Fire Extinguisher Ball Mill Destined to Grind Kitty Litter

Nothing says hack like a tool quickly assembled from a few scrap-heap parts. For [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle], his junkyard finds were a fire extinguisher, an old office fan, and a few scraps of plywood; the result was a quick and easy ball mill.

There’s very little mention of what said ball mill will be for — [TCME] said something about milling bentonite clay, AKA kitty litter — but that’s hardly the point. Having previously fabricated a much smaller version of this ball mill that could chuck up in his lathe, he scaled this one up considerably. The spent fire extinguisher was relieved of the valve and some external bits to create the mill’s drum. Plywood was used for a quick frame to support rollers and to turn a couple of pulleys for the running gear. The fan motor proved barely capable of performing, though, even with the mechanical advantage of the pulleys and an improvised drive belt. The motor just didn’t have the oomph to turn the drum when loaded with ceramic balls, but a quick adjustment to the drive train did the trick. The video below shows the whole build process, which couldn’t have taken much more than a couple of hours.

It looks like a sand casting project may be on deck for [TCME]’s milled bentonite, so we’ll look forward to that. Perhaps his other recent fire extinguisher build will make an appearance in that video too.

15 thoughts on “Fire Extinguisher Ball Mill Destined to Grind Kitty Litter

    1. Bentonite+sand is cheap alternative to greensand from ebay. 5kg Kitty Litter cost $1.29 or in SALE only $0.45
      I am milling Kitty Litter in coffee grinder with 250W motor.
      I have big problem find nice plastic JAR for ball milling then I bought coffe grinder for 10$ :P

  1. Even if not using it for kitty litter, fill with sand, walnut shells or beads, use to tumble small parts for finishing.
    Good idea to re-purpose a fire extinguisher, gives me ideas about a larger tumbler from a old propane bottle…

  2. Others may point out that a pottery supply store within reasonable driving distance is a much better way of getting bentonite. But for those of us who live in PartsUnknown there isn’t a place within five hours drive that carries reasonably-priced clay materials, as I discovered when I started the Gingery lathe series. Good on ya, Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle!

  3. Polycord is a bit stiff for such a small run and makes such motors run hard from the tension. It doesn’t want to wrap around the small diameter of the motor shaft and the flexing of the cord makes it heat up. Eventually it starts to slip, and the motor shaft digs a dip in the belt and it gets stuck there.

    It can be remedied by running the cord loop on sandpaper to thin it out to a flat belt. That way it grips to the motor shaft over a longer track without being pulled so tight.

    Then, to maintain proper tension on the cord, the motor should be mounted on a pivoting plate that can be shifted around one of its mounting holes.

  4. I built a q&d ball mill for doing cat litter. I used a 5 gallon rub with a snap on lid for the container. I bolted a square of plywood on both sides of the bottom and the lid and drilled a hole in the center of it. I ran a 1/2″ threaded rod through the center of it with nuts and washers on both sides of the bottom and the lid, with about 6″ sticking out on each end. I made a U out of 2×4’s and drilled a hole in one end and a V in the other. The drum fits in the U with one end of the rod through the hole and the other end in the V. Lastly, I chucked the end of the rod through the hole in the 2X4 up in my electric drill and screwed on a platform to hold the drill at the correct height and sides to hold the drill captive. I used smooth rocks to do the milling. Worked like a champ and I had nothing but junk I had on hand into it, and it went together *fast*.

  5. Any reason why bagged Bentonite from the drilling mud supplier isn’t fine enough? I understand cat litter can purchase about anywhere, but if purchasing drilling mud would save a step, it may be worth any extra cost. Most any water well driller may have drilling mud in stock.

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