Introduction: Episode 15: Hack an Etch-A-Sketch to Draw Circles

We here at Stupid Inventions love the Etch-A-Sketch, but we lack the artistic talent to draw anything good on the classic toy.

So we came up with a cheap and easy way to hack the Etch-A-Sketch so that not only can you draw the old way, but you can draw a perfect circle wherever you want too!



For this hack you're going to need:
1x Etch-A-Sketch
1x Metal Wire (we took ours from a hanger)
1x Plastic Ring From A 2-Liter Soda Bottle
1x Sharp Edged Pick (something that can bore a hole into plastic)
Super Glue, Duct Tape, Scissors, and other miscellaneous parts...

Warning: Although the Aluminum Powder inside the Etch-A-Sketch is Non-Toxic, it does get everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE! So prepare the area where you'll be operating on the Etch-A-Sketch accordingly.

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Step 1: Opening Up the Etch-A-Sketch

This is actually not that hard, just messy.
Remove the knobs from the Etch-A-Sketch, then use whatever tool you have to separate the front and back of the etch a sketch at the seam.

You'll discover that the front plastic, in our case the blue Toy Story design, is actually just a cover, all the aluminum powder and plastic beads are sealed behind the glass and plastic.

Step 2: Making the "Circle Maker"

Before we open up the glass to get inside the Etch-A-Sketch, we fist have to make the device that will be making the circles.

For those of you who don't know how an Etch-A-Sketch works, the knobs move a plastic stylus that scratches the super sticky aluminum powder off of the glass.

So we want to make a plastic circle with sharp edges that will scratch the powder off the glass to form a circle when you twist the knob.

I used the plastic ring from a 2 Liter Soda Bottle and taped/glued it to metal wire from a hanger to make this device, but you can experiment with other stuff to get similar or better effects. Just make sure you're able to twist the plastic circle easily.

You should use a scissor to scratch the surface of the ring so it'll be rougher.

Step 3: Installing the "Circle Maker"

Now comes the messy part!
Use a blade to open up the glass and plastic layers of the screen to get inside the Etch-A-Sketch.

Once inside, bore a hole through the back center of the Etch-A-Sketch, then quickly cover up the hole on the outside with duct tape. Then, poke the duct tape with your "Circle Maker" device. This ensure that when you're using the "Circle Maker" that none of the Aluminum Powder will seep through.

Once your "Circle Maker" is through the hole, try it out. Make sure you can move it around where the screen would be and make sure you can twist while applying pressure to the screen. Also make sure you can pull the "Circle Maker" away from the screen and that it doesnt interfere with the regular Etch-A-Sketch mechanics.

Once all those tests are complete you're ready to seal it up!

Step 4: Seal Up the Etch-A-Sketch

This sounds simple, but you're forgetting the super sticky aluminum powder.
At this point it will be EVERYWHERE!

Try to get as much of it as you can back into the Etch-A-Sketch, then super glue the screen back on.
Then put the plastic cover and the knobs back on.

I can pretty much guarantee that the aluminum powder will find a way to seep out, so i would suggest putting a tape seal around the seam of the Etch-A-Sketch, just to be safe.

Step 5: Drawing a Circle!

If everything is done correctly, you should now be able to draw a perfect circle wherever you want on the screen of the Etch-A-Sketch!

Unfortunately, the "Circle Maker" we used broke a little bit while it was inside and after it was sealed up, so we can't twist it properly, but we are able to make circles that are a million times better than anything we made before.

So there you have it! A cheap and easy way to hack an old Etch-A-Sketch to make a perfect Circle!

It's a fun rainy afternoon project, and we highly recommend it!

Below is our abstract Circle/Line art that we were able to make using this Instructable!

