There are several reasons why you might want to make your own jack. You might need a jack TODAY and can’t wait for it to come in the mail. Or if you need only one, the shipping costs would be more than the cost of the jack itself! Or you might want a different or brighter color than is available in commercially-made jacks. Or you might want a customized jack to help a special-needs player… a magnetic jack or a larger-than-regulation jack, for instance.
You might think that a home-made jack is OK for casual play, but not in an official competition. Quite the opposite! A home-made jack isn’t a poor substitute for “the real thing”. The FIPJP rules require the jack to be a wooden ball— and that is what your home-made jack is. The FIPJP regulation size for a jack is 30mm +/- 1mm— your home-made jack will be just under 31mm in diameter. The FIPJP regulation weight for a jack is 10g to 18g— your jack will weigh around 13g. In short, a homemade jack meets all of the requirements for a competition jack. It can be used in an official competition.
So let’s begin.
Go to your local craft store or woodworker’s supply store. Buy a wooden ball whose size is one-and-a-quarter (1.25) inches in diameter. (If you can find a ball labelled hardwood, that’s even better.) It will probably cost you less than a dollar.
Once you have your wooden ball, color it red with a permanent marker. Voilà! A jack!
To get a shiny surface, I experimented with painting my homemade jacks with fingernail polish (“Sally Hansen Hard-as-Nails”, $3 per bottle). The first coat is white, the second coat is colored, and the third coat is clear.
Obut’s Fluorescent Yellow jack (below, right) has excellent visibility. I think that a homemade jack painted with Testor Fluorescent Yellow Enamel Paint (below, left) may have even better visibility.
After experimenting with various paints, the players in my group all agree that the paint that makes the most visible jacks is a Krylon “Short Cuts” paint called Glow Orange. I found it at my local Ace Hardware store, or you can order in from amazon.com, either in a spray can or as brush-on paint.
Special jacks for special-needs players
One of the advantages of making your own jacks is that you can make special jacks for special-needs players. A friend with back issues wanted a jack that he could pick up with his magnetic boule lifter. Here is my prototype, made from a battered old wooden jack. I simply installed six small screws (#4 x 3/8″). It works great.
Last year one of our senior players began to experience the effects of age-related macular degeneration. She could play if we used our brightest-colored jack, but it occurred to me that a larger jack would also help.
The 1-3/4″ wooden balls that I ordered from amazon.com arrived in a package marked 1.7in | 44mm. The size seems good to me: bigger, but not too big. Here is a picture of the two sizes of wooden balls along with a 75mm boule.