Introduction: Paper Record Player

Picture of Paper Record Player

Wondering around the university I found a suspicious "Top Secret" cardboard folder, probably another cheap ad to attract students. To my surprise, it turned out to be a cardboard turntable, made to manually reproduce a 45 rpm vinyl with some kind of musical puzzle inside. What a wonderful way to recruit students!

I was eager to check the contents of the record. However, when I tried to play it, the cardboard turntable showed some tuning problems which made the task of listening the high notes a misery. Since I love mysteries and crafting, I decided to build my own with paper, hoping to get better results, and so I did!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
  • 2 Sheets of paper
  • 1 Belt rivet
  • 1 Needle
  • 1 Vinyl record
  • (Optional) Tape

Step 2: Base Folding

Picture of Base Folding
  1. Fold one of the sheets in half alongside the longest side so that you get a rectangle.
  2. Take one of the corners and align the short edge with the long edge and mark the diagonal. Take it back to get the previous position.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the opposite corner of the short side.
  4. Fold the paper by the end of the diagonals to get a square.
  5. Take it back to get the previous position.
  6. Fold the other side of the rest of the paper in half in the opposite direction. This rectangle should be a bit smaller than the square.

Step 3: Make the Complementary

Picture of Make the Complementary

Repeat the whole process in the last step with another sheet to get the other side. Take into account that this time it should be the complementary of the base figure. This can be achieved in two ways (which are the same):

  1. Make the first fold in the same direction (upwards in my case) and start by doing the square from the other side.
  2. Make the first fold in the opposite direction (downwards) and follow the same direction as in the previous figure.

Step 4: Merge and Fold

Picture of Merge and Fold

Using two sheets instead of one increase the stiffness of the structure and creates an space between layers that might help the resonance needed to reproduce the vinyl.

  1. Merge both sheets and make sure it fits by checking the edges and folds.
  2. Fold the paper inwards in the non-squared face to make a flap. I did it using half the length of the needle.
  3. Repeat the process to get a double folding.

Step 5: Insert the Needle

Picture of Insert the Needle

Ideally, this should be done in the middle of the section, but it's fine if you do it by eye, since the record is a radial surface and its going to pass through the needle anyway. I refused to fold the paper in half to get the right point because that could affect the resonance of the paper afterwards.

  1. Pierce the paper by the highest fold of the flap from the other side of the paper.
  2. Turn the paper and pierce the flap halfway and get the needle out again by the edge of the flap.

In case the needle doesn't hold in its place after a while, due to use or trying to correct the piercing direction, a bit of tape can be applied to fix the needle to the paper.

Step 6: Insert the Rivet

Picture of Insert the Rivet
  1. Put the rivet in the middle of the outer edge of the squared face, between the fourth and third layer.
  2. Press gently with your finger to get the paper marked.
  3. Without taking the rivet out, pierce the paper with a pen to make a hole for the rivet.
  4. Insert the rivet to the hole.


Step 7: Play Your Record!

It's a bit tricky to use, since you have to hold it tight by pressing to the table to avoid inconvenient movements. It's useful to bend the folds again if the needle goes forward while playing.

The results were quite satisfactory, since the paper version was a bit more sensitive when playing the hidden code of the record, which have different notes and pitches not reproduced by the default cardboard version.The cardboard one was louder, but that's probably an effect of the bigger size, rather than the material used.


archexproductions (author)2016-01-02

Nice try! I laughed more than I should have...

dvigatel (author)2015-07-11

Use cactus needle instead of metal one. Cactus needles no not wear records.

evacooper (author)2014-10-21

where does the sound come from?

i can;t imagine turning a whole music record (like an hour) by hand though! my parents still have a turn table though.

plugable (author)evacooper2014-10-21

It follows the same principle as an average record player, vibrations due to the grooves! Just by shaking the needle in a certain pattern and amplifying the vibrations you get audible sound. Ain't that simply brilliant?

I can't imagine myself doing that either. You can always ask someone to do it for you, the hype should be enough fuel for like, 1 minute or so :D.

madson812 (author)2014-04-01

have you tried card stock yet? I'm about to make one out of it, ill edit this once I'm done.

madson812 (author)madson8122014-04-01

i just tried, it failed horribly. ill try making one out of normal paper now.

plugable (author)madson8122014-04-02

The problem with card stock is the same that cardboard has, is too stiff. You should actually be able to reproduce sound, but not with the same quality or pitch.

madson812 (author)plugable2014-04-02

i tried it with some normal copy paper and it still didn't work, except for the fact that could somewhat hear a beat. the needle also scratched the records, how do i fix this?

plugable (author)madson8122014-04-03

Maybe you used a big needle or it wasn't to tightly fixed to the paper. Maybe you should try orienting the needle with a certain angle to the record, instead of being perpendicular.

