Introduction: Crayon Lathe LittleBits

Picture of Crayon Lathe LittleBits
This is quite possibly the smallest and safest lathe in the world! And its a lot of fun to use. It will turn crayons or oil pastels.

I have included a template for wood and a .STL model for 3D printing. But there are many materials the body could be made of Lego, plastic, steel...what else can you think of?

  • LittleBits DC motor
  • LittleBits Power Supply
  • 9Volt battery
  • plywood for the body
  • wood for the tailstock
  • a 4-5 cm screw

Tools (Wood construction)
  • Wood saw
  • center punch (a nail or screw works)
  • hammer
  • tape
  • paper template
  • scissors

Step 1: Step 1 Making the Lathe Body

Picture of Step 1 Making the Lathe Body

1) Print out the pdf template 1:1 scale (100%). (117-LatheBaseWood.pdf)
2) Double check that it printed to 1:1 scale by measuring the width. It should be 100mm wide.
3) If its good cut it out.

3D Printing
1)Download the STL model from Thingiverse. Print it.
2)Next drill out the 6 LittleBits mount holes to 6mm.

3)Then drill out the tailstock hole to slightly smaller than your screw diameter.

Step 2: Step 2 Place the Template on Your Wood.

Picture of Step 2 Place the Template on Your Wood.

1)Tape the template down so it doesn't move and trace around the edges.

2)Use a screw and hammer to center punch the holes as close as possible!

3)Center punch the tailstock corners too because we will use those marks to glue the tailstock block to later (see pic)

4)Remove the template and cut out the lathe body with a saw.

Step 3: Step 3: Cut Out the Tailstock Block

Picture of Step 3: Cut Out the Tailstock Block

The block should be 20 x 20 x and at least 16mm tall so the tailstock screw can be drilled into it at 9mm from the base.

Step 4: Step 4 Drill the Holes

Picture of Step 4 Drill the Holes

1) Drill the LittleBits mounting holes in the body to 6mm.

2)Drill the hole in the tailstock block. 9mm above the bottom of the block. It should be a little smaller than the outside diameter of the screw you use.

3) Test fit the screw in the tailstock hole. Use a screwdriver or a power drill to thread the screw in and out a fe times until you can thread it in and out with your fingers easily.

Step 5: Step 5 Assembly and Glue

Picture of Step 5 Assembly and Glue

1)Gently press the LittleBits DC Motor and Power supply into the mounting holes. If the holes are drilled correctly, they should press fit in with just a little pressure.

2) Glue the tailstock block in place. Use a ruler to make sure the motor and the screw ae in a straight line.

Ok done!

Here is the How To Video.

When loading the crayon or pastel into the Little Bits coupler, shave the tip of the crayon into a square so it locks into the coupler. This helps prevent slipage.


SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

Thank you for your Instructable

Nice job.


jaylabrosse (author)2014-09-07

Very cool !

sethcim (author)2014-08-12

It's sooo cute! And well documented, too.

scitch (author)2014-03-08

Can you upload an STL for the coupler?

maxnoble440 (author)scitch2014-04-20

I don't have an STL for the coupler, its a LittleBits to LEGO adapter.

rniedra (author)2014-02-21

The motor looks very slow do you use a gearbox

maxnoble440 (author)rniedra2014-03-23

its a LittleBits module Gear box motor. Very low speed.

bajablue (author)2014-03-01

High FIVE and...

ElectroFrank (author)2014-01-23

If you use this much, you would benefit from a mains adaptor (US: wallwart), as a 9V battery's life will be quite short when powering a motor.

KRA5H (author)ElectroFrank2014-01-30

Take a look at my Instructable, littleBits Sample Rotator:

In step six I discuss the use of an adjustable power supply wallwart to power littleBits projects. It might save you from having to keep buying 9 volt batteries.

woodworker95602 (author)2014-01-24

Cool! Really want to make one of these for the kids, now. I have a few small motors lying around I might try, but do you know the RPM of that littleBits one? I went to their website, but they don't list that spec. How easy (or not) is it to stall the motor? i.e. if you try to peel too much / too fast, is it a problem for the motor to keep up? Thanks.

The 9V battery will be an inherent current protection. I'm not saying you wont be able to burn up the motor, but it won't be immediate as with a more powerful source. 9V batteries can't source more than a couple hundred mA.

