Making a Balance Board
Here is how I made a balance board for my dad for Christmas. It wasn't an easy project, but it did end up turning out decent, so I was happy with it.
The design is basically my own, although I did get inspiration for the general shape and size of it from different sources online. Like most everything else, I first made it in Solidworks so that I had a general idea of how much wood I would need, and what it would look like when it was finished. Here is a picture of the Solidworks model.
I went to Home Depot to get the wood I needed for it. The problem is, not all Home Depots have maple in stock. Luckily, I have one that isn't too far away. I bought a 6 foot section of 1x6 maple, along with a a 6 foot section of 1x4 red oak. The maple was for the top, and the red oak was for the bottom. I also bought a 6 foot section of regular 2x6 lumber. This was for making the form that I would use to bend the red oak. Here is a look at the maple. The ripples are called flame. It is a relatively rare phenomenon, and probably even less common at a place like Home Depot.
I first printed out the templates for the bending forms. I then drew them on the 2x6, and cut it out with a band saw. I also figured out how to cut the maple in such a way that I could waste as little wood as possible, and then cut that out.
My next step was to start bending the red oak. I have two points to make here. 1. Bending 3/4 inch thick wood is not easy, and 2. Some clamps just aren't as strong as you might think they are. Or maybe wood is a lot stronger than you think it is. Bending the wood for this project was one of the most difficult things I have done. I started off by bending the long piece. This piece is supposed to arch across the board lengthwise. Now, don't laugh at my bending setup. It is actually thought through a lot more than it looks. Steam goes into the trash bag with the board, which heats up the wood to a nice toasty temperature. Then, while the board is still in the bag being steamed, it is bent by clamping it against the form with as much strength as my clamps could muster. And I got it bent on the second try! I only broke one clamp doing it.
The second board bending was a lot more difficult. It took three tries, 2 broken clamps, and 2 different pieces of wood to succeed. The main problem was that I was trying to bend a shorter piece of wood. However, the final bend looked really good. One picture shows the setup, and the rest show the board while bending.
Here is what the final bend looks like. And no, that black is not sharpie. I actually don't know why it happened.
Before I did anything else, I worked on gluing the top boards together. Unfortunately, the boards were not perfectly flush with each other on the first try. I tried to joint them by hand, but then gave up and used the table saw to cut them perfectly square instead. I then glued them together and planed the two sides relatively flat by hand. To draw a perfect ellipse, I looked up a method online that involved a string and two glue spots. It worked quite well. Then I cut the elliptical shape out using a band saw. However, I only have one picture from all of this.
The next step was to put the two bend boards together to form the base. This meant first cutting notches in each board so that they would fit together flush. I made the notch by using a saw to cut down half the board's thickness, and then using my Shinto rasp to remove the wood in the middle. Then I glued them together.
I then had to make the base flat. I first used a saw to cut off the ends of the boards so that they had a flat mating surface. A little work with the rasp then cleaned the faces up.
Gluing the base on was relatively easy. It just required a bunch of different clamps.
Next, I used the rasp to round the bottom of the base. I kept putting the balance board down and checking to see if it sat level. If it wasn't level, I would take away wood from certain areas until it was.
I then cleaned up some edges and sanded the whole thing. I know this is only one step, but sanding took a very long time. There is a lot of surface area here that needed sanded.
The only thing left is the finish! I applied one coat of natural varnish, and 3 layers of Deft gloss spray finish. I love how it made the flames pop!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed watching the process. I really enjoyed doing it.