Functionally, I think it would be a disadvantage for an ink ball to be a
full sphere or to come apart.
It has been suggested that this was a form to make medicine balls.
Originally, they were only approximately round. They were sewed inside
out like pincushions.
More recent medicine balls had polar caps, suggesting that they were
sewn on forms. The caps I've seen are much too small to remove the four
largest wedges of the mystery form. Small wedges were more important
for making basketballs because it was important to remove them without
cutting the reinforcing cords.
The four large wedges suggest to me that it may have been to make
pinatas. You'd stick the stem in a hole in your bench, wax the wood,
wrap it with paper mache, remove the top by cutting a latitude line
larger than the Arctic Circle around the stem, remove the form, and use
more paper mache to stick the top back on. A pinata didn't have to be
strong like a basketball.
I don't know for sure how they make medicine balls, but I would guess they
would sew the top half first, then flip it over to work on the bottom, when
half of the bottom panels are complete they could pull out some wedges and
rotate the leather, then continue in this manner until complete.
I figured that most round pinatas were made by using a balloon for support.
We'll have to agree to disagree on this one, but if you find any sources on
wood pinata forms I'd be happy to take a look at them.
Someone had told me that 8" was too small for a medicine ball but I found
one that size on this page:
If you find any sources showing medicine balls being sewed on wooden
forms, I'd be happy to look at them. Here's one from the 1950s:
Even then, they weren't perfectly round. It seems to me it would have
been much easier to sew without a form, especially if one used a sewing
Balloons became available about 1889, for 4’ apiece, which would be $1
nowadays. Before that, what would they have used except wooden forms?
Even after balloons were available, making dozens of pinatas for annual
festivals would have been cheaper with wooden forms, and the wooden form
would have made it easier to cut the pinata open to fill with candy.
You make some good points, I've been searching for pinata forms and medicine
ball forms and have had the same luck with both, I'll let everyone know if
find anything. Wouldn't surprise me if it turned out to be for a totally
Have you spelled it right in your searches? It really should be
"piρata", which can be difficult to generate depending on your keyboard
and computer OS, and in case it is not properly displayed on your
computer, it is an 'n' with a '~' above it. Not sure how forgiving the
search engines are about that.
This page say Mexicans still use wooden forms to make table displays,
wall displays, clowns, and angels. They mold the paper mache around the
form, then cut the paper mache in two.
This page says wooden forms for paper mache are called takaan.
This page says molding paper mache toys on wooden forms became very
popular after American newspapers became available and declined when
plastic toys arrived.
I would bet that the wooden form is for sand molding the rough shape for
a valve cavity. One of the local outfits uses nice aluminum ones now but
wood is a LOT lighter and easier to work with for the previous generation.
Those aren't full round balls, they are for applying the ink to the
plates. They are stuffed very firmly with wool and the skin is leather.
I don't see any way that a wooden ball could work. I liked the pinata
idea - the segmented wooden ball must be for taking it apart after some
type of ball was formed.
2476 How about a form for making pinatas? Marco Polo discovered them
on his China trip. Nowadays, you might use a balloon for a form.
It looks as if you could make a paper-mache pinata up to 53 degrees
north of the equator, like Dublin or Liverpool, and still get the wedges
out after withdrawing the center piece. Then you could put in the
goodies and attach a paper-mache cap. Perhaps this would be more rigid
and could be filled fuller than if you made a pinata out of two hemispheres.
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