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Chinese balls have been around a while. The earliest reference is from 1581 by Georg Wecker, court turner to Duke Augustus, Elector of Saxony (Springett). They weren't made in China until many years later. However, one of the best records we have of these items are from L. E. Bergeron's 3 volume 'Manuel du Tourneur' from 1816. Bergeron goes into great depth about many turning topics, but volume 3, the Atlas, has many lithographs of these balls including many examples of spiked stars in balls and the numerous tools used to make them. Volume 1 and 2 are in old French, so they're a bit challenging to read. The work was translated in 1877 as 'A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Turning'.

These works are considered out of copyright in the United States and their full contents are available via the Google Books project. If you skip all of them, I still highly recommend looking through the Atlas.