Tilt Switches Made From Bottles of Craft Beads

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Introduction: Tilt Switches Made From Bottles of Craft Beads

About: Dad, maker, dreamer, hacker, painter.

If you are looking for a mercury-free tilt switch that you can make yourself on the cheap and quick as I was, then follow along and I will show you how to make some from little tiny bottles of crafting beads.

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Step 1: Stuff You Need

In order to make something similar, you will need....
  • a small bottle and cork (mine came with my metalic beads...score!)
  • some tiny metalic beads (Some are conductive, some are not. anything silvery usually is, they need to be tiny to flow well and make good overall contact. A decent substitute would be teeny balls of tin foil.)
  • paper clips or a similar stiff bit of wire
  • a thicker gauge of copper wire, I used house wiring
  • some hook-up wire
  • some glue or some acrylic paint
Tools you will need include....
  • small needle nose pliers
  • a soldering iron
  • a pin (safety pin, sewing needle)
  • a small container
  • a turn of the century mood

Step 2: Empty Two Bottles

Pour off two bottles of beads into separate containers. The ones we are interested in are the silver ones, and we will be dividing them up into the two sides of the tilt switch.

Now make a little paper funnel and pour a small quantity of beads into each of the two empty bottles, a quarter of the volume should be fine.

Step 3: Make the Contacts

Start by straightening your paper clip and cutting two pieces about 1 1/2 inches for each bottle (That makes four). Put those aside.

Take your sewing needle and 'pre-drill' two holes in each cork by carefully pushing the needle through the cork, work slowly, the corks are fragile and brittle.

Once your holes are pre-drilled, you can push your contacts through.

Use the paint to seal things up and lend some support to the cork. I did this later, now would have been a better time, learn from my mistakes, and do this step now. (you will see that in the next step, mine are not yet painted).

Once the paint is dry, go ahead and solder some leads to one of the contacts for each switch.

Step 4: Connect It All Together

Okay, if you followed my last instruction, yours should look slightly different than mine. (I.e. the corks are painted and there are leads attached to one side of each.) Yours will be that much the better for it.

At this point you have two tilt switches, you could stop here and use them just as you would use a mercury switch. I wanted it to be bi-directional so I attached them together.

Luckily there is a nice groove in the bottle shape to facilitate this.

Use your copper wire (the thicker gauge) and wrap around one of the bottle necks with a turn and a half. The groove accepts the wire perfectly and getting it snug was easy. 

Line the other bottles neck up, but invert the bottle, and wrap a turn and a half around this one as well. Your two bottles should be securely attached together.

Finally you can bend your contacts. Bend them so they come in contact with the copper wire.

Solder them to the copper, solder a lead to the copper, and your sensor is complete!

Test it out with your multi-meter. Set your meter for a continuity test. Attach one lead from your meter to the copper wire, and another to either of the other leads and give it a tilt. 

Tilt it one way and the beads in one bottle should bury the contacts inside the bottle, thereby closing the circuit for that side. Tilt it the other way, and the beads fall away from the contacts breaking the connection. The opposite effect will be happening in the other bottle. 

Add two more (or even more than that) and you have an effective multi-directional tilt sensor for dirt...erm...bead cheap.

Share and enjoy.

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    42 Comments

    A small amount of zinc or nickel would prevent any aluminum corrosion (galvanized washer glued to bottom of jar) They would sacrifice themselves first. Both are conductive too.

    Nice trick.

    I guess you could use iron filings as well, since you can seal the bottles to prevent rust.

    17 replies

    I'm thinking that pellet gun bb's or pellets would work great. I think they are usually lead but i think you can get copper looking ones. You can get a whole box for cheap. I think you can get shotgun shot (just the pellets) in big bags. They are very cheap as well and pretty small. I've seen x-ray clinics use them lots to mark things on your body for the radiologist to see.

    There are a bunch of options, use iron and throw a grain or two from one of those freshness packs in the mix might help with rust as well.
    It was a midnight idea that solved several problems (a) I needed a mercury switch, b) I wanted to enter two weekly challenges with one project that fit both categories bottles and wire. c) I need/like/am addicted to making things, and now to Instructables as well.

    Thanks for commenting! (You are like a super hero)

    This is very clever. Various applications are buzzing in my head.

    Thoughts RE this conversation and Kiteman's comment. Have you tried iron? I could be way off-base here, but I think it might actually work poorly. The wrapped copper wire will act like a weak electromagnet, and iron might develop some hysteresis (i.e. might remain magnetized. This could result in the filings clinging to the steel paperclips and perhaps end up keeping the circuit closed.

    Also, the freshness pack (i.e. dessicator pack) could work well if it's silica gel, but not so much if it's calcium chloride-based, as it would tend to corrode any metal it touched. The choices of the metal-covered plastic beads or your aluminum foil plan are winners. Other weak diamagnetic conductors, like carbon, copper or silver could also be winners. I was actually thinking of little bits of lead free solder....

    Thanks for the insight. The beads are cheap and come with the bottles....soo....

    Aluminium grindings maybe. Simple idea from a simple guy.
    I am really pleased to hear that I made your head buzz......erm, that doesn't sound right....but ...well...erm...glad to be of service?

    Share and enjoy.

    Aluminum would oxidize and eventually become non-conductive.

    All aluminium exposed to the air is already oxidised, and that surface oxidation seals the surface, stopping any more oxidation occuring (unlike iron, where the rust layer eats into the metal).

    Steel - actually. With iron (at least according to this Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-save-a-piece-of-History/), iron forms the initial layer of oxidation and as long as it's not scraped off, the internal iron is protected from further oxidation. Steel flakes when it rusts, so it will continue to expose more and more of the metal to oxidation.

    I was assuming that he was filing the aluminum himself. How long does it take to oxidize?

    It's almost instant - aluminium is a very reactive metal.

    nope, I was using beads, as I showed in the Instructable, the comment concerning alluminium filings was made as a suggestion for an alternative.

    I know, I was saying that the alternative idea of using filings might not work because the filings might oxidize.

    See, I knew somebody smarter would know. Thanks for the information Kiteman!

    Good thing that the beads work fine then. How long would it take for the aluminium to oxidize in this sealed small environment?

    I'm not sure how long aluminum takes to oxidize.

    It remains to be seen whether it will be accepted in both challenges, but it certainly solved problem A. (I think it should it fits both criteria)

    As long as you leave the url in the comments for each challenge, I think it qualifies!

    (Late-night ideas rock, as long as you have a note-book to hand when you have them!)

    I do and have, but nothing says that one has ideas worth writing down like owning a proper Maker's notebook, which sadly I am not yet the proud owner of.

    Ahh but one can dream.....of a day when a Maker's notebook adorns his bedside table. With the little logo....and the prestige.......

    Alas, I am confined to dollar store quality notepads for now.
    Thanks for the support!