Introduction: DIY Balance Board

Picture of DIY Balance Board

I've been using a stand up desk for several years. It's done wonders for my lower back, which was in rough shape after endless hours of sitting during grad school. Still, I find a few aches and pains from standing stock still (knees locked) all day. After a bit of digging online, I found several articles which suggested using a balance board (also known as a "wobble board") as a way to keep myself in motion whilst I break rocks at the data mine.

These boards are not expensive - I found several that would probably work in the $20-30 range. Still, why buy it when you can make it, eh?

This is an exceptionally simple project. Given the proper tools (I go to our local Tool Library, a very affordable sort of community maker space), it can easily be finished in a few hours or less.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

I had some 3/4" FSC-certified plywood leftover from another project, and picked up the softball for $5. That's all you need, though I chose to set the finished board on a small rug, and cover it with another.

Step 2: Cutting the Disc

Picture of Cutting the Disc

I made the disc as large as the plywood scrap (24-in). The Tool Library already had the circle jig, but since it was built for a different router base, I essentially ended up building a new jig. There are several very good videos on how to do this on YouTube - it takes little time, and can be made from scrap wood.

To center the jig, I tapped a small nail where I wanted the circle center (measuring 12-in from side and bottom of the plywood), then cut off the head with pliers, leaving a sharp point for marking the underside of the jig. I then extended the straight router bit so that I had my outer point for the jig, centered the jig arm over the nail, and tapped a couple times with a rubber mallet.

After pulling the nail, I drilled holes through both the plywood and the jig arm, and attached the jig to the plywood with a bolt and loosely fitted wing nut. After making one shallow pass (to reduce splintering), I followed up with one 2/3rds the depth of the plywood, and then a final full-depth cut to cut the disc from the plywood blank.

Step 3: Cutting a Socket for the Pivot Ball

Picture of Cutting a Socket for the Pivot Ball

A regulation softball is roughly 4-inches in diameter at the seams. The largest hole saw we had available was 3-inches. After cutting the 3-inch hole (in two passes, one from either side to limit splintering), I used a 45-degree chamfer bit to "widen" the hole from the underside. I also used a round-over bit to put a curved edge (both top and bottom) on the disc itself.

Step 4: Fitting and Testing

Picture of Fitting and Testing

It's really just that simple. The whole project took maybe two hours, and that included stopping at the store to buy the softball. I haven't used the board a great deal yet (though I'm standing on it as I type this 'structable), but if it ends up giving me leprosy or somesuch, I'll post a disclaimer here. So far, my ankles are getting much more of a workout than I'm used to, but my knees are flexed. That's got to be a good thing, right?


fduggan made it! (author)2015-03-16

Used rubberized undercoat to create a grip design.

PropagandaPanda (author)fduggan2016-01-03

Did you use some kind of stencil for that? Looks really nice.

fduggan made it! (author)PropagandaPanda2016-01-03

I used frisket film to create a stencil. Translated my design onto the film, cut with x-acto, sprayed undercoat, and removed film pretty quickly to keep clean lines.

PropagandaPanda (author)fduggan2016-01-04

Super cool, thanks for sharing!

pescabicicleta (author)fduggan2015-03-16

Nice! I added strips of grip tape and a rag rug, but yours is much prettier.

Kammarah made it! (author)2015-02-14

Great simple idea! just made it today but I had no 45degree thing and was not in the mood to do it the long way ;-) it works and will be fun for the whole family! thank you for this instructable!

Danold made it! (author)2016-06-15

I first made a balance board by cutting a softball in half and glueing it onto this round that I got at Lowes (it was a closeout). It worked good, and I think it was instrumental in my getting more comfortable Stand-Up Paddle Boarding with the waves on Puget Sound. But then I thought that it may be even more helpful if it had a larger diameter, more like the balance I do on my S.U.P. board. Thought about sawing a bowling ball in half but decided I would either ruin a saw blade or spend too much money on one. Then I found this hard hat in a thrift store for $2!! I used a belt sander too sand off the lip so that it was flat all the way around and hooked it on with screws and washers. I think that it is going to take my balance the next step toward conquering those waves! I am starting off by making it a little easier by putting it on a padded surface. I will decrease the padding as I get better at it.

sonya.vandevelde (author)2016-01-07

Great instructions! I've been putting off buying a wobble board for one of my children for a couple of years. Will have to try making it myself now. Thanks!

