Petanque America: “La Franc boules are back!”

Philippe Boets reports that Petanque America is again selling La Franc boules! They are available now! Visit petanqueamerica.com/lafrancboule.html

La Franc boules are made in Thailand. They are high-quality competition boules, reasonably priced, with a good selection of weights, sizes, and groove patterns. I especially like the glossy matte finish on the carbon-steel boules. It looks great and it feels good in the hand.

In the past… for many years… a set of La Franc boules from Petanque America was the standard choice for a first set of competition boules. It was also the first choice for players who understood that you don’t actually play better with an expensive set of boules! But there started to be shipping problems, supplies became unreliable, and in 2016 Philippe reluctantly decided to stop selling La Franc boules.

That was four years ago. Since then, things have changed. There are now a lot of new converts to the game in the US. There is a healthy demand for affordable competition boules with a good selection of weights, sizes, and groove patterns The dollar/euro exchange rate has shifted to favor La Franc. So Philippe decided to reconnect with La Franc, and La Franc responded quickly and efficiently. The bottom line is that Petanque America is again selling La Franc boules, and the future is looking bright for La Franc boules in the USA.

Here is a set that I just ordered. As you can see, the old cardboard-box packaging is gone. We now have a sturdy plastic carrier, similar to the way that Geologic boules are packaged. These carriers are pretty useless, of course. You really need a sturdy bag that can hold your boule towel, measuring tape, spare jacks, etc. Still, it looks nice.

Petanque best practices for playing with Covid-19

A list of best practices for playing during the pandemic, gathered from various sources.

Current research indicates that Covid-19 is spread primarily by water droplets and aerosolized virus particles exhaled by persons who don’t (yet) realize that they have contracted the disease. We have two tools to stop this mode of transmission— social distancing and mask-wearing. Touching objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of transmission, although objects should be handled with care and hand-washing after handling objects is recommended.

On the basis of this information, petanque groups have developed some best practices for playing petanque during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  1. Always wear a mask.
     
  2. Practice social distancing. The recommended minimum social distance is 6 feet (2 meters), but make it more if you can.
     
    • Remember to maintain social distancing while boules are being measured. Don’t congregate around the jack while boules are being measured.
       
    • Remember to maintain social distancing while boules are being picked up. Don’t congregate around the jack. Kick boules away from the head, and/or take turns picking up the boules.
       
  3. Don’t share objects or pass them hand-to-hand. This includes hand sanitizer, boules, the jack, the circle, and the tape measure.
     
    • Each game should have its own circle, and there should be a single player who acts as the designated circle-handler. Only he/she should pick up and place and mark the circle. Alternatively, the game may be played without a plastic circle; players draw circles on the ground in the traditional way.
       
    • Each game should have its own tape measure, and there should be a single player who acts as the designated measurement-maker.
       
    • Each team should have its own jack, and there should be a single player who acts as its designated jack-handler. Only he/she should pick up the team’s jack at the end of a mène, and only he/she should throw the team’s jack at the beginning of a mène.
       
  4. Physically space out games, so that there is as much distance as possible between games. If you are playing in a boulodrome with marked lanes, leave at least one unused lane between lanes that are being used.
     
  5. Do not use handshakes (or if you’re French, hugs and kisses) to greet or congratulate each other at the beginning and end of games. Suggested alternatives are verbal greetings, elbow-bumps, or namasté.

Shoot the 30 – a Facebook precision shooting competition

In this Year Of The Coronavirus, petanque players are finding ways to compete while maintaining social distancing. Shoot the 30 is a Facebook group where players can participate in a grass-roots version of the FIPJP precision shooting competition. The idea apparently originated in Europe and was brought to America by Wolfgang Kurz (Valley of the Moon Petanque Club) and René van Kesteren (Salt Lake City Petanque Club).

You can find one entry HERE.

The rules that I’ve found on Facebook are a bit sketchy, so I’ve filled in the gaps based on the rules of the FIPJP precision shooting (tir de precision) competition.