Sadly, I haven't repair a record before. Google it, and see what you can find. I found this two videos:

dtr2 (author)2014-03-29

great... an excelent way to show kids how records "used to be"... (If I can only find now an old record to play...)

But doesn't the needle scratch the record?

plugable (author)dtr22014-03-30

I do think so, but I suppose that would happen in the long term. I haven't notice any changes in the record in the time I have played it.

However, I can't tell how much real damage does to the record, since I don't have a proper record player with me here.

madson812 (author)plugable2014-04-01

i wouldn't think it would do much damage to the record, seeing as real record player also use a needle, and you can find some old records at thrift stores usually.

J,R,D, Ltd (author)2014-03-28

Did you ever figure out exactly what it says? I can't make out the web site it is saying.

Never knew you could play records with paper before!

plugable (author)J,R,D, Ltd2014-03-28

Yes, I actually think I understand all it is said in the record ( even though English is not my mother tongue). The website the voice addresses is

madson812 (author)plugable2014-03-28

i went to the web site, and it says its for sale, i don't have a time machine app, maybe someone else could use it and go finish the mission.

J,R,D, Ltd (author)madson8122014-03-28

According to the Wayback Machine this address has been for sale since at least March of 2006, possibly earlier.*/

plugable (author)J,R,D, Ltd2014-03-29

Ups, sorry, I missed an "n" :P. It's ""

madson812 (author)plugable2014-03-30

*facepalm* it has the website written in bold on the front of the cassette!

J,R,D, Ltd (author)plugable2014-03-29

Now that makes more sense! Too bad it appears to be a UK only thing, sounds kinda fun.

J,R,D, Ltd (author)plugable2014-03-28

According to the Wayback Machine this address has been for sale since at least March of 2006, possibly earlier.*/

Does the record have a date?

Do you have the ability to play this from an actual turntable to hear the address better?

madson812 (author)J,R,D, Ltd2014-03-30

in the address it looks like you still forgot the n in accenture. i'll see what it says if we try that one.

madson812 (author)madson8122014-03-30

we don't need the swayback machine, the cassette seems to be up to date. the web site is for applications to what looks like a space camp. it says if you do well you may get an internship or other prizes. seems legit.

JayBleu (author)2014-03-27

I was enjoying the double meaning in the title. I have several paper records that were pressed years ago. They were made for 78 RPM's. I thought this machine was going to play those. However, it's still a clever way to listen to old records.

plugable (author)JayBleu2014-03-27

Do you mean record labels? I have to say it's a cool idea coming from the double reading of a title :D

JayBleu (author)plugable2014-03-27

Good question! No, these were made in the 1940's, and were pressed paper, with plastic coatings. The grooves were in the plastic, but it's laminated to the paper. Mine are FDR speeches during the war. I'm guessing they were saving vinyl for other things? That's why we have steel nickels at that time, too.

plugable (author)JayBleu2014-03-27

Oh, that's a surprise, I've never heard of that (war savings will always surprise me). Can you reproduce them on an average record player or do you need special equipment?

JayBleu (author)plugable2014-03-27

They can't be reproduced or burned like you can do with CD's or DVD's. You need to be able to play them, and then I guess you could record them onto a CD or mp3 format. The records from the era will have noise distortion and be very scratchy with lots of hissing sounds. The needle actually wears away at the vinyl each time it is played. To play these paper records, you need a 78 RPM turntable. The large records that said long playing and lasted for 30 mnutes were 33 1/3 Revolutions per minute. Then you had the 45 RPM which tended to be single songs. They were usually recognized by their smaller size radius, and the much larger playing hole they had in the middle. The older 78 PRM records went around much faster on the turntables. They came in 10" and 12" sizes. So the first thing you need to do is have a faster turntable with a reliable needle. I actually saved a record player that my parents had.

philip42 (author)JayBleu2014-03-28

There are turntables (both professional and DIY) which use a laser instead of a needle. Just aim the laser at the groove and monitor how the reflection changes. No physical contact with the record, so no wear.

It's easy to find a turntable for about $5 at a yard sale or pawn shop. As long as it has ordinary audio outputs it can be hooked up to your computer's audio input and you can use a program like Audacity to digitize the vinyl record. Once digitized it can be burned to an ordinary CD or made into an MP3.

