Homemade Ball Mill Tumbles Along Like A Champ

[Mike] enjoys doing all kinds of things with glass. He likes to melt it and fuse it into new things, so it’s perfectly understandable that he wanted to make his own glass. Doing so requires finely ground chemicals, so [Mike] put together this awesome homemade ball mill.

The design is wonderfully simple. The mill is powered by a robust 12VDC motor from a printer that he’s running from a variable power supply in order to fine tune the speed. [Mike] built a scrap wood platform and attached four casters for the drum to spin against. The drum is rotated by a round belt he had lying around from various other projects. [Mike] already had a couple of those blue containers, which formerly held abrasive grit for use in vibratory tumblers.

[Mike] had some trouble with the drum walking off the casters so he attached scrap piece of aluminum to form an end stop. All he had to buy for this project were the 5/8″ steel balls and the casters. The mill can also be used as a rock tumbler, though the bottle isn’t quite water tight as-is. He does not recommend this type of setup for milling gunpowder or other explosives, and neither do we.

Make the jump to see the mill in action and get the grand tour. If you need more tumbling power, use a dryer motor!

24 thoughts on “Homemade Ball Mill Tumbles Along Like A Champ

    1. It depends on various factors:
      -Size of balls or ceramic pieces
      -amount of polish desired

      But tipically, I remember commercial machines that have times that range from five minutes to two hours.
      Also, be careful, they can get LOUD!

      1. Probably in the order of days. You are limited by gravity that has to supply the grinding force. An industrial one will have a centrifugal action in addition to the tumbling, to supply much more force to the medium. Those indeed can have milling times of a few hours.

    1. Yes, I have read some reports of using a vibratory polisher on PLA printed parts. It worked quite well, so this might too. I would not want to sit next to this machine when it’s running though.

  1. Wouldn’t it be better if the drum was hexagonal (or some other shape) instead of round? Thats the way my Thumblers (rotary) Tumbler is. If I recall correctly it causes the media to move around more than simply spin on the bottom of the drum.

    Also what is the chance two of the steel balls cause a spark, potentially igniting whatever fine chemical you’re milling, causing something similar to a grain explosion?

    1. I used materials that were immediately at hand. If you have a hex shaped drum, use it. If you’re using the ball mill to mix black powder, then you might want to use the porcelain black powder mill balls purchased from a gun shop.

  2. I had to view the source to get a closer look at that aluminum piece. From the image in this article, I imagined this turning into a slow plastic lathe. Now it’s just friction instead of scraping. Wonder if it causes enough drag on the drum to warrant replacing with a horizontal wheel or something instead? Can’t watch the video at work, so I really am curious.

  3. Has anyone had any experience ball milling aluminum powder to upgrade it’s quality to that of German dark? I’m interested in hearing the results of their work.
    Also, were there any adverse effects or dangers observed while doing so?

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