Aliens M40 grenades in wood on a homemade lathe

Dan Efran

Active Member
Several years ago (sigh) I started turning a spare power drill into a DIY wood lathe. That project stalled after a while, but I revived it this year and the lathe, though crude, is up and running.

My main excuse for finally finishing my lathe is that I got the Nerf Aliens Pulse Rifle. I’m going to repaint it (of course) and I need some grenades to go with it. Turning out (literally) a box of M40s is a perfect project to get some practice using the lathe.

First step was a freehand proof of concept, trying out the lathe for the very first time. Turned from a 1-inch poplar dowel with a regular wood chisel, an old drill bit, and sandpaper.

(I’ll have to make a few turning tools.)

Good old Rub’n Buff completes the proof of concept. (I only had gold RnB on hand; I need to get some more colors.)

I’m very pleased with how this is going so far!

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Silver Rub ‘n Buff over the gold.

I created a “primer” by pressing metal tubes against the bottom end to make round grooves. Gold RnB on that bit.

Not bad for an off-the-cuff prototype. I need better turning tools for the real ones though.
With the second prototype I tried to get the shape and size closer to correct. It’s too long and very slightly too thick, but pretty close. I definitely need better tools and maybe better wood, but I’m cautiously pleased so far.
Slightly better turning tool, slightly better results. This one is pretty much the proper size and shape.

I’ll have to make a few little adjustments, but it seems like my lathe can handle this job.

Wood grain is going to be a perpetual challenge…I’ll probably make a few more and start experimenting with finishes. Maybe a filler primer or some polyurethane or something to smooth out the wood texture.

Still need to think about the pop-off plastic caps, which seem a little bit hard to source. I want at least a few really removable ones—I want to see if I can achieve a good fit—but I’ll probably also make some with the cap just sculpted on.


This is starting to feel less like an experiment, and more like a nearly completed project.
I realized that my second test piece was too long in just the right place for me to saw it open, drill it out, and make it into a clicking version the same size as my third, more accurate one.

Pen spring. Bit of 3/8” dowel. Slice of bamboo drinking straw.
The version with a pushable button works so well, I figure I’ll want to make a few more at some point. Luckily I have a big box of pens waiting to be recycled. I raided it for springs, something I honestly should have done a long time ago.

I’m a little surprised at how many different sizes of pen springs I found.

I also scored some cool greebles for other projects.

It’s easy to get carried away with this kind of stuff, but when you like building weird stuff cheap, it’s important to cultivate a useful collection of random greebles.
I tried making one with a sculpted-in “cap”, with some miniatures paint I had handy.

It looks awful. The matte paint and some slight asymmetry makes it look like lipstick.

If I take more care with the turning and use a more appropriate paint, I hope I can get a better result, but it might not be easy.

A little side project: the box.

MTM brand box with the branding painstakingly sanded off, from emery boards down through 600, 400, 1200, 2000, then Novus #3, #2, and #1. (It was frosty looking right down to the final Novus polish.) I particularly wanted to get rid of the "www" at the bottom....



I didn't bother painting a box that's already close enough to the screen-accurate color in my opinion.

Decals ordered from spatcave. Affordable, easy to apply, plenty accurate enough for me.
I'll spray a matte finish over them, for durability, when the weather is suitable.

For now, the box is complete.

grenade box pic 1.jpg
The grenades are pretty cool, but a homemade lathe? I'd like to hear about that!
Yeah, well, I didn’t want to buy a lathe. Lathes are expensive. I’m cheap. But every so often I want to make something round. You know how it is.

At some point I had to drill a hole in a brick wall. My regular power drill couldn’t do it, so I had to buy an impact driver. It has a regular drill mode too, but it’s bigger and more powerful than I usually need, so it became a spare drill that sat around doing nothing most of the time.

I remembered that in a pinch you can chuck a bit of plastic, wood, or even metal into a drill, and sand or file it into a different shape. For example you can turn a hexagonal bolt head round, or sculpt scale model tank shells from milliput or whatever.

So I figured it would be plausible to turn my spare drill into a basic lathe. I further figured there would be multiple versions already on YouTube, and sure enough, after watching a few videos on the subject, it looked even easier than I expected.

Of course, I didn’t want to do it the simplest way or follow someone else’s plan exactly. I developed a plan. I worked out a scheme where I could convert the “drive unit” into a disk sander too, with a pretty quick change between tools. I got the disk sander configuration working first because I needed it more….

…and left the project there for years. The sander has been very useful (I don’t have a proper bench grinder or anything) but the lathe was just some parts kicking around the corner of my workshop. I knew what I would build and had most of the parts and materials, but it just wasn’t a priority.

Then I heard about the nerf pulse rifle, got one, and started thinking about grenades to go with it. That sounded like a fun project…for someone with a lathe. So I finally finished it as originally planned. I’ll make a bunch of M40s as a proof of concept project as I practice using it, get it tuned up and tricked out, and experiment with homemade turning tools.

As for the details of the lathe itself, I’ll try to put together some pictures soon, or maybe even a video, but meanwhile you can get the general idea by searching for “DIY lathe” on YouTube. Mine is pretty typical of the genre, overall.

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