Building the Ferris Wheel

As an exclusive to our faithful blog readers, today and tomorrow we will post instructions to two decorating items that cannot be found anywhere else! These instructions are not even in the Decorating Made Easy book! We know you've been asking for them, so here they are… up first is the Ferris wheel. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the swing ride!

WR_set

 Materials:

  • 4x8’ rigid insulation foam board (½”thick)
  • Scrap pieces of ½” foam board
  • Scrap pieces of 2” foam board
  • Small scrap piece of ½” PVC pipe
  • Gorilla tape (stronger than duct tape)
  • Construction adhesive
  • Latex house paint and craft paint
  • Painters tape
  • Holographic/reflective scrapbook paper
  • Circle punch (various sizes)
  • Hot knife or heat gun
  • Jig saw with fine tooth blade
  • Optional: Low RPM (8 or so) DC motor, coupling, & housing (for bracing)

 

1. Use a makeshift compass to trace 2 identical half circles onto 2 pieces of thin foam board and cut out using a jig saw. Tape together from behind to make an 8’ diameter wheel.ferris wheel 1

2. Paint the wheel using either latex house paint or craft paint. Lay out your design with painters tape, then remove the tape after painting (see Decorating Made Easy for sample diagram). Tip: Purchase the blue insulation board instead of the pink and then you won’t have to paint a base coat… it’ll just look like blue sky behind the spokes/design!

3. Simulate lights around the wheel and spokes with holographic/reflective scrapbook paper. Use a circle punch to cut various sizes of circles, then attach wherever desired to the wheel.

4. If you want the wheel to move, make a small hole in the exact center by pressing the rod (attached to the motor) through. We attached our wheel directly to the rod with Gorilla Tape so that it would spin as the rod was spinning. If you don't need your wheel to spin, simply tape it flat against the wall at whatever height you wish and attach the front pieces to it (building on in layers).

5. If the wheel will spin or be freestanding, it will need to be braced from the rear. Cut a scrap piece of 2" foam into a circle (approx. 9-12" in diameter) and push the rod (from the motor) all the way through the center to make a hole. Move it around a little to make the hole a little bit bigger than needed. Then cut a scrap of 1/2" PVC pipe to approx. 2" length and push it down inside that hole (needs to fit snugly). Use a little construction adhesive to hold it in place. This will help the wheel turn better because the rod didn't squeal against the foam as it turned and it didn't wear away or misshape the foam after hours of turning. Tip: Make sure the rod coming out of the motor slides easily through the PVC pipe. You don't want that pipe too big or too small. Tape this foam circle to the back of the Ferris wheel. Make sure the holes line up exactly on top of each other. Then cut 4 “spokes” out of scrap 2" foam (each approx. 2' long). Round one end of each spoke so that it fits snugly up against the circle in the center. Be sure to place 2 "spokes" along the seam where the 2 pieces of the Ferris wheel fit together. This will give that seam stability. Then place the other 2 "spokes" on the opposite sides. Tape everything well to the Ferris wheel. When you get ready to put it in place vertically, be sure to get some help. It's definitely a 2-person job!Ferris wheel sketch

6. Motor: If you got to see the Ferris wheel in action at any of our VBS Preview events, you probably checked out the back to see what was making it spin. We used the same motor that turned our airplane propeller in Amazing Wonders Aviation. Unfortunately, that particular motor and stand were built long ago so I can't really speak to the exact specs for those pieces. I DO know the motor is a simple low speed or variable speed DC motor (approx. 8 RPM). These are available from any industrial supplier (such as Grainger, Harbor Freight, etc.). Ours has a rod and 2 couplers (couplings?) with the rod extending about 18-24" (so that there's plenty of room to incorporate the stand and anything the motor is spinning). We set our stand on top of a piano bench or plastic crate to get the full height we wanted. If the Ferris wheel will sit behind something else (like a roller coaster backdrop) you don't have to worry about hiding any of that. Originally I had thought the Ferris wheel would sit in front of the coaster though, so I created a 3-sided box (think project board) and painted it black to hide what would be visible between the bottom of the spinning wheel and the floor on 3 sides. If yours will stand alone or be in front, that might be something you want to consider. (Or you can just drape everything with a black sheet.)

side sketch

7. Cut a round scrap of 2" foam as a "spacer" of sorts between the base (the box where the motor is housed) and the spinning wheel. This just keeps the wheel turning smoothly and keeps it from rubbing against the motor’s base. It also helps eat up some length on the rod that sticks out (less to have to hide/cover on the front of the wheel).

8. Place the wheel on next. Then comes the piece with the “legs” (see below or Decorating Made Easy p. 30).

legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Make sure the “leg piece” extends slightly above the spinning rod (rod goes through the top) and all the way to the floor. Measurements will vary. Cut the legs from a single piece of ½” foam (scrap is fine).

10. Trace a small hula hoop onto another scrap of 2" foam and cut out with a jig saw. Use a hot knife or heat gun to smooth & seal the edges. This circle should be larger than the “legs” as it will be attached to the top of the leg piece and is the final piece of the Ferris wheel base. Paint as desired and finish off with a small wooden or foam circle in the exact center for added decoration.FW closeup

11. Center this circle on the top of the leg piece. Tape together from behind. Create a hole through the legs and into the outermost circle for the motor rod to enter, but be sure the rod does not go all the way through the outer circle.

12. Lean this final piece against the spinning wheel (with about 2 fingers space away from the wheel). There is no need to secure it as the angle and the support of the rod will keep it in place without needing to be secured. If needed, you could tape the legs to the floor from behind.

13. Trace 4 circles about the size of a small paper plate onto scraps of ½” foam. Cut them out with a jig saw or utility knife then cut them in half to yield 8 half circles. These will be the "baskets" where people would sit to ride. Paint as desired.

14. Tape the half circles from behind around the edge of the Ferris wheel.

 

Comments

  1. Perry Stephens says

    Where can we find the details of the motor base assembly used this year on te ferris wheel and last year on the airplane for Amazing Wonders Avaition?

    • Melita Thomas says

      Unfortunately, Perry, I can't give you any more information than what is listed under step 5. The motor and stand have been around since 2006 and we've not been able to track down the person who originally assembled it to ask any of these kinds of questions. Sorry we can't be of more help on this!

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