Wheel of Fortune

Introduction: Wheel of Fortune

About: Justin Tyler Tate is an artist, designer, animator, teacher, jeweler and maker/hacker who produces with thoughts of culture, science and interactivity.

"The Wheel of Fortune, or Rota Fortunae, is a concept in medieval and ancient philosophy referring to the capricious nature of Fate. The wheel belongs to the goddess Fortuna, who spins it at random, changing the positions of those on the wheel - some suffer great misfortune, others gain windfalls. Fortune appears on all paintings as a woman, sometimes blindfolded, "puppeteering" a wheel." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rota_Fortunae

I was asked to build a wheel of fortune for an upcoming event but it seems to me that this kind of object could be fun on holidays, like Halloween, for different occasions and at parties. One thought that came to my mind is a "Trick or Treat" wheel that kids would spin when they came to your house on Halloween where they would either get a trick or a treat.

This project takes about a day to make, including the time it takes for the paint to dry. I used only recycled materials or things I had around my studio, so the project cost nothing.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

The tools and materials you will need for this project are pretty basic.


  • a jig saw
  • a claw hammer
  • a drill
  • drill bits
  • pliers/vice grips


  • 3 lengths of wood, 2cm x 10cm x 2m long each
  • 2 or 3 smaller lengths of wood, 2cm x 10cm x 50-100cm each.
  • spray paint, your choice of colors
  • a pencil
  • permanent marker(s)
  • screws, you wont need any longer than 4cm long
  • A couple of small wheels or rollers
  • a hinge
  • A flat metal bracket.
  • some plywood, at least 120cm square or two pieces 120W x 60L
  • the front wheel of a bycicle
  • strap/rope/chain/inner tube
  • a small piece of plastic to make a flag out of
  • an L-bracket
  • some tape

*I used all recycled materials and things I had laying around my studio but you can buy new stuff if you need to.

Step 2: A-Frame

The first thing you will need to do for your Wheel of Fortune is to build an A-frame so that it can stand freely.

  • Start by cutting a slight angle off of the end of two lengths of wood.
  • Add a piece of wood to connect the two angles you just cut.
  • Add a cross-bar to bridge the two legs of the A-frame, about 50-70cm from its bottom.
  • Cut the legs of the A-frame so that the structure will stand flat on the floor when it is upright.
  • Trim the top of the A-frame above the connecting piece at the top of the structure (optional).

Step 3: Turn Your A-frame Into a Tripod

  • Hinge together your third piece of wood to the top connecting piece of the A-Frame.
  • Trim the third leg of the tripod so it is the same length as the other two.
  • Connect a strap, rope, or other flexible material between the A-frame and the third leg so that they cannot spread too far apart.

Step 4: Wheel

  • Cut a circle out of your plywood, as perfectly as you can, with your jig-saw. If it is off-balance, then the heavier side will always land at the lowest point. the wheel I cut was 120cm in diameter.
  • Attach your bicycle wheel to the plywood circle using the nut on the bicycle wheel's axle to hold the wheel in the center of the plywood circle.
  • Use nails, strapping, wire, screws to fix the bicycle wheel in place.

Step 5: Flat Metal Bracket

  • Drill a hole in your flat, metal bracket that is big enough to accommodate the axle of your bicycle wheel.
  • Screw it to the top of your A-frame.
  • Lift your wheel up and slide the axle through the center hole of this flat bracket, then putting a nut on the axle to fix the two together.

Step 6: Rollers

  • Add a roller or wheel on either side of the A-frame. The rim of the bicycle wheel should ride on the rollers/wheels so that the wheel is able to turn more smoothly and also so that the wheel's axle is not supporting all of the wheel's weight.
  • Once the wheels and the rollers work well together you can spin the wheel. If one part of the wheel consistently falls to the bottom, sand the wheel's edge down. You want the wheel to be as balanced as possible.

Step 7: Banner (optional)

*This is a bit of an optional step but using some of the scrap plywood from cutting the wheel, I was able to make cut a banner out of the two pieces which will be used as a name-sign for the wheel. The addition of the Banner gives the A-frame structure a little bit more strength, though it is not necessary.

Cut your banner out so that the curve of it matches the curve of the wheel and have it sitting 5-10cm below the edge of the wheel.

Step 8: Sections and Painting

  • Mark off your sections, first using a pencil and then, when you're sure about them, go over the lines with a permanent marker. It is easier to fix mistakes on the plywood so make all of your initial marks directly on it and then, once you are sure, go over them with the permanent marker.
  • Spray-paint each section a different color and allow them to dry.
  • The permanent marker should show through the dry paint so you can just go over it again to make the lines stand out more.

*You can use this website to create a mock-up of what your wheel will look like: https://www.meta-chart.com/pie

It is especially useful if you want to use some specific statistics to make the sections of your wheel (population, for example) I have made an example of a Trick or Treat wheel on that website which would be used on your front doorstep; 'Trick or Treaters' would spin the wheel and depending on whether they got a trick or a treat, they would be given a candy or sprayed with silly string (or something similar and non-harmful).

Step 9: Flag Ticker

To make sure that there is no question of which section your wheel has landed on, add a flag to tick away as the wheel spins.

  • Make a flag out of a flexible material and attach it to a sturdy arm. I used a L-bracket, a flat bracket, a thin piece of plastic, a bit of electrical tape and some bolts.
  • Place a screw or short nail at each borderline between the sections. The flag should just touch each screw as the wheel spins.

Step 10: Good Luck!

Now you can make your own luck with your working Rota Fortuna! Use it at your next party, event, game, social gathering, or on your doorstep for Halloween!

Halloween Decor Contest 2016

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Halloween Decor Contest 2016

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    4 Discussions


    2 years ago

    this is very helpful, we will try to reproduce it. But can you please suggest where to look online for the little 'wheels' used to help carry the wheels weight? Or at least what theyre called, for my search?


    3 years ago

    I love the concept. Great, got my vote! :)

    Mo Chieh
    Mo Chieh

    3 years ago

    Best party-tricks ever!