1. Draw a target circle, 1 meter in diameter, on the ground.
2. Place a target boule in the center of the target circle.
3. There are three shooting distances: 7/8/9 meters.
4. Throw 10 boules from each distance: 30 boules in all. Shoot the 30.
5. Each throw scores from zero to five points.
6. A perfect score is 150 points (30 boules x 5 points).

A thrown boule is a hit if the first thing that it hits is the target boule, or if it hits the ground inside the target circle and then hits the target boule.
A thrown boule is a miss if it doesn’t hit the target boule or the first thing that it hits is the ground outside the target circle or the edge of the target circle.

Points are earned in the following ways.

  • carreau – 5 points
    The target boule is knocked completely out of the circle and the thrown boule stays inside the circle.
  • réussi (success) – 3 points
    The target boule is knocked out of the circle, but then the thrown boule also goes out of the circle.
  • touché (touch) – 1 point
    The target boule is hit (touché) but is not knocked completely out of the circle.
  • miss – 0 points

The easiest way to do this is with two people. One person throws and the other stands near the target circle, keeps score, resets the target area between throws, and tosses the thrown boules back to the thrower.

 

For a long time I’ve been interested in finding a simple method for measuring (assigning a numeric value to) a player’s skill level. If we had such a method, then a player looking for a partner for a competition could use that numeric value to help find a partner with a similar skill level. I proposed one idea HERE, but using a player’s “Shoot the 30” score would probably be easier….
I’m looking for a partner for the upcoming Amelia Island Open. I’m mostly a pointer but I can shoot in a pinch. My “Shoot the 30” score is typically ____.

 

La Circulaire – a lesser-known pétanque tradition

Almost from the day that petanque was invented in 1910, petanque players have experimented with tools and methods for drawing a throwing circle on the ground. Using a foot to swipe a curve (courbe) in the dirt was crude. Drawing a cicle with a finger left you with dirty hands. Using a stick worked well, but suitable sticks weren’t always readily available. Players began to experiment with specialized tools for drawing circles, and in the process they created one of the lesser-known pétanque traditions— that of l’outil pour faire le cercle or simply la circulaire.

The most popular type of circulaire was made from the tip of the horn of the Alpine Ibex. Some were simply polished, but there was also a tradition of elaborately carving the horns. Possibly because many of the carved circulaires were created by sailors (who played petanque while in port and carved scrimshaw while at sea), one of the most popular designs was of a mermaid holding up two boules. In 1971, the founders of Starbucks Coffee adapted that design to create the first version of their company logo. The design was altered so that the mermaid’s tails cover the boules in her hands, but you can still see the boules in the band surrounding the image.

Carved circulaires were never widely used, partly because only a few of them were ever created, partly because they were expensive, and partly because the Alpine Ibex had been hunted almost to extinction. Some players improvised circulaires from old screwdrivers and, more recently, old ballpoint pens. Some players opted for a manufactured “petanque marker”, a version of which is still available from PetanqueShop.com.

Although these designs were functional and effective, I’ve always felt that they were a bit clunky. Recently I found a new, streamlined design that I actually prefer. It is long enough to provide a good grip and good freedom of motion for the wrist. There is a nice rubber cushion on the handle. A graphite core keeps the weight down, and its slim design allows it eaily to be tucked away in a pocket. It is available for €16 at PetanquePoisson.com.

[Originally published 2020-04-01.  Reposted with permission.]

 
[Additional text added 2021-01-04]
This post is, of course, an April Fool joke. It is true, however, that petanque players have been known to make tools specialized for marking the circle. Here are a couple that I found on a German Facebook group. This one adds a circle-marker to the handle end of a strap for a magnetic boule lifter.

This one puts a circle-marker on a retractable key holder.

Comparing online translators

Online translators can be tremendously useful for those of us who are not bilingual (or at least not fluently). This year I wanted to translate a simple sentence from English into French. I ran it through four different free online translation sites. Here is how those sites compare.

  • English: “Father Christmas says that Christmas may be late this year.”
  • Desired French: “Le Père Noël dit que Noël pourrait être en retard cette année.”

Skip to THE BOTTOM LINE

INTRODUCTION

There are a number of criteria that we can use to evaluate a translation site.

