Cheap DIY Dremel-compatible Router




About: Hi, I'm psymansays. I'm an engineer from California. I enjoy sunsets, and long robot test drives on the beach. More from me:

 I am currently working on building myself a small CNC router, to be able to manufacture my own solid parts designed on my PC. Well, looking around online, there are lots of projects that are great inspiration, but many of these rely on expensive components.

One of the most commonly incorporated parts to be found in these designs are Dremel-brand handheld tools, using router bits, attached to the Z-Axis. Well, I took a look at Dremel tools, at my local hardware store, Wal-Mart store, Target store, and a few other places, but I've found that they're all very expensive, for use in my upcoming project.

Well, I tackled this problem today. I built my "router" on an arm that will be attached to the Z-Axis on my CNC machine. Hopefully, others could use a similar tool, and will find this interesting.


Step 1: Tools Required

Handheld Drill, 3/8" or larger chuck.
1/8" Steel-Cutting Drill Bit
3/32" Steel-Cutting Drill Bit
#4-40 SAE Tap
#1 Philips Screwdriver
#2 Philips Screwdriver
Needle-Nose Pliers
Pipe Cutter
Tin Snips

Step 2: Parts List

2 Timing Pulleys, and 1 Timing Belt of the same tooth pitch. (I found my set in a PC Printer from a dumpster)
1 Solid Metal Rod, 3/8" diameter (or 1/4", if 3/8" is not available).
1 #4-40 SAE Screw, to act as a Chuck
1 Dremel-Brand 1/8" or smaller Router bit
2 flanged bearings, with I/D the same as the diameter of the solid metal rod.
1 pipe, with I/D the same as the O/D of the bearing.
1 electric motor, AC or DC, high RPM, medium Torque. (I got mine from a broken cordless drill)
Brass hobby tubing, with I/D the same as the diameter of the solid metal rod.
Scrap wood.
Scrap sheet metal.
A handful of Wood Screws.

Step 3: Prepare the Rod

In my project, I used a 1/4"-20 bolt that was about 4" long, but, I would recommend that anyone use a solid metal rod of 3/8" diameter, because there are not many threads cut for the set-screw if you use a 1/4" rod, and even less if the 1/4" rod is threaded.

First, I drilled a 3/32" hole through the bolt, about 1/4" up from the end. Then, tap this hole.

Next, I drilled a 3/32" hole into the tip of the bolt, right in the center. I found it very difficult to drill right down the center of the bolt, not skewed to either side, but it was possible. This could be easier, if you have a heavy-duty drill press to use. After drilling this pilot hole, drill it back out to 1/8". Drill past the set-screw's hole, by about another 1/4". Clean up the threads for the set-screw after drilling.

Drill the center of the bigger timing pulley out to the diameter of the bolt. Slide the pulley all the way to the head of the bolt.

Cut a short (about 1/4") section of hobby tubing, using a pipe cutter, and Slide this on Next.

Slide one of the Bearings on next.

Next, cut some more of your Hobby Tubing. This has to be cut to a very exact length, so that there is a very tiny amount of slack between the bearings and the outer pipe, when fully assembled. I actually cut mine twice, to make sure I could get it exactly right. There is about 3 thousandths of vertical play, which is about exactly right. This fits between the two bearings, so that tightening down the assembly doesn't put stress on the ball bearings or the bearing races.

Cut the outer pipe to length, and put the assembly into it, then slide on the other bearing, and tighten the whole thing down with the hex nut. Make sure that the rod spins freely, even when everything is tightened down securely, but, also ensure that the vertical play in the mounting of the bearings in the outser pipe is very minimal.

Now, insert the 1/8" dremel router bit into the end of the bolt, and install and tighten the set-screw.

Step 4: Prepare the Motor

 The motor that I had that was closest to the right characteristics had a brass 9-toothed gear on its output shaft, originally. I used needlenosed pliers to gently pry this gear from the shaft, then pressed on the smaller of the two timing pulleys.

If your timing pulley is not a good fit, you might use epoxy to affix it to the output shaft of your motor. This has worked for me, on other projects, in the past, but centering the pulley is important.

Step 5: Screw the Assembly and the Motor to Something

Use your sheet metal to screw the outer pipe of the assembly down tightly to a chunk of wood. When you tighten it down, make certain that the assembly is exactly perpendicular to the wood. When preparing to put the screws in, pre-drill the sheet metal with the 1/8" bit and the wood with the 3/32" bit, so that the wood doesn't crack.

Attach the timing belt between the assembly and the motor, and pull the belt tight, then anchor the motor down, in the same way as you anchored the assembly.

Step 6: Wire Up the Motor and Test It Out.

Since I used a DC motor that was designed to run at 9.6V, I connected the alligator clips from my car battery charger to the leads of the motor, to test it.

Everything moved freely for me, and the router cut very readily, both plunging and cutting sideways.



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    16 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 6

    Thanks psymansays. Just now I'm making a cnc router but just now my project is only a nice Blender drawing and assorted plumbing material from my junk box. I'm waiting for more details on your router. Have a nice 2012!


    7 years ago on Step 6

    May I ask you a question? Where is the router? What you have here is only a drill...

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    Well... it has a router bit in it, and it can cut sideways, not just straight in and out. You're right, though, that nothing makes this more of a router than a drill.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    nice screw driver i have one like that, flat and phlips lol they are good to freak ppl, like when my friend asked to borrow a screw driver, i handed him that and he went why do i need a b... , oh it is a screw driver

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done.
    Looks like it'll be for a gantry style mill/router?

    Consider using a Set screw like this instead.

    Although it's small, having that large setscrew sticking off the side is gonna cause imbalance(leading to early bearing failure).
    Also, one day, you WILL catch yourself on that screw, and are gonna wish it had been a flush set screw. Go ahead and ask me how I know, I dare you :-)

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I do plan to build a simple gantry router, yes.

    I was going to use an inset set screw, like you're suggesting, but since I used a 1/4" diameter bolt, there's only 1/16" of threads there, and I'm not sure I have the 1/16" allen wrench in my set, for the set screw that I have, either. I just used what I already had sitting out, that was easy to tighten down on the fly.

    You do have a good point about the imbalance potentially damaging the bearings, though. I may have to switch to a normal set-screw soon.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    routers are generally meant for cutting sideways, not just plunging like a drill, therefore I suspect the bearings suffer quite enough from these sideways forces to not mind an out of balance shaft much.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice!  I LOVE seeing people make tools with simpler tools, and for those who happen to have this stuff lying around (like me) this could be zero-cost!  In fairness I would point out you can get cheap routers for $30 these days, so this probably wouldn't be worth the effort if you needed to buy too many of the pieces (particularly the motor), but for junkhounds like me this is a great idea.

    I hope you do an Instructable on making an inexpensive CNC router too!

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. I am thinking about documenting the build of my CNC router, so I may post an 'ible on the subject, once I get further along.

    You know, you're right that there are Dremel clones out there for fairly cheap, but, I had these parts around, too, so, like you, this was a $0 build for me. I think that most people who're interested in building a CNC mill at home probably do have a similar junk pile to salvage through.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Thanks for your interest. I'll try to post a video of this tool in use, as soon as I get time to shoot one in the daylight.