Introduction: Steampunk Segway ( Legway )

Picture of Steampunk Segway ( Legway )

A self balancing, human powered, steampunk styled, Segway. All you need is a brave self balancing human. This is the ultimate green vehicle for all you eco conscious steampunkers. Is that an oxymoron? I made this out of mostly found materials. This was my first steampunk styled build. Any good suggestions on making it look better will be incorporated as long as the materials are cheap and easy to find. I have been calling it the Legway in reference to the propulsion method. Yes, I know about those Lego self balancers of the same name.

This Instructable covers a basic version of this. For details on how I got my steampunk look go to

Anyway this is my entry to the Epilog Laser Engraver Challenge. Vote for me and I will share it with local Chicago makers, builders and hackers.

Step 1:

Step 2: Build Pedal Shafts

Picture of Build Pedal Shafts


(2) Galvanized 1/2" pipe flanges
(2) 1/2" black pipe pieces 8" long
(4) 1/2" black pipe elbows
(2) 1/2" x 3.5" pipe for the offset pieces
(1) 1/2" x 3.5" pipe for the center section.

Build this first to get all the measurements needed for the other parts. Put all the part together as shown in the picture. Tighten them very tight, but make sure everything is squared up and the bolt patterns of the flanges are square. I primarily used black pipe parts because I found some around. To prevent the parts from loosening later, I tack welded them, but I am sure epoxy or JB Weld would do. Measure the offset the pedal shafts have from the center. This will be used for the bolt patterns on the wheels later. Measure the width of the clear areas of the pipes in the pedal area for the widths of the pedals.

Step 3: Build the Wheels

Picture of Build the Wheels


3/4" Plywood.

Cut (2) 16" diameter circles out of plywood. I used some nice Baltic birch I found. I used my router to add the steampunk details. Drill holes for the flanges with the correct offset from the center as measured in the pedal shaft step. I used t-nuts to bolt the flanges on because I had them. I am sure other fastening methods would work. I also put black t-molding around the wheel. I got it from I borrowed a slitting saw blade to cut the groove. They sell router bits to do it too.

Update: I thought I would update this step with some recent ideas. Commenter golddigger1559 had a great idea for some simple but high quality wheels. Golddigger1559 took an old set of smallish bicycle wheels and cut out the spokes. Screw the rim to a piece of plywood inside rim. You get a very smooth running wheel without a lot of work.

Step 4: Build the Pedals

Picture of Build the Pedals


3/4" lumber

The pedals are made from 2 layers of 3/4" lumber. Make the grain go across the shaft to keep them from splitting. Bolt the two piece together and drill through 7/8" dia. I over drilled mine to fit some Teflon sheet inside as a bearing. Cut the pedals to fit the width of pipe in the pedal area. I made mine 4" front to back.

Step 5: Build the Handle

Picture of Build the Handle


3/4" lumber.

Trace out a nice shape and cut it out. Hold the handle in front of you where you would feel comfortable riding and measure the angle to the middle of your feet. Epoxy a block to the handle with this angle cut to it. Drill a 1-1/8 hole in it to accept the handle post.

I spent a lot of time on the design and fab on this part. I made a printed a gauge dial and put it behind some Plexiglas and a brass bezel. I wrapped the grips with some leather lacing.

Step 6:

Picture of


3/4" thick UHMWPE

I used (2) pieces of UHMWPE. I had the material left over from a table saw fixture I made. Other materials such as nylon might work as well. Bolt them together and drill a 7/8" hole for the pedal shaft and one 1-1/8 hole for the handle post. I made it so the parts would clamp to the post, but free spin on the pedal shaft.

This is the only non steampunk material I used. I'll pretend it is whale bone, elephant tusk or some other politically correct Victorian material.

Update: I bought the UHMWPE on sale at a woodworking show. You can also buy it a McMaster Carr. The size used here (4" x 3/4") is about $11 per linear foot. You only need about 4" of it. It is nice stuff to have around for projects. It is very tough and nearly frictionless against metal. It can be easily cut, drilled with woodworking tools.

Step 7: Build the Handle Post

Picture of Build the Handle Post


1" copper pipe.
1/2 copper pipe
Misc fittings
Flux and Solder

Stand on the floor and hold the handle where you want it. Measure the length of 1" copper pipe that is needed and cut it to length. I added a kick stand type thing that holds up the handle when not riding. I made it out of a 1" x 1" x 1/2" tee, a male to female 45deg elbow and a piece of 1/2" copper pipe. I just measured the parts on the fly and brazed them in. Set the contact angle of the post forward of any reasonable angle that might occur while riding. I put a plastic chair leg tip on the end.