  • Is the translation correct? Are there any typographic or spelling or grammar or vocabulary errors?
  • How good is the translation?  Is it idomatic?  Does it make good or poor vocabulary choices?
  • Is the user interface user-friendly?  Can you easily switch the FROM and TO languages?
  • Are there limits on the length of the text that can be translated?
  • In addition to translation, does the site offer any other useful tools?

GOOGLE TRANSLATE  https://translate.google.com/
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Google can translate only short passages.  Its translation had one capitalization error.  The SWITCH LANGUAGES feature is primitive.  User interface is not user-friendly.

 

BING (MICROSOFT) TRANSLATE  https://www.bing.com/translator
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The user interface is good.  A major CON is that the translation had the most errors (3) of any of the sites.   On the other hand, it was the only site where you could hear the translated text in good native-speaker French. It can translate up to 5000 characters.

 

SYSTRAN https://translate.systran.net/translationTools/text
Click to open a larger image.The user interface is good.  It is possible to hear the translation, but the spoken French is terrible – it was what you’d hear from an American who doesn’t know any French and is phonetically sounding out the written text.  It can translate up to 5000 characters.

Systran seems to be the most full-featured of all of the sites.  It provides a lot of vocabulary tips and offers alternate translations based on different “models”. 
Click to open a larger image.

 

DEEPL https://www.deepl.com/translator
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Click to open a larger image.

DeepL has a good user interface and produced the best translation of any of the sites.  The real strength of DeepL is that you can upload a long document in .docx format and DeepL will translate it for you.  This is the only site that offers that feature.

THE BOTTOM LINE

DeepL is our winner.  It produced the best translation (zero errors), has a simple and friendly user interface, and can translate uploaded documents.

Systran is a strong runner-up.  It did a good job at translation and offers a lot of useful extras.

Our obvious losers are Google and Bing (Microsoft).  Google Translate has an extremely crude user interface that is actually unpleasant to use.  Bing‘s translation was the worst of all of the sites, with 3 outright errors.  However, it gets an honorable mention for its good user interface and its ability to produce good spoken French.


An open letter to that third boule

AN OPEN LETTER TO THAT THIRD BOULE
Lee Harris, Portland Petanque Club, Portland, Oregon, USA (August 29, 2019)

If I could be judged solely on the merits of you, my third boule, then I would be likened to the greatest players in petanque.

But I must be honest with myself. Your greatness is no reflection on me. You are ever flawless in execution and I marvel at thee.

Contrary to the first and second boule to leave my hand this end, you plot your own course, and refuse to follow in the ruts that your predecessors did.

You are unlike your two fellows, who went where I threw them and not where I desired that they should go. You threw off conformity to mark your own path, casually rolling past the barricade of boules, to nudge your boxwood compatriot. I pump my arm in salute to you. Bob, I believe I shall call you, Bob.
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Where to aim when you’re shooting

My friends and I are aspiring shooters, and one question that we toss around is— “Where should you aim when you’re shooting?”  We’ve come up with a variety of answers. Here is the answer that I like best, because it is the one that works best for me.

Aim for the spot on the ground immediately in front of the target boule.

Go to the target boule and put your boule on the ground directly in front of it, so the two boules are touching. That’s where you should aim; that’s where you want your thown boule to hit the ground. Here is a view from above; the target boule is on the left; the ghostly circle on the right is where you want your boule to come down.

Here is a side view. You can see the thrown boule coming down from the right at approximately a 45 degree angle.

There a a number of reasons why I think this strategy works. Continue reading

The magic yellow line comes to televised petanque

If you watch American football on television, you’re familiar with the magic yellow line. Incredibly powerful computer technology now makes it possible to superimpose computer-generated graphics onto the moving images of the game in such a way that the graphics appear to be physically painted onto the playing field. This technology was first used to display the first-and-ten line as a yellow line on the field (hence the name “magic yellow line”) but now it has advanced to the point where many other graphical elements can also be inserted onto the screen.

This technology has finally made its way to televised petanque. I’ve been wishing for it for a long time, and now it’s here. You can see it at a few scattered places in the 2017 Eurocup Finale on Youtube.