In theory you can take a turntable which only spins at 33 RPM and play back the 78 RPM record and then 'speed it up' in Audacity.

philip42 (author)JayBleu2014-03-28

not steel nickels - steel pennies in 1943. The only U.S. currency which can be attracted with a magnet. I've got a couple of them saved in a drawer.

dlindstrom (author)2014-03-27

What a fun and cheap project to do with the kids.... so what was the top secret message?

plugable (author)dlindstrom2014-03-27

Still unknown :(

rgalinec (author)plugable2014-03-27

It was a top secret dubstep song

plugable (author)rgalinec2014-03-28

Yes, I know it's dubstep, but I expected some kind of trick. I've been playing with audacity for a while but it's no use and Shazam doesn't even recognize the song, so it's not a puzzle related to the title.

It's kind of a let down, I expected more.

Turn it backwards. It looks like there is a voice backwards while the song plays.

Already tried that, with no results.

Mihsin (author)2014-03-27

My Gramaphone needle broke early 60ties. I wrapped a thread around a sawing needle to one finger and the other end of the thread to a finger on the other hand. While the thread is taught, I touch the needle to the turning record and the other finger in my ear.

plugable (author)Mihsin2014-03-28

That's a great idea! The amplification is null, but its simplicity makes it brilliant! The bad thing is that you need another hand to rotate the record if you don't have a turntable. However, it's a nice excuse to listen to music with friends.

Thanks for sharing, now I have to find a thread or I won't be able to sleep tonight :(

transamturbo350 (author)2014-03-27

What's the purpose of the rivet??? Is it there to just help hold the paper?? Or dose it have something to do with the production of sound /vibration from the record through the paper?? I have all parts needed except the riviet

Ahhhhh!!! Nvm. The riviet holds the record in place. Thanks anyway and thank you for sharing

plugable (author)transamturbo3502014-03-28

There you have it ;)

Gartholameau (author)2014-03-27

This is a very nice idea. I don't have a record player. I recently came across two voice-o-graph records in my Mother's photo albums. They were made by my Father in Seattle Washington just before he was shipping out for Korea with the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry. They were made in a type of Phone Booth that let you have a 1 minute recording on a very hard and small record. He made two, one for my Mother, whom he had married 3 days before, and one to his parents. It will be nice to hear his voice. Thanks.

plugable (author)Gartholameau2014-03-28

Wow, that's a really special memento. If it's really that hard, then it should be fine to use this, but take care not to wear it out. Thanks to you for sharing such a moving story.

vincent7520 (author)2014-03-27

You cannot imagine how I love this ! I received a New Years card in 1982 (yes !…) that was exactly this and always wondered if I could do the same but always thought it would be impossible. You proved wrong

So thank you and thank you again !

BTW : do you think one can print a record for this technique ?…How would you do it ?

plugable (author)vincent75202014-03-27

Wow, that's a long time ago! I'm glad this solved your doubts about the almighty power of paper (thunder sound in the background)!.

This record player is based in the same principle as the classic ones, a needle that vibrates and transmit the signal. The difference is that, instead of sending it to a magnet in a coil to generate and electric pulse, the vibration goes directly to some layers of paper. More natural procedure if you ask me.

So, in fact you can use any record you have around. What I recommend you is not to use it too much, since its an average needle and it could wear down the record with time, unless you introduce the needle with an angle, instead of perpendicular to the surface of the record. That might reduce the volume, but its a question of trial and error.

Another option is to copy your records, there's an 'able that explains how to do that.

vincent7520 (author)plugable2014-03-27

Thanx !!!…

But what about recording ???… I'de love to record my own voice on such a simple DIY contraption ! I think it would be fun !!!…

plugable (author)vincent75202014-03-27

Oh, excuse me I misunderstood your question! Well, you got me curious now... So I check on the internet how to do it ;)

My first thought was that a record shall be cut doing the same process but the other way around. That is, to use a needle connected to a speaker to vibrate with the sound and make grooves on the record. In fact, that's how it's done!

I checked some old documentaries and some videos on Youtube and it seems that the professional version is a long process with very delicate steps. However, I found some homebrew versions which seem to do the job. Here is an example:

I'm sure you can make an even cheaper version with some almost decent performance. It would be great to have an 'ible describing the process, so if you try it out, let us know!

vincent7520 (author)plugable2014-03-28

Thank you so much !

This video has the advantage to be an instructable by itself. It is so clear, it's almost an example of what a perfect "how to …" ust be.

Unfortunately my abilities in programming, physics, maths, technology and everything scientific is so meagre that I know I wouldn't be able to make it.

Thank you all the same : at least I know what I have to do on the other end of the line.

Have a nice week end.

snoopindaweb (author)vincent75202014-03-27

"Come here Watson I need You".

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a physics student. I like to build stuff and learn about electronics.
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