Update 10 february 2018          (15 – 45/2 – 51 – 60 – 70) 

1) Unusual and beautiful objects, these treasures are witnesses of a time where I would make a small incursion.
2) Each ball has its own history, it passed from hand to hand during the ‘’parties de boules‘’. Some are real works of art… with an unique feature: ‘’objects destined to survive the violent shocks and other mistreatments‘’.
3) Until the end of 19th century, turned from wood, the balls were already perfectly spheric. In many cases Boxwood roots was used because very dense and therefore appreciated for its toughness. (first picture diam.108mm – 680gr) ‘’The story of the ball is naturally linked to the possibilities of manufacturing of the epoch.‘’ Originally existed balls from different woods with different textures as below.
4) Until the mid 19th century, people played with wooden balls: boxwood, beech or elm. Some were partially nailed but …‘’ These wooden balls had a weak point : subject to wear they were distorted, especially if the game was played on hard and stony ground.‘’ (like the comment of photo number 1, extract from the website:
5) Here is a set of balls garnished with spaced nails, they were colored for an easier recognition. Looking at their head it seems to be screws but those are nails. They have to protect the surface of the balls against shocks and abrasion. (diameter 98mm). Not boxwood, this wood is less dense with a different texture. Partially studded they preceded the fully studded balls (seen lower). Paradoxically, this nail seems to have been made mechanically. (1 or 2 ‘’click‘’ on the pic to enlarge)
6) The above ball (100mm) shows a rudimentary nailing, it is probably elm wood, even older than the eight above balls. One ‘click’ on the picture to see the hand forged nails.
7) Evolution: on this heavy ball in very dense boxwood (8.8 cm / 465 gr) the nailing is less rudimentary, in order to improve their aesthetic appearance the nails were neatly lined. 
8) The sophistication of decoration takes shape. These two balls are noticeably of boxwood, very dense. (11.2 cm = 705/730 gr – pictures found on: brocante Papy-Rouge)
9) Here is the same manufacturing. Picture received from the website ‘’Jeux Anciens‘’ (games from the past) They lived but visibly these were well maintained.
In the last quarter of the 19th century the nails were made mechanically, making easier the manufacturing of balls with the advantage of protecting them from spoilage and wear. The first ones garnished in this way were reinforced by iron nails with a large round head. The ball shown below (95 mm) ‘would have been’ according to its former owner, made by a convict. (but no document supports this hypothesis.)


Grâce aux clous les boules furent plus lourdes et leurs diamètres augmentaient (100 à 150 mm et le poids aussi jusque 1500 Gr), en particulier pour les boules du jeu "à la lyonnaise". Plus tard on employait des clous à tête plate. A partir de là les fabricants furent de vrais artistes, les clous étaient en différentes matières et couleurs (fer, cuivre, laiton) ce qui permettait de faire plusieurs sorte de symboles, le plus souvent des chiffres ou des initiales mais aussi des étoiles et autres sujets d’après les souhaits des joueurs (en quelque sorte "les armoiries" du bouliste). Par la suite (vers 1900) on a fabriqué des boules de diamètre 70 à 90 mm, c’étaient les premières boules pour le jeu provençal et plus tard pour la pétanque. La boule ci-dessous, plus récente est recouverte de clous faits mécaniquement.
10) ROUND SHAPED NAILS – Due to the nails, balls became heavier with a diameter of 100 to 150 mm and a weight of up to 1500g, particularly those of the game ‘Lyonnaise’. Later horseshoe nails or flat head nails were used. Starting from that moment, artisans becames real artists, the nails were made with several materials and colors (iron, copper, brass) which allowed to make symbols, numbers or initials as well as stars and other drawings according to wishes of the players. The two balls below (100 mm) are covered with nails made mechanically.
11) Originally, the balls were simply covered with rounded heads nails.
12*) Here, the round heads are flattened. The deformation of some nails is due to violent shocks.
13) Balls covered with round head nails ranked (about) from the oldest to the most recent. Based on the fact that on the ball each head is different, the first 6 balls seems forged by hand. One ‘’click‘’ to see the details.
14) There is a lot of variants. Here few nails but they have big heads. (100 mm)
15) Another original form: domed hexagonal and tightly fitting nails. (Ebay picture)





16) Older, this little ball of ‘’Provençal game‘’ (75mm 557 gr) is still covered with hand-forged nails. Since then, the Provençal game was supplanted by the popular ‘’petanque‘’ officialized in 1910. If you understand french, maybe with ‘’Google translation‘’ and if you want to know more, open this link:
17) Above and below, even older a little jewel probably from the late 19th century. One ‘’click‘’ on this ball of Provençal game (80mm) will reveal details on the heads of the spikes worked by craftsmen so they overlap a little in order to get a smoother surface. On the enlarged picture, the knotty and highly hard boxwood can be seen clearly. The heads have disappeared but their spikes imprisoned remain in place forever.