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The technology isn’t yet perfect— the 10m10 distance shown in the first image was wrong. (The umpires measured it at 9m73, so the jack was good.) But of course it will get better.

The Ten Commandments of Petanque (postcards)

Paul Ordner had a long and successful career (starting in 1923) as a commercial artist, creating illustrations for advertisments, magazine covers, and posters (especially for sports-related magazines and events) as well as humorous and political cartoons. Around 1960 he began creating humorous drawings and cartoons for postcard publisher Éditions Photochrome à Toulouse. Eventually he designed almost 300 cards. He died in 1969 at age 68. A book of his art, Paul Ordner: 40 ans de dessin sportif, humoristique et politique, was published in 2014.

His series of postcards called “The Ten Commandments of Petanque” (Les Dix Commandements de la Pétanque) is popular with Petanque players.

01: You may tell your wife to go to hell, but thou shalt finish the game first.
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Unboxing Obut order from PetanqueAmerica

I ordered some jacks, an umpire’s folding ruler, and a set of the new Obut stainless steel leisure boules from Petanque America.

jacks
The first item in the order was several orange Obut jacks. I’d seen the orange jacks on Youtube videos and the color seemed to be easy to see. I’d describe the color as matte (not glossy) flourescent orange.

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How to send text messages from your laptop or PC

If you’re trying to co-ordinate a group of petanque players, it can sometimes be handy to be able to send them text messages via email from your laptop or PC. Here’s how to do it.

The first thing you need to know is that, for the purposes of emailing a text message, each cell phone has an ordinary email address. The format of that address is

phoneNumber@carrierSMSgateway

The phoneNumber should be 10 digits. It should include the area code. It should include only numbers – no dashes or parentheses. So for a phone number of (333) 444-5555 the phoneNumber in the email address is 3334445555.

The carrierSMSgateway is the SMS (“Short Message Service”) gateway provided by the telephone carrier. If you know a telephone number, there are several free web sites that will let you look up the carrier of that number, and the carrier’s SMS gateway. One web site that I found easy to use was freecarrierlookup.com



freecarrierlookupdotcom

In the image, you can see that the carrier for this particular number is Verizon Wireless, and Verizon’s SMS gateway is vtext.com. Very conveniently, freecarrierlookup.com provides the full SMS gateway address (5206644133@vtext.com) for the number that was looked up, so I can just copy-and-paste it into my email program.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will see your email address (the “Reply-to” email address that you provided when you sent your email message) in the place where he would normally see the caller’s telephone number. If the recipient replies to your text message, his reply will be sent to that email address.

But, a WARNING—

Email providers often regard email that is sent from a telephone number as coming from an unknown or suspect source. Some will flag such email as spam, so that the reply ends up in your email’s JUNK MAIL folder. Some will greylist the reply and delay it (this message was delayed for an hour).

X-Greylist delayed 3601 seconds by postgrey-1.34 at mail8.webfaction.com

Some email providers will silently and completely filter out the reply— you receive no reply and no indication whatsoever that the recipient replied to your message. So, at least until you’ve experimented and determined otherwise, don’t assume that replies to your text message will get through to you.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will receive a text message consisting of the SUBJECT line of your email message (in parentheses) followed by the text of the message. You can use a very short subject line. When I send a text message with a question, I like to make the subject line just a question mark, so the recipient gets a text message that starts with “(?)”.

Keep your messages (including the SUBJECT line) short. Try to keep the whole thing to less than 160 characters. If your message is longer than 160 characters, your message will be broken down into chunks of 153 characters, and each chunk will be sent as a separate text message. Some carriers are smart enough to re-assemble the short chunks into one long text message, but most are not.

If you’d like to review your message before sending it to others, send it to your own phone. Then, if it looks good, you can send it to the real recipients.

Note that this information only applies to telephone numbers with US and Canada area codes. That is: numbers with country code = 1. You can send text messages to foreign countries, too. When dialing, you first specify your country’s “exit code” to get onto the international exchange, then you specify the recipient’s country code and his telephone number. For international dialing, one source that I found to be useful was www.howtocallabroad.com. It will tell you, for instance, that the exit code for the USA is 011.


