Introduction: Hand Cranked Document Shredder

Picture of Hand Cranked Document Shredder

This hand cranked paper shredder is really satisfying. It's on a cool double-drawerslide disappearing bracket. It sounds like loading a machinegun when you pull it out. Once someone starts shredding you can't stop them til the scrap paper is all gone.

Much skillful photography, craftsmanship, video editing, etc by Fungusamungus

Step 1: Plot Summary Up to This Point...

Picture of Plot Summary Up to This Point...

Someone took apart their electric shredder and left the parts in a pile.
"Bicycle powered shredder" thought I. First I would try it by hand just to get a feel for it.
I had a crank handle from an astronaut-torturing machine that happened to fit over the shredder's drive shaft.
There was a hole for a retaining pin in the driveshaft. I drilled the crank to match, pounded in the pin, and Voila! Hand-cranked shredder.
Then I clamped it to a table and everyone started shredding documents until we couldn't find any more paper.
It all happened so fast I didn't take pictures of the steps, but your junk shredder and your crank will most likely
be totally different. Try a handle from an old meat grinder or a crank from a bicycle.
Hand shredding is so satisfying and convenient I don't know if I'll make the pedal grinder.
If you do it let me know how it turns out.

Next came the process of fitting it under a table in just the perfect way. Continue...

Step 2: Saw Off the Extra Stuff

Picture of Saw Off the Extra Stuff

Fungus hacksaws off some legacy sheetmetal.
My granddad used to say: To carve a wooden bear take a piece of wood and cut off everything that doesn't look like part of a bear.

Step 3: Two Double Drawerslides

Picture of Two Double Drawerslides

After much harrumphing we decided to bolt two drawerslides face-to-face like this and weld one such assembly on each side of the shredder. That would get it to extend and retract as far as we needed.

Step 4: Setting Up the Assembly

Picture of Setting Up the Assembly

We put the whole thing together with clamps and blocks so we could weld it properly.
The slides needed to be level and parallel. Fungus mikes out our tolerances.

Step 5: Weld It Together

Picture of Weld It Together

The tricky part was welding it without melting the plastic bearings on the shredder.
I draped a soggy wet rag over the metal between the weld and the plastic bearings. Then after welding I mopped at the hissing welds to chill them as soon as I could without cracking them.

I used the shop's wirefeed welder. To make welding easy, use Miller's online welding calculator to find out what amperage, gas pressure, wire feed rate, etc. for the material and type of weld you're doing.

Step 6: Bracketizing Step One: Rough Marking

Picture of Bracketizing Step One: Rough Marking

I found four small iron angles in the stock pile. Perfect to attach our device under a counter.
They needed additional holes. Here's how "shop guy" does that.

Setup your assembly with clamps or by hand and mark where the mating hole will go.

Step 7: Bracketizing: Cross Scribing With Caliper

Picture of Bracketizing: Cross Scribing With Caliper

Choose two edges as "reference edges" and set your caliper to the desired distance. The caliper has hard sharp jaws that make a good scribe. This is an approved technique.
Scratch two lines that cross where you want your hole.

Step 8: Finding the Center

Picture of Finding the Center

Take your center punch and run it along one of the scratches until the tip drops into the deep spot where the two grooves cross.

Get an old Industrial Arts textbook. It'll have these tricks and more.

Step 9: Center Punching

Picture of Center Punching

Hit your center punch once with a hammer. Hit it as vertically as possible. Look at your centerpunch mark.
Your eyes will be pretty accurate. If you don't like where it is you can push it around by centerpunching at it from an angle.

Step 10: Lube Your Bit With a Candle

Picture of Lube Your Bit With a Candle

Soft wax like beeswax or microcrystalline wax is best, but all I could find was this paraffin candle. I like wax better than oil because it makes less of a mess and picks up the chips well. When the wax melts it's a fine oily lubricant.

Step 11: Drill the Hole

Picture of Drill the Hole

Consult your industrial arts textbook for proper info on drill sharpening, tool speed, and feed rate. It varies with the material. It's interesting how a drill, saw blade, and lathe bit have similar cutting parameters.

Small pieces must be clamped or the drill will bind, spin them, and mess up your hands.