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18) The same from another angle.


19) A strange ball, probably a rare and precious piece. Many nails are beveled, each nail is different, head angles are sharp as if each head had been sheared rather than forged … this is an enigma. The ball is very heavy, with a diameter of 98mm it weighs 1.390 kg and yet she remained perfectly round without asperities. Below, one click to see the four roman numerals engraved apparently with a chisel. Referring to it, should date from 1924.


20) Below we are reaching the perfection. This is a very old ball and probably unique due to the perfectly adjusted nails. All are different, they had to be forged manually and individually adjusted. (1 ‘’click‘’) This exceptional ball from 1904, was found on this website : ‘’la Boule Sportive Aigue Mortaise‘’. In my eyes, she has only one flaw: she’s not mine… 🙂


21) Some balls are more meaningful and even more beautiful when not get rid of rust, dirt and other inlays that load them with ‘’static authenticity‘’. —————————————————————————–Now we come to … LA FANNY!




22) The pétanque without ‘’La Fanny‘’ is not the pétanque. Originally, the losers had to kiss the ‘’popotin‘’ (butt) of a young woman named Fanny shown in table form, pottery or sculpture. Today ‘’La Fanny‘’ is more present by antique shops and on flea markets that in bars and coffee shops but any serious pétanque club must have one Fanny at his headquarters. This icon is part of their heritage. At the origin of the origin there is the story of Fanny, probably a true story, more realistic both funny and pathetic. A fact of the village as it is occuring everywhere over in a time when people laughed kindly… or not, about people seeming to be ‘’different‘’ In order to learn more about it there Phoebus Garcon page: (in french) Kissing the buttocks of the Fanny is the humiliating picture of total defeat, the evidence that has been beaten thoroughly with the score of 13-0! Attention… when we say ‘’humiliating picture‘’ … it’s with nuances because after the pétanque party the discussion occurs at the ‘’café de la mairie‘’ (= bar of the town hall) around ‘’the pastis of reconciliation‘’. That being said … is she not cute my little Fanny? 


23) The nailed balls are art works usually performed by women. (On this one each nail is different, see yourself the precision of adjustments) During manufacture by their expert hands, a poorly positioned nail means probably a wasted ball because the wood does not tolerate two contiguous attempts.
24) The location of each nail was determined beforehand by a small hole. This made it possible to respect the pattern and also to introduce the nail so that it remained in the right position to receive the hammer blow. This image ( with the diagram (Thanks to Steve Ferg, USA) shows a ball prepared for nailing where each nail location was labeled beforehand and more particularly the letters or drawings that must be created with different sorts of nails. (Last minute info: given the width of the holes on the photo, it seems that this analysis is questionable, investigations are in progress) It is surprising that despite their short spikes and countless received shocks, these nails have remained in place for a century… to be honest, not all nails. (see picture below)


25) These balls were therefore intended to collect countless shocks. Here are a few examples, originally rusty and impregnated of soil, some were scrubbed and shined to bring out the details, but as was said above, it is sometimes better to leave them in their original state.
26) COBBLESTONES-LIKE NAILS – Horseshoe nails arranged as paving stones. (93mm)
27) This nailed ball has lived, she reveals her underwear. The damaged area shows the thickness of the heads. The missing nails do not reduce the pleasure to contemplate it.
28) On this one not restored (105 mm) the nails are also disposed as a pavement but with a different configuration: nails with a slighty thinner head were used which has reduced the interstices.
29*) A nice ball, also with thinner horseshoe nails, heads thinner than usual. A wave movement makes it original.
30) Some nails of different sizes ‘’horseshoe nails‘’.
31) Small petanque balls with nails arranged in paving stone in their leather carrying harness.






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32) Two different balls remained ‘’in their own juice‘’ (dans leur jus = without restauration) as people say in France.


