Wood Tumbler #1: Prepping the motor.....

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by dakremer posted 12-16-2011 11:11 PM 17128 reads 6 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Wood Tumbler series Part 2: Working Machine! ...and a problem solved »

This journey started out with me asking a question about what I could do (woodworking related) with a blender motor I salvaged. See the forum topic here. Cranesgonewild (an LJ member) gave me a link to a project another LJ member had posted. Here is that project by Filinvested. The project is like a rock tumbler (for polishing rocks), but instead of rocks it takes cubes of wood and turns them into beads of wood. Pretty ingenious idea. So I decided to make one. My mother and stepmother are very religious so I thought it’d be an awesome idea for a Christmas present to make them each a handmade rosary out of the wooden beads I got from this contraption.

well I got my blender motor rigged up, built a little stand, and had everything running perfect…..UNTIL….

This was my first time working with a motor/trying to repurpose it. I had my first batch of beads almost done on the machine when the motor burned out. CRAP! All that hard work and nothing to show for it. It over heated. It got me thinking about what type of motor I could use that is meant to continuously run and not over heat….and not cost a fortune.

I found a ceiling fan at a thrift store for $6 the other day. What the heck…I’m going to give it another shot….


The wood I show below that I glued together – once it was dry, I turned it on the lathe to make a perfect circle. Then I mounted it on the ceiling fan. This wood is what my sandpaper will attach to. I will have to shape it again once the ceiling fan is up and running to get symmetrical.

If anyone has any advice for me that’d be great. I have no plans…just kind of building as I go. I hope this motor wont over heat. Maybe i’ll have to have another desktop fan blowing on it the whole time to keep it cool??? I’m also going to wire it for a ceiling fan switch (that goes on the wall) to adjust the speed of the fan. If you have an questions let me know. If you have any advice/comments I’d love to hear them! I will post the next update when I get more done! Enjoy.

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

21 comments so far

View kevinw's profile


199 posts in 4653 days

#1 posted 12-17-2011 12:29 AM

Just watch out for high RPM, thin spindle motors. I have a scar on my chin to show for one of my experiments. No doubt you are much brighter than me!

-- Kevin, Blue Springs, MO

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

25479 posts in 4019 days

#2 posted 12-17-2011 02:40 AM

I don’t know what speed is required for this action, but if you use a wall dimmer switch with a ceiling fan, you lose a little and never get the top RPM like if you just used the 3 speed pull chain switch on the fan. I also don’t know what running it upside down will do? Like is there a thrust bearing on top to use like if was hanging and using a thrust bearing on the bottom. Motors are purposed and designed for that service. You take your chances in using them for something else. Good luck , Doug. And Merry Christmas, my friend!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View AttainableApex's profile


347 posts in 3746 days

#3 posted 12-17-2011 11:35 AM

a vacuum works really well to keep air flow going over and through the motor

-- Ben L

View Wayne's profile


196 posts in 3507 days

#4 posted 12-18-2011 03:59 AM

Ill be watching this one!

View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 4005 days

#5 posted 12-18-2011 04:48 AM

Thanks for ur responses guys!

Jim – the fan is actually right side up, so that (the upside down thing) shouldnt be an issue. But repurposing a motor does always come with its risks. Luckily Im not investing any real money in it – The fan for $6 is all I’m spending. Everything else will be from stuff I have laying around.

Wiring it to a dimmer switch does kind of scare me, except the switch is rated for a ceiling fan so hopefully it’ll be alright. I might not even need it. If the fan is set to Low Speed it might be slow enough for this contraption.

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View chrisstef's profile


18119 posts in 3920 days

#6 posted 12-18-2011 04:51 AM

How long do they need to tumble? I honestly have not a clue about anything electrical but i love doin random things with stuff layin around.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 4005 days

#7 posted 12-18-2011 04:56 AM

Hey Chris. Check the link out that I posted above. It will tell u everything you need to know

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 4307 days

#8 posted 12-18-2011 02:02 PM

First of all your way to fast on your RPM’s..with that type of motor. Notice that he used a drill. You have a few choices. You can reduce the speed using a pulley or by placing the shaft against about a 5” rubber wheel. What your looking for is around 60rpm.. That motor you have use’s “brushes” and runs at 1725 rpm.. Any motor that has brushes can use a controller which reduces the current to adjust the speed, without it though it’s way too fast. If you want a continuous running motor.. use an old furnace fan motor or something similar and recduce the speed with pulleys or a rubber wheel. They also spin at 1725 rpm. but are made to run continuous. In my opinion the fan motor that your using is not what you want for this application, I would opt for the furnace motor. After looking at the other persons system I would also modify the can to have small holes either in the very bottom (maybe 1/4” in diameter) or all around the sides at the bottom going up maybe an inch or so.. to allow for the dust that accumulates to leave the can while it’s in operation.. He mentioned he had to shut it off several times to empty the sawdust.. By drilling the hole’s it would eliminate that… I might build one of those myself just to see how well they work..hmmm
One final note.. I would use a rigid PLASTIC container.. NOT metal.. way less noise..
Anyhow that’s my 2 cents on this… maybe someone else has a better suggestion?

