Introduction: Hard Tip IPad/Capacitive Stylus (made From X-acto Knife)

This Guide will explain how to make a Hard-tip iPad stylus from an x-acto knife and a bit of conductive glue/paint. To be honest if you just take an X-acto and turn it around it works as a stylus, this just gives the added protection of a bit of rubber-ish material between the screen and the metal.

Items Needed:

Conductive Glue/paint - I made this using another person's guide on here. This is the particular mix I used, I got all the parts from Home Depot - Roughly $8
  -"Glue mix #1 Conductive Glue Using Liquid Tape (LT)
    This is the original formula that uses a mix of Liquid Tape and Graphite powder. It results in a flexible conductive rubber that actually 
    shrinks as the solvents evaporate, thus tightening it around whatever it coats. It has the lowest resistance of any of the unfibered
    mixes (32 ohms per inch). For details on how I measured the resistance see the original instructable (link) on this glue. I find it best for
    gluing wire to wire, or wire to conductive thread or conductive fabric. It can also be used to make conductive foam (see step 4).

    Mix the glue 1-1/2 Graphite to 1 Liquid Tape by volume. Mix it fast in small quantities and use it fast as it tends to evaporate and skin  
    up rather quickly.
    I usually use 1/4 teaspoon as my unit of volume."  -- Mikey77

X-ACTO Knife - this would seemingly work with any solid metal object as long as the given surface area of the tip is large enough to register on the iPad screen, the X-ACTO is probably about 8mm diameter. From what I have seen the bare-minimum is probably roughly 4mm, but this is just an estimation on my part.

Step 1) Go Outside!
             -Really the solvents in the Liquid tape and the Graphite lubricant smell pretty bad, I would advise against breathing them.

Step 2) Mix up your Conductive Glue and place it in a cup or bowl of some kind.
           -This stuff really dries fairly quick so have your X-ACTO ready to go.

Step 3) Preparing your X-ACTO or other object
            -Clean it off and polish it a bit with a smooth towel so that the Glue can bind well on the metal. Also remove the blade you don't 
             need that, well unless you want your stylus to stab you in the face while your writing down a few notes.

Step 4) Dipping
            -You want to do this before the top layer of the Glue has dried as it will not work right if the dipping isn't smooth.
           -Just one dip down as far as you wish the material to come up, If your try multiple dips to get it it will probably end up looking kind
            of dumb and not working all that well either. (I made both mistakes)

Step 5) Drying
            -Allow to air dry for at least an hour before attempting to use it.
            -After an hour take the stylus and draw with it on a piece of paper to confirm it is dry and no residue is coming off of it.


-This Stylus is fairly simple I know, but I think it could be useful for those who do not wish to use a soft rubber tip stylus.

-It has a different feel when using it than other soft-tip style stylus more of a feel like a resistive touch stylus.

-I put up an image of a comparison between a Targus Stylus, The Alupen Stylus, The X-ACTO stylus, and my inbred steampunk sonic screwdriver looking first attempt at a stylus.

-Sorry the pictures kind of suck someone stole my digital camera :(

(This Stylus has not been tested for longevity, but the conductive material appears to be on pretty well and not coming off)


grice2 made it! (author)2012-04-17

Made one of these last night. Has good balance, and the resistive feel works very much in its favor. Excellent Instructable, thanks!

corporatelab made it! (author)2011-10-14


Very impressed. I will definitely try this. I keep trying to figure out how to make a really good and cheap capacitive stylus for the Touch and iPad. Never completely satisfied.

Impressed also that you paid attention to the actual diameter that seems to work. And further that you did not advance any of the bogus "explanations" of why and how the capacitive system works; I'll bet that took a lot a self-control. : )

In response to the "comment" already printed, I would suggest that:

1. Your warnings against breathing the *solvent* in the liquid tape already seem to be quite adequate (and even a little overboard), and that is fine - "better safe than sorry". After the solvent has evaporated, the material should be fine. I cannot see that at that point it would require any special precautions.

2. Many materials, otherwise insullative, can be made conductive by adding conductive materials to them. Graphite is moderately conductive and the large number of very fine particles simply form multiple conductive paths inside the now-solid material. This is neither new nor suggestive of rocket science.

Love your comparisons with the other pens, and am sorry that your camera was stolen.

I would ask - was there a comparison of the X-acto handle with out-of-the-can liquid tape versus the method suggested here? In other words, if I did not use the graphite powder would I still get good results as a stylus? Of course adding graphite might also add a secondary property of lubrication so that the "rubber" slides better. Just curious.

Good luck to you, and thank you for your work.

variances made it! (author)variances2011-11-05

I just re-read your question and sorry no I did not test only using the liquid tape without the graphite.

variances made it! (author)variances2011-11-05

I did compare using just the metal alone and honestly it was exactly the same writing. There appeared to be no benefit of the "rubber" to the smoothness in using the stylus. The reason I decided on using it was just as a protective layer from having metal in direct contact with the glass, should a scratch on the metal or some other imperfection cause a scratch on the glass.

Thanks for your comment.

mjtaryan made it! (author)2011-08-29

Actually I have a couple of comments:

1. First and foremost. The items used, but particularly Liquid Tape (and its various other names), are HIGHLY TOXIC. They shoud not touch the skin or get anywhere near the eyes. AND you should avoid breathing the fumes. The effects can range, depending on the exposure, from temporary numbness of the effected area to permanent numbness to death.
2. Liqud tape is NOT a conductor. It is an insulator. It's original purpose is for insulation of electrical or conducting items such as, but not limited to exposed wires and the metal handles of tools. Exactly how it works for a homemade stylus I don't know.