How to watch petanque on region-restricted web sites

The 2016 world championships were streamed online on a French TV channel. But if you wanted to watch the champtionships, and lived in the USA, and went to La chaîne l’Équipe to watch the championships, what you saw was a “region restricted” message. You can see it HERE.video_region_restricted

In this post I describe the tool that I used to get around the region restrictions and watch the championships. If you’re interested in the technology behind region restriction, and the ways to get around region restrictions, Google THIS.
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How to blacken your boules

There are a number of reasons why you might want to make the entire surface of your boules black. You might want to make it easier to tell your boules from other players’ boules. You might want to play solitaire. You just might like the color.

Gun blacking comes off on your hands and wears off quickly. Black magic marker (permanent marker) is time-consuming and messy to apply, and leaves your boules slightly sticky for a while. Now Kim Badcock, of the Mission Beach Petanque Club in Australia, has a tip for what may be the best method yet.

In response to our post on boules and rust Kim wrote

Did you know you can make your SB boules black again and very easily. A soak or wipe over with a very weak acid solution (vinegar, lemon juice, dilute hydrichloric acid etc) will change the outer molecular layers of your boule to magnetite (black colour). Quickly wipe with an oiled cloth afterwards to help seal in the colouring.

This should work with all carbon-steel boules. It shouldn’t work with stainless steel boules or with chrome-plated boules (which means that it shouldn’t work with leisure boules).

Following Kim’s suggestion, I bought an inexpensive jug of distilled white vinegar. I left two La Franc SB boules to soak in the vinegar overnight. (La Franc SB boules are relatively soft carbon-steel boules, acier au carbone.) In the morning they were really black. When I washed them off, a lot of black came off on my hands. The boules were left with a deep uniform matte gunmetal grey color. There was a small shiny spot where they had been sitting on the bottom of the container.

In this picture, the brownish boule in the front is a rusty boule that has been brought back from the dead. The two vinegar-blackened boules are at the back. The boule at the left has been played with more than the boule at the right, so it is more scratched-up. The image doesn’t really capture the color of the boules. The boules, while not absolutely black, are a much darker grey than they appear in the photo. In play, they do appear to be black.
Click to see larger image.

This picture was taken immediately after I treated the boules. Since then, I’ve played with them a couple of times and the color seems relatively long-lasting. In any event, even if the color doesn’t last forever, renewing the color with another vinegar soak is essentially effortless. I’m happy with the result.


Update, April 28, 2017
Today, about 5 months after the date of the original post and after perhaps 30 to 50 hours of play, I thought the boules were beginning to look a bit shiny, so I blackened them again. Soaking them for 6 hours in distilled white vinegar restored them exactly to the condition that you see in the pictures in the original post.


How to remove magic marker from boules

During the off season I like to play solitaire. To make it easy to distinguish the two sets of boules, I cover one set pretty completely with black magic marker. When regular play resumes, I can easily remove remove the black marks with a product called “Goof Off”. You might be able to find it at your local hardware or hobby store. Otherwise, it is available via Amazon.com or from www.goof-off.com.
image_goof-off_can


Night play beside the baseball fields

Tucson’s climate is warm and dry (like the South of France) and there are many places in public parks that make fine petanque terrains. We don’t need a dedicated petanque boulodrome (although an air-conditioned one in summer would be nice). We prefer to play in the park on an open terrain.

There is, however, one problem with this arrangement. We can’t play after dark because none of the places where we play during the day has lights for night play.

There is a solution to this problem. I’m blogging about it because the solution is probably available in other cities, too.

 
In Tucson, the city and the county have a variety of public recreational facilities— parks, swimming pools, and community centers. There are also several large sports complexes scattered around the city. These facilities are designed to support sports that require large playing fields— baseball, (American) football, and soccer.

In these sports complexes, the baseball fields are typically pie-shaped. They are laid out in a large circular area that is divided into four quarters by wide gravel paths. There is one baseball diamond in each quarter. The paths between the fields give players and spectators access to the fields and to viewing stands. Tall posts supporting floodlights are located on the paths— the floodlights are very bright, and illuminate the fields on both sides of the paths as well as the paths themselves.

