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The Woodworking Life

A Lazy Suzan for Zeus Himself

comments (3) May 8th, 2014 in blogs

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Zeuss Wagon Wheel was built at Offerman Woodshop from huge timbers torn out of a guitar factory. A Lazy Susan seemed like a necessity, and a worthwhile challenge.
Before joining them, the team notched out the wedges that make up the tabletop, so they didnt have as much to rout out later.
Since they were using an outside CNC shop anyway, to make the track for the ball-bearings, they also had the shop make a perfect template for routing the inside and outside edges of the circular pocket.
They used the same pocket template to make a jig for routing precise pockets for each of the ball transfers that would support Susan. 
The ball transfers needed to be perfectly concentric, and perfectly spaced from each other.
Lees design partner, Jesse Marsh, made a precise drawing to work out how the circular track under the Lazy Susan would ride on the ball transfers.
The Lazy Susan itself was made of MDF, for stability, and veneered with mahogany in a sunburst pattern to match the table.
This is the CNC-cut, ABS-plastic track that got screwed onto the bottom of the Lazy Susan.
They used a vacuum bag to apply the veneers.
RH Lee and Nick Offerman drop Susan into her pocket for the moment of truth.
Turns out a few handles were necessary to rotate the heavy ring. Note the tight tolerances between the Lazy Susan and the table.
The handles provided another opportunity, the chance to insert pegs for removing the Lazy Susan for cleaning. Even with a tight gap all around, crumbs will find their way into the pocket below. The lifting pegs store in the base of the table.
Zeuss Wagon Wheel was built at Offerman Woodshop from huge timbers torn out of a guitar factory. A Lazy Susan seemed like a necessity, and a worthwhile challenge. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

"Zeus's Wagon Wheel" was built at Offerman Woodshop from huge timbers torn out of a guitar factory. A Lazy Susan seemed like a necessity, and a worthwhile challenge.





RH Lee manages Nick Offerman's collective-style workshop in Los Angeles. Lee began working with wood at age 7, when she was enrolled in the Kids Carpentry program in her hometown of Berkeley, CA. Years later, she built theater sets at Brown University, then moved to San Francisco, where she built sets in small theaters and worked for 5 years at the Exploratorium museum, building interactive science exhibits and honing her skills in woodworking and furniture-building. Since moving to LA in 2008, Lee has been managing Offerman Woodshop, building custom furniture on commission, and continuing to build outdoor exhibits for the Exploratorium.

A Lazy Suzan for Zeus Himself

RH Lee


"Zeus's Wagon Wheel" was the result of a year-long design conversation between two comedians, which I mediated through sketches and renderings, and finally, lots of sawdust.

The design constraints for this table were 1) we were to use the stack-laminated and 4x4 timbers that came out of the client's gutted new home and 2) the table should accommodate the client, his wife and the 26 children he planned to beget. After various iterations, we settled on an 80" diameter circular table, which should comfortably seat 10 around the periphery (with the other 16 piled up in the center or spread out under the trestle). To see how we built the table itself, check out my blogs on the Offerman Woodshop site. A Lazy Susan was our solution to the problem of passing the mustard across an 80" divide.

While the traditional (think Chinese restaurant) Lazy Susan-a solid circle that sits above the table surface-would have been much simpler to engineer, we chose to make ours a free spinning ring, flush to the table surface. We were not only aesthetically drawn to the the "racing-stripe" look the ring provided, but we were also driven by a perverse masochism-the desire to create and conquer a complex engineering feat.

A Smart Track

Luckily, my 10+ years of building interactive exhibits for the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco gave me plenty of background in building kinetic objects/furniture. More importantly, all that collaborating with engineers, physicists, and interactive artists on exhibits provided me with some very smart friends. So naturally, I contacted my long time collaborator, mechanical engineer and exhibit developer Jesse Marsh, to help me design the mechanism that would allow this ring to spin gracefully and precisely for years to come.

Jesse designed a system where steel ball transfers (huge ball-bearings) mounted inside a pocket in the table run lightly along a chamfered surface on the underside of our ring. The ball transfers are positioned to keep the ring aligned concentrically in the pocket and paired across the circle so they oppose each other, thus eliminating possible runout. That meant that the circular chamfered surface under the Lazy Susan had to be flawless.

posted in: blogs, table, offerman, lazy susan, lee

Comments (3)

MPekovich MPekovich writes: Awesome, what a glorious beast of a table!
Great job. Mike
Posted: 3:11 pm on May 20th

DustySawbuck DustySawbuck writes: Over-sized furniture always tugs on my sense of reality and makes me feel small and weak. It also reminds me of when I visit a pre-school and see all those small chairs and tables. Then I feel like a monster.
I'm trying to imagine working on a piece that large. Does Mohammad go to the mountain or does the mountain go to him?
I'm guessing you had to use a forklift and a couple piano movers to transport that table.
After this, all the furniture you build will seem so-o-o small...
The fact that it works as well as you planned and looks great is a huge accomplishment.
Posted: 2:29 pm on May 11th

EngrMike EngrMike writes: Providing both an inner and an outer chamfer is not necessary. One is sufficient to keep the ring centered.
Posted: 11:59 am on May 10th

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