The Big Think

February 10, 2006

Prop Revealed-Ahh, the wonderful things you can do in a shop

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 7:02 pm

As some of you may know, I spent a good amount of time recently building a rather large prop for the show that I arrange. I can now reveal that the prop was a big ferris wheel. It ended up as an 8′ diameter wheel on a large base. Overall height was just shy of 9′. I know because there was less than 1/2″ of clearance under my 9′ garage ceiling. I took a few pictures during construction and wanted to share them with you.

Here I am using a custom made trammel with holes for a pencil to mark out the arc:

Cutting the arcs with my new jigsaw (awesome tool)

The sides fastened together with the first set of 1/2″ dowels. It was pretty floppy at this point but I added 3/4″ dowels spaced in the gaps and that firmed it up quite a bit.

Here I am installing the spokes. I had to fabricate square plywood pockets to fit each of the bigger dowels in.


Here I am finishing up the spokes of the wheel. You can see the middle hub. It’s glued and screwed together to within an inch of its life. The main axel is a 3/4″ x 24″ iron pipe. The pipe goes through a piece of PVC that I epoxied into the center hub.


Here is the finished ferris wheel with center ribs, 16 cars, and base assembly.The base is 1/2″ ply on top of 3/4″ ply. The side bracing struts and main axle pivot are bolted and glued everywhere I could think of. It’s solid as a rock. The wheel turns incredibly smoothly (by hand) and is almost perfectly balanced. The 16 cars are tied on by hand with almost 200 individual knots. The client painted it bright red and will install battery powered lights around the rim. The entire prop weighs in at 100+ lbs. I’ve got D handles built into the base for moving it (you remove the wheel and carry it by the axle and move the base separately).


Proud builder. I spent about 30 hours working on this project and had a total blast. Good thing the client brought the big Uhaul.

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