Home-made tools from dead bicycles - Hand-powered Sander Part 1

The hand-powered sander, made with the chain wheel and lower frame of an upcycled bicycle.

Home-made tools - Hand-powered sander


This blog post and the following one cover one of my most viewed projects to date, currently standing at over 4.75 million views. I must confess to being rather taken aback by this, as the project shared the design and construction of a specific tool, which I made to produce quality mitred corners for picture framing. This is not exactly something I would expect to engender a great deal of interest on Youtube. However, the film has attracted a good proportion of bicycle enthusiasts, some of whom have been 'horrified' and often downright rude, in a wide variety of languages, as to why I have upcycled bike parts to create something they see as .... pointless. I thought therefore, before I published the 'blog proper', I'd just by way of this preamble, explain my choice of materials.  I have already done this on the film to various individuals but I thought setting it out here might avoid further confusion.

Apropos the comments I have received on the film


It has become increasing clear that we live not only in a throw-away society but one in which an ever increasing obsolescence is factored into manufactured goods. This is even more evident, when you live, as we do, in a area which has a shifting population. Tourist towns can push out a great deal of low-end and badly engineered goods, dependent on the fact they will be used for a very short period of the year. On the one occasion when we actually bought and subsequently returned one of these items, we were openly informed of the fact by the vendor. 

Beach and oyster beds North Western France
          After the 14th of July there will be standing room only on this beach!

The village in which Sue and I live is slap bang in the middle of a popular French holiday area. Many of the houses are second homes and the dunes and coastal areas are dotted with static caravan sites and individual holiday cabins. In the summer the population increases by at least 1500%! Many of these visitors come for all the holiday periods but it is the long Summer vacation, which gives them the time to tidy their properties and sort through their possessions. Thus from July to the end of September there is a steady stream of these folks taking car loads of 'rubbish' to the dump. This is in the main, plastic garden furniture (often left outside over the winter), 'cheap' electrical goods with built-in obsolescence, ephemeral, thus suited to one season's use and bicycles. These latter are disposed of, not only because they have ceased to function but often because they are children's bicycles and the children have now outgrown them. They are budget machines made and sold cheaply, again specifically for the use of the temporary vacationing population. These machines are often ridden along the beach or even in the water, are rusty, no longer shiny and pristine, unloved and hence unridable. Some are badly damaged and broken beyond repair. 

Bicycles rescued from the dump
   Victims of neglect left (dumped) by the paper and glass recycling
   containers, now awaiting repair or upcycling.

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. Before I took the pieces I needed for this project from the bike below, it had already been used to repair another better quality machine and had had some of its metal spokes used to repair a friend's fishing gear. I still have this particular bike's remains and have most of the bits already planned for future projects. To the people who comment on my films about the bike, know this, I would rather it ended up being of use as individual parts rather than finish as a crushed piece of amorphous scrap or worse, chucked into the earth as landfill. 

Low end Peugeot bike
On the left is the bicycle in question, a low-end 'sports' girl's model. The brake levers and brakes have already been used by a neighbour to mend his grand-daughter's bike.

The seat, pedals, handle bars and handle bar grips are of inferior quality. However, the moving components, such as the wheels and crank set are manufactured to a high standard far above that expected from the general appearance of the bike. This is because over decades the manufacturing process has been refined to produce the components to the precision required which defies cheapening  The paradox being that wheels will always run silent and true whether on a low or high end model, in itself a feat of Engineering!

Leader bicycle - Oxford 6400

On the right is the bike Sue spotted as it was about to go in the skip (dumpster), the owner obligingly admitted he had already cannibalised the Shimano gears. However, having just taken it for a spin up and down the lane, I reckon it's a great little machine in its present state for a trip to the shops and back.

Why 'dead' bicycles can be upcycled

The success of this machine as a form of transport lies heavily on its robustness. The moving parts of the bike can function hour after hour with very little maintenance. If you ever get a chance to lift a bike's front wheel off the ground and spin it you can appreciate the smoothness of the wheel's rotation. 

Wheel hub and spindle from a bicycle

I always find this amazing when you look at how small the hub (where the wheel spindle goes through) is, in relation to the rest of the machine. Even more impressive when you also factor in the increase in load that occurs when the rider is upon it. The efficiency with which bicycles are manufactured means that these beautifully smooth-running components are produced to a high standard even in the low-priced machines. Thus the bicycles that fall victim to being outgrown, out of style or discarded through redundancy very rarely are chronically knackered but have materials and components that may still be usable with a little bit of ingenuity. Mostly people just enjoy cycling without giving a thought to the superb engineering design and manufacture which goes into individual parts.

In Conclusion 

I'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to watch this film. I hope the above has explained why I regard the bicycle as such a valuable resource, not just for transport and how, that even at the eleventh hour, it can and should be snatched back from the jaws of the ignominious crushing machine. It might also be of interest for people to know that the retired but often very skilled populations who live by the sea can and do supplement their pensions by repairing dumped goods and selling them on at car boots throughout the Summer season. It is ironic that without the cynicism of built-in obsolescence and the spend-dump-spend holiday spirit of those on vacation, my neighbours would be a little poorer and I still wouldn't be able to get those pristine mitre joints for our picture frames.

Now if you'd like to, sit back and watch the film

To continue to the detailed break-down of this project follow this link

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All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


  1. May 9,How to use badly damaged bicycles to make home-made tools. ... 4hand-tools.blogspot.com

  2. I have read your post. Very informative and great details!! Wonderful blog,Great article and blog. Thanks for sharing your design talents with the rest of us.

  3. I rarely throw anything away. So there's always iron, bolts, motors...you name it lying around. There's not much you can't fix/keep going. Like the ride on lawnmower I just sold after 35 years use. (Mind, you I wouldn't have bought it...)

  4. Maravilloso.todo lo que tenga que ver con las bicicletas.es una máquina antisistema.!!

  5. wonderful blog, thank you for sharing this Interesting information.