Make a Pencil's Lead Potentiometer (Experimentations)
6 Steps
Here is a really simple experiment in witch you will make a Kind of potentiometer (Variable Resistor) out of a sheet of paper and a graphite pencil (Lead Pencil)... Impossible you think? Check it out!

So first , What is a Potentiometer?
Its not very complicated, to make it short, it's a kind of resistors ( Limit the current flow) but its adjustable, so you can raise or lower the limit of the current flow.

I recently seen a video of MAKE Magazine (MAKE : Present The Resistor) on Youtube in witch they were doing something similar to this and thats where I got the idea to make an Instructables about how to make this simple Variable Resistor.So I have no credit for the idea, I just did an Instructables, to share it with you!

The Idea is to draw a band (with a Graphite pencil) on a sheet of paper ,the band of graphite will act as the Variable Resistor (Potentiometer) because the graphite conduct electricity but poorly.
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## Step 1: Material

Here is what you will need to do your simple Variable Resistor and to test it:

Variable Resistor:
• Sheet of paper
• Pencil [You need a very soft one like 2B+ (Less may not work properly)]

To Test the Variable Resistor:
• Multi-Meter
• an LED
• Alligator clips (2)
• Source of power (9v battery is good)
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hpatel8 says: Jul 25, 2011. 7:52 PM
cant you just use aluminum foil? Even though- nice experiment.
robot1398 says: Dec 28, 2010. 8:33 PM
very nice!!!!!!
nutsandbolts_64 says: Jun 11, 2010. 7:55 PM
Question: Would this work with the graphite replacements for mechanical pencils?
cardboarddude says: Dec 5, 2009. 11:42 AM

I tried this except i used a motor instead of a led but it doesnt work and I am sure that the motor works HELP!

fruitkid101 says: Apr 23, 2010. 11:29 PM
You need to check how many volts your motor needs to run. It isn't working because doesn't have enough power
matroska says: Jan 21, 2010. 11:32 AM
A simple note to clarify, there's no such things as pencils leads actually made out of lead. Today it's only a mix of graphite and other stuff depending on the brand.
oscarthompson says: Nov 15, 2009. 12:41 PM
wait a minute... Wouldn't this only work with 'lead' pencils? Stationery store sell pencils with other type of cores...

Thanks

Oscar
agent harmsy says: Jan 11, 2010. 3:20 AM
No, because the 'other' cores are graphite, which is also conductive :P
dava_2 says: Nov 15, 2009. 11:59 AM
Nice, Very Nice!
MrLouque says: Nov 11, 2009. 8:11 AM
Thats pretty sweet, good work
catfish23 says: Nov 11, 2009. 6:59 AM
Excellent project, i will try it with some spare electronics parts.
chosenone3 says: Oct 11, 2009. 1:14 PM
I've done almost same thing with white glue and the thing from batteries (black stuff) when it dries it has good resistance and when you apply water it becomes flexible ;]
ben50001 says: Nov 5, 2009. 7:57 AM
(removed by author or community request)
Patented (author) says: Nov 5, 2009. 1:26 PM
I dont care..
Patented (author) says: Oct 11, 2009. 4:56 PM
Heh?
chosenone3 says: Oct 12, 2009. 11:48 AM
well its almost the same thing it acts as a resistor but you have to play with amounts of "charcoal"(?)  and white glue to get desired results.