Step 8: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

Bolt the wheels to the pedal shaft.

Screw the pedal halves together on the pedal shaft.

Bolt the post bearing to the shaft.

Install the handle onto the post.

Install the post onto the post bearing.

(Shown with it's baby brother...the Universe Cycle)

Step 9: Ride It...See a Video

Picture of Ride It...See a Video

It is not that difficult. I am pretty good with the Universe Cycle now, so that helps. The Legway is much harder to turn.

Practice along a railing or fence. Don't be afraid to eventually leave the support. It looks a lot harder than it is. You can't really turn very well. You can sometimes get one wheel to skid around with a little weight shift and hip twist. I have not ridden very much. I want to take some pictures with a real camera before it gets beat up. I will post more pictures and videos soon.

...before the comments come in...This was not meant to be a real effective means of transportation. This was more for the fun of the build and coolness factor.

See the video...

My 8 year old daughter shot the video. I did not know she was chasing me, so I stopped when I was getting too far away. We did this in one take...and it shows. That is not an intentional sound track. It was just playing in my garage.

Software Used in This Project

Pro/Engineer - 3D Solid Modeling

AutoCAD LT - 2D Drafting

Vectric Aspire 2.0 - CAM Software - (Awesome

Mach 3 - CAM Controller (..again

Corel Draw 10.0 - Graphics

Step 10: What's Next

Picture of What's Next

Here is a very rough rendering of what I am working on.

This is a 2 person self balancing cycle. I have seen similar examples of this elsewhere, but mine is on a smaller scale. My goal is to make it very easy to make and cost less than $100.

It self balances because the weight is below the center of the axle. The pedals will connect to the wheels via chain. Each person controls one wheel. Pedal to together and you go straight. Go opposite and you spin in place, etc. I will probably make some form of disc brake for each wheel. Not shown are casters that will contact the ground to prevent rollover on sudden starts or stops. I am going to start at a scale for kids (about 5' tall max).

See the snapshot of the Sketchup drawing of the basic concept.

Here is a link to the Sketchup (Ver 7) file.

Update 5/3/09
Chip are flying. I cut one side, the seat bottom and the seat back. The size and fit of the seat was my biggest risk area. I used the Universe Cycle as a stand in for some pedals. The size looks good. It appears wider than I thought it would. To keep the costs down I am using BC exterior plywood. 3/4" for the sides and 1/2" for the seat.

I routed a lot of slots in the parts to give it a lighter look. It might save a little weight, but I think it will look a lot better. I designed some gears and a piston thing for the sides. See the new 3D view.

A lot of the mechanical parts are on order from Surplus Center. They should be here by Tuesday.

Update 5/5/09
Have the basic chassis cut. See the picture. Got the mechanical parts from surplus center. Added a picture of my shop.


captaincobb (author)2017-09-25

I just plan love IT!

blackedoutnello (author)2015-11-24

does it work?

ash10hunt (author)2014-11-23

Is it difficult to build

viabing (author)2014-10-29

This is LEGWAY Self-balancing electric Unicycle

Toga_Dan (author)2014-03-07

This is hilarious. Love it. re: steering, I know this would quadruple the complexity, but what if there were a clutch in each wheel so it could freewheel?

jordanguy123 (author)2013-08-06

This is simply amazing. I am going to build this the ride all around town.

vpurcell (author)2012-12-13

Still one of my FAVORITEST Steampunk items out there! LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!

ace12345m (author)2012-09-27

if you put a brake o both wheels and the put an independent pedal on each wheels then you could turn it pretty easily.

MattGyver92 (author)2009-05-21

I did it! I figured it out! I know how to make a legway that steers! Has anyone ever seen the transmission on a riding lawnmower? It has a large wheel, and a smaller wheel that touches perpandicular to it. The closer the wheel is to the larger wheel's center, that faster it spins. The closer it is to the edge, the slower it spins. Using this technology on both wheels, you can easily and smoothly steer by changing gears-without changing gears! I think they're called "brushwheels"... I saw this in 507 Mechanical Movements (pg. 12, fig. 28)... Anyway, the power comes from the pedal shaft (the S-shaped shaft with the pedals-yes, that thing). On the ends of the shaft there are sprockets. A bike chain (same length for both sides) connects the pedal shaft to a gear box. The gear box (with a spring tension chain machanism-found on the back wheel of a bike-allows the chain to become larger/smaller) connects the chain to bevel gears, and upwards to the fly wheel. This touches the "big wheel" on the inside of the bicycle wheel. What moves the gearbox up and down is a pull spring (down), and a wire that attatches to the handle bars (on each side). When the bars turn......right, the right end lowers, and the left end raises. So do the gearboxes below. The fly wheels are below the axes on the larger wheels, so moving up, makes the larger wheels spin faster (lower gear), and vice-versa. This is reversed on the other side, thus allowing the legway to steer. Here's a model (SketchUp) on the transmission. The wheel on the bottom is the large wheel, while the two wheels on top of it are the fly wheels. The leftmost flywheel will spin slower, but spin the large wheel faster. The rightmost flywheel will spin faster, but will spin the larger wheel slower...

