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  • Joe

Physical GIF Viewer (Zoetrope)


I was challenged to make something that spins and incorporated string in some way. This was for Dave G Designs Makers Showdown. Id seen hand held Zoetrope videos on YouTube and really liked how they worked so I thought I would have a go at making a table top one. I played around with some popular GIF animations to try it out so its more of a physical GIF viewer really

Materials Used:

  • American Black Walnut

  • European Oak

  • String

  • Lazy Susan Bearing

  • Paper

  • Spray Lacquer

  • Super Glue

Tools Used:

  • Lathe

  • Router (with circle cutting jig)

  • Drill & Driver

  • Sand Paper

  • Handsaw


To form the bowl to the zoetrope I used a wood turning lathe. All it really need to be is a round shape with a round hollow. There are of course other options if you don't want to turn a bowl. I did think those large cardboard shipping tubes would work really well. When painted you'd never know it was cardboard.


I simply rounded the outside of the walnut blank and got it roughly to 15cm in diametre. I hollowed out the inside to 6cm deep. The walls to the bowl are 1cm thick.






My original plan was to attach the plastic insert from a fidget spinner and let that sin in a bearing to make the bowl spin. You'll see later it didn't work well though.





I used some oak for the base to the zoetrope. To cut the circle shape I used a circle cutting jig with my router. It pivots around a dowel to create a perfect circle. I lowered the router bit a little each time until I was all the way through the material.



I routed a hole in the centre to receive a fidget spinner bearing. Again this didn't work as planned as you'll see late.

To complete the base shape I used a round over bit in the router to ease the edges.



Now for the fail. I glued the plastic fidget spinner insert into the base of the bowl and I hammered the bearing into the base.

To be fair the bowl did spin really easily and spun for a very long time. It was very easy to introduce wobble though. If you didn't spin it perfectly level it would shake far too much. 

In the end I opted to use a lazy susan bearing. It doesn't spin as smoothly as the fidget spinner bearing but its still spins freely for a while so its good enough for this application.




I Created a template for a zoetrope animation. Once printed I could sit it inside the bowl and use it to mark the positions of the viewing slits.





Once marked out I used a 8mm drill bit to drill a hole at the base of the slit. This will give it a nice transition and also make it easier to remove the material. It was just a case of cutting down each side of the slit with a handsaw now to the remove the waste. The bowl got 8 slits.


The bowl and base got sanded to 240 grit and then finished with 3 coats of spray lacquer.







Assembly requires a hole to be drilled through the base to allow screws through to the bowl. The bearing got attached to the base with 4 screws and washers underneath to raise it a little off the wood.



Then the base could be turned to reveal the mounting holes in the centre of the bearing. This then gets attached to the bowl with 4 screws.





It took some slight adjustment to get it spinning freely but it all went together easily.







The challenge was to incorporate string so I super glued on a wrap of string around the base of the bearing. It hides the silver metal and gives it a much nicer look I think.





I made a template for the zoetrope animations. Using 2 of the templates to create the animation will result in 8 slits and 8 frames. This is because I designed it to fit better on an A4 piece of paper. Joining the 2 pieces together by overlapping the slit area will create the hoop. Adding 8 frames creates the impression of motion when spun... in theory.

I did learn that the animations need to be quite bold and not very busy. I tried a face palm GIF but you couldn't see the detail at all. So do keep that in mind if you make some for yourself.





This is it complete. I really hope you liked it and if you get chance make sure you go and check out Makers Showdown!




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© 2020 by Average Joes Joinery

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