Ipad Fine Point Stylus DIY

While this blog is mostly about my photography, every once in a while I like to geek out and post about something else I’m working on.  This is one of those posts.  Fair warning, if you want to skip the preface, scroll down for the directions.

This week, one of my coworkers turned me on to an ipad app call NoteShelf.  It’s essentially a digital locker for notebooks and allows me to use my Ipad as a notebook. Let’s be honest about something right away, I’m not really a good note taker.   Many years of sitting behind a keyboard has rendered my once award winning (think grade school award certs) penmanship to standard doctor scrawl.  It’s awful.  So the thought of never carrying a notebook around was quite enticing.  One caveat, to properly write on the Ipad, you need a stylus.  Not a stylus circa 1996 with the Palm Pilots that inserted into the device, but a new age stylus.  Well, I bought one with the squishy tip and it didn’t really work. The squishy tip sucks.  

It works if you’re painting but not if you’re trying to write like a normal.  All the ones from the name brand companies like Kensington, Griffin, Pogo, etc are like that.  I found a stylus made by a company call Dagi that is essentially what I’m looking for but the reviews say that the plastic tip is hard to bend and the angle of writing is awkward. I didn’t want any compromises.  Finally, I hit up Youtube to see anyone else had any brilliant ideas and found this…the perfect solution.

Here’s the video. 

Click read more to see step by step instructions.

Here’s how it basically works.  The Ipad works via capacitance and a change in the voltage across the screen lets the Ipad know that you’re touching it.  

Essentially your finger creates a circle of change in voltage and the Ipad calculates that the center point is your intended area.   The idea behind this do it yourself design is to mimic that circle with a conductive material and have the center point be the tip of the stylus.    The video took a few views to understand completely so I’ve decided to break it down into steps and pictures.

Here’s all the stuff you need. 

  1. Potato Chip bag or any foil material that won’t break.
  2. Packing or scotch tape.  Needs to be the transparent kind so you can see through it 
  3. A pen, pencil, or old stylus.   
  4. Scissors
  5. Ruler
  6. Xacto Knife.

I had most of this stuff lying around so for the most part, this activity is free.  For the stylus, I’m using an old BIC #2 mechanical pencil.  It already has a plastic tip at end so it’s easy to write with, although an old stylus with the pointy tip would work too.  Other suggestions are a felt tip pen, like a dried up sharpie. 

Step One:

Cut a length of tape 4 inches long and then tape this to the foil material.  I’m using a bag from veggie chips.  Yum!.  The foil material that is the bag is a decent conductor.  Trim the 4 inch long swatch to 4 inches long by ½ inch wide.

Step two

Starting at 1/2 inches from the bottom and ¼ inch in from the left, make a 1/4 inch straight cut down.  There should be a ¼ inch left at the bottom uncut.  Do that same of the other side.  Also make a cut perpendicular to straight cut at the 1/2 inch mark on each side.  Your results should look like this.

Step Three

Put a piece of tape over the square area and peel back the foil.  It doesn’t matter which side you tape, just decide which side of the foil you want on the outside of the stylus. When you peel back the foil, there should be tape at the bottom forming a transparent window.  

Step Four

Attached the stylus tip to the foil and wrap a small piece of tape around it to secure it in place.  Make sure the tip is pushing against the transparent window such that the bottom square is perpendicular to the tip.

Step Five

Trim the square area to be a circle no large than ¼ inch in diameter.  Remember, the metallic material behind the stylus tip is what makes contact with the ipad so make sure you dont trim too much away. Tape the rest of the foil, to the stylus.  Your hand must be touching the foil in order for it to work.

Step 6

Give it a whirl in your favorite writing app.  If the center point is off, trim the circle some more.

Enjoy!

UPDATE - 8/10/2011

So it was only a matter of time before someone commercialized this idea.  Check out http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/531383637/jot-capacitive-touch-stylus/posts.  I’m a little sad that I didn’t have a resources to build this into a real product but these guys are churning out something real cool.  Check if out if DIY route is not for you.

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    omg yes
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