MattGyver92 (author)MattGyver922009-05-21

One more thing- I know this IS a lot, but anyway...To anyone trying to build off of these comments I've made, note that to steer while coasting (if you use brush wheel steering), you'll need to connect both sides of the leg way (both chains) with a shaft. This is because without it, you only have control while accelerating. When coasting however, the wheels may slow down or speed up-whatever, they aren't connected by the pedal shaft. If they're connected by another shaft (that will spin while the pedals are coasting), both sides will still be connected, and will still spin in their respective gears, allowing you to steer. I'm not certain if this is correct, but I pretty sure another shaft is neccesary.

ilpug (author)MattGyver922011-10-02

this looks too complex.

reddeath13 (author)MattGyver922010-07-07

this sound interesting but I'm not sure i follow the concept completely can we talk about this through email

kingbob9_9_ (author)MattGyver922010-04-02

an easier way to turn is to shift your weight.if it dosent work than im sorry.

ilpug (author)2011-10-02

you really need to make some kind of turning device. i might make one of these... it looks really fun. i will put bigger wheels on mine though, with air tires.

Mikeymo (author)2009-05-14

"..Turn it..?", you folks are missing the point of steampunk..... lol Its awesome, I love it!

rabb72994 (author)Mikeymo2011-08-15

What is the point of steampunk? Real question, not trying to be rude.

Mikeymo (author)rabb729942011-08-15

My definition: Take an object from our everyday lives, and redesign/build it out of commonly obtained objects. The item being "steampunked" will resemble the original and may be functional to a degree, it usually does not operate with near the sophistication of the original.

Hope that helps,

rabb72994 (author)Mikeymo2011-08-15

That is a better description than I have received in the past. Thank you.

jbussé (author)rabb729942011-08-25

I just searched it on wikipedia:

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually the Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.

jbussé (author)Mikeymo2011-08-16

doesn't it also have to look very old as if it was made 250 years ago before electricity was invented, and everything worked on steam. (even if your steampunked item secretly has a battery in it ;-D )

Mikeymo (author)jbussé2011-08-16

That certainly explains the "steam" in steampunked : ) Thanks

Uptonb (author)rabb729942011-08-21

Steampunk is victorian aged future vision. Just think Of Abraham Lincolns' era and futurize it with only the materials of that day. It is more an art style. People definately make functioning items entirely with tech from victorian age, but most are a look of that era, but taking into account what they would imagine the future to hold.

incorrigible packrat (author)2010-10-14

I have a suggestion for replacing the UHMWPE. If you can get your hands on an old wooden plane (woodworking, not aeronautical), the block could be cut and drilled to make the bearing.
A plane with missing or broken blade or wedge would be ideal, cuz it would be way cheaper and you probably don't want to cut up a functional old wooden plane, on account of their coolness

vacanebuna (author)2010-10-01

I believe that cornering could be much more improved by adding a clutch to each wheel.

666man8 (author)2009-10-01

where's step 1?

Saturn V (author)666man82010-06-29

I think he accedentally added that step and didn't notice it.

olphart (author)2010-04-20

I LOVE it!!  Gotta build one!  Now that is the soul of wit:  simple and speaks volumes

GianniMora (author)2010-04-04



gemgh (author)2010-01-03

You guys are awesome.  But honestly you give my hubby too much food for thought.  Gotta love your work though!

thing 2 (author)2009-05-28

Nice instructable! two phumbs up! (thumbs up) THUMBS are still up! You should try to make a self propelled cart sometime.

jaythedogg (author)2009-04-24

Wow, I thought you were going to lean a little more forward & catch the stationary "kickstand" on the ground resulting in a DIY face plant tutorial. :P Just messing. Nice design man! Congrats on an awesome project!

bdring (author)jaythedogg2009-05-28

hey nice pic., bye,gogar

jaythedogg (author)bdring2009-05-28

LOL, that's rly me too. :P The eyes are fake tho.

snowpenguin (author)2009-05-27

I think I've solved the steering problem... Make it into a steampunk trike! That really takes away from the 'Segway' part, but, oh well... Basically just a Universe cycle with another wheel that has the handlebars and is steerable on the front!

bdring (author)2009-05-03

Chips are flying on the Steamroller. Here is my son verifying the size of the seat. See step 10 for details and more pictures.