Enjoy!
The Stupid Invention Team



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Comments

author
Lolman4000 (author)2015-05-27

I don't get how it works...

author
iectyx3c (author)2009-08-03

Here's part of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) WARNING! *INHALATION OF ALUMINUM IN DUST OR POWDER FORM MAY CAUSE IRRITATION AND HAS BEEN REPORTED AS A CAUSE OF PULMONARY FIBROSIS. *ALUMINUM POWDER OR DUST IS A FLAMMABLE SOLID WHICH FORMS FLAMMABLE AND EXPLOSIVE MIXTURES WITH AIR. *CAUSES DAMAGE TO THE FOLLOWING ORGANS: RESPIRATORY TRACT, SKIN, EYE, LENS OR CORNEA.

author

Thanks for the warning! I was able to wash most of off from my work ared/clothes/skin. Is that enough or should I be taking more precautions? How dangerous is it? Because the Etch-A-Sketch website said its non-toxic...

author

If it's such a fine powder, most metals will actually spontaneously combust... Aluminum, Magnesium, etc. Likely, since I've NEVER heard of an etch a Sketch blowing up, (on it's own) it's Aluminum OXIDE. Meaning it's non-reactive. If I'm not mistaken, they use it in everything from deodorant to baking powder... Of course, getting it in your eye would probably be a bad thing.

author
gtoal (author)thecheatscalc2014-06-17

If you have a block of aluminium and you cut it to expose unoxidized aluminium underneath, by the time you can look at it, it's already turned into a thin layer of aluminium oxide on the surface. To expose pure aluminium metal you would have to cut it submerged in oil. By the way when people are talking about the powder being explosive etc ... not explosive, but it is a component of thermite and once lit burns extremely hot. Like burning through a steel safe or concrete hot, so don't mess around with it!

author
555mst555 (author)thecheatscalc2009-08-06

is'nt Aluminum OXIDE rust?

author
orangesrhyme (author)555mst5552009-08-08

Aluminum oxide is oxidized aluminum (Captain Obvious would be proud). Anyways, aluminum oxide can crystallize and form a gem most people know-- sapphires! And, no, it isn't black in powder form. it's a darkish gray.

author

im learning way more about Aluminum powder then i ever expected to... Thanks everyone! :)

author

Isn't aluminum oxide black, though?

author

well the powder in the etch a sketch is grey if that helps...

author

I'm not sure if it helps, either...

author

*er sorry, not most, SOME metals

author

thanks for shedding some light on the issue... i think if there was a danger in the Etch-A-Sketch we would have heard something by now... still, im not gonna eat the powder or put it in my eyes...

author

Good call ;) As for aluminum oxide being black... most the aluminum I see is a Grey color. Which, by the way, Aluminum oxidizes FAST. And No, oxidization is not rust, Rust is oxidation. *Oh, and the aluminum oxide seems to range from white (pure) to almost any shade of grey, and brown, depending on contaminants.

author

Thanks for clarifying! and thanks for commenting!

author

actually, some people take the aluminum powder inside an etch-a-sketch to make pyrotechnic compositions. it is toxic if breathed in but should be easily treated.

author

wow, are you serious? any articles or videos that mention that? thankfully its all cleaned up and im feeling ok, but i don't think ill be opening up any more Etch-A-Sketches any time soon!

author
w0ot! (author)StupidInventions2010-01-09

Google thermobaric or fuel-air explosions.
Pretty much any fine dust is explosive.

author

I see why etch-a-sketch puts that it's not toxic.

aluminum powder is not toxic if ingested but it is harmful if inhaled. Pulmonary fibrosis can only occur if you are exposed to it for a long time or continuously exposed to it (chronic exposure)

here's the complete MSDS http://www.rocketmotorparts.com/pdfs/Aluminum%20Powder%20MSDS.pdf

author
Justin Lam (author)GlueyMcGee2009-08-06

Why would it be only harmful if inhaled? I would have thought that ingesting it would be worse.. but both ways it's still getting into your body. And sweet mod, now my happy faces can have bodies!

author
GlueyMcGee (author)Justin Lam2009-08-06

inhalation gets it into your lungs. ingestion into your stomach..then into your intestines..then...*out* the only problem you'll have is if it turns into aluminium chloride whish may cause vomiting.

author

ok thanks for clarifying GlueyMcGee!
I will steer clear from aluminum powder from now on...

glad you enjoyed the mod =D, be sure and check out the rest of my Stupid Inventions...