33) NAILS IN SCALES – On this large boule (105mm) you see nails with flat head. Their thin heads overlap such as slates on a roof. If you passes the finger ‘’against the grain‘’ the rough edges are barely noticeable because in addition, soil and shocks made the surface smoother.
34) This one is perfect condition, cleaned even more she was pickled and apparently she has not played much because its nails are barely distorted and very little marked by impacts, however they seem pricked by the acid. (78mm)
35) A ball with contiguous scales (90mm) … but this is not entirely the reality because each nail head has a folded portion that disappears under the following nail head. Result of this juxtaposition: a smooth ball with the impression that the nails are placed against each other, a real artist’s work! ‘’If the village of Aiguines in the Var was the temple of manufacturing of studded balls, this is not a coincidence because it was located in an area where the boxwood grew in abundance. The roots of this particularly hard wood were the ideal material for manufacturing of pétanque balls. Aiguines with its workshops of wood turners therefore naturally specializes in manufacturing of studded balls.‘’
36) Year 1939, a ‘’ferreuse‘’ in the village of Aiguines. The documents on this subject are rare. This beautiful drawing was made by Roger Lacombe, a collector of old balls of petanque living in Fréjus. As teenager in the 1950s and already before, he loved watching animated ‘’parties de boules‘’ in the neighborhood.



37) Under two different lightnings, another ball of ‘’longue lyonnaise‘’ (90mm) very smooth with thin scales perfectly adjusted, they overlap without any roughness. Impressive, this is almost an artwork, a heavy piece that is pleasant to turn in the palm of the hand.
38) Because of injuries we can better discover the technique that allowed to manufacture these very smooth balls: each scale (slate) is curved so that the head of the next nail covers the previous one without creating asperity. 
39) This picture shows two marvelous balls without asperities. To the left we can see the same method while the ball on right is covered with nails whose head is a lozenge, heads perfectly adjusted against each other without overlapping.
40) Two balls with almost the same diameter (75mm) but the left one would have been more difficult to make because its nails are smaller. Better finishing for a better grip and maybe better performances on the field? One or two ‘’click‘’ to see the details to admire a so perfect nailing and an overlap on extremely resistant balls. These undecorated balls are art works made without the ambition of making art, anonymously and simply for a popular game. See it closely, there is none nail moved despite shocks received as evidenced by the many traces of visible impacts on the scales.
41) Probably, each craftsman had its little tips, tricks and own nails. Here is another example: to the left smooth thin scales and to the right, thick and convexly curved scales. Result: the boule on the right is less smooth but heavier.


42) Two pics of the same ball (90mm) covered with finely adjusted nails against each other. On the right the empty slot shows that there is no overlap. Two ‘’click‘’ to see that some nail heads have 4 sides while others have 5 or even 6 sides, sometimes with straight or curved sides. Seeing these differences we can imagine that the nails were not made mechanically.
43) This one, surely not easy to achieve either.
44) Hand-forged nails. Clicking on the image shows that nailheads 1-2 and 4 have three different sides, a thick and a thin one at the opposite. Both lateral sides goes in degraded. These nails were removed from the ball below. The n°3 is the final locking nail on the image below, thin head of equal thickness.
45/1) Above, the hole shows the thick side of the nails heads. Both balls are twins. The lower one is undamaged, two ‘’click‘’ to assess the accuracy of adjustments.
45/2) Thank to the traces left by the tool we can see that the raw heads of forged nails were filed to smooth their appearance. The lack of continuity in the sense of lime shots indicates that this operation was prior to studding, on each nail individually. (see also 66)
46) This is the unspoiled ball (pic 34 bottom left) after stripping. The thick side of the nails towards the left and the thin side towards the right. A meticulous work executed with extremely rustic nails (pic 33) however, a particularly neat and smooth appearance with a very strong anchor.
47) Besides to various kinds of nails, looking at these three balls, there are several forms of starting of nails. To begin, let us look at this balls where nails go directly in spiral.
48) Then those whose spiral is begining after a first circle of nails or sometimes after two concentric circles.
49) The same ball (37) where the upper half has been stripped and sanded. This treatment was unavoidable to recover the original colors. Small, with a diameter of 75 mm it is heavy (550g) and lived. The copper scales are crushed by countless impacts and they merge but it has not lost one nail and kept its perfect spherical shape. After the first circle of iron there is a second one in copper nails from which the spiral begins.
50) This one shows nested configurations. Central picture: the start point is composed of a nail surrounded by small rectangular spiked heads, then there are seven concentric circles, the last one is composed of brass nails. This forms a figure which is found three times on this ball (fig. 1). These 3 large geometrical shapes forms 3 triangles (fig. 2). At the center of the triangles a square pattern in copper and brass was inserted. (fig. 3 & 4).
51) A other beautiful realization. Here, the start point is an hexagonal nail, surrounded with triangular heads. The result is very aesthetic. The nails appear to have been forged.
52) An old rustic ball perfectly realized (see also Fig 5) The starting point is not easy to detect: 1 or 2 ‘’click‘’ to enlarge and better see the starting point of the spiral.
53) Some balls have an area that seems to be ‘’leaded‘’ at the point of start of the nails. It is a metal disc, initials or numbers are often engraved on it. Nails can pass through this plate for a more solid anchorage to the wood of the ball.
54) Non-standard configurations: the vacuum was filled by small nails, it is a cobbled restoration. To the right a more enigmatic case: the area is occupied by what looks like a big screw perfectly adjusted.
55) And finally, balls without apparent starting point. On the periphery, appears four times this oblong configuration with pointed ends where the nails are ‘’arranged‘’ which gives the assembly a good finish.
56) Another ‘’boule‘’ with four oblong configurations in copper nails. A beautiful ball garnished with brass bands and yellow copper nails.
57) To follow, the answer to the question that everyone is wondering: ‘’How many nails on one ball‘’? Some examples taken here and there. Ball 1: 1136 – Ball 2: 996 – Ball 3: 1154 – Ball 4: 628 – Ball 5: 1.174. In conclusion, contrary to the type of nailing, the size has no significant impact on the number of nails.


