Introduction: Hamster Wheel Standing Desk

Picture of Hamster Wheel Standing Desk

You are not reaching your current productivity potential. Numerous esteemed experts agree that standing is better than sitting and that walking is better than standing. Despite this, your workplace only provides inhumane chairs and stagnant standing desks for you to use while you struggle to get through a workday full of distractions and bodily pains.

Rise up, sedentary sentients, and unleash that untapped potential within by marching endlessly towards a brilliant future of focused work. Step forward into a world of infinite potential, bounded only by the smooth arcs of a wheel. Step forward into the Hamster Wheel Standing Desk that will usher in a new era of unprecedented productivity.

This project is a collaboration at Pier 9 between Artist-in-Residence RobbGodshaw and artist Will Doenlen. Thanks to Vanessa Sigurdson, Gabe Patin, Oliver Kreitman, and Bilal Ghalib for helping out in the wee hours of the morning!

Step 1: Design Your Wheel

Picture of Design Your Wheel

Things that are made to fit people are subject to lots of careful consideration. Ergonomics and safety are very important to any furniture project.

We considered adding in brakes but decided against it in order to really force the productivity out of the desk user. In the end, we decided on a wheel 80" in diameter that would be supported by a 24" wide base that contained a set of four skateboard wheels on which the wheel would rest. This design allows fluid rotation without requiring an axle for the wheel.

We already had a standing desk that fit through the wheel, so it was just a matter of avoiding interference and leaving enough room for a human.

The wheel was designed using Autodesk Inventor over the course of a few hours. This allowed for a parametric design, where the diameter, width, and number of slats could be changed easily. We imported a human model from GrabCad to check clearances, and measured every door at Pier 9 to ensure it could leave the building.

See attached files. This project was completed with 24 hours, and the files are somewhat lazy.

This project requires 4 sheets of ¾" Plywood, 4 skate wheels, 2 pipes, 240 wood screws, a pint of glue, and a good attitude.

Step 2: Cut the Wood: Waterjet

Picture of Cut the Wood: Waterjet

This project could certainly be completed with ordinary power tools and craftsmanship. The arc pieces are the hardest to make, as their precision is key to smooth operation of the wheel. A carefully measured string used as a compass could be used to draw the arcs on a piece of plywood, which could be cut with a jigsaw. A hand router with a template and a trim-bit would make duplication fairly straight forward. We both work at Instructables HQ at Autodesk's Pier 9, and have access to a large OMAX waterjet cutter. A computer controlled machine that uses a high pressure waterjet to cut through any material, so long as it is less than 6" thick. Wood, any metal, glass, stone, any shape, any material. You might think it crazy to cut wood with water, but it saved us many hours of jig-making and saved a lot of wood because we could nest the parts within 1/8" of each other. Plus, the precision made for smooth rolling and perfect registration of the stacked pieces upon assembly.

We cut the arcs from four sheets of plywood. We filled whatever unused space we had with slats to be used for steps on the hamster wheel but cut most of the rectangular slats by table saw.

Step 3: Cut the Wood: by Hand

Picture of Cut the Wood: by Hand

We used a table saw and chop saw to cut out the remaining slats of wood used to span the two rings of the wheel. There are sixty something slats in total. We used plywood because we had it on hand. 1"x6" pine would work great and look better, but cost more.

We cut the curved stand pieces with a jigsaw following a stencil we printed in sections. (Not pictured) Acrobat Reader can print the attached pdf as tiled pages. The precision is only important for the hole spacing and the distance from the axel to the ground. The slight arc on the base prevents rocking on slightly uneven terrain.

Step 4: Lay Out the Rings

Picture of Lay Out the Rings

The wheel consists of two wheel rings with some 60-odd plywood slats between the rims. Each ring consists of two sets of circular plywood layers, but since the plywood wasn't big enough to cut out an entire layer at once we divided the layers into thirds and then laid out each layer as shown. So, the hierarchy goes a little like this:

One wheel = 2 rings

One ring = 2 layers

One layer = 3 arcs, each ⅓ of a ring layer. (120° each)

Each arc had 4 radially spaced ¼" holes to aid in line-up and fastening of the layers.

Step 5: Glue Up the Rings

Picture of Glue Up the Rings

We then glued the layers of each ring together, staggering the two layers by 60° to maximize overlap and stability. Wood glue, when properly applied, can be stronger than wood itself. Initial clamping was done with ¼"-20 cap screws and T-nuts, followed by about 20 clamps. Glue was wiggled out liberally, spread with a piece of paper, then clamped to kingdom come. A sign of a good glue-up is squeeze-out, a small amount of glue emerging along the glue seam indicating complete dispersion of glue.

