Introduction: Make a Ball Mill in 5 Minutes

Picture of Make a Ball Mill in 5 Minutes

This is for all the pyro nuts that I came across on Instructables.

This can be used to grind chemicals to a very fine grain or to polish rocks.

Wiki says "A ball mill is a type of grinder used to grind materials into extremely fine powder for use in paints, pyrotechnics, and ceramics."

Many instructables refer to United Nuclear Ball Mills. Their small ball mill cost between $70 and $80 dollars.

For no more than $30 and in 5 minute you can build a ball mill of appreciable performance.

Check out my other Instructables:
Hack The Spy Ear and Learn to Reverse Engineer a Circuit
Super Easy E-mail Encryption Using Gmail, Firefox and Windows
Make a Rechargeable Dual Voltage Power Supply for Electronic Projects
Make a Voltage Controlled Resistor and Use It

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

You need

1. A rugged container (You can use PVC pipes or big plastic bottles)
2. An electric screwdriver (these are fairly cheap, I got mine for $10)
3. A bolt, a nut and maybe a washer.
4. Epoxy putty.
5. Steel or lead balls which in my case I substituted with screwdriver bits that I got for $3.
6. A vise clamp to hold down your ball mill.

Step 2: Bolt the Container

Picture of Bolt the Container

Drill a hole dead center of the container's bottom. Put the bolt through the hole. Thread the nut tight.

Step 3: Join the Container to the Electric Screwdriver

Picture of Join the Container to the Electric Screwdriver

This is the most important step. The joint holding the the container and electric screwdriver should be strong and able to hold the weight of the assembly.

Put a little putty on the bolt first. Insert the bolt into the screwdriver's bit holder. Cover the whole joint with putty. The more putty the better the ball mill stays together.

Step 4: Clamp the Assembly to a Table Top

Picture of Clamp the Assembly to a Table Top

Fill the container with the screwdriver bits or with steel balls or lead balls. Add the chemical you need to grind. Close the container and clamp the whole assembly to a table top.

I use a popsicle stick to hold the screwdriver button down. I jam it between the clam vise and electric screwdriver (see video). But that depends on your electric screwdriver.


MrBrownstoo (author)2007-11-18

hmm... methinks you should support the container. lead balls are heavy and (I'm assuming most people will want to make gunpowder with this so they'll have to use only lead balls) the current setup is going to make the screwdriver wear a lot, and the bottom of the container isn't going to last very long... I like this idea though, I haven't found a suitable motor to drive my ball mill, they're all either too weak or they're way too fast.

Try the motor form an old microwave.

CasperP6 (author)MrBrownstoo2017-11-01

I know this is quite literally 10 years late, but for other hobbyists, try supporting it with a screw on the other side like the design pictured. The back end's screw can go through a piece of wood, brick etc. at the same level as the screw driver, creating a healthy amount of support, for a vitamin bottle filled with lead Potassium Nitrate, Sulfur and Carbon.

comander01 (author)MrBrownstoo2008-07-26

Supporting the container world be tricky, but posiible. Try something like this. Not quite sure what you'd make it out of, but something along that idea.

Phoghat (author)comander012016-12-28

2 of those, connected by a rod, with roller skate bearings?

OR, you could just attach a bolt into the cap like he did for the bottom. Make a triangular piece of wood. Drill a hole for the bolt to fit through. And find some way to support the piece of wood? Seems like it would work to me, could even make your own cradle to support everything for that matter :P I'd never use something like this so have no need to make one, but that would be my advice :D

Thx, that looks much easier to make than my suggestion. Ill keep itmin mind.

No problem, hope it works for ya, I don't have the materials to make one myself :(

muberblob (author)RiddleOfSphinx2010-07-20

shotgun balls work really good if they are of the lead variety

JJrulz (author)MrBrownstoo2008-05-16

Can you only use lead if you intend to make black powder? Why does it have to be lead?

