The Thunderwheel is a giant hampster wheel track. The track moves while the cars stay in place. My original idea was for a drag strip of infinite length that could be sped up to push cars to their absolute maximum speed. I have no engineering background but I have some tools and time on my hand so I figured why not.
I started construction with a metal ring which came off of a patio table with a glass top. The top got blown off in a strong wind and broke so the owners were just getting rid of it. I had a couple of nice straight posts which were from an old bed frame. I connected everything together using screws, washers, and l brackets. I did my best to keep everything level, and even, and square. The next step was to take two identical pieces of masonite (kind of like a thin pressed wood/cardboard product) and wrap them arround the metal ring, each covering half and attached with nuts, bolts, and washers. I used some metal duct tape to secure the joints between the two boards.
Next I had to figure out how to make it spin. It took some thinking, but what I ended up doing was taking apart the front wheel of a bike and hooking it up so that the hub would be still, but the axle would spin (the opposite of what it does on the bike). I drilled a hole as dead center in the cross beams of the wheel as I could with a drill press and then attached the wheel to the axle through that hole. After having tested it, I can tell you that I was not 100% on the mark but the wobble the wheel has doesn't appear to affect the track. To counter balance the weight and the force of the spin of the wheel, I attached a 10 lb and 5 lb plate weight on the opposite end of the axle.
I attached the bike hub to a wooden frame shaped like a capitol H using little screws that fit through the old spoke holes. I knew I had done something right when I was able to balance the wheel just by the frame on the edge of a table. I secure it in place though, using a couple of clamps.
The wheel spins nice and smooth, with the exception of the wobble. The wobble seems to be side to side and not up and down or twisting at all. I held a pencil in one spot while spinning the wheel and found that if I set up my track along that line it runs pretty smoth. The wheel can hold a 12 piece long orange track if I put in a few foam blocks to tighten it up (plus they add some more interest to the track. Right now I have done three different track setups just as a proof of concept. I have done a classic single straight lane with one car, a double lane to race cars head-to-head, and a Tamiya Mini 4WD inspired track that has one lane that switches over itself such that two cars can race at the same time.
The wheel is around 42 inches in diameter and has a circumference of around 11.5 feet. I haven't measured how fast it can spin safely, but it seems like it can probably handle a lot with something studier than an old step ladder to mount it on. I plan on adding a motor to it that I can use to regulate the speed and spin it up smoother than I can by hand. I have an old ceiling fan that I was considering using, but the wheel spins so easily, that might be overdoing it. I would like to put a large circle of something to cover up the middle with the metal ring and the cross beams. When a car flies of the track in that direction, it typically gets caught up in the centerfuge of the wheel and bangs around in the ring, beating up the car and making a lot of noise.
I am also thinking of what all types of track and materials I can use on this thing. It seems like it should be able to be able to hande any type of premade track material, especially with a little cutting to the right length. Since I've only been messing with classic orange track at this point I have only learned so much, but what I have learned is that I probably need somthing with higher walls to make these races more interesting. The cars pop out of their lane too easily once the speeds start to get up there, but before things really start to get good.
I'm not really sure if calling them "races" is the right term. There is no real destination to get to first. It looks like The Thunderwheel is best suited for survival type competitions where the car which either doesn't crash or doesn't fall back behind the finish line wins. When I say finish line, what I am invisioning at this point is the line from a laser level, projected across the track some distance up the curve, behind the cars. When a car falls back behid this line, they are eliminated.
At this point, theming and tournaments are a long way off, but I might start up a channel to post some of the test videos. Stay tuned for updates. Let me know what you think. I would love to hear some ideas for motorization, tracks, a better support than my crapshack ladder, and rules for how to hold competitions with this thing.
Thanks for checking it out - Big_Al