Step 6: Build the Base

Picture of Build the Base

The base consists of two large, hot-dog shaped pieces of wood, each of which hold two skateboard wheels.

The two plates are held together with tie-rods and steel pipes. 5/16" threaded rods inside the pipe pull the plywood sides together, while the pipes themselves keep them apart. The diameter of the pipe prevents skewing, and allows the base to be stable and svelte. The length of the pipe is key, and had to be changed a few times. Too short and the wheel won't spin, and to long and it wiggles too much. A very shallow and large hole the diameter of the pipe must be drilled in the wood to keep the rod near the center of the pipe. If the rod shifts, the plates will skew. There is no good reason why we didn't just use a 4"x4" piece of lumber and some wood screws, or any other easier method.

The skateboard wheels were attached to the base using 5/16 cap screws with two fender washers and two locknuts. As shown in the image, the first locknut should be super-tight, and the second a bit loose to avoid damage to the skate wheel. We tried placing a Delrin(plastic) disk in between each skateboard wheel and the wooden base to reduce friction between wooden rings and the wooden base, but ended up removing them to no effect.

Step 7: Test the Base

Picture of Test the Base

Once the base was assembled, we tested out the action of the rings on the base to ensure they spun freely and didn't hit the pipes or catch on jagged edges. Resist the urge to use the ring as a Cyr Wheel, it will not end well.

Step 8: Attach the Slats to the Rings

Picture of Attach the Slats to the Rings

Satisfied that the rings could spin on the base, we then screwed the slats onto the rings of the wheel. This part was tricky -- we had to redo it several times since we found the distance between the two rings of the wheel would creep upwards or downwards as we attached more and more slats. The solution was to screw in a couple of pioneer slats at strategic 90° intervals along the rings in order to maintain a fixed distance between the rings as we attached the slats.

In addition to being tricky, this part was also time, labor, and material intensive -- it took five of us working together several hours. We went through ~250 screws total, or about every screw we could find in the wood shop.

Step 9: Secondary Use As Wheel of Death or Bench

Picture of Secondary Use As Wheel of Death or Bench

Having a human sized cylinder turns out to be versatile. Without the base, the wheel is a dangerous dizzying alternative to a Segway. See above, partially traversing the San Francisco Bay Trail on this novel contraption.

It also makes for a uncomfortable bench for sitting around discarded giant wooden telephone wire spools.

Step 10: Reflections

Picture of Reflections

The Wheel was featured on a few blogs and publications. Including FastCompany, The Daily Mail, Huffington Post, Cnet, and the home page of Yahoo!.

San Francisco Magazine wrote a very thorough 5-page article about the wheel, Seen above in print.

It was the Answer to a limerick on NPR's "Wait wait... Don't tell me"

The wheel and I were featured on The Queen Latifah Show in October.

And also featured on the daytime talk show "The Doctors".


hanlieb made it! (author)2017-09-26

Thanks for this great idea and instructions Rob. I'm from South Africa, and built a wheel for our office. We love it, and so does a lot of people. Thinking of making and selling a few...

Squ1sher (author)hanlieb2017-11-06

Looks good ! I'm in Berlin and also currently building one - so excited how it will perform in my daily office work ! What's the diameter of your's ?

hanlieb (author)Squ1sher2017-11-06

I've made the OD 2.2 m so all the tall people in our office could fit comfortably. Just check your door sizes. Our office has high 2.7 m doors. Unfortunately my wheel will not fit through a standard 2.03 m door.
Let us know how you progress. Everybody is amazed by the wheel, but unfortunately it has a few practical issues - sound being the biggest one. Will gladly share my views and efforts.

Squ1sher (author)hanlieb2017-11-07

I choosed as much diameter as practibly possible too: OD 2.24m. My Door is not that high so it will stay in my room where i assemble it forever ;) How long are you able to walk per day - what do you feet/legs say ?

1080black.mamba (author)hanlieb2017-10-13

Do you still have any tp sell.

hanlieb (author)1080black.mamba2017-10-13

I build on order, so yes I have some to sell. Are you interested? It's really easy to make if you follow Robb's instructions.

Robb (author)hanlieb2017-09-28

Amazing work! It looks fantastic.

