Sunday, February 27, 2011

Make Your Backyard Ball Field Look Professional

Make a Homemade Line Marking Machine
(c) 2011 by Tom King


A homemade line marking machine can be cobbled together from a pipe, some window screen and bits of plywood. A commercial line-marker isn't very expensive, but if you want to put one together for yourself, this is one way to do it.

Stuff You Are Going to Need:

  • Half sheet of half inch plywood
  • 4 round head bolts, one quarter inch by 3-1/2 inches long
  • Saber saw
  • Compass
  • Drill
  • 1 half-inch drill bit
  • 1 hole saw, ¾ inch diameter
  • Large cork
  • Stapler
  • Tin snips
  • 12 quarter inch nuts
  • 8 quarter inch lock washers
  • Screen wire, aluminum
  • 1 3/8-inch all thread rod, 5 inches long
  • 2 3/8-inch nuts
  • Metal punch
  • Mallet
  • 1 steel pipe, 3/4 inch  by 5 feet long
  • Pipe insulation
Mark two 12-inch circles on the plywood and cut them out with the saber saw. Sandwich the circles together and drill four quarter-inch holes evenly spaced an eighth inch from the outside edge and through both plywood disks.

Feed the four quarter-inch bolts through one of the disks all in the same direction. Slip lock washers and screw nuts onto the bolt on the opposite side of the disk to hold the bolt in place. Tighten the nut. Screw a second nut 3/4 from the ends of the bolts and thread lock washers over them. Place the second disk over the bolts and bolt it to the end with four more nuts. This will secure the disks about 2 inches apart.

Drill a 5/16-inch hole in the center of the two disks running all the way through both disks for the axle. Drill a ¾ inch hole in one side with the hole saw. Plug a cork, large enough to fit snugly into the filler hole.

Cut a strip of screen wide enough to cover the gap between the disks and long enough to circle the outside diameter of the disks. Lay the screen around the outside of the disk assembly and staple the edges to the disks to create a drum with screen wire edges.

Drill a 5/16-inch hole horizontally through the end of the ¾ inch pipe about half an inch from the end. Fish the 3/8-inch all thread rod through the hole and bolt one end leaving most of the length sticking out on the opposite side.

Slip the disk onto the axle with the filler hole to the outside. Screw a nut onto the end of the axle to hold the chalk drum in place on the axle. Lay the assembly on its side on a hard surface. Place the punch against one end of the axle and tap it with the mallet to expand the threads and hold the drum in place. Flip the assembly over and expand the other end of the axle.

Slip pipe insulation over the opposite end of the pipe for a handle grip and duct tape it into place. To use the marker, fill the drum with lime or marble dust and roll it along the ground to mark the lines.

Store the marker machine in a dry place with the marker dust.  Keep everything dry so that the marking dust doesn't cake on the screen when you roll out the line.  Avoid using on wet grass to prevent clumping of marking chalk

Note: When I first made one of these I lived in bone dry Texas. If you live in a damp climate, you may have to do as I did and bolt two additional circles of wood on either side of the drum. After I moved north, I found the constantly damp grass clogged my screen so that the lime/marble dust wouldn't flow. By adding disks that were 4-6 inches in diameter larger (depending on how high your grass is) to the outside of the drum, I could lift the screen a couple of inches above the grass. The white dust is neatly confined within the width of the two wheels and still make a neat line. Simply line up the bolt holes, mark the additional disks, drill them and bolt it all together with the larger disks on the outside of the drum. You may need to use a half inch or so longer bolts but it shouldn't be a problem.

© 2017 by Tom King


  1. Well, bless your cotton picking heart for posting this!!!! I have been searching for days for some inexpensive way to mark boundary lines for a mobile home park I manage. I know I had seen one at one time, but could not remember where. And, this beats the minimum $200. to $300. for a professional one with a hopper etc. Many, many thanks!

    P.S. Like the ducks flying out of the right corner!

  2. Thank you so much for posting. I am just putting the finishing touches on your design and have just one question: how do you do this exactly? And, can I use lock nuts instead?

    “Place the punch against one end of the axle and tap it with the mallet to expand the threads and hold the drum in place. Flip the assembly over and expand the other end of the axle.”

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks for the quick reply! The device is shaping up nicely. I just need to staple the aluminum screen and take it for a test run next week when the weather warms up and dries the grass.

      Have a look at the progress...