Step 12: Deburring Tool

Picture of Deburring Tool

Not really a necessary step in this case, but it's fun to do. Get a cheap deburring tool from Wholesale Tool or MSC. It's especially good for cleaning up cut tubing ends.

Step 13: Houston, We Have Brackets

Picture of Houston, We Have Brackets

Here's the completed assembly, in "out of battery" position.

Step 14: Standoffs

Picture of Standoffs

The counter we wanted to mount the unit under has a lip around it, so we added these 2x4 chunks as standoffs. I would have just juggled, dropped, and cursed, but Fungus had the bright idea to duct-tape them in place temporarily.

Step 15: Pattern and Mounting Holes

Picture of Pattern and Mounting Holes

We laid a piece of paper over our brackets and poked through it where the mounting holes were. We used this pattern to mark where the holes went under the counter. Then we drilled undersized holes for the screws to bite into.

Step 16: Bolting It On

Picture of Bolting It On

This was probably the hardest part of the whole process. We tried it in another location first, but there just wasn't enough room under it for a human to work properly. We gave up and put it under this more spacious counter.

Step 17: In Action

Here's a movie of the shredder in use.

Step 18: The Shred Bed

Picture of The Shred Bed

Once you've shredded your documents what next?
How about using the shreds to make your own improvised futon?
For initial tests we used giant drawstring bags. For comparison we filled one bag with crumbled newspapers to make a "crumple bed". Marion tests them out. Conclusions: It takes a huge quantity of stuffing to make a futon. The crumblebed is lumpy, not as good as the shred bed. The shred bed is very comfortable. Marion had just finished one of her final exams and took a nap right there.


RoBear613 (author)2014-04-20

Positively Medieval. The Marquis De Sade would be proud.

Just kidding. Brilliant, over my abilities, but brilliant.

And they say only Aliens could have built the Pyramids. Bah. Human Ingenuity is astounding.

Aerospaced (author)2007-11-04

Just what my Amish friends need to keep those documents safe!

pcooper2 (author)Aerospaced2012-05-11

... or what the domestic terrorist needs when he has to destroy evidence after the SWAT team have cut off electricity to the building and are getting ready to break down the door.

AJMansfield (author)2012-04-12

Two things I know of that shredded paper is good for: packing boxes (alternative to packing peanuts) and fire (burns EXTREMELY FAST and at EXTREMELY HIGH TEMPERATURES)

leehael (author)2006-09-18

Yeah? Approved by who?

Toastalicious (author)leehael2011-07-30

as far as i know, we used the same technique in geometry class, but using compasses to find the center of a line.

pietzeekoe (author)2011-07-30

you could also use a pasta maker as a shredder

ewilhelm (author)2007-07-31

This project was mentioned here in the New York Times!

Derin (author)ewilhelm2009-06-14

It's your company.Be proud.

pete martinez jr (author)2009-04-19

Best gadget I ever saw and it saves power too! Thanks fellas!

pete martinez jr (author)2009-04-19

Thats pretty clever friend! Now I now what to do on my old shreddar machine. thanks!

pete martinez jr (author)2009-04-19

that thar is goood tip for my drillin machine! thanks!

abend (author)2006-09-12

That guy is BAREFOOT in a metal shop? Man that's hardcore.

Derin (author)abend2008-03-17

what is hardcore?i mean what does hardcore mean

abend (author)Derin2008-03-17

It generally means "To the highest degree" or "very serious". In this case, I meant that this guy is so serious about getting things built that the danger of possibly stepping on something sharp doesn't bother him.

Derin (author)abend2008-10-25

oh ok

tcabeen (author)2006-12-28

:: checks freecycle and craigslist for broken shredders ::

Derin (author)tcabeen2008-03-29

checks gittigidiyor for broken shredders

ewilhelm (author)2006-09-12

The feel of the blades cutting paper when you hand crank this thing is really incredible and gratifying. It's hard to stop, like when you can't stop touching a fine silk tie.

trebuchet03 (author)ewilhelm2006-09-12

and now I ask.... how does it feel hand cranking the said fine silk tie? :P

Derin (author)trebuchet032008-03-26


ewilhelm (author)trebuchet032006-09-12

This thing wasn't installed before the last Formal Friday (like casual or Hawaiian shirt Friday, just the opposite) at Squid. When I get my tie stuck in it on Friday, I'll report back!

intoon (author)ewilhelm2006-09-13

I love Formal Friday!

incorrigible packrat (author)2008-02-06

Hey wait a second. Nobody's posted, "You talkin' to me?", yet.

