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!

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
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Foxtrot703 months ago

Excellent Instructable! Here is a suggestion for modification to get longer recording time. With a 1" more or less tail extending out of the center of the take-up hub, loosely wind the length of tape you require i.e. 1 second = 18.75 inches of tape. Then thread the tape from the inside of the spool as shown in the Instructable. Then make your splice to the end piece winding on the outside and VOILA, endless loop tape for your time needs. Here is a link showing a pic of an endless loop cassette with 12 minutes of time on it. Hope this helps, enjoy.

12 minute loop tape.JPG
jensenr304 months ago

The idea of putting a twist into the magnetic tape (essentially making a möbius strip) had not occurred to me. However, that sounds fantastic. I definitely want to try doing that now!

aico4 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 aico7 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)  aico4 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.
poparoo46 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!".
darman12 lglenn2 years ago
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 http://www.mysterycircuits.com/melloman/melloman.html
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
postulatej4 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.
j03tv5 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 Stone6 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 Stone6 years ago
That sounds cool. You should post an Instructable of that if you disable it.
bishely6 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!
bigmike556 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
justalf6 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.
yokozuna6 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".
mweston6 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.
lemonie6 years ago
I made one of these years ago, but I can't remember how much play you get - 20-30 seconds? L
static lemonie6 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 static6 years ago
standard cassette speed is 4.8 cm/s.
bruninho136 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
lucek6 years ago
so how long is the recording?
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