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Bill Knighton 3/10/2022 13 min read

Meet the WobbleMeter from RightAngle!

 

In our heavily commercialized society, every TV commercial lets us know that their product is the best, most recommended, or new and improved.

With every instance, in print so small that it takes the Hubble Telescope to read it, disclaimers abound. Product A is the best when compared to doing nothing at all. A small sample of specialized experts recommends Item B and the Tube C has a new formula that's better than its old version. Those disclaimers are only on-screen for a heartbeat, so don't blink!

My wife and I typically rip those commercials apart when they spout made-up words like microdermalhydrationtechnology making it sound like legit science.

The narrator voices those words with such authority that anybody who doubts their credibility is a member of the 'unwashed class.'

Of course, we, the audience must take their claim at face value. After all, those salespeople use impressive graphics, perfect narration, and the backing of some rather large corporations helping pitch their product.

I have a hard time taking such claims at face value. Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, Dizzy Dean, once said, "it ain't bragging if you can do it." I find it annoying that several companies brag about how good their products are, yet don't offer proof backing those claims up.

So many of those products go through a variety of unrelated tests; it's hard to compare features between similar products. The same holds true with adjustable height desks. All sit to stand desk manufacturers, RightAngle included, list stability as a feature.

The problem is standardizing a definition of the word stable. After all, stable to one person may be wobbly to another.

A customer highlighted this problem when asking for an objective way of testing a desk's performance. It's easy comparing specifications such as range, speed, and weight capacity, which creates the apple-to-apple test. However, there isn't a consistent way to compare wobble.

With that in mind, the WobbleMeter was born. The WobbleMeter creates a standard method of measuring and demonstrating the wobble associated with a standing desk.

However, before you meet our WobbleMeter, we need a review.

 

What is Wobble?

Bill Knighton, in his article Top 3 Reasons for Standing Desk Wobble, shares an example helping explain wobble:

 

Let’s think about this beyond an office setting. You're at a restaurant sitting at a table that wiggles back and forth. If you’re anything like me, it drives you crazy! It’s annoying and frustrating, making it difficult to focus on enjoying your meal.

Now, imagine that table being your work surface and how it impacts your workday. This instability causes difficulties for just about anyone. Having a sturdy work surface helps prevent distractions and frustrations, improving a person’s overall productivity.

All height adjustable desks are their sturdiest in their lowest position. If you never raise the desk, you won’t have any complaints.

But that defeats the entire purpose of a standing desk.

 

Stability

Three factors determine an object’s stability:

 

Desk-Configurations-1

 

1. Center of gravity: the point of an object with evenly distributed weight or balance
2. Mass: the size of an object. In this case, the entire standing desk.
3. Size of the Base: the more significant the base, the more stable it becomes

Rooted in its design is a desk's stability.

 

Desk Configurations

Height adjustable desks have two basic configurations or shapes. In the image above, Figure 1 shows the Upside Down U-Style Design. Figure 2 shows the Cross Support Design.

swaying-pole

 

Bill addresses the importance of the cross support design for a desk's stability.

 

Think of a flagpole in the wind: at the bottom there isn't much movement. But, at the top, the pole sways back and forth.

What is the benefit of the U-style if it doesn’t eliminate table wobble? Some companies say one advantage is knee clearance. In the next breath they say the cross support design is a knee-knocker.

However, I believe that companies express those sentiments because tables using U-style designs are easier on inventory control and packaging. A unique quality of U-style designs is the under work surface cross-bracing. This means that one brace extends to fit multiple work surfaces.

 

Using a Cross Support

Concentric-Bracing

Concentric Bracing

How does cross support prevent wobble? Concentric bracing.

Concentric bracing consists of installing two diagonal braces within a frame. A rigid frame, or truss, results when attaching the ends of the bracing.

 

Cross-Support-and-Leg-Length

Reduced Leg Height
with Cross Support

Using concentric bracing increases the object’s ability to withstand lateral loads.

Another benefit of using cross support is its effect on the legs of the table. As illustrated on the image to the right, the cross support shortens the effective height of the legs and forces the legs to stay parallel to each other.

Industry Misconceptions

There are a few people in our industry who regularly describe cross supports as antiquated or have limited leg room. Depending on the table design, unless you're a 7-foot tall person, the latter claim is patently false.

In Top 3 Reasons for Standing Desk Wobble, Bill explains.

L-and-T-Shaped-Legs

Some competitors say that the cross support decreases the amount of knee clearance on the table, which makes it difficult to sit comfortably. That statement is true if desk has a T-Shaped leg and foot.

The T-shape limits the amount of knee clearance when adding cross support since the legs are in the middle of the table.