Sell as many as you like, the license for the plans is unconditional.

hanlieb (author)Robb2017-09-28

Thanks Robb. I'll send you flowers once I've made a fortune :)

AdrianoM7 made it! (author)2015-11-05

I built this wheel for my final major project at university. Furthermore, I connected it to a small bicycle wheel, which with a dynamo generates energy to charge a phone. Furthermore, I connected the wheel to an app which shows in real time energy produced and calories burned. Once finished the performance users insert their name and they are placed in a leaderboard. This project is currently exhibited at London College of Communication and many people are running on it in these days, it’s actually also a bit dangerous :P

Thank you very much for sharing all the instructions to build this!

Franbull (author)AdrianoM72017-03-16

Hi Adriano!
We want to do exactly the same thing in the office.
Can you tell me which app did you use to connect this and where exactly did you place the bicycle wheel? is it instead of skate wheels or?
Thanks mate!

buy copegus (author)Franbull2017-05-29

your office will be awesomely fun

akaro10 (author)AdrianoM72016-01-05


How much power you generate with your hamster wheel? Is there a generator assembled?

couponchief (author)AdrianoM72015-12-26

Nice do you feel weird in a hamster wheel though?

AdrianoM7 (author)couponchief2016-01-04

Definitely, especially the first time you try it, it seems like everything is falling down.

Nice project. For the falling down problem, you could add some kind of curved "screen" up until above your head to hide the motion. Maybe two metal rods connected to the desk. You simply slide a piece of fabric easily sowed together.

Is it noisy ?

AdrianoM7 (author)couponchief2016-01-04

Definitely, especially the first time you try it, it seems like everything is falling down.

AdrianJ3 (author)couponchief2016-01-04

I think it appropriate for users to wear a "hamster onesie" . A teddy-bear onesie will due if by sewing you modify the tail, and add cheek-pouches.

AdrianoM7 (author)AdrianJ32016-01-04

Ahah yes, that's a great idea, stuffing it with pillows or something soft it could even solve the safety problem.

dkat1 (author)AdrianoM72016-01-03

I'm sure you got an amazing grade! Have you seen the animated show Phineas and Ferb? You top even the best of their inventions. I'm so very impressed. Praise, praise, praise (instead of "Blathers Noah Blathers"). Please continue to make your wonderful inventions.

AdrianoM7 (author)dkat12016-01-04

Yes, I got the maximum :)
No I haven't seen that show, but thank you very much for the compliment, very much appreciated.

Robb (author)AdrianoM72015-11-06


That looks fantastic. Is that Walnut plywood? I'm impressed.The safety issue is one of the biggest unsolved problems of the human-sized hamster wheel.

It really makes my day when I see my instructables executed in the real world.Thanks for making one!

AdrianoM7 (author)Robb2016-01-04

Yes, the Walnut is plywood, it was actually the cheapest one I could find here in London, but it looks great.
Eventually the exhibition was good and no injuries were reported from people running on the wheel. :)

Thanks to you for sharing this, you really boosted my final project!

WillY5 made it! (author)2015-12-23

Thank you Robb so much for uploading the .dxf files! It saved me money with the laser cutter guys down the road. I finished the wheel and the base last sunday, wife and I are going to paint it this weekend. Thanks again for all your hard work and sharing everything.

IlanY (author)WillY52016-08-16

Hi Will,

I'm totally new at this but also want to make this wheel for my Dog.I opened the DXF files but they seem not to include size info. When I send it to a shop for exact cutting how do they know the scale?



WillY5 (author)IlanY2016-08-18

The DXF files can be scaled to whatever size you'd like. I used AutoCad to tweak the files a bit and scaled it so that every grid line was 1 foot. 4 grid lines by 8 and you have yourself a standard sheet of plywood. The laser cutting guy used AutoCad as well and was able to read the scale that I set.

Angela EngelsT (author)WillY52016-11-28

Will, what is the final dimensions of your wheel? i want one for my cat. This would be my first wood working project. I plan on getting the wood cut by a laser cutter and just assemble it. Any advise.. to making this smaller than what is origianlly posted would be great. ~Angela

Angela, I purchased a cat wheel from for my cat (1/2 main coone). Having seen him stand in the 4' wheel, I am confident a 3' wheel would not be big enough for your maine coon. Try this: get your cat to stand up at full stretch (i.e., hold a treat against a wall and make him/her reach for it). Mark the highest point he or she can touch and measure from there to the floor. Add at least half to that measurement to get the minimum diameter for a wheel your cat can really stretch out and run in. You probably don't need a whole 2' from side to side, so that could save you some wood. Attaching carpet to the inside for traction is also helpful for cats. You can use a hall runner, or leftovers from a carpet installation. Glue it down, tack it down, or use velcro so you can easily remove it to clean or replace. Good luck!

