Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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".


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 made it!(author)2017-03-16

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 made it!(author)2017-05-29

your office will be awesomely fun

akaro10 made it!(author)2016-01-05


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

couponchief made it!(author)2015-12-26

Nice do you feel weird in a hamster wheel though?

AdrianoM7 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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

guy.lamoureux.7 made it!(author)2016-01-05

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 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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

AdrianJ3 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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

dkat1 made it!(author)2016-01-03

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 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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

Robb made it!(author)2015-11-06


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 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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.

hamster wheel.jpgwheel and base.jpg
IlanY made it!(author)2016-08-16

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 made it!(author)2016-08-18

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 made it!(author)2016-11-28

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

KathrynL31 made it!(author)2016-12-06

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 made it!(author)2016-11-28

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 made it!(author)2016-03-16

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 made it!(author)2016-03-18

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 made it!(author)2015-12-24

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 made it!(author)2016-03-13

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 made it!(author)2014-12-17


What did you use to cut the parts?

meccano202 made it!(author)2014-12-18

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 made it!(author)2016-09-13

Very cool

echobass made it!(author)2015-08-22

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

meccano202 made it!(author)2015-08-27

Thanks echobass,

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

sarahhanahghan made it!(author)2015-02-23

Well done

jamesbrosuk made it!(author)2015-02-09

Wow, amazing that you managed to make it, impressive

NitroRustlerDriver made it!(author)2014-09-18

Now make a hamster ball!

ronh45 made it!(author)2016-01-03

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 made it!(author)2016-01-04

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

JeremyA made it!(author)2016-01-03

So you haven't seen it done then.

Laral made it!(author)2016-01-03

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.

Punkrockalltheway made it!(author)2014-10-09

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!!!!

Franbull made it!(author)2017-03-16

Can anyone let me know how much it cost to produce one of these wheels?
I sent the blueprints to the local shop and came back with the quote of £3,400?

I am still waiting for the reply from other shops but would just like to know what should I expect?


AlexeyB21 made it!(author)2017-07-04

It depends on how much plywood cost in your region. Price may very depending on plywood type. Can tell pricing for Ukraine.

I made rings and bottom from plywood and plunks from wood.

It costed me $250 for materials.

Other smaller stuff costed 150$ more

Workshop guys took another $200 for cutting plywood rings.

$600 totally and lots of work.

deluges made it!(author)2017-06-16

Ok well done now you need to make a tiny desk for a hamster. Good luck!

meccano202 made it!(author)2017-06-14

So this happened...more videos to come.

Robb made it!(author)2017-06-15

That is amazing. How do you keep it powered? Battery-on-wheel? Slip-ring? Copper tape with brushes?

Swansong made it!(author)2017-04-12

That's really cool :)

joweeks made it!(author)2017-02-21

awsome i want that as a twelve year old

DrDuctape made it!(author)2017-02-04

This looks awesome! I have always wanted a full size human hamster wheel.

wpfaff001 made it!(author)2017-01-24

I don't have a giant hamster, but it was a good idea!

takiqadim made it!(author)2016-09-30

It is always very exciting to see it have new life.

Please continue to make your wonderful inventions.

CalebJ16 made it!(author)2016-08-03

How much did it cost?

AndersC4 made it!(author)2016-06-27

Has anyone tried to make it with slalom skateboard wheels that are slightly angled? Would that keep the wheel from rubbing against the side supports?

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 »
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