16-Stage Decade Counter Chain - Using Two 4017 Chips


Introduction: 16-Stage Decade Counter Chain - Using Two 4017 Chips

About: 2013: I'm an 18 year old Electronics enthusiast. I have completed five semesters of schooling at Minnesota State University in Mankato in the Electrical Engineering program.
I found a way to easily make a decade counter that has more outputs than just 10.

Objective and Motive:
I really like how binary counters can link together in chains. For example, if you have two 8-stage binary counters, you can use them together to easily make a 16-stage binary counter.
I always wanted to do that with decade counters. And today I found a way to do this!

Step 1: Gather the Parts


• lots of jumper wires
• two 4017 decade counters
• one 555 timer
• two 0.1 µF capacitors (#104)
• one 10 µF capacitor
• one 1 nF   capacitor (#102)
• five 10KΩ (or anything between 4.7kΩ and 22kΩ)
• three N-channel mosfets
• one switch
• one or two breadboards
• one 5V power supply

With these in hand, you should be ready to make a 16-stage decade counter!

Step 2: Examine the Schematic

Take a look at this schematic to see how the components fit together.
You can click on the schematic picture to see a full-size version.
The 16 green wires on the right of the schematic are the 16 outputs.
I suggest you put 16 LEDs on those outputs with 1KΩ resistors in series to monitor the outputs of this device.

If you don't know how to read schematics, I suggest following this tutorial:
Collin's Lab: Schematics

Step 3: Build Your Circuit

Now that you have looked over the schematic, you are ready to build the circuit.
Assemble the circuit on a breadboard using jumper wires to connect components.
I recommend referring back to the schematic while building your circuit on your breadboard.

If you can pack your LEDs together tightly, it will save you some breadboard space.
In the end, I had to expand to using a second breadboard because my LEDs took up so much space.
I'm getting some LED bar graphs to fix this problem  :)

Step 4: Expanding the Chain of Decade Counters

I'm fairly sure that it is possible to expand this indefinitely. If you wanted to hook up 3, 4, or 5 4017's together, there is not reason why that shouldn't work.
One limitation is that each decade counter can only contribute 9 states to the overall number of states of the machine.
This is because in order for the device to function, it relies on one state to stop on.
It requires a state to reach and become stuck at until another 4017 resets it.

Keep in mind: whatever state you stop on, only the states before it will be useful.
i.e. If you have your 4017's stop on their 7th state, you would have a total of 6 usable states per chip for a total of 12 states.

For example, the device I built uses the 9th state to stop.
I completely disregard the final 10th state because I only need a total of 16 usable states (8 states utilized per 4017 chip)
However, if you are building a device that needs 36 states, you could use 4 decade counters that use the final 10th state to stop on.
Therefore you have 9 usable states per 4017 chip and have a total of 36 usable states.

Step 5: How the Reset Switch Works

The reset switch works by resetting your first decade counter and advancing the second decade counter up to its 9th position very fast.
It does this by removing capacitance from the 555 circuit with increases the clock frequency a TON.
In the same flip of the switch it also resets the first decade counter, thus stopping it from counting and getting it back to its 1st position.

Simply put, the device resets one 4017, and advances the other to its maximum state.

Step 6: Do Something With Your 16-Stage Decade Counter!

I'm planning on making my 16-stage decade counter into a drum synth.
There will be 16 beats in each measure.
The decade counter will count through all 16 beats and play a rhythm.

Those are my plans for this device, but what are YOURS?
Do you have any ideas that might work with this device?
Let us know below in the comments!
And if you are building your device, don't forget to post a few pictures while you are at it!  :P

Step 7: Wrapping Up

The project has been built! (i hope)
The time has come to put away all the junk that must have accumulated on your bench; we clean our benches so that we might design some other device another day.

If you want to see all of the pictures I have taken of this project, check  this out:
Full imgur Album

Did something go horribly wrong?
Let us know down in the comments!
Hopefully we can get something working for you.  :)

Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to follow me for more articles like this one!




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    Please be positive and constructive.




