactured. But you never see anything about how jacks are manufactured.

Recently I stumbled across this article on Boulistenaute, written in 2010 by JacPetanque (Jac Verheul). Even if you don’t read French, the pictures are interesting.

And the article has a link to this video clip on DailyMotion, from a documentary made in 1995.

Boules ELTÉ

ELTÉ was once a well-known and well-respected manufacturer of boules. In fact, along with JB, it was one of the original manufacturers of all-steel boules. Behind these two brands — LT and JB — were two remarkable men — Louis Tarchier and Jean Blanc.

By some accounts it was the Great Depression of 1929 that stimulated Louis Tarchier and Jean Blanc to go into business for themselves, and to develop the all-steel boule. But the dates just don’t work for that story. The evidence is that they had been working on their process since perhaps 1925, and produced their first boules in 1927 or 1928.

It is more probable that their inspiration was the development by Paul Courtieu of La Boule Intégrale, the first all-metal boule (cast in one piece from a “bronze” copper-aluminum alloy). Specifically, it seems likely that it was the approval of La Boule Intégrale by the Union Nationale des Fédérations de Boules in January 1925 that suggested to Tarchier and Blanc that there might be a market for an all-steel boule.

What we do know is that a man named Louis Tarchier, a gunsmith, and his friend and neighbor, Jean Blanc, a locksmith, lived in the little village of Saint-Bonnet-le-Château, and that sometime around 1925 Blanc came up with the idea that the two of them should go into business making metal boules.

Between the two of them they had the necessary skills and the necessary equipment. Blanc owned a metal press. Tarchier was one of the few specialists in the new technology of welding and cutting metal with an acetylene torch. They designed a manufacturing process, and invented and built the machines to do the various manufacturing steps. Blanc made the punches and dies to stamp steel blanks into hemispheres.

The manufacturing process was divided between the two men. Blanc cut long steel rods into slugs (basically stubby cylinders of steel) and stamped the slugs into disks and then into coquilles (“shells”, hollow hemispheres). Tarchier cut beveled edges into the shells, welded them together to form boules, polished them, and added the striations and markings. When it came time to temper the boules in the forge, Tarchier pumped the bellows and Blanc rotated the boules.

This is how boules are made... the process invented by Jean Blanc and Louis Tarchier. A slug is cut off of a bar of steel, pounded into a flat steel disk, which is then pounded into a shell (coquille).  Two shells are welded (soudre) together to form a sphere, which is then machined into a smooth sphere, after which lines (stries) and engraving are added.

This is how boules are made… the process invented by Jean Blanc and Louis Tarchier.
A slug is cut off of a bar of steel (acier), pounded into a flat steel disk, and then pounded into a shell (coquille). Two shells are welded (soudre) together to form a sphere, which is then machined into a smooth sphere, after which lines (stries) and engraving are added, and the boule is polished.

It took about three hours to manufacture a boule, and in the beginning it was difficult to control the final product. The two had to make boules for several months before they were able to make two of the same weight and the same diameter.

Together, they created the first all steel boules.

Each man had his own business and sold boules under his own brand name. They created their brand names from their initials. Louis Tarchier created the ELTÉ brand in 1930. Its logo, which was stamped on its boules, was Tarchier’s initials “LT” inside a circle. Jean Blanc created the “JB” brand. In very early JB boules, he also used a logo of his initials “JB” inside a circle.

Blanc died in 1933, at the age of 58. Jean Deville purchased the business’s machinery and continued to manufacture boules under the brand name of “JB”.

Louis Tarchier continued to manufacture “L.-T.” or ELTÉ boules, most of which were sent to, and sold through, La Boule Intégrale in Lyon.

petanque_boules_marked_MCAfter thirty-three years with the business, Tarchier retired, giving the business to his son-in-law, Maurice Crozet, who registered the trademark “MC” and carried on with the business. In 1987 the brand name and the factories were sold, and seven years later sold again to OBUT, which retired the ELTÉ brand name. OBUT also bought the JB brand in the 1990s, and retired it in 2012.

French wikipedia says Les boules Elté sont des boules artisanales, très différentes des boules produites à la chaîne, et estimées par les professionnels. — Elté boules were “artisanal” (craft, hand-made) boules, very different from mass-manufactured, and held in high esteem by professionals.

