Making a Rotary Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.



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    75 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

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


    6 years ago on Introduction

    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

    8 years ago on Step 2

    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.

    5 replies
    the tech headJimmy Proton

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 2

    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

    the tech headJimmy Proton

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 2

    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)

    Jimmy Protonthe tech head

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 2

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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...


    8 years ago on Step 6

    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!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    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)

    2 replies

    9 years ago on Introduction

    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!

     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


    9 years ago on Step 6

    hey, greet prodjec, can you please add some videos