Commissioned Furniture – Balance Bench


Located outside of Erie, Pa in Edinboro Cosmo Barbaro Furniture produces custom built furniture for clients.  Brockport State University has this commissioned custom built furniture.  Balance Bench Balance Bench utilizes reclaimed/recycled ash lumber.  Subsequently, the lumber was a result of historic ash trees that had fallen during a windstorm on the campus of Brockport State University.

As a result, the lumber that was made into the ash sphere;  Cosmo Barbaro Furniture designs and builds all of his own custom wood furniture from original designs.  This custom Balance Bench was influenced by Egyptian Art and Art Deco Furniture Artists.  Once a client signs off on the final design it is my job to create this idea in three dimensions out of wood.

These photos document the milling, gluing, cutting, drilling and turning of this custom ash sphere.  The material is 8/4- or 2-inch-thick ash, which is surfaced on a jointer and edge glued first to create a 2-inch x 16 x 16-inch solid ash panel.  

To create a 16-inch custom ash sphere there were 8 layers of 2″ x 16″ x 16″ solid ash panels that were stack laminated together.  Accordingly there are two 1/2-inch holes located and drilled into the face prior to chain sawing.   These holes accept the lower aluminum rail that completes the bottom structure of this one-of-a-kind bench.

Consequently, once the ash pieces have been laminated all excess wood is removed with a chain saw.   As a result the process creates a faceted cylinder which has to be turned into a round cylinder.  Finally, all excess wood is removed then this large ash block is mounted on a lathe. Because of the size this piece is turned very slowly until a 16-inch cylinder is created.

Once the 16-inch diameter cylinder is turned on center.  Then a series of measurements are taken from the center of the cylinder to each edge to layout the sphere.  Transferred from shop drawings these measurements were applied to the ash piece with a pair of dividers.   As a result, in working from the center to the bottom of each end of the ash sphere.

As a result of the lathe process I utilize, the resulting work is done by hand and is a tedious process.  Due to the manual labor in terms of time, I will look into a heavy-duty sphere jig for future spheres.   Once all measurements transfer to the cylinder  the final shape can occur.   Accordingly, once the proportions and shape of the sphere are final the sanding process starts.

I started refining the hand turn sphere with 80 grit sandpaper and work up in progression to finish at 320 grit.  As a result I chose spar varnish for its waterproof factor.   Consequently, the spar varnish has several coats to this custom ash sphere, sealing water out.   Resulting in a waterproof durable finish that will stand up to abuse.

This sphere was a lower support structure for the custom Balance Bench.  This custom ash sphere is connecting to the bench with a large mortise and tenon.  Because this process is by hand with a pair of calipers it was very intimidating.   Correspondingly, after laying everything out it became systematic and fun.  Accordingly, the results were very exciting, the 16″ diameter made roughing the shape out but overall, it was easy and fun.


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