Introduction: Making a Rotary Tool

Picture of Making a Rotary Tool

To introduce it all..I've always wanted a Dremel (actually...just for a little while now) in order to do certain projects. So after much toiling, I've devised a way to make one, that will allow you to:

1. Have a fatter wallet
2. Have a greater sense of accomplishment
3. Sand (among other tasks) the hell out of things!

The Rotary tool I'm showing you how to make will have interchangeable tips for it (though I'm only showing you how to make a sander), light weight, and a LOT more fun than a store bought tool could ever be, unless that store bought tool involved lasers, sharks, and spinning blades...but thats for another time.

Before we start: Be careful, nothing here is too dangerous, but they can make you uncomfortable. You could get shocked by the battery since our switch is so "DIY" (Don't use this with higher voltages) though it will just tingle, not injure you. The aluminum can will be sharp when you cut it. So don't rub the sides of it..duh. And of course using a blade of any kind can always be dangerous. Just use common sense, people.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Forgive the picture for not having everything you will use, as I added stuff along the fit my ever changing plans.

You will need:

1 Popsicle
1 Cheap toy that has a motor. (Mine is part of a small train from the dollar store. My dog ate the track, leaving me free to think of a use for the motor) For a toy, check the dollar store, or, after a holiday, CVS puts all of its holiday themed stuff on a 75% off sale. You might as well get a $3-5 hobby motor from radio shack if you're going to go buy one though, they will be more powerful.
1 Battery
1 Aluminum can
A small amount of sand paper
Electrical Tape
Wire (your toy may have some that you can scavenge)
Something to cut with
Glue ( I used hot glue)
Possibly pliers to make thing fit how you want them to
A small amount of aluminum foil.

It may seem like a lot, but things like the battery, motor, and wire can all come from one source.

Step 2: Disassemble

Picture of Disassemble

Eat the Popsicle, wash off the stick and dry.


That is probably the most dangerous step. (>'.')>

Take apart the toy, finding the motor and battery, and if you want to use it (the easiest way) the battery dock. Also scavenge for anything else you may want from the toy (LEDs, speakers, fabric, other motors....)

Step 3: Attach the Motor and Wires

Picture of Attach the Motor and Wires

Tape the motor onto the very end of the stick, and then tape a wire to each of the contacts. (solder it, if you want)

You can also attach the battery dock during this step, just tape it on.

Step 4: The Switch

Picture of The Switch

First, you need to pick one wire to be permanently attached, tape it onto one of the metal parts that are connected of the cbattery contact closest to the motor. If your battery dock was nice and exposed like mine, this is easy. If not, just find a place you can wrap it around or tape so it's touching one of the contacts. You can put a little bit of aluminum foil in front of the contact and tape the wire to it if you have to.

This is where aluminum foil REALLY comes in handy. You need to rig it so that you can put the wire somewhere touching the battery contact and have it stay, but then move it to turn off the Dremel. For me, this was around the back where some metal came out. I pinched it over the foil. The foil was then rolled over so it could hold the wire. It may be different for you though.

Step 5: The Tips

Picture of The Tips

For all tips, you'll need a base, this is where the can comes in. Cut out a section of the can, and then cut a small section from that to these specifications:

1. The same length as the motors gear circumference
2. A bit wider than the gears hight.

I know, pretty strict, right?

Now roll the metal around the gear, and glue the ends together, so its a cylinder without bases.

Next, cut out a piece of sand paper, with the same length as the piece of can, and the same hight as the gear. Glue this onto the cylinder.

Once all this dries, slip it onto the gear, and crimp it in a little so it stays on better. Fortunately, these are easy to make, so once your sand paper wears out, you can just make a new one. You could also make other attachments, such as a blade for the end.

Step 6: You're Done!

Picture of You're Done!

Now you have a working rotary tool, sure its not quite as fast or strong as a Dremel, but it works, is fun, and was cheap!

The last picture is what i did to a pen with this, I made a sort of gradient for you to compare the before and after of sanding off the lettering.


logorbit (author)2013-06-04

I am making a Rotary tool with Brushless motor and Pin Vise. Following is a link to the Build log.

zainuintel (author)2012-02-29

i found a controller with a motor in it but its got this metal semi circle, can i still use it? or will it vibrate like mad?

Jimmy Proton (author)2010-08-16

you can make your motor more powerful by soldering SMD capacitors between the copper plates on the shaft, it can be tricky because they'l slide.

maybe if you have a big enough capacitor but it will com in spread out pulses
maybe two capacitors hooked up in two different directions so it pulses back and forth

well most all SMD capacitors look the same so i cant really tell the direction.

they will have a dotted line like this - - - - - on one side and make sure that they are hooked up in parallel and they have diodes on the positive side to protect them (diodes optional)

well the ones i have are just little brown boxes but they worked fine the first time i tried it.


beehard44 (author)2010-11-12

what about an old DC brushless fan (look in your PC) with the blades and casing removed? i think i still have one with the blades chipped off...

andyweigl (author)2010-10-03

nice job! i made something almost exalty like this but mine using a 9v battery instead and is more of a belt sander type thing. but great idea! when i get another motor from something im going to mak this!

beehard44 (author)2010-08-20

i used a DC CD spindle motor. it runs super fast! also, i used some waterproof sandpaper so that i can clean it with a small drop of water. Also, use a wall wart or a PSU because the battery wont give you enough amperage to sand down a rough material (it pushes the limit of your tool to the max torque of the motor)

Mario1 (author)2008-02-02

well soon i will make my first instructable and it will be "How to make a rotary tool (improved variant) improvet variant Cuz it's going to be more powerfull i've got 12 volt motor and yours is an 4,5 volt motor so my Dremel will be powerfull you can buy a 12 volt motor at hobby stores or tech stores for under 4 dolars ;) i'm from bulgaria and here one 12 volt motor costs 3 dolars (6 leva)

ShampooRobot (author)Mario12008-10-03

they have Mario in bulgaria?!?! *stares in awe*

beehard44 (author)ShampooRobot2010-08-20


hansonsux (author)2010-03-29

Looks like prison contraband.