Most of the information in this post comes from the article on ELTE in the French wikipedia. That article cites only one reference, Jean-Michel Izoird and Gérard Pélisson-Lafay, La Pétanque, éditions ÉdiLoire.

My shooting pit (2)

This design consists of two shooting pits, facing each other. You throw from one pit into the opposite pit. Then you walk to the opposite pit, pick up your boules, and throw them back toward the first pit.

I built it using 2x4s but I think that 1x4s would work. The white sheets on the ground are an acrylic material called Plas-Tek. They are used to line showers and may be available at your building-materials store. They come in 4’x8′ sheets, about 1/8″ thick, and cost about $30 each.

The pits are out-of-doors, so I raised the sideboards about an inch off the ground. That allows rain to drain off, and allows me to sweep dust and fallen leaves under the sideboards and off of the court.

When I pick up the boules I put them in a white plastic bucket on brick “towers” where they will be easy to reach as I throw.

Automatic boule return machines

I love weird and/or ingenious devices that are designed to help you practice petanque. In this post, I gather together a few pictures of the most interesting kind of device, the automatic boule return (ABR) machine. ABR machines fall into four basic categories, based (a) on whether the target boule is fixed in place or can be shot away, and (b) whether the machine uses gravity or an electrice motor to return boules to the player.

Fixed-target gravity-powered machines

The most basic design for an ABR machine uses a fixed target and gravity to return thrown boules to the player.

In 2007, the Midwest Petanque Alliance had a post about this machine, which was for sale on eBay France.

Description: Very nice machine for a Petanque club which returns shot boules. A target boule is attached by a cable to the center of the shooting piste. The machine takes note of the force of the shots, and displays them on a screen (1,2 or 3) while returning the shooting boule to the player.

CLICK to see larger image.bar_france_ebay_2007

Here is another machine of the same type. In the lower right-hand corner of the photo, you can see the entrance to the gravity-feed boule-return tube. Perhaps this was built as a promotional tool for KTK. CLICK to see larger image.

I built my own gravity-powered ABR machine. The boule backstop was a heavy old carpet. I would throw as hard as I could and the carpet absorbed it easily, so I would practice throwing as hard as I could.

The most ingenious design for a gravity-powered ABR that I know of, is Jeff Brown’s Boule-O-Matic 3000.

Fixed-target electricity-powered machines

Here is a video of an ABR machine (which calls itself a BAR machine, for “boule automatic return”) in Wateringen, the Netherlands. This device uses an electric motor to lift the thrown boules and return them, like the ball return machines in American bowling alleys. The target boule is fixed in place. If you are a Facebook member, click on the picture and you can watch a short video of the machine in action.

Movable-target gravity-powered machines

This is a picture taken, I believe, at the Marathon booth at the SEA games in Thailand. Marathon is a Thai manufacturer of sports and fitness equipment, including petanque boules. Most ABR machines have a target boule that is fixed in place. This machine, however, allows you to knock the target boule out of position. When you do, both the thrown boule and the target boule are returned via the yellow tube on the right. To replace the target boule that has been displaced, the player takes one of the boules that has been returned to him and feeds it back toward the head via the yellow tube on the left, which neatly rolls the boule into position to become a new target. There is no machinery involved in the process; gravity does all of the work. CLICK to see larger image.bar_thailand

Movable-target electricity-powered machines

There is a similar machine called the Petanque Shooting Trainer, or PST. Unlike the previous machine (but like the ABR in the Netherlands) the PST uses powered machinery to return boules to the player. The PST returns both thrown boules and displaced target boules along a track (the upper track). To replace the target boule, a player takes one of the returned boules and sends it back to the machine via the lower track. The machine then feeds the boule up through the floor of the device, putting it into place as a new target boule.

The PST was developed by an Australian player named Martial Leconte, who built the first prototype in his back yard in 2007. Later he and another Australian player built a second prototype and took it on an exhibition tour of pétanque events in Europe.[1] In the summer of 2016 the device was exhibited in several events in France, and tested by a number of well-known shooters— videos are available on Youtube and on the PST Facebook page. PST has announced that a new model will be presented on tour in the summer of 2018, and that the Rocher family website may become distributors of the device in France.

So that’s my collection of ABR machines. If you have photos or information about other automatic boule return machines, please leave a comment.