Introduction: Tensegrity Table

About: I'm an industrial designer, living in a FabLab. I like 3D modeling and printing, lasercutting, Arduino, and frankly any form of prototyping.

I was in desperate need to create a spot to put my cup of tea while watching TV, so I made an infamous tensegrity table. I designed it in Autodesk Fusion 360. All the wooden pieces are laser cut out of poplar plywood and I used thin steel wire to connect everything together and create the "floating" illusion.


Materials you'll need:

Recommended tools:

  • a drill (with 1mm and 6mm bits)
  • a pair of diagonal pliers
  • sandpaper/orbital sander/disc sander
  • 1.5mm hex (Allen) key
  • a router(table) with a 6mm roundover bit
  • a CNC router, laser cutter or a (circular, jig,...)saw to cut out the wood shapes

Step 1: Cut the Plywood Pieces

Use these templates to create 2 triangular pieces and 2 legs.
If you are using 18mm (3/4in) plywood, you can use a CNC router to cut out the shapes. If you don't have access to one, or prefer making it by hand, you can print the A3 templates, glue those to your plywood sheet and shape all pieces by hand.
If you have access to a laser cutter, you can use the laser cutter template to cut out al the pieces out of a 6mm (1/4in) plywood sheet. I've used poplar plywood in this example.

Step 2: Glue the Layers

If you used a laser cutter, you'll have to glue the 3 layers of 6mm plywood back together. Use wood glue to do this and try to line the pieces up as good as possible.

For the 2 legs, make sure that the piece with only 2 teeth at the bottom is in the middle. For the 2 triangular pieces, make sure the big (6mm diameter) holes are at the top or bottom. (NOT in the middle!)

Step 3: Sanding and Rounding Over the Edges

This step is optional but gives the table a much better look. Use a 6mm roundover bit and a router(table) to put a fillet on both sides of al the pieces.

This is also a good time to sand all your plywood pieces!

Step 4: Drill Holes in the Legs

Drill holes in both the legs, these should have a diameter of 1mm throughout and counterbored 10 mm deep with a diameter of 6mm. This will allow the bolt-on wire ends to integrate flush with the legs.

Step 5: Glue the Legs to the Triangles

Glue the legs to the triangles and try to make sure that both pieces are as square as possible to each other.

Step 6: Prepare Wires

Cut 6 pieces 50cm steel wire and 1 piece of 40cm and connect one screw-on wire end to one end of each cable.

Try to do this as precise as possible, sloppy measuring in this step will result in a crooked or wobbly table. Make sure that all the cables have exactly the same length and the wire ends are connected flush with the ends of the cables.

Step 7: Install the Wires

Insert the 6 50cm steel cables through the 6 holes of the top piece and pull them tight until the screw end sit flush with the top of the top piece of the table.

Pull them through the bottom piece afterwards, but be sure to wire them in correct way! Both legs should be in line with each other and the triangles should point in opposing directions. Watch the pictures carefully!

Pull the cables through far enough and connect 6 screw-on wire ends to the free ends of the cables. Also pull these tight so they are flush with the bottom.

Now we just need to connect the tops of our legs with the last 40 cm piece of steel cable. Insert it from the top of the bottom piece of the table and pull it through the bottom of the top table piece. I've used a one-way cable tension stop this automatically keeps the tension on the cable after you've tightened it. The excess piece of the cable comes out the bottom now and can be trimmed with a pair of diagonal pliers.

Step 8: End Result

Time to grab yourself a cup of tea and enjoy your finished work!

Plywood Challenge

Participated in the
Plywood Challenge