The paths are very wide. Because people walk across them a lot, they are hard-packed. They make perfect petanque terrains.

Aerial view (courtesy of Google Maps) of a typical sports complex— the Golf Links Sports Complex— in Tucson, Arizona, USA. The main entrance is from the parking lot in the upper right-hand corner of the photo.

Monday through Thursday evenings, city-league softball games are played on the fields. Games are scheduled for three time slots beginning at 6:30, 7:35pm, and 8:45pm. While games are in progress (roughly between 6:30pm and 10:00pm) the fields and paths are brightly lit by the floodlights located on the paths.

Between games players arrive and leave before and after their games, and there is a lot of foot traffic on the paths. But once the softball games have begun, the paths are virtually empty. The empty paths make excellent lighted petanque terrains.

A perfect lighted terrain for night play, on the paths at Golf Links Sports Complex.

View from the main entrance of the Golf Links Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona. The access path for the baseball diamonds makes a perfect lighted terrain for night play.

The moral of the story…
What worked in our town might also work in yours. If you’re looking for a location for night play of petanque, you might be able to use facilities built for night play of other sports.

What to look for when you’re looking for places to play

When you’re looking around town for suitable places to play, it’d helpful to have a list of the things that are important in a playing area. Such a list can also be useful when conferring with your local Parks & Recreation Department about what features are important in a petanque facility in a public park.

Here is the playing area of the National Capitol Club de Petanque in Highlands Park, Alexandria, Virginia. It has all of the features that you want in a playing area — space for five terrains, convenient metered public parking (free on the weekends) and handicapped parking, portable restrooms, benches overlooking the terrains, picnic tables, big shade trees, overhead lighting for night play, a nearby playground for the little kids, and (obviously) a pleasant location.  It also has a storage shed to which the NCCdP has a key. The shed is useful for storing rakes (for clearing fallen leaves and branches off of the pistes after rain storms), plastic circles, guest boules, etc.

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How to watch petanque videos on YouTube

If you like to watch petanque videos on YouTube, eventually you will run across a video (like 2éme Demi-Finale PPF 2015 part 3) where things just don’t look right. The players may look too tall and thin. Or too short and squat. You may see the image on the left, when you know you should be seeing the image on the right.

The problem here is that the person who uploaded the video to YouTube made a mistake and uploaded the video with the wrong aspect ratio.

Is there something you can do about this?


The easiest solution is to go to www.videolan.org/vlc and download and install a program called VLC. VLC is a free, open-source, cross-platform multimedia video player. It is safe and reliable. Download and install it.

Once you’ve installed it, you can use VLC, rather than your browser, to play YouTube videos. Here’s how to do it.

When you’re using your browser to watch YouTube videos, and you find one with a bad aspect ratio, select (highlight) the URL (web address) of the video and copy it (press CONTROL+C, or right-click and select COPY).AspectRatio_copyYoutube_URL
Then open VLC. On VLC’s Media menu, select Open Network Stream.
AspectRatio_VLC_openNetworkStream

Then paste (press CONTROL+V, or right-click and PASTE) the URL there, and click on PLAY.
AspectRatio_networkStream_enterURL

The video will start playing.

After it starts, an easy way to change the aspect ratio is simply to repeatedly press the “A” key on your keyboard until the video displays with the correct aspect ratio. If you prefer to do things a bit more explicitly, you can use your mouse to select Video, then Aspect Ratio, then the aspect ratio that you want.
AspectRatio_VLC_setAspectRatio


AspectRatio_VLC_LoopIf you really want to study a video, VLC has a couple of other useful features.

One is a “loop” feature. If you click on the LOOP icon, that marks the beginning of a video clip. Click a second time on the LOOP icon, and VLC starts playing that same video clip over and over, so you can watch it over and over again as long as you want. Click on the LOOP icon again, and looping stops and normal play resumes.

AspectRatio_VLC_FrameByFrameIf you click on the FRAME-BY-FRAME icon, the video freezes. Then each time you click again on the FRAME-BY-FRAME icon the video advances one frame. This is the ultimate possible slow-motion playback. Clicking the wedge-shaped PLAY icon will cause VLC to resume normal display of the video.


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.