Spin art is a children’s activity, often found at school fairs. Kids drop paint onto a spinning square of paper, making beautiful, colorful patterns. As adults, we imagined it would be fun to scale this up, and up, and up. Our friends envisioned injuries, or worse — an elaborate, spinning contraption flying high into the sky and disappearing.

So we tried it, and after burning out the motor from a box fan, we realized that a corded power drill would work better. Corded power drills are cheaper than battery-operated drills, and they typically have greater torque. Many even have a speed knob on the trigger, offering more control.



  • Adult supervision required for younger children.
  • Watch your knees! And don’t lean over the device so far that you fall onto it.
  • Stop the device immediately if it ever tips over. We stake ours to the ground.
  • Keep electrical plugs out of the area where the paint is; don’t mix electricity and liquids.
  • To minimize risk of electrocution, plug the device into a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. These are often labeled GFI or GFCI, with test and reset buttons on them.

Project Steps

Building the Frame

We mounted our drill pointing straight up, by sandwiching it between two 2′ planks and then screwing 2 more 2′ planks onto the ends, to make a stable H-shaped frame. To keep the drill from sliding, we also screwed a small wood block against its handle at the bottom. The drill sits snug in the frame, and it can be lifted out easily.

CAUTION: Make sure the drill is tight in the H-shaped frame (in the side-to-side dimension). If not, it”ll be really hard to stop it rocking. You can try using thin wedge-shaped wooden shims to tighten it up, but it’s far better to have a snug fit from the beginning.

Then if the drill is still rocking in the end-to-end dimension, you can screw a small wood block in place to pin the handle down and prevent it from rocking upward.

We locked the drill’s trigger in the On position, and then plugged the drill into a switched extension cord so we could turn it on and off remotely.

Attaching the Canvas

To make an adapter for attaching the drill chuck to the canvas, we drilled a pilot hole through the center of a 30″ plank and hammered in a 5/16″ spike T-nut. We ran a 5/16″ bolt through the nut and added a drop of Loctite to make it hold. To strengthen the drill’s grip on the bolt, we used a Dremel to shape it like a hexagonal drill bit.

Then we drilled a wood screw through each end of the plank, to point up when the bolt points down. We screw the screws farther to attach them to a canvas frame and then flip the assembly over and clamp the bolt in the drill chuck.

NOTE: Make sure the spinning board and canvas are exactly centered and level. Balancing the spinning mass is critical for safe operation.

Spinning the Canvas

We’ve found that any canvas spins pretty smoothly as long as it’s centered on the adapter. For canvases more than 2’–3′ across, just make sure not to spin for more than a few minutes at a time, to avoid burning out the drill’s motor. We put a ring of cardboard around the setup and some paper on the ground so that high-speed paint wouldn’t cover the neighborhood.

The Results

Giant spin art has been fun to do with friends. We usually spin 20″ round canvases, but sometimes try larger ones. Our record size so far is 4’×3′. Surprisingly, just about every canvas comes out great.

Bob and Pete Goldstein are brothers who rarely build anything based on their half-baked ideas.


This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 25.