Phoghat (author)JJrulz2016-12-28

no sparks with lead

badideasrus (author)JJrulz2015-09-12

i know this is mega necro, but.... you use lead because it doesnt spark. steel and ceramics do. if you're making black powder... well... kaboom...

thomasvale4 (author)badideasrus2015-11-24

Could you use glass balls? Marbles?

badideasrus (author)thomasvale42015-12-22

to mill with? Technically yes. I wouldnt. Mill at all with them. All of your milling media will break down, and I don't want to deal with glass shards xP. For milling black powder?..... Eh... I don't know. For the record you cab mill with ANYTHING hard and heavy. You don't have to have glass /balls/. Similarly while lead spheres are hard to find, fishing sinkers are not, and work great. As do lead bullets....I actually mill things with a bunch of musket bullets xP. They arnt round. They work fine.

JonathanA22 (author)badideasrus2016-01-26

Lead ball for shooting out of black powder rifles should work fine and are easy to come by. (If a little expensive without having other uses for them.)

Niterider69 (author)JJrulz2016-01-16

Lead or brass can be used for black powder.

demolitionNerd (author)JJrulz2008-05-16

No you can also use some of the new ceramic balls but they're even more expensive than lead balls. The reason you have to use lead or ceramic balls is because the won't spark when they slam together in the ball mill. Which if you were making black powder or another explosive chemical would otherwise result in an explosion.

netbuddy (author)demolitionNerd2008-10-09

Powders can explode due to the mix of fine particles and air. If you have ever worked in dangerous situations and had the "Health and Safety" training videos, you may have seen the "Exploding Flour Lorry" video. You wouldn't normally associate flour as in the stuff you bake with as being highly explosive. The video shows a flour truck being detonated, the film crew are about half a mile away when they ignite the truck contents. They couldn't fine anything of the truck other than a mangled chassis and one set of wheels. The rest of the truck had been blown to bits. So when grinding, you are advised to follow some basic H&S; protocols or you could end up seriously hurting yourself, killing yourself or find the local anti-terrorism squad kicking your door off and holding you under the prevention of terrorism laws we all now live under. Happy grinding.

demolitionNerd (author)netbuddy2008-10-14

True but the chances of that happening in the mill, because it's in such a small tight space (not saying that it won't happen, but that it is very unlikely).

netbuddy (author)demolitionNerd2008-10-15

Go ahead, blow yourself up. A bullet only needs a few grams of powder, so what do you think half a pound could do to you?

recon506 (author)MrBrownstoo2008-01-04

try using something like an old drill press motor, or you could check out one of the tesla motor instructables, and use a gear system to put into low speed - high torque.

ElvisM7 (author)2017-04-13

can I substitute steel/lead balls with something like granite gravel ?.?

seal (author)2017-01-11

I wonder if we can subtitute steel/lead balls with something else,glass marbles instead..?

_D1 (author)seal2017-03-18

The glass marbles could chip and contaminate whatever you were grinding. Better to just stick with the steel.

Jack1672 made it! (author)2017-01-04

Hi I made a very similar one that supports the container, with a dremmel on very low speed, seems to work pretty well

IdontKnowAnythingV1 (author)2016-11-02

so I just made one out of my own creativities but I have a biiiig trouble at first it worked well now the container rotates and at some point it doesn't run smooth and then the spin throws it away. Does anybody hat this issue?

JonnyP8 (author)2016-07-15

I freakin love the trashy element to this. This is definitely something else i HAVE to make and whip out infront my friends just to keep making them wonder and worry hahahahaha

Bulldog2006 (author)2016-01-24

I see a piece of wood with a pair of wheels from roller blades mounted with a c clap under the opposite end of the drill motor being a possible solution. If i may suggest caution with the use of plastics, although plastic doesnt conduct it has been know to build a static charge, when milling blackpowder this could be a proublem.

naturegal1954 (author)2015-02-06

I see a lot of comments on lead balls. Fishing sinkers are relatively inexpensive and made of lead. They also come in many sizes. I would use those for gunpowder grinding. I was looking for a way to grind wheat into flour, but if tshtf knowing how to make gunpowder would be very useful.

hardlec (author)2010-12-25

I may well be able to find a power drill at a resale shop, or buy an inexpensive one for the purpose. Any feedback on how well a power drill motor will hold up to being run for 24 hours continuously?

I plan to make paper machie. I want to make a very fine paper pulp. While I doubt this is flammable, I would like to hear any comments on this as well. Who'd a thought flour was explosive?

AJMansfield (author)hardlec2014-04-04

If you want fine paper pulp, you may wish to consider using a blender. Ball mills are typically only needed for moderately-to-very hard materials that need to be crushed to effectively split them, and which might damage a blender if used in it.