RichardBronosky (author)2014-01-24

I just can't imagine using a pointy screw for the tailstock against wax. There has to be something better.

Counterclockwise motor rotation

Kinnishian (author)maxnoble4402014-01-29

I just skimmed the instructions, but thanks for pointing this out! Makes more sense now :)

awawawaw (author)2014-01-26

Very nice and clever idea to teach kids how a lathe works. I will definitely be making one of these. I think I will use a continuous rotation servo instead of a DC motor though. Should be good torque and easily adjustable speed as well as reversing.

Kevanf1 (author)2014-01-24

Nice little lathe :) I have one question though. What is 'littlebits'? This is not a familiar thing or outlet in the UK.

Kevanf1 (author)Kevanf12014-01-24

Ah, I have just Googled 'littlebits'. No wonder I didn't recognise it, I have never seen this in the UK. Perhaps an explanation of what the 'littlebits' modules are and where to get them might be a good idea. Are they available outside the US? Still a great 'ible' though, well done.

Kevanf1 (author)Kevanf12014-01-24

Then I find that Amazon UK stock 'liitleBits'. I need to explore this... thank you.

maxnoble440 (author)Kevanf12014-01-25

They are a brand new system for kids to incorperate electronics into their projects.

Kevanf1 (author)maxnoble4402014-01-25

Hi maxnoble440 :) Yes, the sort of thing I wish we'd had decades ago.... but then most of the actual components back then were still way to big to go onto such a small interface board. I've honestly never heard of them prior to reading this 'ible' but I will certainly keep an eye on their development. I can see them being useful to myself as well as 'kids' :)


padeutsche (author)2014-01-23

The nice thing is can easily build a mold, then you can melt down the chips, and used crayons to make more blanks. Now there is an adhesive you can buy through any place that sells machinist wax, and might work with the crayon wax, and this will enable you to make some interesting models or proof of concept models.

This is a wonderful hobby to get into, for you and if you have kids or other relatives(neices and nephews) they can get into as well, and you learn an ancient skill. There is a down side though, after you learn this you might want to get into other work and might end up building your own machine shop, and have it fit one table.
if you like this check out cabin fevers website

have but above all be safe.

maxnoble440 (author)padeutsche2014-01-25

Hey good idea making the blanks. I'm one my second design. It doesn't use LittleBits. faster motor better chuck. Ya is is really fun. The lathe is so slow it look me an hour to do one peice.

M2Field (author)2014-01-24

Very cute.


Show us video or it doesn't work. ;)

uberwald (author)2014-01-23

Where's the video?

maxnoble440 (author)uberwald2014-01-23

phone crashed so I need to redo video

Well, you are now a featured project. Better get on it! =D

toekneebullard (author)uberwald2014-01-24

I was thinking the same thing. I wanna see this thing run!

Edgar (author)2014-01-24

Neat, fun, wonderful. Voted!

Done a description with link, in by Blog:

brianmmcfadden (author)2014-01-23

What's that little white dongle that's connected to the motor shaft? It looks like it's helping to place and center the crayon at the crayon's pointy end. It's not part of the littlebits motor (as far as I can tell). I don't see a reference to it in the i-ble. Could you explain further?

Oh that's the LittleBits motor shaft to Lego shaft coupler. It came with the Deluxe kit. It works ok. I created a pressure friction coupler that works better. Do you have a 3D printer?

Excellent, and yes, I have a 3D printer.

shizumadrive (author)2014-01-22

Hmm this would be a great learning tool. Teach kids (or adults who never used one) how and what you can do before it gets dangerous.

JobyOne (author)2014-01-22

I've wanted to build my own chess set for a while. This could be an excellent way to get started, these would work well as the positives for making molds before doing a proper casting. Especially since I WANT such a set to be a small one.

ffcabral (author)2014-01-20

That yellow piece in the title, I dunno if that was supposed to be a chess piece. But yeah, this small lathe would be awesome to make round chess pieces (that aren't like the Knight or the King's crown that aren't radially symmetric).

mdpskier (author)2014-01-20

Cool build, but you should have a link to the video at the end.

longwinters (author)2014-01-19

How about some finished product pics, a candle would be fun to turn and useful

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