Picture of Limpet Push-Button
Seashells and electronics - what to do with all those limpets except for to fit push-buttons, batteries, holders and motors and LEDs inside.

It took me a while to figure out the right term for these shells. They are limpets and not barnacles, as i originally thought they were >>

I've always liked collecting seashells, and have always wanted to do something more with them than accumulate them in my parent's garden. So now I want to see how far I can go to integrate small electronic circuits inside them. Limpets are nice to work with because they are totally open on one side and the bigger ones even offer some depth.

The limpet buttons are very simple, they use a push-button to trigger LED light or a vibration motor. I decided to use a push-button rather than a switch so that they are only active when touched/pushed.


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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
  • Limpets from the beach
  • Push-button switch
  • LED or vibration motor
  • 3V button battery holder
  • 3V button battery
  • Hot glue
  • Solder

  • File
  • Soldering iron
  • Hot glue gun

Step 2: Preparing components

Picture of Preparing components
First you will want to make sure you have found the smallest components possible and that when assembled they all fit inside the limpet you would like to use.

If things don't quite fit, you can try sanding down the button battery holder around the edges, finding an even smaller push-button and a smaller LED and/or vibration motor.

Superglue the push-button to the side of your button battery holder, so that the pushy part sticks out just slightly over the rim of the limpet.

Step 3: Circuit

Picture of Circuit
Solder one of the push-button legs to the closest battery holder leg.

Place the LED or vibration motor on the bottom of the button battery holder. Keep in place with some sticky tape or hot glue if necessary. Solder the connections, make sure to solder the positive leg of the LED to the positive leg of the battery holder.

See schematic and illustration for details >>
where do u get all those small components
Plusea (author)  woodstockbirdy4 years ago
from inside electronic toys
This reminds me of Jared Tarbell's laser engraving of sandstone in that you're both taking a media/process (laser engraving, interactive electronics) and applying it to some natural feature. I really like this direction/idea :)
I have tested laser engraving on shell. It does work, but I can't get them for free here in Colorado. I remember that I could find almost all the limpets that I wanted when I was living in San Diego.
trailleadr5 years ago
or use them as pasties. :p
The standard limpet without a center hole grows to be only about 1 inch (25mm) across. They might work as pasties for a Barbie Doll.
Plusea (author)  thepelton5 years ago
yes - what do you mean by pasties?
Lftndbt Plusea5 years ago
yes - what do you mean by pasties?

That has to be one of the funniest things I ever heard. Not that you don't know, just the question being asked.
lemonie Plusea5 years ago
The type that cover a lady-entertainer's 'modesty' while they're pretty-much naked I think (these). I don't know what sort of Barbie(R) dolls thepelton plays with...

That's for me to know, and you to imagine. (Where is the button to make a bronx cheer?)
thepelton5 years ago
This gives me an idea for a custom keyboard.
skalipi5 years ago
Aloha.. In Hawai'i we call these OPIHI's that LOl..nice light
lemonie5 years ago
I like it! But I think those are limpet shells?

Plusea (author)  lemonie5 years ago
You are totally right and i have corrected the mistake!
Thank you for pointing it out.
lemonie Plusea5 years ago
They must be fun to have on a desk - it's making me think of things... L
Dr.Bill lemonie5 years ago
cool man.
Dr.Bill5 years ago
Opihi. They only have one shell and they stick to da rocks in sometimes very rough shoreline out here Hawai'i. So ono too!
lieuwe5 years ago
wow, people are going to be terified if they accidently push one off those :-P nice project, you could make a realy complicated device and replace all knobs and buttons by the things XD