    I have a little motor that uses 9 volts and momentarily turns on a micro switch every 3 seconds. Can I use this circuit when the 16th led light lites up to activate an npn transistor and a relay? This relay will turn off the nine volts and the motor.This way there is a 16th counter. Please advise me if it will work.

    PS. If I turn on the 9 volts again will it start counting from one again?

    the th

    This circuit is exactly what I needed. I am also going to use this as a drum machine sequencer. I will just need to adapt a few things and it should work.

    Hi, would this work as a 16 step sequencer to a APC ?I've seen this with 4015 ICs and seen just one 8 step with 4017 . If i wired the ICs as here then add the rest of the circuit would it work?

    5 replies

    If you check the youtube comment discussion we have been having, you will see my response.


    won't let me watch it even when i sign in to either of my youtube accounts


    I had the video set to "Private". Ttry again.


    I just goes blank and says private video as the one on this page does.

    Oh and i'm MRFEENIX i've been chatting on your 8 step sequencer vid on you tube

    Yo! can someone help me convert this into a 12v input? i want to project this to my motorcycle, please help me... sorry I didn't took any electronic course, thanks in advance...

    2 replies

    Hmmm... You shouldn't have to change anything about the circuit. If you look up the 4017 datasheet and the 555 datasheet, you will find that both should work at 12 V.

    most 555 chips work up to 18 V. I'm pretty sure 4017 work up to a similar voltage.

    However, if you want, you could employ a simple voltage regulator to convert 12 V down to 5 V (look into buying a 7805 voltage regulator). Most 7805 voltage regulators will work with inputs of up to 20 V. With one of those, you can be sure that your power supply is pretty close to 5 V and well regulated.

    I hope that was helpful!


    A 555 will happily work with 12V and the 4000 series of chips will accept up to 18V (no more) to work.

    You can use 12V LEDs or use a larger value for the current limiting resistor that what is quoted in the instructions - actually, 1k should be fine or, if that is a bit dull, try 820 ohms. You don't need to add a resistor for every LED though, 4017 decade counters sink current to the outputs (0V) except for the one that is on - then it sources the current. That's when the current limiter is needed.

    If you tie the ends of all the LEDs to a single rail, solder that to one end of a resistor and solder the other end of the resistor to the ground (0V) line.

    I think can use only 1 resistor for all the LEDs because there is only ever 1 LED on at one time. Nice circuit though :)

    1 reply

    That is an excellent observation.


    Great idea.

    http://electronicsclub.info/p_trafficlight.htm I have made this circuit & it works great but if you get the amber light time right, the red & green lights are too short, the whole sequence is too quick. I need to extend the red led count by 4 counts & the green by 4 counts & using your idea I think would solve the problem, I can follow a circuit diagram fine but trying to work this out, well when I was young most things still had valves!!!!!


    3 replies

    That sounds interesting. I think you could do that if you slightly modified my circuit. (i.e. make it an 18-step counter rather than a 16-step one)

    ​As I say I can follow a diagram fine but need a little help in trying to adapt the two circuits. You say to use 3 N-Channel Mosfets could you be a little bit more precise as to how many amps & volts you used, I looked on one site & there were 43 different types ranging from 12v to 500v. Whatever I do the power source will be a 12v DC transformer which will be running various other lights & signals at the same time.


    To change it to an 18-step counter, route the reset signal come from pin Q9 instead of pin Q8. That will make the counter have 18 steps rather than 16.

    Great -- now hook it up to a memory chip and computer screen .

    Hai friend nice projects you done, and you have a good knowledge,please do me a favour, that how can we construct a circuit that it should be operated when a push button is pressed so that the relay in the circuit will stay on till the push button again pressed, here we should use only a push button which makes a circuit connected when button pressed, and breaks the circuit when removed, please if you have a circuit please send me a mail to gowthamprakash15@gmail.com

    That is a brilliant design! I think that it is a very efficient way to "add" counters together. Since they count independent of each other, I assume that means that you could also count odd numbers too. For example if I needed to count to 13, I could stop one on the 8th output and the other on the 7th output right?