Tensegrity - Desk Top Model




Introduction: Tensegrity - Desk Top Model

About: Love building fun things with wood (automata, puzzles, etc). Music is my 2nd love, Concertina, Bass, piano, etc.

The concept of "Tensegrity" is basically hidden suspension. This model appears to have to layers of structure with no physical support between them. Although there are some excellent models on the internet, I wanted to make one small enough to fit on a desk for a conversation piece. I can tell you from experience it does draw a lot of attention. It is easy to build, uses everyday common materials and does not require not much skill.


Materials required:

1. 3/8" wood - about 12" x 4" 2. 1/4" wood dowel - about 2' 3. Chain/Rope/String/thread - your choice 4. Superglue - preferably small tubes that pour easily and dry quick Tools required: 1. Band saw 2. Drill press

Step 1: Base Plate

There are two identical assemblies so make two of everything wood.

The base is made from 3/8". The wood can be anything you have. It could be any material you want but I'm a wood worker so mine is wood. Cut a piece 3" x 3".

Step 2: Base Corner Holes

The location of the corner holes are shown in the illustration. The size of the holes are dependent on what size rope/string/thread you would like to use. To attach the string I use wood round toothpicks wedged in with the string. The hole should be big enough to wedge the tip of the toothpick in with the thread. Do not attach any string yet.

Step 3: Main Holes

There are two main holes in the base plate. One is a 1/4" hole for the upright and the other provides access to attach the center string.

The 1" hole is in the center. It is important to locate the 1/4" hole exactly as shown to allow proper line-up of the center string base.

At this point you can round off all four corners. Sand all the outside edges slightly as well as the edges of the 1" hole.

Step 4: Uprights and Small Platforms

In the center of this structure there are two identical pieces with a piece of string between them. The platform is 3/8" thick. Placement of both holes is important. The larger hole is 1/4" diameter. The smaller hole is the same size as the corner holes on the base plates which are dependent on the size of string that you use. Both holes are centered from the sides. The illustration shows the progression of the small platform. Round the end with the small hole as shown.

The dowel is 1/4" diameter and 2 7/8" long.

Step 5: Assembly

All of the wood pieces are now complete and ready for assembly. Place glue on one end of the upright. Insert the upright into the base. The upright should be flush with the bottom of the base. It is very important at this point to make sure the upright is at 90 degrees to the base. Measure from at least two sides with a 90 degree piece of some kind. After the glue dries, attach the small platform to the upright. The small platform must be parallel to the sides and flush with the top of the upright.

Do both assemblies.

Step 6: First String Attachments

Cut four strings about one foot long. Thread one end through a hole in one base plate. Allow at least 2 or 3 inches to stick out from the bottom. The toothpicks must be inserted from the bottom. Have the toothpick ready to insert. Place the assembly on it's side to keep the glue from running down through the hole. Drop a dab of glue onto the hole with the string in it. Insert the toothpick to wedge the string in place. My glue was very quick drying so be ready to insert the toothpick immediately after you place the glue. Add another dab of glue to the toothpick and string combination.

Do the same thing with the other three holes.

After all 4 strings are in place. add another dab of glue from the top of the hole opening.

After all the glue is dry, which could be almost instantly depending on what type of glue you use, use a utility knife or wire cutters to snip off the string and toothpick flush with the bottom of the base.

Step 7: Second Base Plate Attached

The strings are attached to the second base plate in the same way that we did the first base plate. However, we have to keep the strings tight while we apply the glue. To simplify the process we can add two scrap wood blocks in between the base plates to maintain the exact same length of string on all four corners. The blocks should be 2 7/8" long. They can be any width as long as they fit between all the strings and wood parts.

After each string is inserted into the top plate, pull it tight while you apply the glue. Wedge it in place, from the top, with the toothpick. Make one more check to make sure the string is tight. Do the opposite corner next to help hold the blocks in place while you do the other strings. After all four strings are attached, snip off the excess string and toothpick with a utility knife or wire cutters..

Step 8: Final Assembly

With all four corner strings in place, all we have left to do is attach the middle string. Since both platform assemblies are identical, pick one to call the bottom.

Insert a piece of string about 6 inches into the bottom of the small platform of the bottom assembly. Attach it in the same way we did the corners.

Thread the string into the top small platform. At this point we should be able to see the project come to life. Pull on the top middle string until all four corners are tight. You should be able to feel that the assembly is going to stand on its own once the middle string is attached.

Wedge the middle string in place from the top. Snip off the excess on both ends of the middle string.

Your project is complete!

1 Person Made This Project!


  • First Time Author Contest

    First Time Author Contest
  • Fandom Contest

    Fandom Contest
  • Fiber Arts Challenge

    Fiber Arts Challenge



9 months ago on Introduction

Like the build but found out something while making.
Measurement on center string brace is off by 1/4"
it is listed as 1 1/2" long but needs to be 1 3/4" long.
the string hole and dowel hole are1 1/2" off center.
the base is 3". so you see what i am getting at.