How does a swivel chair work?

A few months ago, I was curious about the swivel mechanism of office chairs and wanted to know how a swivel chair actually works. So I did some digging, and this is what I found.

How does a swivel chair work? The swivel mechanism is not anything sophisticated as you might think. The gas cylinder of the chair and internal piston within allows the upper part of the swivel chair to rotate both clockwise and as well as anti-clockwise. This is how a swivel chair works, and up to 360 degrees of rotation is obtained.

However, the swivel mechanism can actually vary along with brands. The full mechanism might seem more complicated than it actually. If you want to know more about swivel chairs and their mechanism, keep reading!

What is a Swivel Chair?

Basically, a swivel chair can be defined as a chair that allows 360-degree rotation with the central leg’s help. The central leg actually helps the chair to move both clockwise and anticlockwise.

A Little History:

The swivel chair was first introduced by a person named Thomas Jefferson around in 1776. It is said that on this first swivel chair, he drafted the declaration of Independence of America in the same year.

The swivel chair that Jefferson invented had no wheels. He did some tweak and modifications to a Windsor chair that he purchased Francis Trumble. He joined the upper and lower part of the Windsor chair through a central iron spindle, which enabled the upper part of the chair to rotate.

As I have noted earlier that it is believed the declaration of America’s independence was written on this chair, it had historical value. That’s why the chair is currently preserved by the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia. The chair has been under their possession since 1836. [Source]

How does an Office Chair Swivel Mechanism Actually Work?

You might have seen how a car wheel can actually spin without coming off. The swivel mechanism of an office chair is more or less the same. However, there are some variations among different brands. But the basic function are more or less similar.

The gas cylinder of an office chair has an internal piston. This internal piston compresses the gas inside the cylinder when it is pressurized while sitting or some weight is put on it. There is a friction clamp that holds the rod of the piston. This clamp’s function is positioning the height.

There is a lever that releases the friction clamp when the seat is low. This lets the piston to come upwards, carrying the chair’s weight. But when someone sits on the chair, the pressure exceeds the piston’s capacity to hold the chair up. Thus the chair goes downwards due to the weight of the person sitting.

This is a general idea about the internal components and their functions, making sure that you understand the swivel mechanism better.

So now let’s come to the main point, which is the swivel mechanism.

The internal piston and the gas cylinder allow the upper part of the chair to rotate both clockwise and anticlockwise up to 360 degrees as it is resting on the piston, which provides the low resistance rotation ability.

Some brands use bearings to make the chair swivel all around. The seat post is established in the bearing, which is situated near the starbase of the chair. There are steel balls inside the bearing. These balls allow the rotation of the inner part of the bearing while keeping the outer part of the bearing fixed.

The central leg is attached to the bearing, and with the help of the bearing, the chair gets the ability to swivel.

The above-mentioned swivel mechanisms are the basic and most common ones out there. As I have noted earlier, the swivel mechanism actually varies from brand to brand. Some brands also use screws and springs. The swivel mechanism of some office chairs can get more complicated and hard to explain.

I think you got a good insight into how the swivel chair actually works and its mechanism. Now, let’s discuss its functions, and I believe this will provide a better insight into the swivel mechanism.

Advantages of a Swivel Chair:

Swivel chairs are very popular everywhere, especially in corporate offices, because of the advantages they provide. The advantages are as follows:

Swivel Chair Helps to Get your Work Done & Improves Productivity:

Swivel chairs are crucial for people of different professions. Such as:- Doctors, dentists, and a barber need a swivel chair to get your hair done.

Swivel chairs help the person who is sitting tocan zip from place to place, and he doesn’t even need to get up from his seat. If your office chair has this functionality you will find that this has a positive effect in your productivity.

Swivel Chairs are Ergonomic:

Most of the ergonomic office chairs today have 360-degree swivel functionality. According to experts, a swivel function is needed for optimal sitting experience, and it also promotes indirectly your posture and sitting comfortability.

According to ergonomists, there are certain features that make a chair an ergonomic chair, and you should look for all these features while buying a chair for your workspace; and you will be amazed to know having a swivel feature is one of them.

Related Questions:

Can I Make a Swivel Chair Stationary?

It is doubtful that you will ever have to make your swivel chair stationary. Who wants to miss out on that fantastic swivel feature?

If you want to make your swivel chair for some reason like you don’t want your child to use that swivel option, you can lock the swivel mechanism of your office chair.

For that, first, turn your office chair upside down and locate the swivel plate. The swivel plate connects the base with the seat of your chair. It will look like two plates, and there will be a swivel mechanism among them.

Then drill a hole through the two plates, and you have to insert a screw through the drilled hole. This will lock the swivel mechanism, and your office chair will become a non-swivel or stationary chair from a swivel chair. The process can be followed for swivel stools as well.

Are Swivel Chairs Comfortable?

The answer to this question is pretty obvious. Swivel chairs are really comfortable. Who doesn’t love to swivel! You can rotate your seat 360 degrees. This feature is really handy for people who have desk jobs. It can help you to get more work done in less time.

You don’t have to stand up and turn around to get things around your workspace. You can just swivel and get things easily. For this reason, swivel chairs are very versatile. They are used in the office, home even in the bedroom as well. I personally feel extra comfortable while sitting in a swivel chair. I think most people will agree with me.

What is the best swivel chair?

There is no direct answer to the question. There are many types of swivel chairs in the market right now at a different price point, starting from 50$ up to $1000 and beyond. Suppose you are looking for a decent quality office chair with a swivel option and as well as another ergonomic chair.

In that case, I think SIHOO ergonomic office chair is a good option to consider. If you want to know more about my recommendation, check out my recommended ergonomic office chair with a swivel feature here.

Should I Get a Swivel Chair?

If you want ease of movement while working at your desk, you definitely should consider getting a swivel chair. You can rotate your chair and talk with a group of people with ease.

The swivel chair works well in that situation. So if you want all the advantages of a swivel chair, consider buying one.

Other Things to Know:

  • A swivel chair is also known as a spinny chair or just merely a revolving chair.
  • The first swivel chair in the world is more than 240 years old.
  • The declaration of independence of America was drafted on a swivel chair.


There you go! If you have made it this far, you might have already understood that the basic swivel mechanism is nothing sophisticated as some people think. However, depending on the brand, the swivel mechanism can be a little bit complicated.

As I noted earlier, the swivel mechanism adds a really cool feature that we all crave while sitting. I have researched for hours and gathered every bit of information possible to write this article. I hope you find this article helpful. If you have any queries regarding the swivel mechanism or a swivel chair in general, let me know in the comments below.

Sifatul Shohan

Hi, I'm the co-owner of A blogger and a freelance web developer.  As I work as developer, I have to work for prolonged hours at a desk that's where I developed back pain. I started researching on ergonomic chairs and gained knowledge throughout the process.  This is the site where I share everything I've learned about office chairs.