There are many hair brained gadgets (we call them gizmos) on the market to stabilise or level restaurant tables. Some of these have been successful, others not. The success of the few that have made it to fame is directly proportional to the size of the marketing budgets that these products had or have. Their success has nothing to do with the ability to do the job that they where intended to do.
This article should be read in conjunction with 2 other articles to get a better understanding of what makes a table stable. These articles are Table Base Structural Stability and Table Base Toppling Stability
Should you wish to see how a self-stabilising table should work, please visit our home page and watch the video.
The Problem with Self-Levelling Table Gizmos.
It is easy to claim a product can perform a certain function and promote this claim with marketing hype. Many restaurant furniture aftermarket self-levelling table add-ons, which we will call gizmos, claim they can self-level a wobbly table base like magic. They claim that nothing else is needed but their little self-levelling table gizmo placed under a table base foot and all of your wobbly table problems will be gone. But is this really the case?
How well do these self-levelling table gizmos work to solve the number one restaurant furniture complaint; wobbly tables? From the outset, the manufacturer’s marketing word use is all wrong. These self-levelling table gizmos do not level a table base, they actually stabilise a table base. What is the difference? To make a table level the table surface must be parallel to the horizon. The self-levelling table gizmo’s sole purpose is to stop a table from wobbling and therefore to stabilise the table base through having all four table feet touching the ground.
Throughout my career I have seen many types of table self-levelling table gizmos come and go. These gizmos are merely a temporary fix. They do not really offer a genuine solution to table wobbles. Once the table is moved, the problem is back again. As explained in my two previous articles, Table Base Structural Stability and Table Base Toppling Stability, you cannot change one small component and hope to improve a table’s overall performance.
How Do I Know?
My name is Hans Ilse. I am an engineer by trade and am the owner and designer of Gyro Bases. For nearly 17 years I owned and managed an outdoor furniture factory in South Africa. Commercial or contract installations were an important part of our customer market. Therefore, the furniture we produced had to be robust and of a high standard due to the excessive use factor, or let’s call it the abuse factor!
Our furniture was sold into upmarket hotels and restaurants. One of the most important customer requirements was that their tables where sturdy and stable We specialised in creating sturdy stable restaurant furniture. But through years of experience, I came to realise that no matter how sturdy your table bases are, there is always one weak point. That is the contact point between the end of the table leg and the floor.
Trial & Error
And so began many years of experimenting how to solve the problem of wobbly table bases. It is obvious that if all four table legs do not touch the ground at the same time, a table will wobble, and this is not something that 5 star hotels or any other decent restaurant wants for their customers. To remedy this, we initially added screw adjustable feet to our table legs to compensate for uneven floors.
Our original screw adjusters had a thread of 25mm. This allowed the user to adjust the feet by 15mm (minimum10mm of the bolt used for secure attachment), but this proved to be an inadequate adjustment for outdoor use. Even for indoor use, the larger the table the more adjustability is required so we added 45mm long bolts providing 35mm of adjustment.
Although this was a solution, it was an imperfect solution, as the user would typically screw out the bolts so that the table looked like it was standing on stilts. Another problem occurred when the table bases were moved, as most staff drag instead of lift restaurant furniture, causing the long adjusters to get snagged, bend or snap off. The plastic used to cover the bolt cap can also become damaged causing the bolt to expose and scratch the floor.
We then experimented with different polymers based upon their wear and impact resistance. We eventually settled upon a tough high impact nylon based polymer for our adjusters, but then found restaurant staff do not like getting on their hands and knees to alter the adjusters. It seemed that trying to get our table bases stable was going to require quite a lot more work.
The Design Tipping Point
Despite our best efforts to find a solution, there were still problems. Under “Manufacturer’s Warranty” we were repairing table feet that had been dropped, dragged and abused. By 2002 it had got to a point where something had to be done. So I began researching automatic table adjusters or “self-stabilising table legs“. There were a few on the market to choose from. They were weak and so when used on restaurant furniture they would quickly break.