However, tables designed with L-shaped legs and feet ensure a sufficient amount of knee clearance. This is especially true when adding a stabilizing crossbar for support. By attaching the leg further back under the desk, it creates more room for the user’s knees than in the T-shape.

 

I don't know if those critics ridicule the idea of cross support to justify not using one in their designs. That's the beauty of a tool like the WobbleMeter: it provides an objective way of testing different desk designs to see which provides the most stability.

 

Meet the WobbleMeter

 

Moving-WobbleMeter-Scale

 

The brainchild of Bill Knighton, the WobbleMeter is an amalgamation of a speedometer, a road sign, and a scale. From several early versions, Bill developed an objective, repeatable, and simple way of testing and measuring how much a desk wobbles.

Making a repeatable test is important. In science, the result of an experiment needs verification by later experiments. In a case where a desk manufacturer believes we scored their desk poorly, they'd be able to create their version of a wobble test to evaluate our results.

For this reason, our tests are transparent.

Wobble Testing

Resembling a scale, the WobbleMeter sits on a slide-resistant base with a rectangular hole fitting the foot of any desk.

Wobble-Tools
Scale, Peg, and C-clamp
with Eye Bolt

There are three important accessories needed to run our tests. We attach two items to the desk: a peg and a C-clamp with an eye bolt. We use a scale to measure the weight of our pulls.

The red arrow on the WobbleMeter sits about a quarter-inch above the peg. Attaching the hook on the scale to the eye bolt, we pull until reaching one of two weighted pulls: 5- and 10-pounds.

As the desk moves, the attached peg moves along with it driving the arrow. When reaching the right amount of force, we measure the result on the dial.

The adjustable height of the WobbleMeter allows testing any desk at any height. For our tests, we chose two heights: 35- and 46-inches, respectively.

We test desks three ways:

True Wobble Test

First, we check on a desk's true wobble. Raising the desk to 45-inches, we pull it back with five pounds of pulling force; then let go. We repeat this action several times, creating a pendulum effect.

Discovered by Galileo in 1602, the Pendulum Effect describes the natural, swinging motion of an object caused by gravity and acquired momentum.

Using the momentum created, we measure how much wobble occurs by reading the number indicated by our arrow.

We record this test on video.

Weighted Pulls in Two Directions

Using the applicable pull force, we pull the desk two directions in separate tests: side-to-side and front-to-back.

For both 36- and 45-inch heights, we use five and ten pounds of pull force. We share the results of these tests using still photos.

To see an example of our tests, please watch this short video clip:

 


What We're Trying to Demonstrate

Our goal for these tests is simple: demonstrate the stability of a height adjustable desk.

Scoring

 

circle-White

 

Scoring is simple. Using our numbered dial, we note the result for each pull in the two directions.

We determine the final score by adding the directional results.

Similar to golf, the lower the score, the better.

Comparing the final scores for each desk determines its ranking.

That description left me dizzy! Let's look at this another way.

The following three charts offer a simple illustration. The first two show the results of directional tests for a fictional desk.

WobbleMeter Side-to-Side Test

  35-inch Table Height 46-inch Table Height Score    
  5-Pound Pull 10-Pound Pull 5-Pound Pull 10-Pound Pull  
Fictional Desk 6 7 8 9 30

 

WobbleMeter Front-to-Back Test

  35-inch Table Height 46-inch Table Height Score    
  5-Pound Pull 10-Pound Pull 5-Pound Pull 10-Pound Pull  
Fictional Desk
9 8 7 6 30

This chart illustrates the cumulative score by adding the results from each directional pull.

WobbleMeter Scoreboard

Table Name Side-to-Side Test Front-to-Back Test Total Score
Fictional Desk 30 30 60

In this example, the fictional desk earned a score of 60.

 

In Sum

I snort each time I watch a TV commercial using made-up terms proving how superior their product is. There's always a disclaimer momentarily flashing on the bottom of the screen saying how an "independent lab" verifies their claim. They never share the name of the lab. Plus, sometimes the producers use a very narrow industrial category justifying how their product ranks number one.

I call bunk!

In the adjustable height desk industry, there hasn't been a standardized way of testing the stability of a desk. Until now. The WobbleMeter provides an objective and consistent method of measuring a desk's wobble.

 

Coming Up

We're testing competitor's table as we receive them. Each desk tested follows a transparent methodology and its results shared in detailed blog posts. We're kicking off WobbleMeter testing for four desks:

  • RightAngle Bonita LT
  • TiMotion Lift Desk
  • HON Coordinate
  • HI HAT Rectangular Suhat

This journey may become contentious and controversial, yet informative.

Are you ready?

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