DNMEBOY (author)hansonsux2010-06-04

Yeah like a tattoo gun gone wrong!

motadacruz (author)2010-01-29

Great idea! Was looking for something like this.
All i'm missing is a train with a track where a dog can chew on. Dang, also need to get a dog i see.
Well, maybe i got some other old toy around and maybe my brother likes to chew on it.
Anyway, thanks for the instructable!

milsorgen (author)2009-12-29

lol i think your overstating the risk of shock a bit.

phant0m_sp00f3ra (author)2009-10-16

 Im so gonna make a spaggethi eating fork with a spin off of this mate. xD just saw one at some random page liked the idea you used :D

_macgyver_ (author)2009-07-11

hey, greet prodjec, can you please add some videos

ABLACKX (author)2009-07-07

May i Suggest a bigger motor and changeable voltage from a PSU !?

keefurxxcore (author)2008-03-01

I did this a WHILE ago. In may or something. Its not worth it. I just bought a Dremel and its way better. AA's are powerful enough to work, a D cell is still too small.

avwos (author)keefurxxcore2009-07-02

2 things. This cost 2 bucks, tops. And it depends on what your using it for. I have a dremel though, i'm not denying its incredible usefulness or it's many uses.

stereo123 (author)2007-03-13

i'm a hobo and i have no money to buy a dremel. How come i didn't think of this?? Thanks, man!

But you can afford a computer? lol. Tell me how yours comes out, and if you have any suggestions to make it better.

pfred2 (author)Weissensteinburg2009-05-13

Maybe they used a computer at a public library? What I am wondering is what a hobo needs a Dremel for?

avwos (author)pfred22009-07-02

Your comment made me lol :)

codongolev (author)2009-06-09

ate the track? as in swallowed?

He chewed it up.


avwos (author)codongolev2009-07-02

I'd go for seconds :)

3leftturns (author)2009-05-23

Interesting project, but you can get a knock off dremel with all the bells and whistles at Costco for like 40 bucks.

Justin Lam (author)2009-04-23

this is pretty sick. but it'd be better if: - you get a more powerful motor from your local hobby shop (can get better ones for same size and pretty inexpensive.. saves money in the long run) - put it in one of those fat novelty pens so you have a pen dremel! (that'd be awesomely wicked.) - buy a switch for like a buck from radioshack or something so it's easier to control. but other than that i hafta give you props for this. just a word, i don't advise using this for cutting anything like shortening screws because DIY cutting blades are not safe AT ALL. you run the biggest risk of having it detach from the motor, flying out but hopefully it won't hit you. trust me on this, not worth the risk.

raykholo (author)Justin Lam2009-05-06

those are very good idea to expand from more of an electronics perspective: - a gearbox motor set up for this should work best -the pen is great, but i would also add a pcb or perfboard design -use on-off-on dpdt switch knockoff of h bridge to be able to control on/off and direction of motor also as to your safety suggestions: it might be possible to keep everything together by using a metal pipe (or pvc) that fits snugly inside the pen, and then hot gluing all the components into that so they will mot move. I would also add a small ferrite core so that a single 1.5volt cell can give the motor more power(shorter battery life, but still good)

outsidedude (author)2009-02-12

i maded mine into a fan

ReCreate (author)2008-12-27

i have TONS of motors Ill make this with a nice 9 volt motor i have

ShampooRobot (author)2008-10-03

ive got a broken toy helicopter with perfect motor for this =)<br/>i might need a metal gear for end though =(<br/>

DuctTapeRules! (author)2008-07-17

At dick smith you can get a powerful little motor, I think it's p9004 or something. It needs 6-12 volts, so you could use those tiny little 12 volts maybe...

PyroManiac96 (author)2008-06-14

yum i love fruit bars my favorites raspberry :)

MasteerRyon (author)2008-03-27

lol screw the aa strap a 9 volt on that puppy and it goes! just make sure to let the motor cool about 10 seconds every 45 seconds

sideways (author)2008-03-12

Very creative use of on-hand materials. I like it :)

GorillazMiko (author)2007-12-09

ahh, dude, you are freaking awesome!

haha, thanks =]

no problem dude seriously you make bad-arsenal things trying to cut back on the slang. haha

nerfer192 (author)2007-11-20

ive got an extra mabuchi. should i try?

why not?

good point.

k3s (author)2007-09-29

Or even a nice inexpensive rc motor. Like the one of a tt-01, or a venon. You can get one for 15-20 dollars online. But for that price you could get a cheap dremel. But still i like this concept of homemade. Im definatly going to make one of these.

k3s (author)k3s2007-09-30

Made one, layered three Popsicle stickes, epoxied the battery compartment to the sticks and did something different to the tip.


Kayjay (author)k3s2007-10-19

is that a xmod rc motor you used on that?

About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy photography, horticulture and carpentry, and am almost always doing something relating to of those things.
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