As I was unable to find a quality self-stabilising solution on the market. Having researched the subject exhaustively, I decided to use my engineering experience to develop a solution. It was already apparent that gizmos did not really work so I decided to design a sturdy self-stabilising table base that would be the total solution. And so after years of research and development, in March 2007 I released Gyro 1 at the Hostex Show in Johannesburg.
Self-Levelling Table Gizmos & Doodads
The launch of Gyro 1 solved a lot of hospitality restaurant furniture problems. Manual table leg adjusters were no longer needed by our customers and our factory no longer had to warranty repair broken table levellers. One of the reasons for writing this article is to explain why it is that no add-on after market self-levelling table adjuster is going to fix a wobbly table base, despite product marketing promises to the contrary. It is quite simply, not possible.
Let me explain why. Gizmos are meant to stabilise tables to prevent them from wobbling. In my previous article on Table Structural Stability, I explained that if a table structure is weak it is impossible to achieve a stable table. A gizmo cannot fix bad restaurant furniture design. Therefore, claims by gizmo manufacturers that their product will level or stabilise a wobbly table are basically false.
But let’s assume you have the perfect table base structure that will only wobble if all four feet are not in contact with the floor. Some retro-fit self-levelling table adjuster gizmos require that all four feet be removed from the table base and then three fixed feet screwed in leaving one active foot that does the adjusting. But how much can this single active foot adjust by? Is this important? Watch this video to discover why it is.
The Restaurant Furniture Gizmo’s Downfall
Referring to our video, when a table base is placed on a plank to simulate a bump on the floor, the base will lean to one side. To stabilise this table, the base needs an adjuster that can accommodate the 40mm gap that has been created under the foot that has lifted off the ground. No self-levelling table gizmo can do this.
Although this is an extreme example, there are instances which do call for extreme solutions. Most gizmos with one active foot only allow for a total movement (adjustment) of 10mm. That is 5mm up and 5mm down. So if the gizmo can only adjust 5mm down, then the plank (bump) cannot be greater than 2.5mm. This is not a realistic everyday floor bump. Most indoor floors have bumps higher than 2.5mm and will leave your gizmo faltering.
Although there have been some clever self-levelling table base inventions where all four feet are able to be adjusted, the main problem with this gizmo solution is that the feet have limited movement (adjustability). So if your floor is very flat, then your retro-fit adjuster(s) will work well. On anything with a bump higher than a few millimetres, the retro-fits will fail to stabilise, leaving you with a wobbly table.
Tables Aren’t Designed For Gizmos
Looking to our next images (click image to enlarge), you will note the hole that the screw-in adjuster screws into has to be deeper than the length of the bolt on the screw adjuster. This means that the more adjustment required, the longer the bolt. Hence the deeper the hole in the leg requiring the leg to be designed to accommodate a deep hole.
Retro-fit adjusters (self-levelling table mechanisms) can only be screwed onto the leg. They cannot be housed inside the leg. Meaning that any adjustment has to take place on the active foot or feet outside of the leg. So if the foot adjusts by 10mm, the length or height of the adjuster must be at least 20mm high. The adjusting mechanism has to be accommodated in the self-levelling table gizmo housing, adding to the height.
In the next image we demonstrate a table base with a normal screw
adjuster foot and one with a retro-fit self-levelling table gizmo. Note how the height increases considerably.
Is Restaurant Furniture Height a Problem?
If you add to the height of a table, then the table could become awkward for customers to sit at. Aside from the extra height, the longer gizmo legs are at risk of being knocked off. With most aftermarket gizmos being made from mediocre plastic, it stands to reason they are typically not strong enough to handle the abuse of a commercial environment.
The amount of plastic used in these gizmos is also important. The thinner the plastic the quicker it will wear out. It’s like having thin soled shoes, the thinner the soles the quicker they will wear out. But thicker plastic only adds to the height of the adjuster and compounds the height problem highlighted above. Once the plastic wears out, then the gizmo is useless and has to be replaced.
So what is the solution? The only true solution is to buy a purpose built self-stabilising table to avoid all of these annoying stability problems. In 2015 I improved my Gyro 1 design. I have now released Gyro Two. This means you will never need to buy another self-levelling gizmo to stop your restaurant furniture from wobbling ever again.