Upcycling Dead And/or Scrap Bicycles - Part 1 - Home-made Tools - Hand-powered Sander

About: I am an escapee from modern life, now living by the sea in a forest garden in France. After over 20 years industrial experience, I quit my managerial position to study for a degree in Engineering. That done ...

Our film on the hand-powered sander, made with the use of scrap bicycle parts is one of our most successful to date with over one and a quarter million views. It also threw up a lot of comments on the use of dead bicycles and so I've written this piece to share and address some of these comments and to show why I think the bicycle is such a marvellous machine.

From time to time you can be lucky and find a really good quality bike that, though damaged and/or already cannibalised for the parts, usually the gearing system, can be repaired and reused. Normally however, the majority of dumped bikes are just good for the individual parts, which can be recycled or rather upcycled into something useful.

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Step 1: Hand-Powered Sander Film - an Example of 'dead' Bike Upcycling

You can view my film on the hand-powered sander above.

Use all the buffalo

It is a real shame not to use as much as possible of you recuperated bike - there will of course be some waste but you would be surprised what can be upcycled. On the above bicycle, for example, the brakes and the saddle have already been removed to repair a child's bike but some of the individual spokes from the wheels have also been put to use to fix a friend's fishing gear! The front wheel spindle is ear-marked a project I'll be undertaking in the Autumn. I've also recuperated for reuse many of the fasteners - nuts bolts and washers.

The hand-powered sander was designed and made using the crankwheel assembly and the lower part of the frame of a scrapped bicycle someone had dumped, along with three others, at the back of our bottle bank. This seems a regular place people leave bikes - so it might be worth your while checking this out where you live too! . Any bicycle can be used to make this hand-powered sander but do ensure that the bottom bracket bearings in the cramkwheel assembly are still running smoothly.

The table top upon which the wood rests was recuperated from a pallet and I used it because it was a smooth flat surface, ideal for this kind of application.

The actual cost of this project is therefore really only the cost of a sheet of sandpaper, a few screws and a little glue - here in France, that cost me 10 centimes. If you wanted to make a 'deluxe' model, viewers have suggested buying special sandpaper with a Velcro back - so you can change the grade of sandpaper, which is a really useful tip.

You can find the original version of this article on my blog: here

Feel free to ask questions either here or on the blog or film.

All the very best and Happy Recuperating!

Andy aka Organikmechanic aka The Green Lever

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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Thanks for the 'ible. Gave me a great idea for a foot powered grinding wheel for sharpening knife blades.

    I've a tip for metalworking when using woodworking tools (drilling through metal with a hand held drill, for example): run the drill at a slow speed. Use a bit of light oil to help it cut. You'll know you're doing it right when long coils of metal come up out of the hole.

    Cutting fast as in this video works, but it heats the drill bit and then it loses its hardness and gets dull very quickly.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work! I knew a guy that ran a professional framing shop, and he had a hand-cranked disc sander much like this. He used it for touching up mitered corners, and it seemed pretty handy for certain applications. Thanks for posting this!

    4 replies

    Hi seamster, Thanks! I had a comment on youtube from a guy who was just starting up a framing business from his flat and was very limited as to noise, so he was going to make one of these. We use it a lot for frames but also for squaring up straight cut faces as well. It's a great one for taking to exhibitions, kids love it!!! Much appreciate your comment and all the best from France, Andy

    No problem! The one I saw (and used) had quite a lot of heft to the wheel. I was a large cast iron disc, but manufactured as a hand-crank thing. If you could make the wheel heavy enough, it seems like it won't tend to stop or slow down when the work piece is pressed against it.

    I like the idea, as it's a step up precision-wise from hand sanding, but not a full blown power tool.

    Hi seamster, because I am only taking off a tiny fraction of wood, I haven't found that the lack of inertia of the disc to be too much of a problem but I can certainly see the advantage of a cast iron one. Also, for commercial use, I can see a reason for having something more robust. I have actually seen such a one for sale on the net - there is a demo of it on youtube - it is around $200 and is very nicely made. Mine just cost the price of the sandpaper!

    All the very best, Andy

    Hi Uncle Kudzu,

    Thanks for the comment and the link, I will certainly check it out. You are absolutely right about the bike parts. We have a home-made pedal-powered washing machine we have been using for the past three years - it is here on Instructables. Have just recuperated another washing machine and bike to make a spin dryer for the Winter. We have been mulling over a design for a vegetable grater (we have a lot of poultry and get quite a volume of damaged organic root vegetables for them). I have an idea for using components from a bicycle for making accessories for a wood turning lathe. There are other ideas too but we need to up our scrap bicycle collection!

    All the very best, Andy