Make your own jacks

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. You may need only one… the shipping would cost more than the jack itself! You might want a different or brighter color than is available in commercially-made jacks. A customized jack might help a special-needs player.

Here’s a suggestion. 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.

wooden_balls_ad

Once you have your wooden ball, color it red with a permanent marker. Voilà! A jack!

wooden_jack_homemade

You might think that your home-made jack is OK for casual play, but not in an official competition. Quite the opposite! Your home-made jack isn’t a poor substitute for “the real thing”. The requirements for the jack are requirements for a wooden ball, and that is exactly what your home-made jack is. Your home-made jack will be just under 31mm in diameter: within the official size requirements of 30mm +/- 1mm. It will weigh around 13g: right in the middle of the required weight range of 10g to 18g. It meets all of the requirements for a competition jack.

After using a homemade jack for a while, I began wondering if it would be possible to get a shiny painted surface like the Obut jacks have. After a bit of experimentation, I made these. They are painted with three coats of “Sally Hansen Hard-as-Nails” fingernail polish ($3 per bottle). The first coat is white, the second coat is colored, and the third coat is clear.

jacks_homemade_painted

Players in my club think that the easiest-to-see jack is Obut’s Fluorescent Yellow jack. But I have found that Testor Fluorescent Yellow Enamel Paint (which I found at my local Hobby Lobby) is even easier to see. My homemade jack (below) is on the left, and the Obut yellow jack is on the right.
homemade_jack_testors_fluo_yellow

After further experimentation, I’ve discovered a paint that makes a very visible color. It comes in a small spray can in Krylon’s “Short Cuts” line. It is a Krylon Hobby/Craft Paint called Glow Orange. I found it at my local Ace Hardware store, or you can order it on amazon.com.

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 playing with 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.