daniel_reetz (author)bdring2009-05-20

That picture is totally awesome.

bdring (author)daniel_reetz2009-05-20

Thanks, The thing was fully functional over the weekend. I striped it down for cleanup and finishing. Instructable coming soon. All the kids in on the block rode it. Most of them figured it out right away. It takes a little coordination between drivers to go straight, but they all got the hang of it. When you get stuck on a bump, etc, you pedal and your feet almost point to the sky before you generate enough weight shift to roll over it. Lots of fun if you are not prone to motion sickness. We are working on a name. I started with Steamroller, but the kids are pushing for "Wheels of Down", "The Wheel Thing" or "Portable Porch Swing"

bdring (author)bdring2009-05-27

It is done...

The SteamRoller

manantais (author)2009-05-25

Great ideas,keep them comeing

leepinlarr (author)2009-05-25

you do some sweet wood work, hope you are passing some skills off to the kids my son started using my power tools and welder at age 12, it really helped him grow look forward to this next project !

MattGyver92 (author)2009-05-19

Cool idea. Here's what I would do- I would find a pair of bicycle wheels to use instead of the original small wooden wheels. The bicycle wheels have rubber tires that would give you more traction than the stained wood would. The original unit would hang in a frame that hangs on the larger bycicle wheels. The ends of the pedal unit would connect to gear sets (each end would) and a chain would connect to the gears to the bicycle wheels. The gear shifting unit would be on the handle, like on a normal bicycle. To steer, either you could switch one wheel to a higher/lower gear (you would need two gear controls then), or have one control for both wheels, and have two brakes on each wheel. As you tilt the steering column, turn the steering wheel, turn the handle bars, pull the brakes on one side, that wheel will slow down...but so will the other. At this moment, I am developing my own personal version of this vehicle. My goal is to make it as much like a bicycle as possible (imagine being able to steer, brake, change gears, and coast on this thing!). I am using Google SketchUp (check out my group), and I will eventually post a model in this forum! (I also like feedback as well)

MattGyver92 (author)MattGyver922009-05-19

The biggest obstacle would be steering. The reason why is because both wheels are rigidly connected to an axle, and what is done to one wheel, is done to the other wheel. That's why you'll probably only really need a brake on one wheel to stop. But if they hang in a frame in the bicycle wheels, it might not be so hard to figure out...

MattGyver92 (author)MattGyver922009-05-19

I did a little thinking, and steering is going to be very difficult to acheive with this sort of project. I found that the only way to steer without losing speed would be to find a way to tilt the top of one wheel toward, or away from the steering post, or to change the wheel on one side to a higher or lower gear than the wheel from the other side, thus resulting in one wheel turning faster than its twin. Since tilting one wheel, decreases its vertical height, unlevels the axel, and tilts the other wheel, there is no steering curve. The only way to prevent this is to make the wheel that tilts increase in diameter to keep its vertical height the same as it tilts (yeah, right). Having gear sets for each wheel may be more trouble than it's worth as well. I do not know of a way to shift gears simply and smoothly by tilting handle bars or turning a wheel yet... Braking on one wheel would work, but the steering would be very sensitive, and when steering and coasting, speed would be lost... The easiest way to build this (and have it work) would be to use motors, gears, and batteries. More voltage to one motor causes one wheel to cover more distance than the other wheel, and the motorized legway (now a segway) curves toward the more powerful motor. Both wheels would have gear sets that are identical, and that are controlled in sync.

bdring (author)2009-05-09

I cut the wheels for the "Steamroller". Here is a picture of one. I need to mount tires next

Rahdzhillaxxx (author)2009-04-28

I remember something like this as a kid we called it a "big wheel" I think they quit making them cuz too many kids with road rash was a bad thing lol. I think a single seater would ROCK!

bdring (author)Rahdzhillaxxx2009-04-29

Find a picture. It sounds interesting.

sibblyman541 (author)2009-04-24

where did you get those parts???

bdring (author)sibblyman5412009-04-24

They are all standard off the shelf 1/2" NPT pipe parts. I scrounged up most of them, and bought the rest at Home Depot. The flange is the most expensive at about $4 each. I used black pipe, but galvanized will work the same. Avoid galvanized if you are going to tack weld.

TechNerd1012 (author)bdring2009-04-28

could you also just get normal silver pipe and paint it black?

bdring (author)TechNerd10122009-04-29

Sure, the Universe Cycle was made using standard galvanized "silver" pipe. Paint is only needed if you like. I would mask the area where the pedals turn.

If you do tack weld galvanized pipe. Do it in a well ventilated area (outside)...Google "welding galvanized"

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