You talkin' to me?

incorrigible packrat (author)2008-02-06

Hope you haven't any bedwetters at the shop. The shred bed would make a nasty papier mache piece.

votecoffee (author)2008-01-11

This is an awesome idea, motors burn out of paper shredders amazingly quick and I plan on modifying mine very soon having been inspired by your article. However, I do have to say that I'm disappointed that you only did a viola add the magic handle to the shredder and spent the rest of the how to making a mount for the thing. I think it would have been better had you spent more time on the handle mounting versus the slider deal. That said, awesome idea. It's one of the few instructables that I've read and said I'm doing that this weekend because it's so practical and I have a broken shredder : )

piper1234 (author)2007-12-15

xD hahah great you learned from the orangutans to use tools and feet :P

alxram (author)2007-12-07

Very useful tool, thanks for the awesome demo photos!

unidyne (author)2007-08-12

Quieter and faster than electric! I'm impressed! My only suggestion is to come up with something that can cross-cut to prevent anyone from simply taping the strips back together (which is how the folks at Enron got caught).

ListO (author)2006-09-12

I'm blown away! Wow! You could sell these for real money. One question: In step 15, does it require an automotive hydraulic jack, or could you use a smaller one to hold your head up?

cjuon (author)ListO2007-08-01

Sure could! In fact, I'd be happy to buy one if someone wants to make one for hire! Email me at cjuon @ Thanks!

fungus amungus (author)ListO2006-09-13

Some people do! In Japan anyway, which makes this hand shredder extremely weird.

Note: I've never heard of this guy before and the fact that he's living in Japan (where I've lived for a year and a half) and blogging about a hand shredder kinda blows my mind.

A.C.E. (author)2007-05-23

iv got n elictric paper shredder and when i get a new one (the one i heve sucks) i will make an instructable on how to turn it into an electric knive sharpener

captain Jack (author)2007-04-24

that's pretty slick

jdog1 (author)2007-02-23

NO SHOES!!! I`m telling "Health & Saftey"

icanryme2002 (author)2007-01-31

Using a sprocket and a chain hook that up to a hand crank printer then you can get rid of S.M.O.G. "Scientific Manipulation of Garbage" or prints that you don't like.

graphak (author)2006-12-07

now this is just what ive been needing.. with privacy concerns these days, i think shredders should be as common as a toaster in people's homes. I just cant justify spending 30 at Walmart for something that will break soon, and can only handle one sheet of paper at a time. This reminds me of my mother's hand cranked tortilla/noodle maker ..the noodle attachment might shred paper. Great idea, and when i get more room in my apartment, I definitely plan on making a bicycle powered version...I will keep you posted when I do. Thanks for the nice idea.

graphak (author)graphak2006-12-07

by the way, ive tried viewing your youtube movie hoping to see it in action, but the movie was about 0.00001 seconds long. I saw the first image, and thats it. Not sure if its because Im on a mac or not.

zachninme (author)2006-10-21

It appeared to be fast. I would say 1 turn = 2 inches. And 10 turns = 1 sec.
Therefore, 1 second = 20 in.

Not bad, faster than electric.

Culito (author)2006-09-12

I like the floor-jack roll-around creeper. Perfect for jacking your head into the proper position with a few quick pumps. Make sure to let 'er down easy!

Myself (author)Culito2006-09-23

The pizza box is clearly the most important part of the setup. If you find a place that oils the pan with olive oil, the latent aromatics in the box can make a big difference in the work ethic of the jack-supported helper. Nice welding helmet, too. (:

eviloverlord (author)2006-09-13

Very nice - shame you used a strip-cut shredder though. A cross-cut would provide greater security and provide a satisfying rainfall of paper as you shredded.

TimAnderson (author)eviloverlord2006-09-13

True, but not as good for sleeping on. I think we'll need one or two of each.

jeffroward (author)2006-09-12

filthy astronauts.

Brian Henderson (author)2006-09-11

Neato frito!

trebuchet03 (author)2006-09-11

for the win.... awesome :D

AlexTheGreat (author)2006-09-11


About This Instructable




Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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