Making a Powerful Linear Actuator




About: One day I shall own a Delorean.

I looked at buying a Linear actuator but they are too expensive for the project i wanted to do so I thought i would make one and document it for Instructables so that others can follow what i do for their project or improve on it.

I have 2 options for you guys here, the frist option I tried and a slightly improved model.

Step 1: What You Will Need

You will need the following materials and tools


Welder - Optional

Hacksaw - a junior hacksaw is fine

flat head screw driver

vice - i used a hobby vice which was fine

Mitre block


a metal file

Materials : -

Epoxy Resin - Araldite is what i used

threaded rod - M10

Nuts - M10

piece of clothes rail

clothes rail holder

DC Motor or a Cordless Drill with forward and reverse

Petroleum jelly

Step 2: Picking Your Drive Method

You need to choose your drive method well, my original plan was to use a sewing machine motor to drive my actuator figuring i could reverse to polarity to reverse the motor. it turns out a sewing machine motor uses AC current and a AC motor will only spin one way regardless of which way round the polarity is. to get it to reverse you would have to use gears which i wasnt prepared to do.

However a DC motor will spin the opposite way when the polarity is reversed, so i broke up a cordless circular saw for the motor, it wasnt very good as a saw anyway, i cut the cashing up and kept the gears that are in it in place.

Your other option is what i have ended up choosing which is a cordless drill, the advantage of this is that it has a chuck so what ever you put in it will be centered.

Step 3: Inner Rod

the inner rod of the actuator is basically a threaded rod

now if you are using a cordless drill as i have decided to do in the end then you could just cut it to the correct length with enough to fit in the chuck of the drill extra.

if your using a DC motor its a little more involved you need to attach the rod to the shaft of the motor.

using the drive wheel from the sewing machine motor you need to weld a nut on the end of it making sure its as central as possible.

then just thread in the rod in to the nut as tight as possible and weld that to the nut, put a spot of expoxy resin on the nut to hold it to the pully centralised let it set, then put it all on a screwdriver to hold it while you weld it.

now you could use a long bolt instead of the nut and rod but i couldnt find one long enough as i wanted at least 20cm of travel in the rod.

now that its all welded together its not going to come appart and you can used the sewing machine pully to attach it to the shaft of the motor as it had a little screw in the side of it which you can tighten on to the rod of the motor.

Step 4: Outer Casing

the outer casing is the same no matter which method your using, basically a nut inside the rail.

cut the rail to the same length as the threaded rod using the mitre block to keep the cut as straight as you can.

the nut was a tiny bit larger than the rail was but thats ok because it would mean it would be tight in there.

i cut the rail to length then i cut slits in the end, about 6 of them so the rail would open as i hammered the nut in to it.

hammer the nut in to the rail, make sure the nut is level before you carry on.

put the rail in the vice with the nut facing up and mix up some epoxy resin, paste this around the nut and in the slits being careful not to get any inside the nut where the thread is as this will mess the actuator up. You need to let this set for about half an hour before you can work on the other end, and leave it for at least 24 hours before you use it to make sure its gone off properly.

now you can put epoxy resin inside the rail holder and put the other end of the rail in to it, not the nut end, put it in the vice and clamp it so it pushes the rail holder tight to the rail, now put epoxy resin around the edges filling in the gaps and let this set.

Step 5: Put It Together and Your Done

all you have to do now is to thread the outer casing on the the inner road and your done.

i have pictures of the threaded rod on its own in the casing which then can be put in to the chuck of the drill and used that way, but also of the one that can be used with the DC motor.

Some of you are saying to your selves "where does the petroleum jelly come in to it then" well i use this as a cheap grease, best thing i have found is to mount the rod on your motor or in the drill and get some petroleum jelly on your fingers and use the motor to spin the shaft slowly while you grease the rod, this will provide less friction on the rod when its spinning up and down on the nut and hopefully make it last longer and it wont squeak when its turning ;-)



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31 Discussions


1 year ago

the only downfall is that the outer casing must be attached to something so that it can actuate


3 years ago

Question about the pulley- Maybe I am missing something you already mentioned but why do you need the pulley if the actuator is directly driven by the motor shaft? or is it just being used as a collar?

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

what pully? you mean the part on the end of the motor? yeah i'm using it as a collar just to attach to the motor


4 years ago on Introduction

Great and simple project! Congrats!

Do you have any video of the actuator working?

I'm trying to build something like this, but I have to admit I'm struggling with something along the way... I feel kind of stupid because there's not a lot to it, but I'm just not getting it... :p

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

sorry I don't have any video and I have moved house since I made it and its been binned a long time ago.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Thanks anyway! I know it's an easy concept so I just need to revise my prototype.
I'm trying to build an actuator to push something out of a pvc pipe. ;)


4 years ago on Introduction

A while ago I picked up two GMC (cheap) 18V drills at our local recycling center.

Two 18V motors and gearboxes and speed control triggers. Bonus chucks. And the clips fit on my 18V Roybi batteries.

I contacted my local plastic recycling (curb pickup) and they were happy for the ABS shells to go in the recycling. (minus the rubbery grips)

So don't bother buying a drill.


5 years ago on Introduction

This is awesome, btw. Do you think this would work for a TV lift? I want to build a cabinet to house my 47inch TV and all it's equipment. Thank you!!

3 replies

Reply 5 years ago

What your TV lift output? Now we have a IR remote system for TV lifts open/close that control by your TV remote, but no need extra remotes.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Ok perfect. Thank you! This is going to be great- now to convince my dad to help me build it!


5 years ago on Step 4

i just advise that DO NOT GET IT NEAR FIRE because epoxy can not sustain fire heat

Thanks for the instructable! Say, what's the estimated cost of the total unit? It would also help if you posted the make/model/part no. for any components if possible.

2 replies

I estimate about £15 not including the motor which was salvaged.

It hard to give makes and models as it was just an old circular saw which I had kicking around originally from B&Q but they dont make it any more.


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

to be honest most of this was just junk I had laying around at the time. I have since decided that this actuator Is not going to do what I need it to do and I'm going to build a scissor lift arrangement.


6 years ago on Step 5

Just curious. What would something like this lift. I'm wanting to lift about 30 lbs and i'm not sure if something like a drill will do that.

4 replies

Reply 6 years ago on Step 5

you might want to put it though a gear box first to get the torque, you could use a wheel chair motor, or washing machine motor.


Reply 6 years ago on Step 5

you would also need a bigger thread and nut, as you dont want the thread to be stripped off. my one lifted about 5kg with out issues.


Reply 6 years ago on Step 5

Thanks for the feedback. After I saw this I was digging around a bit more and found a scissor lift idea I liked.
In the end I'm trying to build a standing desk kind of like the Wallaby standing desk. I think I can take an old car jack, weld a pole to it vertically and place platforms on the pole. A simple drill attachment to the scissor jack would raise and lower my desk.
Another weekend project....


Reply 6 years ago on Step 5

excellent, do you have the link to the scissor lift project as I too am building something which would be quicker and more stable with a scissor lift.