Different shapes and sizes work for different parts of the body. Depending on sensitivity, you will need a different hardness. You can easily pad a hard tool to make it softer using a blanket or pillow, but the opposite doesn't really work.
I have stocks of some basic props that I can sell you after a class or massage.
Useful for accessing a point in a large, flat muscle especially around the trunk. Lie on it and your body weight generates the pressure.
- Pick up a smooth stone and wash off the dirt.
- Tennis balls are easy to obtain and work fairly well.
- Spiky balls are popular. I prefer smooth as I find the spikes pull and drag at the flesh, but it's up to you.
- Sports balls come in various sizes and hardnesses: softball, baseball, golf (good for soles of feet), lacrosse, softball. This hockey training ball is firm yet very light so perfect for taking on holiday.
- Purpose-made massage balls can come in a range of hardnesses.
Best for working on a long thin muscle where the ball tends to 'ping' away. Put the roller at right-angle to the muscle.
- Improvise with a rolling pin or a strong water bottle.
- DIY from plastic drain pipe — cheap and light weight. Cut to length (I use 30-40cm), smooth the ends and clean. Pad as needed with blanket or pillow. For larger diameter, buy soil pipe.
- Foam rollers are the classic tool. There are much cheaper ones that will lose their shape if used a lot, but good enough to start with.
- Plastic knobbly ones have recently become trendy. Personally I prefer smooth as I find the bumps drag and pull, but some people like them.
- Beautiful hand-made wooden rollers with woven covers from Thailand are my favourite. Unfortunately they are rather expensive, but the money does help support local workers.
- Foot massage sticks can also work on hands and other areas with small spaces. I bring them back from Thailand and if I have spares will give you one if you promise to use it or return it. You can improvise with the rounded end of a wooden spoon or pen.
- Wooden shapes are good for massaging the soles of your feet and the back.
- Blanket or large towel to pad a prop and make it softer.
- Your body — forearm, palm, shin, foot. Use gravity and body weight not force.