ProfTom (author)2016-01-03

I think (at least for my own purposes), this would be NOT about strengthening ankles. It'd be about improving balance, and core engagement.

flyingpuppy (author)2016-01-03

Can you give us an update on the usefulness of this simple solution? Is it practical when you're having to concentrate on work?

asrcav8r made it! (author)2015-12-14

I knocked one out of cabinet grade plywood scraps and finished it off with walnut veneer top and pecan (I think) on the sides.

It's going to my G/F's work tomorrow, maybe some grip tape like fduggan's?

studleylee (author)2015-02-12

Maybe wear high-top yet light weight sneakers to support the ankles? I like this.

KoalaElf (author)studleylee2015-02-12

I don't think it is logical that 'supporting' the ankles will make them stronger. It makes much more sense for you to build the muscles in the feet/ankles/legs to create a strong and stable base.

If you wear a cast for a while, the muscles atrophy & weaken... which should give you an idea of what shoes are doing. Wearing 'supportive' shoes is highly counter productive, and I suspect that shoes have caused more damage to peoples feet than anything else. They are a modern, culturally accepted form of foot-binding.

I believe foot weaknesses such as bunions, plantar fasciitis and mortons neuroma are pretty much unheard of in shoeless cultures. Don't buy into the myth created by shoe companies & orthotics manufacturers!

thundrepance (author)KoalaElf2015-09-19

you're right, k-elf! i used to have ankles like superman. i had roller skated since childhood, with metal skates that clamped on to sneakers & shoes. when i began indoor skating, i couldn't flex my ankles in those leather boot skates, so i folded the tongue, & laced them BELOW my ankles. x^)

static (author)KoalaElf2015-03-23

I was born with flat feet. In physical rehab after a stroke, while teaching me how to walk again they also tried to fix my flat feet, rather than working what was natural for me. That wasn't working, only after they giving up try to cure my flat feet and working with them is when I made progress in walking again. Custom arch supports can help if/when a persons flat feet cause them trouble. Some people live long lives without their flat feet causing them problems.

dsantil71 (author)KoalaElf2015-02-25

Yes, nicely said. Supports can give a false sense of security so to speak.

sgsidekick (author)KoalaElf2015-02-23

EXACTLY what my Physical Therapist told me when I badly sprained my ankle!! It's okay to use support while it is healing, but you REALLY need to start building up the muscle and tendon support, and they had me using one of these!!! I really need to make one now! Thanks!

mpaula.whelan (author)KoalaElf2015-02-12

Interesting observations; I like the way you think. The same thing happens by wearing a neck brace for whiplash or other neck injury - your muscles are relieved of their duty to hold up the head so they 'forget' how.

Years ago a shoe salesman told me the best shoes have a straight last, which means there is a straight line from the middle of the heel to the toes. I think it was just off centre toward the big toe but I don't remember exactly.

During the last couple decades I have not been able to find such a shoe - all the lines are curved. Not to mention the fact that the toe box is much too narrow. This used to only be a concern for women's shoes but now it is becoming true for men's shoes as well.

I think the traditional 'Dunlop Volley' was a fully flat design.

studleylee (author)KoalaElf2015-02-13

Agree, It's not logical that 'supporting' the ankles will make them stronger. but if you already have strong ankles and the exercise overworks this area, support is logical. The balance idea is to burn calories through core body motions to stabilize balance.

studleylee (author)studleylee2015-02-12

or not :-)

dsantil71 (author)studleylee2015-02-25 even has exercises to help you rebuild flat feet, weak ankles, etc.

blaze08 (author)2015-06-15

sounds and looks fun!

rsucgang (author)2015-02-10

Nicely done! Don't the balls get deformed after a while?

