“Wheel of Fortune” for Manchester Jewish Museum – project now LIVE

A couple of weeks ago, Dara from Manchester Jewish Museum posted on here asking whether we could make a spinning wheel for the museum to use in classes with young people.

Today, I went to the museum to meet her and look around. It sounds like a great project, not too difficult, but one where one community group (us) could help another. We discussed the museum’s needs, possible design ideas, rough timings, and money.

The brief
The museum runs classes for children in years 2 to 8 (aged 7 to 13, roughly). The idea is for a spinning wheel that children can spin to learn about Jewish festivals. We discussed the wheel being mounted on a mobile frame similar to a mobile whiteboard, but without the option to tilt/flip the board. Height would be roughly 1500mm.

The wheel needs to be big enough so that festivals can be seen by kids at the back of a 30-pupil group. But the whole assembly can’t take up too much space, so a “flat” design is preferred.

The museum would like to be able to “rig” the wheel so it is more likely that certain festivals would come up. I suggested dividing the wheel into segments and having the festival names on swappable plates of laser cut acrylic. The museum could then “load” the wheel with whichever festivals a particular class would want to learn about. There will be 6-8 festivals in total.

The wheel needs to be engaging for young people, so I suggested pegs separating each segment and a “clicker” as the wheel spins round. The design should be fun and colourful – we discussed a fairground aesthetic, and the name plates could be in bright coloured acrylic. The bearing mechanism should be robust enough to withstand a 13-year-old spinning it.

I will continue sorting out some of the finer detail with the museum over Christmas. I suggest we have a design session in the New Year, where we come up with a design, cost it, and send it to the museum for approval.

Once approved, I think the actual build will take a day, plus another day for painting/finishing.

The museum has offered to cover our material costs and provide a fee. I will follow this up with the board, as we need to make sure we’re not breaching any regulations in providing a commercial service. It may be that we can accept a donation, or work out some other arrangement.

A possible design
I see a simple frame of CLS stick timber. Essentially a notice board on castors, where the base is an H shape with two main uprights. The backing board is 18mm sheet timber (MDF or ply) and the spinning wheel is also sheet timber. Possibly 2x 12mm MDF sheets laminated together.

The bearing block that enables the wheel to spin would be made of laminated timber blocks attached to the back of the board with ball bearings seated inside and a metal shaft of 12 or 15mm.

The wheel would be split like a dartboard into 20 or so segments with dowel pegs separating each one. A sprung pointer at the bottom would click as the wheel span.

On each segment, we could have magnets to hold the acrylic plates with the festival names on. The plates would then need steel backers or similar. We also discussed a velcro fastening solution. We would supply more festival plates than there are segments, so the museum can rig the wheel as needed.

Above the wheel we would include space for a large name. “Wheel of Festivals”, “Choose your Festival!” or similar. This could be painted like a fairground sign.

What now?
If you’d like to get involved, shout either on here or on Telegram. Ask questions, make suggestions, actions above words. Cheers!


Thanks for organising this. Seems indeed like a really cool project!

Just a thought given the safety aspect - would it be worth buying and hacking a whiteboard/chalkboard? Those things are stable and we could save some weight by then securing something to it.

Love the idea too of removable segments. We would want to make it obvious which segment has the highest weighting too.

Sorry I can’t help in person but if there’s anything I can do digitally let me know. Will be more than happy to tweet about this and I know that our Facebook/Insta team will be happy to share it there too.