Picture Wheel

By John Dorrance

This type of wheel was invented in 1832 by a Belgian scientist named Joseph Plateau. He called it a phenakistoscope, meaning an “instrument for viewing a trick,” because when the wheel spins, it gives the illusion that the drawings are moving. This type of wheel helped lead to today’s motion-picture projector.

What You'll Need:

  • pencil
  • large plate
  • thin cardboard
  • paper
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • tape
  • nail
  • eraser or cork
  • mirror
Craft Image

How to Make It:

  1. Trace around a large plate onto thin cardboard and onto paper. Cut out both circles.
  2. Fold the paper circle in half three times (to form a wedge). Open it up. Cut out a 1½-inch-by-½-inch section from the end of each crease.
  3. Place the paper circle on the cardboard circle. Use a pencil to trace through the cut-out sections onto the cardboard. Cut out the cardboard sections.
  4. Tape the paper circle onto the cardboard circle, lining up the cut-out sections.
  5. Choose a design. Starting at the outside edge of the circle, draw the design numerous times. Each time you draw it, make it closer to the middle.
  6. With an adult's help, poke a nail through the center of the wheel (where the fold marks meet). Stick an eraser or cork on the end of the nail.
  7. Stand in front of a mirror. Hold the nail, spin the wheel, and look at the mirror through the cut-out sections to see your drawings "move."
  8. Draw different designs and switch them with the design that's taped to the cardboard circle.

Photo by Charles Cary