58) … How many nails? This ball of 98 mm exceeds all the other with about 1.655 small nails perfectly placed. Note that none of them had moved.
59) Boule covered of nails with hexagonal heads of different metals to obtain colorful patterns.
60) The iron heads are still hexagonal but domed. Copper nails were inserted. Softer, they end up occupying the open spaces. (92 mm)


61) Just for fun, some pictures of beautiful balls in several nonferrous metal.
62) Nonferrous again… except the 2 bottom right.
63) Some again… and even as told at top of this page: Each ball has his own story, some are pieces of art and more than any other object it passed from hand to hand. Many are artworks with an additional feature: artwork constrained to survive the shocks and other mistreatments.



64) It goes without saying that in case of suspicion of beautiful colors or of an interesting decoration, cleaning or pickling is required. Here, before … and after treatment. Two ‘’click‘’ to see how some red nails (softer than the others) fills the vacant space, due to the violent shocks.
65) Another picture ‘’before-after‘’ that reveals the beauty of the ball. Here too, the red nails have merged.
66) Big ball of ‘’Lyonnaise‘’ diameter 102mm, weight 1.130 gr. Dubble ‘’clic‘’ on the picture to see the traces of the file. Nails heads were filed for a nice appearence.
67) … here too, a good sanding to regain its beauty.
68) A nice surprise because the patterns were hidden beneath the oxidation layer.
69) Over the months, new balls are installed on this page because they have something original. Here, two balls (95mm) identical and intact despite a lot of traces of impacts that attest to their hard experience. The ball above shows a star with five branches, the same decorates its base. The artist did not content himself with placing the nails in order to make a star with approximate branches but each head has been worked in such a way to be triangular, rectangular or round in order to make a more perfect star, and the same for iron nails. Between the stars, the name ‘’DUVALET‘’ in large characters.
70) ‘’DUVALET‘’ is the longest inscription found on a ball so far. Both boules were by chance discovered in 1972 during refurbishment works in a cellar. (Pezenas in France/Hérault)
71) The succession. Bronze or brass ? That is the question…
72) Before their restoration. Oxidation and nuances.
73) To conclude this page: such they are found in basements or attics, two balls shaped by the time with their own stories and experiences. Flea markets and Internet ads offer them a new life for the satisfaction of hobbyists of fine objects. There is a lot to tell about the game, the balls and their manufacture. Experts have done it very well, here’s some links: a beautiful website. The Provençal village of ‘Toutour’ not far from ‘Aiguines’ with its pages about the balls: and finally, not to be missed, the website of Herbert Wegner quite complete, with its english version after reading it you will know all about the studded balls:  _____________