The NFL playoffs are set and the Super Bowl is just a little over a month away. Although, Minneapolis may be nearly 1,500 miles away, several pieces of Idaho will be making the trip to the Twin Cities.
Ben Tyson, a retired HP engineer, started woodworking full-time about six years ago, and little did he know a project he finished 10 years ago would thrust his woodworking skills into the national spotlight.
Tyson was tasked with making two wooden footballs to be used as set props for the NFL Network during Super Bowl coverage.
“I built the one and put it on the website and then just out of the blue got this call from the set designer,” Tyson said.
Tyson specializes in building musical instruments like violins, guitars and ukuleles.
“I got absolutely hooked after I made my first musical instrument,” he said.
However, it wasn’t until he built his first lute that he started thinking about globes and footballs.
“The football, I don't know, it just was another challenge. I thought it would be interesting,” Tyson said.
Tyson finished up his first wooden football about a decade ago, but last week was contacted by JCM Set Design to have two footballs featured on the NFL Network’s sets in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.
“As far as I know, the technique I'm using here is unique,” Tyson said.
Tyson’s wooden footballs are made using a CNC router to cut the ribs of the football.
“I happen to use 18 and for the life of me I can't remember why I did that,” he said.
Those 18 ribs are then hand bent using heat.
“There's some geometry and some careful hand fitting,” Tyson said.
This is where Tyson’s 30 years as an engineer comes into play because all 18 of the wooden ribs must line up perfectly.
“It's typical in projects where you have those moments where this whole thing is not going to come together, but fortunately it turned around,” Tyson said.
A passion for woodwork that will soon be on one of the biggest stages: Super Bowl LII.
“I like the new challenges, like I mentioned, so for me this kind of stuff is motivating,” Tyson said.
JCM Set Design tells KTVB the footballs will be displayed on one of the sets inside the Super Bowl Experience at the convention center in Minneapolis.
You can find some of Tyson's work here.
The Super Bowl will air on Channel 7 on Sunday, Feb. 4.