View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 4005 days

#9 posted 12-18-2011 05:34 PM

David, I set my fan on low and clocked it running at about 120-150 RPM. I’m not even sure if on high it could get up to 1750 RPM. I didn’t take the time to clock it on medium but I’m guessing that even might be too slow. I do have a ceiling fan dimmer switch that I was going to hook up to it to help control the speed but I’m not even sure I’ll need it. I can probabaly just control the speed by the 3 settings it already has (low, medium, high). A ceiling fan (like the furnace fan) is also made to run continuously, so I think I’m good there. I thought about using a furnace fan but didn’t want to mess with the pulleys, etc. I’m also not sure that putting a rubber wheel against the shaft to slow it down is a good idea – wouldn’t that burn the motor out?

Im not sure if you meant 60 or 600rpm? 60 rpm is WAY to slow. That’s only 1 rotation per second. I’ve never seen a sander run that slowly

The plastic container is a great idea (you read my mind). I’ve got an empty plastic container that used to have pretzels in them that I think will work perfectly.

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 4307 days

#10 posted 12-18-2011 10:38 PM

I stand corrected on your fan motor.. I’ve made slow wet grinders using the rubber wheel though, as a matter of fact that’s what’s inside of the TORMACK Sharpening System.. that’s where I got the idea from…. I know for a fact those work.. Anyhow I’m thinking of trying to make one of these myself.. so we can compare notes when they’re both done.. I like gadgets..LOL 60 rpm is whats used for slow sharpening systems (once again like the TormaK) and for Rock Tumblers.. I have an old fan motor.. never thought of using it because of the load factor but for this purpose you may be right.. I hate it when that happens..:) LOL

View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 4005 days

#11 posted 12-18-2011 11:28 PM

I would love to compare notes and/or see your progress. Im just going by the seat of my pants; I’ve got no plans, so anything and everything helps! I appreciate u taking the time to give me ur input, I could use all the help I can get. I’m thinking the load on the motor will be pretty minimal. The blocks of wood shouldn’t be that heavy!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 4307 days

#12 posted 12-19-2011 02:53 PM

Well.. I’m going to start on one today. Like yourself I have NO plans .. just gonna wing it. I did see something similar to this a few years back where the guy used a larger Belt Sander… but it did not work that great.. I’m probably going to just go with a FAN motor at full speed and see what happens to start with. If it needs to be reduced then I can do it.. MAYBE it will simply speed up the whole process??

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 4307 days

#13 posted 12-20-2011 05:01 AM

I’m about 50% done with mine..:)

View thebigvise's profile


191 posts in 3814 days

#14 posted 12-20-2011 05:24 AM

Check out They have a variety of motors at very low cost. I have used them to make shop tools as well as elaborate shop-made gag gifts.

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

View JamesVavra's profile


304 posts in 4230 days

#15 posted 12-20-2011 04:56 PM

I made a similar tumbler device after seeing Filinvested’s project. I made mine to run off of my drill press, which was not the best idea, as the motor got quite warm and I had to shut it down several times to cool down:

I used a 1 gallon plastic bucket with a lid.
In the bottom of the bucket and the lid I drilled holes and inserted bronze flange bearings.
I cut a 6” wooden disc (out of 1/2” plywood) and adhered velcro to one side. I drilled a hole in the center and inserted a 1/4” ID T-Nut.
Through the t-nut I threaded a 12” long 1/4” piece of all thread. I locked down nuts on either side of the wooden disc so that the disc wouldn’t “climb” up the shaft as it rotated. The shaft sticks out the bottom just enough to seat in the bottom flange bearing. It sticks out of the top lid by about 4”

After adhering hook and loop 6” 60-grit paper to the disc I chucked the all-thread in my drill press and gave it a whirl. I ran the thing for about 1 hour with hunks of different types of wood. All of the sanding dust ended up below the wooden disc. It took about 3-4 hours and several changes of 60-grit paper to get the beads mostly round. I then went to 120, 220, and 400 grit paper for about 20 minutes each. After the 400, I poured a bit of tung oil in and let it go for another 10 minutes. Finally, I used a buffing pad and a few chunks of carnuba wax for another 10 minutes.

The beads looked great. All together, including breaks to let the motor cool, I spent 14 hours on this endeavor. Most of the time I was working on other things in the shop while it ran. I might have spent an hour actually interacting with it.

Lessons learned:

- I need a dedicated motor that I don’t care about burning out. The ceiling fan is brilliant – so much so that I’ll start shopping for a used one.
- There is not enough abrasive contact area. This device would be far, far more effective turned 90’ on it’s side and rolling with the sandpaper covering the walls, not the bottom (basically, like a rock tumbler, or clothes dryer). Of course, I can’t say that for sure – but I believe it to be the case. Also, sanding dust removal could be problematic in this configuration.

I’ve been meaning to post photos of the machine and the beads, but it will probably have to wait unitl after Christmas.


showing 1 through 15 of 21 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics