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