Wood soccer balls not easy to make

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Wood soccer balls not easy to make

There are many makers of soccer balls in the world, but Sa Kwang-sung, 52, is a bit different. Mr. Sa, the head of Dongyang Artech ― a wooden craftware company ― creates soccer balls made of wood.
Mr. Sa has practiced his trade for about 30 years and operates a factory in Euijeongbu, Gyeonggi province. The company mostly produces wooden crafts and kitchenware and sells its products both domestically and overseas.
Dongyang Artech has been producing wooden soccer balls ― which it calls “artballs” ― since 2000. The balls are made with small pieces of wood ― 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons ― which fit together to form a sphere.
The process required special skills, and Mr. Sa received a patent in 2000 in Korea and Japan for his manufacturing technique. He has also applied for a U.S. patent.
“It wasn’t easy putting together 32 pieces of wood that are only about 2 centimeters thick,” he said. “I started developing techniques to make a wooden soccer ball upon a friend’s suggestion, but it took a lot of time. I went through about four years of trial and error and spent about 500 million won ($487,000).”
Making the wooden soccer ball involved developing wood-cutting techniques and inventing a new type of glue.
“Regular glue will cause a film on the edge where the two pieces are glued together, and that ruins the shape of the ball,” Mr. Sa said. “The glue that I developed seeps into the wood.”
The type of wood was also important.
“First, I made soccer balls from wood imported from Africa and Europe, but the next day, the balls would be deformed, because the wood would absorb water from the humid air,” Mr. Sa said. “The alteration of the shape was not drastic, but I wanted a perfect sphere. Several truckloads of wood samples were thrown out in the process of experimenting.”
When completed, the balls are incorporated into other objects before they are sold, including trophies and lamp stands. Mr. Sa said that he hopes to expand into the European market for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

by Jeong Young-jae
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