Patented (author) says: Oct 12, 2009. 3:15 PM
Oh ok I get it!
But its not dangerous this black charcoal thing inside the batteries  ?
chosenone3 says: Oct 12, 2009. 11:59 PM
I don't think it is but if it is you can use activated charcoal I think.
sodiumcanine says: Oct 1, 2009. 8:37 AM
GBT-11 Meter! Great model, Mine is nearly 6-Years Old A fuse here battery there has kept it going. McV
afatflatcat says: Sep 27, 2009. 9:22 AM
Christ on a bike. All this Paper Motor talk has me confused...
xitis says: Sep 22, 2009. 3:33 AM
doesn't work with me...
Patented (author) says: Sep 22, 2009. 4:46 AM
Are you sure your LED is working? did you try to switch the lead polarity on the battery? Check it out and send me back the result !
xitis says: Sep 22, 2009. 5:36 AM
the LED is working fine...i tried it on direct lead and it is working but somehow it is not working on paper...
Patented (author) says: Sep 22, 2009. 1:27 PM
Ok than whats the pencil your using?
Patented (author) says: Sep 22, 2009. 4:47 AM
And are you sure you put enough graphite on the sheet( it need to be very dark , work better with the pencil i mention.
macrumpton says: Sep 5, 2009. 11:29 AM
if you draw a coil with a pencil and run a current through it does it create a magnetic field? Would it be possible to make an electric motor by drawing the coils?
killrsheep says: Sep 6, 2009. 7:53 PM
only if you can draw a 3D coil.... and even if you somehow accomplish that (i would imagine it involves a lot of graphite and tons of thin strips of paper) graphite has a massively different resistance than copper does so my wild guess is that magnetic fields generated by a graphite coil are very very very veeeeeery low so in short... no, but it does get you thinking....
macrumpton says: Sep 7, 2009. 8:07 AM
I imagined you would make the coil 3d by rolling or folding the paper after the pattern has been drawn. Perhaps the conductivity could be improved using the drawn graphite coil as an electrode (or anode I forget) to deposit a more conductive material, say copper onto it with an electroplating process.
BOOM5601 says: Sep 16, 2009. 9:44 AM
I like the idea.
killrsheep says: Sep 7, 2009. 6:01 PM
well yeah! that would be better but then it wouldn be considered a graphite coil...i was thinking last night of how could one accomplish a "graphite paper motor" and a lot of problems arised... say we make a dc motor with a colector on the rotor and some magnets for the stator.... i dont think we could fit enough graphite paper windings on the rotor to acomplish any significant torque (not even to move a rotor with zero load so say we make a... farfetched out of my mind "inverse dc motor" so we make a magnet rotor and we wind the stator (wich is a bigger pies so we might... just migt get enough windings) and say we would have to make another shaft to use as a collector for the stator to make a dc alternating current (jut in case we dont want to use any complex electronics.... after all we are making a very.... davinci-esque motor) and then comes the complex way wich is usin some sort of AC low voltage supply... wich is a bit crazier... a lot crazier!... theres a "simple motor design" somewhere around here, it just involves some "magnet wire" (im not sure of the technical english term) a D battery, a rubber band, a magnet and some nail polish i think....... maybe you could make one of those out of graphite... keep in mind tho that even the design that uses the magnet wire on that instructable produces just enough torque to move the "rotor"
macrumpton says: Sep 8, 2009. 5:55 PM
I think for simplicity's sake a permanent magnet on the shaft and stationary coils is the way to go. An ac power source like a wall wart (one with ac output or you could remove the rectifier diodes) would make it so you did not need any kind of switching mechanism to change polarity of the magnetic field. It might even be possible to have no permanent magnet and have another coil on the shaft with the dc power coming in from the two ends of the shaft. I am having a hard time visualizing what shape the coil(s) need to be. Keep in mind the coils can be printed on both sides of the paper.
killrsheep says: Sep 8, 2009. 7:06 PM
of course it would be possible... theoretically, but still... let me see if i can explain the way i see it... We need a LOT of windings, on a strip of paper with a very very "impractical" small width, and since we need lots of windings we need to overlap more than twice (wich is what you get if you draw on both sides), that can be accomplished by overlapping layers of paper, but a new problem arises, you have to protect and isolate the coils from erasin or shorting each other or most likely both, wich requires some sort of insulation coating... now back to the "why we would need small widths... a rotor coil doesnt go around the shaft... it goes length-wise, inserted in some slots in the core , i really dont see how can we manage to insert a ring of insulated paper (wich by now turns out to be bulkier and more expensive than insulated copper wire) in a core with at the very least three slots and also achieving a small air gap between the rotor and stator it seems a bit easier to wind the stator, since its bigger, but i still dont know if it would create enough magnetic field... we "are" using a resistive path i really didnt go into it before because it is fun to imagine further than that, but id think there is a noticeable impact on magnetic field when using a resistive path
killrsheep says: Sep 7, 2009. 6:09 PM
then again... a solenoid is also an "electric motor" a linear one, and i think the coil design is quite a lot easier (im basically against the conventional electric motor bcuz you would need to wind the paper around a laminated core with a few slots on it ... wich just seems quite impossible to me) i think the coil is just a cilindrical coil so it seems like the ideal way to make some sort of solenoid... maybe a needle for the shaft... its lightweight and ferromagnetic so.... i think its worth a try
macrumpton says: Sep 8, 2009. 5:42 PM
You could make the solenoid drive a crank and flywheel to get rotary motion.
killrsheep says: Sep 8, 2009. 7:13 PM
yeah that seems like a better way to go, id try to make a very long coil with a very lightweight shaft.... the logic behind that is that i doubt a small scale solenoid would produce much force to move a mechanism, and a linear coil can be made in just about any size with no problems also the shaft so, yeah id try that, make a huge coil and a large lightweight shaft Hey, here's a thought! just so we stop guessing around... make the electromagnet experiment with a paper graphite coil... y'know the experiment where you use a nail, some insulated wire and a battery to make an electromagnet, only this time use a graphite coil... thats one easy way to compare the magnetic field's achieved by both means (wire and graphite)
macrumpton says: Sep 8, 2009. 8:18 PM
Good Idea! I will try to do that tomorrow.
cowscankill says: Aug 27, 2009. 6:00 AM
Interesting.. It could be fitted in a small rotating cylinder, kind of like a light dimmer. That would be useful, but does it create heat with too much current? Will the paper catch fire? :P I saw some light dimmers that were pretty expensive just for me to play with electronics, but this could be helpful for small motor gadgets an doohickeys.
macrumpton says: Sep 8, 2009. 6:04 PM
or make a circular track on a disk.
sageserver says: Aug 27, 2009. 1:11 PM
light dimmers dont use resistance to dim the lights they use 3 transistors inside them and they work becuase of the ac current thats put into it.
Patented (author) says: Aug 27, 2009. 6:37 AM
Hey, that seem a very good idea to me! (make a permanent potentiometer)And it would be very helpful and cheap to do! I am going to give it a try, and I give you news!
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