Pencil potentiometer

I am SO HAPPY right now because after wrestling last night for a long while and then again earlier today, I have sort of got my pencil potentiometer working!  I at least think I have the structure right.

This started last night with my discovery of Jie Qi’s website, via indieschoollib, and then that led me to downloading Jie Qi’s master’s thesis, which is chock full of awesome stuff related to paper circuits.  I hit this one part (I’m using a screenshot here, which I hope is okay–the thesis is public), and I immediately wanted to try it.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 7.44.41 PM


But, due I think to my relative ignorance about circuits still, I could not for the life of me replicate it.  I had no idea what to do with the copper tape–what was going on under the white box around the graphite strip and how the copper tape part worked.  I even emailed Jie Qi at like 3:00 a.m. in desperation (no response yet, alas)!



I know this is not that exciting, but for a person who has spent hours trying to make it work, it is very, very exciting indeed.

I said in my video that I would explain my issues in writing, but I’m feeling too lazy to do that now.

Here are some basic tips, though.  This example is very messy because I just kept playing with the same piece of paper/tape/etc.

1. Be liberal with the pencil.  I think one of my failures was because the graphite strip wasn’t heavy enough.  I just used a 2B graphite drawing pencil.

2. The main problem I had was that I couldn’t see on the examples how the copper tape was supposed to go.  So here are a few photos that I hope will be clear.

This first one is with the flap folded up.  I think at one point I had the copper tape connecting on that top row, which did not work.  The way that the tape is folded over so that it will go along the underside of the flap is pretty crazy and messy.  The little flaps at the bottom were also something I didn’t have at first–the tape is connected under them, but the little flaps keep the piece that is connecting to the graphite from above from being connected all the time, I think.  ?  I really don’t know what the heck I am talking about.

photo 1 (17)


This is with the flap down:

photo 2 (17)


I have no idea what I am going to now actually do with this discovery.  I just think it is very cool to be able to create that dim/brightness effect with just a pencil!!!  Surely that will come in handy with future paper circuitry experiments.


1 Comment

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One response to “Pencil potentiometer

  1. You are well on your way to making your own popable(s)!

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