7654321 (author)hardlec2011-04-19

I seriously doubt paper will ignite. Also, if you can get a motor that plugs in, you dont have to worry about battery life. I got my motor for mine from a fan.

netbuddy (author)2014-02-10

Someone replied to this but I can't see the reply.

It should be worth noting that I have seen other users do large amounts of ball milling and that they have done it wet so that theirs no risk of causing an inadvertent ignition event.

arty (author)2012-08-29

Wouldn't it be much more convenient to put the bolt thru the lid? You could pack the plumber's epoxy around both ends of the bolt, which would make it much more durable. And when your grinding or polishing is finished, you get to move things around in the bottle without that screw driver attached. Further, if you have one bottle of that size, you might have more, for use as interchangeable containers, for convenience of transport and storage.

Cordless drills with dead battery packs would provide an endless supply of variable speed motors for this project. (I have three on-hand.) All I have to do is cobble up a connection to the power supply from a dead computer.

I've been wanting to polish some rings. Thanks for the idea.

argon ion (author)2012-08-13

any plastic bottle will do? and i wont have to worry about static charges if i decide to use it for pyrotechnics?

lisass (author)2011-11-08

That is great.

WareOuttaHair (author)2010-11-19

Rocks can spark so probably not a good idea unless you plan to use it for crushing seed for your birds or something.

skicero (author)2010-07-27

Use shotgun shells in place of the balls. Buy a pack of buckshot (make sure they are not steel if your mixing anything pyrotechnic), break open the shells and use the pellets.

Christorium (author)2010-02-28

 The sulphur in BP only serves to reduce the ignition temp. BP works fine without it. First grind the charcoal but add a little water to keep all the dust together. After adding the saltpeter, keep the mixture wet to reduce the chance of sparks and to get a better mix. Use only lead, copper or brass balls. The BP can be dried afterwards. 

theghillieman (author)2010-02-21

 Would large lead shot work? Its only like $1.50 for a couple pounds at a near by metal shop.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-02-17

How much does the epoxy putty cost?

Kryptonite (author)2010-01-12

You'd have to gear it down, you don't want it going too fast.

Kryptonite (author)2010-01-12

Gotta make sure the "balls" you use don't spark.

mlapoi7995 (author)2008-08-29

There are many ways this can be done. you could build a simple jig out of plywood to mount the motor and the entire drum assembly. you can also use bearings scarfed from old roller blades for the end shaft. motors can come from anything but if you use an AC motor I would suggest you get a controller from Harbor Freight to control your speed its just a plug with a potentiometer built in and is used to control the speed of a router...If you wish to use DC motors one of the best sources is Goodwill or any thrift store, look for old calculators that use paper rolls. They have heavy duty motors in them and if you go even older on them they have small AC motors...I also scarf motors from printers, washers and dryers for AC motors. You get a motor turning 1725 RPM and about a 1/4 HP. Thanks for the Instructable my wife wants a rock tumbler so you have given me a way to do it cheaply with parts I already have. ANd a way for me to polish metal parts.

randyclark747 (author)mlapoi79952009-11-16

You know what crossed my mind for grinding media is heavy steel nuts, instead of steel balls, since they are more commonly available.  What do you think?  Or do you think you can find steel balls at a  auto junk yard, under ball bearing request?

dude you can use lead balls, much better, you can easily get them at big 5, they are used as weights for fishing, although their not really balls more like egg shaped but whatever

Adrien (author)2007-07-29

Everyone should just buy a ball mill! Its only 60 dollars at united nuclear...

jester_200x (author)Adrien2009-07-20

SURE!! everyone can so totally afford to pay 60 bucks and shipping and yeah everyone lives in america. think of those who are unable to come up with 60 bucks plus shipping or people who live outside america with no real ballmill suppliers. come on man...

Jaycub (author)jester_200x2009-12-31

Yeah $60 is rediculus I got a rock tumbler from the thrift store for a few dollars and am using a mixture of marbles and slingshot ammo (already had both) as the grinding media to mage fine powdered magnalium. It works great.

lop145 (author)Adrien2009-12-18

stop spamming!
i dont have the money for the mill or the shipping.
unitet nuclear is great if u live in u.s.a. but i lie in europe.
and why would i buy one if i have all the parts lying around?

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