author
knex_mepalm (author)iectyx3c2009-08-06

Above can cause spontaneous human combustion, or close to it: ALUMINUM POWDER OR DUST IS A FLAMMABLE SOLID WHICH FORMS FLAMMABLE AND EXPLOSIVE MIXTURES WITH AIR

author
NTT (author)knex_mepalm2009-08-21

"Above can cause spontaneous human combustion, or close to it:..." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! You're brilliant!!! lol ;o)

author
knex_mepalm (author)NTT2009-08-21

i didnt notice the humor side of it...now i do...hahhhaa

author

Yeah but are you sure that includes the aluminum dust in Etch-A-Sketches? I've never heard of an explosive Etch-A-Sketch and im sure the company would make sure it doesn't explode or kill....

author

WHEN IT REACTS WITH OXYGEN IT WILL GET INTO YOUR LUNGS AND MAY FLAME UP, IM PRETTY SURE IT IS ILLEGAL TO OPEN AN ETCH-A-SKETCH, I THINK THEY END UP SUING YOU spontanoues combustions neevr exploded anybody,yet, just flamed

author

I hope youre joking KNEX because I actually emailed the company showing them my instructable, lol

author

i reread the T&C and it says its ok to pry it open but no warrenty or watever, im pretty sure it is a=n occasional chaince of flaming, as long as you are careful

author

It'll only ignite if exposed to Iron Oxide and a flame.

author
NTT (author)imnotarealaccount2009-08-21

Being a scientist I have to correct you there -- if you add iron oxide you will get thermit. If you ignite that, then you really do get a hot, virtually unstoppable reaction (displacement reaction). My point being though, aluminium powder on its own is more than capable of burning, assuming it has been aspirated (got into the air, like a cloud of dust).

author

not necessarily a flame, but a source of ignition helps

author

yeah. so don't do that... lol

author

ok, i wont, lol :)

author
gobitz (author)iectyx3c2009-08-08

ETCH A SKETCH BOMB!

author
psalm1914 (author)2009-08-07

Now that I'm not a kid, I finally learn how to draw circles on the Etch! LOL

I think this is great! And, if the powder was going to be a problem, I think George Vlosich III would have found that out many, many etches ago... since making his artwork permanent involves opening the Etch-A-Sketch up, emptying the powder, and removing the stylus.

I now have two kids who barely give the Etch-A-Sketch a second look. Maybe if I make it so it can do circles, they'll be more inclined to give it a fair shake (bad pun intended).

author

Thanks for kind words! lol, one of the goals of Stupid Inventions is righting all those childhood wrongs, just check out our Infinite Slinky! Cool, I would love to know how that works out!

author
andrewdpham3 (author)2009-08-06

Its the start if an invention (useful or not). I think it could use some touching up.

author

True, but at this point, i'm more about quantity over quality... I set a goal for an invention, and when i accomplish it I post, even if its 99% duct tape and super glue... Once the summer is over, ill only be able to post about 1-2 inventions a month, so ill try to make them more polished...

author
Shut Up Now (author)2009-08-05

So this kinda limits the use of your etch a sketch but it would be a neat bet...easy money until you run out of friends to fool.

author

No, when you pull back the plastic circle inside the Etch-A-Sketch you'll be able to use the knobs like a regular Etch-A-Sketch! Look at my drawing in the last step to see the circle with some lines...

author
stephenniall (author)2009-08-05

Lol great I got one of the original red etch a sketch They're awesome !

author

thats cool! i only have the toy story small one and the red super small one you see in the video

author
porcupinemamma (author)2009-08-04

Very cool. Once again you're coming up with fun and unique ideas. Please check into the safety precaution warning-I wonder how a child's toy could be produced in this day and age if it is so dangerous? Sounds like BruceMiller is on to something. ...

author

Thanks! I'm already working on the next one, and i think its even better!

According to the official Etch-A-Sketch website, which i checked before I made the video:

"Warning: The Etch A Sketch® screen is glass, covered with a protective plastic film and sealed into a sturdy plastic case. The aluminum powder contents are non-toxic. Contents may stain fabrics. Remove from skin with soapy water."

http://www.world-of-toys.com/help_answer.asp?ID=13

author
fenstermeister (author)2009-08-03

This is a joke, right?

author

In what sense? It was meant to be funny, but it does work!

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