WillY5 (author)Angela EngelsT2016-11-28

Hi Angela, the inner diameter on the wheel is 6 feet 3 inches and DXF drawings can be easily scaled scaled in AutoCAD. The laser cutter guys I worked with scaled it for me to fit a plywood sheet. Scale yours down by half and your wheel diameter should be just a smidge over 3 feet. That should be big enough for a Maine Coon :)

ptmachinery (author)WillY52016-03-16

Hi Will, Do you have the DXF file for the Bearing Stand Plate?

I see the PDF above but I want to cut it on a CNC and I need the DXF file.

I did find the DXF nested sheet of rectangles and rings so that will help but I need the side parts. Thanks!!!

WillY5 (author)ptmachinery2016-03-18

Hi PT! I don't have the DXF's anymore, only a modified DWG of the Bearing Stand Plate that has more slats added in for the wheel that would fit onto a standard 4'x8' sheet of plywood. I see Robb got you the original, would you still like my modified DWG?

Robb (author)WillY52015-12-24

Thanks for making the wheel Will!

It is always very exciting to see it have new life. I love the look of that ply. The grain has a very nice contrast. I hope the wheel provides you with years of an active lifestyle. You've certainly earned it!

WillY5 (author)Robb2016-03-13

Final update; did a lot of tweaking and adjusting. The wheel no longer rubs against the base and my dog is having a blast on it.

arenatheatre made it! (author)2014-12-17

We made this!! And it's a bigger one- 2.5m diameter. Check it out here.

We made it to test out how it might work for an upcoming show. And it worked a treat. Thanks for putting it up there, guys!!

Robb (author)arenatheatre2014-12-17


What did you use to cut the parts?

meccano202 (author)Robb2014-12-18

The plans were re-drawn to make it larger and everything was lazercut.

The vimeo link wasn't working properly on the last post so here it is again.

jh2ocean (author)meccano2022016-09-13

Very cool

echobass (author)meccano2022015-08-22

Hi, great build ( and great video!) did you still cut from 8x4 sheets? Any chance you could share your cad files? Thanks :)

meccano202 (author)echobass2015-08-27

Thanks echobass,

I don't have access to the cad files anymore unfortunately, The pieces were cut from 1200mm x 2400mm ply.

Well done

jamesbrosuk (author)arenatheatre2015-02-09

Wow, amazing that you managed to make it, impressive

NitroRustlerDriver (author)2014-09-18

Now make a hamster ball!

i have seen this already done; there are field sports now where each participant is running inside of a hamster ball! (though not built with wood!)

Mex5150 (author)ronh452016-01-04

And they don't have a computer inside either ;^<

JeremyA (author)ronh452016-01-03

So you haven't seen it done then.

Laral (author)NitroRustlerDriver2016-01-03

Listen to the Wait! Wait! Don't tell me! segment. Someone did suggest exactly that and described what it would be like at work. Hilarious.

that will bin awesome i would pay a lot of money for materials to make a hamster ball if i had instructions. Im with you man... Hamster Ball!!!!

studentduck40 (author)2017-09-25

This won't work; the base is too short. If you're not extremely careful your foot will push the wheel-walk (hamster wheel) loose, and you should probably install a metal band on the wheel walk to bridge the weight out against the board wheels so that your walking is less stressed by the content vibration of the wood's contact on the wheels. You won't notice it too much right away, but the more the wood rolls against the wheels the more lumpy the wood will become.

Robb (author)studentduck402017-09-28

It works great, I promise! The wheels have very little friction on the smooth wood edge. Skateboard wheels are designed for much rougher surfaces than sanded wood. Note the wood is two edges on 6-ply plywood, so it will not wear like normal wood.

PogueMahone1775 (author)2017-08-15

LOL no. Great instructable and the idea of using it as a bench or "Wheel of Death" are awesomesauce but running on a hamster wheel while working in my cube would just be tooo...symbolic...

Squ1sher (author)2017-07-31

has somebody built this near berlin ? I'm thinking about building this too for my office because i can't sit anymore. Does anybody have long-time experience with this ?

About This Instructable



Bio: Robb was once an Artist-in-Residence at Autodesk's Pier 9. He went to Carnegie Mellon to study Art. He mostly does tangible artifacts that are ... More »
More by Robb:HAIRLINE BLING •Permanently Add Rhinestones to Your Hair3D Printed Motorized Bathroom SignFlight-case Toolbox and Workstation
Add instructable to: