A Winning Direction - Universal Wood Products
Greely, Ontario

Developed by the Greeks and used widely throughout the late middle ages, the Armillary Sphere is a celestial three-dimensional compass that was use to chart the planetary universe. Universal Wood Products has charted it's way to success by recreating this complex astrological model in wood medallion for an Ottawa, Ontario, home.

Universal Wood Products' president Chris Vogler worked with the homeowners to create the concept of the medallion. They wanted a design that would give the floor a distinct flair and represent their affinity for world travel. When Vogler showed them initial designs of the sphere, which is a modified, more detailed version of a pre-existing design the company produces, they immediately fell in love with the idea.

Once the design was finalized, the painstaking process of manufacturing the intricate medallion began. The complex interwoven rings and indices of the sphere led to a design process that lasted almost two weeks. "There was a lot of planning just to create the design," Vogler says. With more than 1.200 individual pieces in the 42-inch medallion, everything had to be mathematically perfect to ensure all of the pieces aligned.

After precision laser cutting, the next challenge was assembling all the complex pieces, some as small as 0.08 inches square. Because each piece was a different shape, everything had to be numbered in sequence. "If you didn't number the parts, you could have spent a month trying to figure out where they went, "Vogler says. The cuts also had to be made in the right direction of the grain. Each piece was cut in a way so that the rings appear to be three-dimensional, all flowing in the same direction around the sphere.

Also critical to the final design was the selection of wood species. The medallion consists of more than 15 domestic and tropical species with the main field of flame red birch. "We selected species that would give it a three-dimensional look of shadow and highlight, and keep things from blending into each other, "Vogler says.
After the medallion was completed at Universal Wood Products, Nino Marte Hardwood Floors in Gloucester, Ontario, installed the medallion and the surrounding select-and-better red oak floors, which were stained a toned-down rosewood shade. "The hardest part of the finishing process was to pick a suitable stain color for the surrounding floor that would complement the medallion but not overpower the rich colors in all of the species used to make such a beautiful piece," Marte says.

The end result not only won the enthusiastic approval from the homeowner, but accolades from the voting NWFA members. "It's one of the most intricate things we've done, and we're just thrilled that everyone else thought it was outstanding as well, " Vogler says.


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