A new ring-shear device allows basal slip and related processes to be studied in laboratory experiments for the cases of hard or soft beds. The device rotates a confined ring of ice (0.9 m outside diameter) across a horizontal bed at a constant velocity or drag, while a vertical stress is applied and basal water pressure is controlled. A bath with circulating fluid regulated to ∼0.01°C surrounds the ice chamber and keeps the ice at its pressure-melting temperature. In a first experiment with a stepped rigid bed and zero basal water pressure, steady lengths of step cavities depended upon slip velocity raised to a power of 0.59, in general agreement with the square-root dependence of some models of sliding and linked-cavity hydraulics. Transient cavity growth after slip velocity increases was not monotonic, with damped volume oscillations that converged to a steady value. Once ice separated from lee surfaces, drag on the bed was constant and independent of slip velocity and cavity size, consistent with a shear-stress upper bound like that indicated by sliding models. Shear strains near the bed exceeded 30 and ice developed multiple-cluster c-axis fabrics similar to those of sheared ice in temperate glaciers.