Wednesday, April 4, 2018

DIY Percussion Massage Tool

Simple Black & Decker Compact Saw Conversion - Compare to TheraGun or TimTam


I have had my share of bad bike crashes over the last several years and have some very stubborn soft tissue issues that I have been working on and trying to improve - the joys of getting old! I can remember being sore for a few days after crashing in my 20's, but now I don't quite bounce up as well as I used to. With that in mind I was searching for some tools to help my body heal and function properly when I saw a few online videos of massage tools created from jig saws, reciprocating saws and even sanders. There are of course dedicated tools like the TheraGun and TimTam that you can purchase but they are expensive and cost anywhere from $400 to several thousand dollars for the top line percussion massagers!

My goal was to build a simple version in my shop and see how well it works. I have now gone through three revisions of this idea and have settled on a much better version for a very low cost of just around $50! The latest version is on the bottom, and the original is on the top.



I settled on using a Black & Decker Compact Saw model LPS7000. This "saw" has similar specs to other products on the market - 2050 strokes per minute, a bearable 70 dB sound level, and around 30 minutes of run time per charge - all for just $39.99!



I started by modifying some Bosch jig saw blades. I did this by grinding off the teeth, shortening them a little, rounding the ends for safety, and then finally inserting them into  some various rubber balls and a couple of black rubber stoppers.

This process is pretty easy, and works well. However I found that it could be a little flexy and required glue to keep the blades in place. I had one ball pop off during use and I ended up with a few painful jabs. Luckily I had nicely rounded the end of the blades, however they are narrow and it can still hurt a bit.

I also prefer "frost" or "ice" bouncy balls as I have found that the rough surface on these types of balls work better for direct skin contact and doesn't irritate my skin as much as the smooth rubber balls do. The icy balls are a bit more delicate than a regular super ball and can split easily when just the saw blade is inserted and then used.

My second version was an attempt to eliminate some of the jigsaw blade flex and the various problems of inserting them into rubber parts. I also decided that I wanted to be able to use tips made from additional materials so having a threaded connection for swapping out the tips would make things easier. 

For the threaded arbor I brazed together a shortened jig saw blade to a 1/4" bolt with an added washer to make a nice threaded arbor

I then used some threaded 1/4-20 Rivnuts from my shop and chucked up a ball in my lathe to bore out a hole for the Rivnut. I used some epoxy and glued the Rivnut into the hole I made in the ball. This makes for a very sturdy threaded connection.

I also made a tapered aluminum tip with female 1/4-20 threads on the back to mount to the same arbor.


While this is a better solution and works very well I wanted to try to improve the functionality even more.

On the unmodified saw there is spring loaded blade locking mechanism that is attached to the main drive shaft with 2 small 3mm socket head 
allen screws. 

This blade retention device isn't needed if it will no longer be a "saw"! 

So lets get rid of it!
I removed the blade holder, shorten the hardened steel drive shaft by cutting it off with an abrasive saw blade, and fabricated a new aluminum adapter collar to fit the newly shortened drive shaft. This new aluminum collar has a 1/4-20 threaded hole to accept a set screw for attaching my new attachments.

Finally, I could also remove the jigsaw metal guide foot and the plastic frame area around the drive shaft to shorten and lighten the tool. 

The final version is below. This works much better and is easier to handle and use with more controlled power working on a muscle - there is no more flex or extra movement that occurred when using a modified jig saw blade.


Leave any comments or questions if you want more details on how to do this mod.

1 comment:

Marcus said...

I have been looking into making a similar massager using either the same black and decker saw as you, or else the popular worx saw that many other DIYers on the internet have used. I really like your approach, and I think your version 2 of the massager is the best one I have seen; seems lightweight, compact, and sturdy, especially with you tying straight into the drive shaft.
How has the device been working out for you so far? Have you run into any issues I should be aware of before I go about building my own?
Thanks!