|My gazing ball|
Gazing balls, garden orbs, gazing globes, and garden balls are all names for a shiny sphere that adds an element of color or reflection to a garden space. They can be made from a number of different materials in a variety of sizes, but for mine I used a bowling ball that I purchased from a local secondhand store.
The first step is cleaning the ball. I used isopropyl alcohol to remove years of bowling alley oil and palm sweat from the ball.
|Cleaning the ball|
Second, the finger holes and engraved letters need to be filled. I used wood putty. Not all wood putties are the same; some aren't intended for large holes and will crack when dry. I used a wood putty formulated for filling gaps with minimal shrinking and cracking. You can also use plaster or caulk.
|Fill the holes|
You want to leave one hole open for mounting the ball in your garden. I left the thumb hole open because it's larger than the others and gives more options for mounting.
To reduce the amount of putty I needed, I filled each finger hole with rolled newspaper first. This left a depth of about 1/4 inch to fill rather than the original two-inch hole. You may need to do this in a couple steps. Fill most of the hole, let it dry, and then add a final fill.
|Newspaper fills the space|
After the putty dried I sanded it. The idea is to have the filled hole flush with the exterior curve.
|Sanding the dried putty|
|Painting with spray paint|
For extra weather protection you can cover the ball with polyurethane after the paint dries. You need to use spar varnish that is specifically formulated for exterior use. Simply brush it on the entire ball.
|Use spar varnish for exterior applications|
At this point you can consider the project finished and display your shiny, colored ball. My problem is that many used bowling balls have gouges and scrapes that detract from the smooth, shiny surface I desired. For this gazing ball I opted to add color and texture with the addition of colored glass stones from a craft store.
Using a clear, exterior grade caulk, glue the glass stones to the ball. It just takes a dollop of caulk. Press the stone to the ball firmly. The weight of the glass will cause it to slide down the curved surface if you don't hold it in place for many minutes. I found that a large rubber band placed around the middle of the ball not only marked a straight line, but also helped hold the stones, reduced their slide, and didn't require me to waste time applying continual pressure.
|Placing glass stones|
You'll need to let the first layer set up and dry before moving on. The weight of more than one row will be too much for the rubber band and many pieces will drop off, but with the first row intact it provides an anchor for successive layers. After a few hours of allowing the caulk to set it should be strong enough.
Continue adding rows of stones. I found it best to do two or three rows at a time and let the caulk set before moving on with more rows. After the upper half is dry, turn the ball over and finish the second hemisphere. I used an egg carton to support the ball while I was working but a large bowl, pan, or wood template would work too.
|Covering the ball with stones|
This project took about four days to complete with me completing layers periodically through the day.
When the entire ball has had a few days to dry completely it's ready to place outside. Rebar is an easy mounting rod. Galvanized pipes can be used and can be painted to match the ball. Copper pipe adds a nice touch and brings an eclectic look when is develops a patina.
Their is no limit to the colors and designs that you can use to make gazing balls. After the gold ball with colored glass I made a silver one with clear glass stones.
|My silver gazing ball|
Next I'll break up an old mirror and grout the edges after mounting the pieces to the ball. It will be a truly reflective orb.
With a little imagination, a bowling ball, and minimal crafting skill, you can have a gazing ball of your own.