Picture of Audio Cassette Loop
Theoretically it sounds really easy; you can make a tape loop by taping the ends of a short piece of magnetic ribbon together and sticking it back inside the cassette tape. However, if you ever actually tried to do this, you will soon realize that it is a tad bit trickier than one would think. I spent an afternoon working out and refining this science. After many tries and many, throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and-promise-to-give-up sorts of moments, I think I have it down reasonably enough to write instructions for someone else to do it. Now you too can tape the ends of magnetic ribbon together, ?, and profit!
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Step 1: Go get stuff

Picture of Go get stuff
You will need:

A cassette
A rubber washer
A razor or craft knife
Double-sided tape
Clear packing tape
A screwdriver
Mat board
A ruler
A cassette player

Step 2: Open the case

Picture of Open the case
Open the cassette tape by removing the screws. Carefully set them aside for later reassembly.

Step 3: Remove the reels

Picture of Remove the reels
Remove the tape reels, but don't disturb any of the other mechanisms.

Step 4: Prepare the reels

Picture of Prepare the reels
Cut both reels free from the magnetic tape.

Put your rubber washer around one of them. This will be the wheel which will pull the tape.

Step 5: Cut some magnetic tape

Picture of Cut some magnetic tape
Cut a section of magnetic tape roughly a foot long.

Step 6: Thread

Picture of Thread
Position your wheels back inside the tape and thread the magnetic ribbon around the rubber wheel, under the unmodified wheel, around the pulley opposite the rubber wheel, through the channel at the bottom of the tape, around the other pulley and also to the right of the plastic peg (next to the pulley).

In other words, just look at the pictures.

Step 7: Tape

Picture of Tape
Apply a small piece of double-sided tape on the inside of the magnetic ribbon, pull the loop tight and tape it evenly together.

If the magnetic ribbon is attached at an angle or any tape is sticking off the sides, your tape loop almost assuredly will not work.

Step 8: Washer

Picture of Washer
Cut a washer out of mat board and stick it on the inside of the case around the opening that lines up with the wheel with the rubber on it.

This provides more pressure on the sides of the wheel and ensures the wheel will spin. I found this to be necessary.
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aico3 years ago
So I was playing around with this a bit yesterday and I've been having a lot of fun figuring things out. I might even write my own Instructable to expand a bit (if you don't mind).

First off, the washer and matboard seem to be pretty unnecessary, in fact I've had success just wrapping the tape around the little wheels at the bottom to make it much shorter, or around the little clear plastic pegs throughout the cassette (the one I used had 6). I also made one with the tape wrapped around both the reels and with that one I was able to fast forward or rewind for superfast playback.

The Mobeius tape loop worked out alright, but it was not super practical. Half of it plays back regularly and half plays whatever is on the other side of the tape, but in reverse and more quietly. Also, I was only able to record over the 'regular' side, and had to flip it over and time it just right to record over the other half.

You can still use both sides of the tape.

It seems like cutting the tape at an angle and taping it carefully will give a really clean loop, but whenever I try to record a drone over the whole thing, I get a bit of silence, presumable from the distance between the bit of the tape machine that erases and the bit that records when I press stop. This can be overcome by either using a pre-recorded tape or by recording a loop and then shortening it (though so far I've been too lazy to try the second option).

It is possible to make a microcasette loop, but it is a total pain to do and isn't much quicker than a cassette loop (since the tape speed is slower). Basically the tape has to be really snug and the tape is more delicate so you can't handle it too much (I wore a blue plastic glove and used tweezers).
TylerJ3 aico2 months ago

Actually you are correct in that you should be cutting the tape at an angle because it acts as a cross-fade, and the silence is most likely coming from metal (or magnetized) cutting tools. Since a cassette tape is a magnetic tape, if you cut it with something magnetic it can ruin the tapes ability to become re-magnetized (so to speak) properly later. One thing to remember with this is plastic works much better than metal for cutting and placing if possible.