ManifoldSky (author)rsucgang2015-02-13

Not if you wear good, supportive underwear.

static (author)ManifoldSky2015-03-23

But don't forget the cup though.

dsantil71 (author)ManifoldSky2015-02-25

LOL that's awesome!

You win Instructables.

sickdog74 (author)ManifoldSky2015-02-15


bigthinknman (author)rsucgang2015-02-12

However, it is a nice piece of work and frankly so cheap I don't think I'd worry about only getting a few months out a ball. Clever idea.

bigthinknman (author)rsucgang2015-02-12

Only if you fall the wrong way

nolan.kriegel (author)rsucgang2015-02-12

I hope not. But the balance board only has one ball.

pescabicicleta (author)rsucgang2015-02-10

Well, they're designed to be hit by a bat over and over and over, so I hope not. But I'm not sure that would be a problem anyway - I don't play much softball.

static (author)2015-03-23

I seen a homemade balance board in a physical therapy office that used a suspension stop from an anto indipendant front suspension.

dsantil71 (author)2015-02-25

I need one of these!!

alcurb (author)2015-02-24

For those people who can't stand for a long period of time, rather than sitting on a stable chair, sit on a chair that is mounted on top of a larger version of this instructable. The disc would need to have corner stops or holes to keep the chair from sliding or rolling off the disc. The wobbly chair would continue to strengthen your core.

ooohlaa (author)2015-02-12

NICE ... my chiropractor recommends these ... I found it very difficult to balance, never mind while at the computer which is so absorbing!

leanne_martinau (author)ooohlaa2015-02-19

The thing is to use until your autonomic system adds it to its 'muscle-memory feedback system' and then you do it with your eyes closed or using the PC, juggling stuff, painting pictures, whatever.

pescabicicleta (author)ooohlaa2015-02-12

It grows on you. It took me a day or so to find the "sweet spot," where I could place my feet and find my balance straight away.

If I'm concentrating especially hard on something, I've begun tilting the board forward to rest on the edge - it still wobbles (slightly) left and right, but that's easier to account for, even when I'm focused on something else.

I've also found that tilting it back allows me to strike a "Captain Morgan pose" (left or right), which helps to mix up my posture throughout the day.

mpaula.whelan (author)2015-02-15

Nothing. I was replying to KoalaElf's comment. I did pin this instructable as I would like to incorporate the balance ball into my computer usage after I make a stand to raise my desk.

Erchan (author)2015-02-14

I think it would be successful in skiing of using this tool. Apparently running the same muscles.

nathanaloysiusbash (author)2015-02-12

THat is slick, good work. I bet though as you get more and more zen with your balancing youre going to want to change out the soft ball for a more perfect sphere. Those seams are big.

I was also concerned about that, but given the limited arc of motion, it's pretty easy to position the softball so that the seams never come in contact with the floor.

Ah, the solution is there is no problem. Your zen is coming along nicely.

ManifoldSky (author)2015-02-13

To add additional degrees of freedom (and thus increase muscle load) you might consider replacing the ball socket with a raised, round wall that will contain the ball, but still allow it to roll in all directions, a few inches or more in any direction.
Like these but in two dimensions:

paulmcmtn (author)2015-02-13

I like how simple this is. I'm definitely building one. I'm going to round the outside edge with foam pipe insulation to protect the flooring. It may be unnessisary, though.

pescabicicleta (author)paulmcmtn2015-02-13

This was part of my reasoning for placing the balance board on a small rug (which also keeps the softball from marking the floor).

I just ordered a small round rag rug on Etsy to cover the top, providing a bit of needed padding for my feet (I prefer to work barefoot), and improving the aesthetics somewhat.

tomatoskins (author)2015-02-09

This looks great! I'm excited to see more great things like this in the future!

Thanks! I'll do my best.

I am also waiting and wanting. Good work. I had not heard of a balance ball for standing work. I am in the process (well, OK, I'm just starting) of making lifts for my desk legs (7) so that I can use it standing up.

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