randofo (author)  aico3 years ago
You should totally post your own Instructable showing what you have found. I would be interested in seeing instructions for all of your different experiments. I would have not thought the Mobeius tape loop would have worked like that. One of these days I want to get back to messing around with this to try to make a seamless loop.
poparoo45 years ago
I Seemed to have missed the point.... What's it for?
lglenn poparoo43 years ago
Place near your parrot before you go to work with it repeating "Help, somebody changed me into a parrot!".
No need, just repeat that sentence to your parrot a few times and he/she will do it all by his/her self!
One use (apart from old answeringmachines) is in making a Mellotron
putting in a cheap tape player and dropping down a well. "help im stuck in a hole and i can`t get out"
digital is so much easier
But lacks fidelity and thus inferior to analog.
Robot Lover3 years ago
How many seconds? can it hold of sound? these could be helpful to make a mellotron
randofo (author)  Robot Lover3 years ago
I believe it is about 8 - 10 seconds.
Would it be a good idea to wind the tape like it was in 8-track cartridges, or would that not work out right?
Warlrosity4 years ago
I would like to record quiet background noise, and play that.
ahahah, nice
postulatej3 years ago
Well, after days of following these instructions i couldn't get my tape loop to work by this method....instead, i nixed the rubber washer and matte board washer. I made just enough tension on the tape and used the regular old spindle to make the tape loop. There are several ways to make a cassette tape loop, I'm not saying my way is the best, just saying that if you can't get yours to work by this method try some experimentation and use common sense.
Harrymatic4 years ago
This was an absolute pain in the arse to get right, but you can do some pretty cool stuff with it once it's working. Drum loops are pretty nifty on it. I used a multitude of rubber bands on the reel.
j03tv4 years ago
I remember doing something like this before but it was just to fix some tapes that snapped apart.
here are some helpful facts:
1. use a rubber band that's been cut and crazy-glued to the moving wheel instead of a washer. those are hard to find
2. u have to use a four-track recorder for this. if u do, then you can do live looping, until the tape wears out
Joe Stone5 years ago
woot! it took me a couple of tries, but my tape loop works. yeah, i have no idea what i'd use this idea for at the moment... maybe more ambient sounds. i'd like to try disabling the erase head on a recorder and see what kinda overlapping sounds i could build up.
randofo (author)  Joe Stone5 years ago
That sounds cool. You should post an Instructable of that if you disable it.
bishely5 years ago
Just a small point - you say the tape is driven by the capstan (little rubber wheel that pops up when you press play), which is true, to some extent. Actually, the capstan provides some power to the movement, but it's main job is regulating the speed of play (so it doesn't flutter/wobble) - the reason the spindles didn't seem to do anything driving your tape is quite obvious: the tape was no longer connected to either of them, but simply looped around. The spindles would have to be very sticky (the rubber washer helps, but even more so) to be able to drive the tape like that, and that'd mean more tapes being eaten by tape machines. So just an FYI - the spindles aren't completely useless, but they are if the tape's not connected to them. Otherwise, great instructable!
bigmike555 years ago
Thank you Eric. This is simple and practical. I made something similar to this a long time ago, when I was experimenting with an echo machine I built.
This is not Eric
justalf5 years ago
Your splices will work much better if you can splice them on an angle. You need something like a mitre but much smaller (I've used splicing blocks but you could do it without). Use a scalpel, overlay the two ends to be spliced, cut on a 45 degree angle, remove the bits you dont need, hold the tape ends as close together as possible, use the thinnest tape you have on the back and your done. It's a lost art from the 70s and 80s.
Another cool feature of angled splices is that depending on the angle, you may be able to notice a fading effect between the beginning and end of the tape when the splice passes the head.
yokozuna5 years ago
In tv/radio, these were called bump carts. Of course, nothing in tv/radio actually uses reels anymore, but I'm guilty of being old enough to remember them "back in the day".
mweston5 years ago
To make the splice run through the reels better, try cutting the ends at 45 degree angles and then taping them together. This might make a funny sound if there is something on the tape, but if it is blank at the point of the splice then it shouldn't make a difference.
moebius loop ftw!
You can't use a Moebius strip (loop) as only one side of cassette magnetic tape is coated with the oxide.
yes, it's the side away from the tape head normally. the substrate/mylar stays between the head and the oxides to protect them, prevent dropouts flaking. it could play the othe side too, but it wouldnt' last so long i guess. if you enjoy self-devolving projects it might be cool
You know, that would double the length of this tape. I think it can be done.
lemonie5 years ago
I made one of these years ago, but I can't remember how much play you get - 20-30 seconds? L
static lemonie5 years ago
Somewhere on the web, undoubtedly is listed the tape speed used by the cassete tecnology. Armed with that one could created any record time they need.
subgeek static5 years ago
standard cassette speed is 4.8 cm/s.
bruninho135 years ago
What's the reason to make that thing??? ur just destroying a cassete....=D
cuz who doesnt want a 10 second infinite loop? XD
lucek5 years ago
so how long is the recording?
Bor5 years ago
Actually, you can just buy these at a thrift store. They where made to record the outgoing message in answering machines.
Spokehedz Bor5 years ago
This comment is the equivalent of me going to a concert and saying to the person next to me, "You know, they sell this same music at a store."

OF COURSE WE KNOW THAT! There is something to be said about making something--even if it exists already, or you can buy it at the store--with your own hands.

Some people (myself included) just like making stuff rather than buying it. Or the knowledge that they can make things that other people have to buy.

However, In some instances I will agree with purchasing rather than making:

  • If the construction uses very specialized components, that most normal people do not have on hand. (chemicals are what usually fall in this category for myself.)
  • If the construction uses specialized tools, that most people do not have access to. (Buying a tool to use once is a bad purchase. Buying an expensive tool that costs more than what I am making is an extremely bad purchase.)
  • It would cost more than twice the price to make a single item. (The only exception is if I can make more easily a second time, such as making a silicone mold and the cost of the mold material is expensive.)
  • If the construction uses very dangerous components, or if there is a very high risk of failure with very dire consequences.
I am not talking about burning yourself on a hot iron, or cutting yourself with scissors. I am talking about making gunpowder from scratch, or making a pressure-vessel for hundreds of PSI, or anything where extremely precise measuring is required--this goes back to the tools earlier.
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