Introduction: Working Sonic Screwdriver

Picture of Working Sonic Screwdriver

Update 2/4/2014
Version 3.0 is done and ready to be put up on instructables. I have not been able to finish the instructions as I have just started school back up but they should be coming, hoping for spare time. I do, however, wish to put up the code for the attiny85 PCM and have attached it to this project step.These instructions are not the most user friendly, a more user friendly set will included with the final SS instructions
It requires the Arduino-Tiny library, included in the zip file, and more specifically the optibook attiny85 board profile.
To make the PCM work: (taken from readme file)
* Locate the Arduino Sketch folder.  This is the folder where the Arduino IDE
  stores Sketches.

* Ensure the "hardware" folder exists under the Arduino Sketch folder.  For
  example, if the Arduino Sketch folder is...


  Ensure this folder exists...


* Extract the contents of the archive into the "hardware" folder.  For example,
  if the Arduino Sketch folder is...


  After extracting, the following files / folders should exist...

      C:\Projects\Arduino\hardware\tiny\Prospective Boards.txt

Open the code in the arduino software and upload to the Attiny using a programmer.

Update June 15th 2013: I am creating a v3.0 and v4.0, simple and complicated respectively. If anyone would like to suggest features for me to explore in these models I am willing to try to incorporate them. Theoretically one or both of these may become a kit version.

Update December 6, 2012
I am in the process of remaking the sonic with plumbing parts and attiny85's. The version I have developed uses 2 AAA batteries for power and should theoretically be louder. It also includes the TV-b-gone clone circuit. I am stuck in a coding problem to do with timers but hopefully soon I will have a new set of instructions. I am posting a process image above.

UPDATE! I have found a simple solution to a problem that I have been contacted about several times regarding the sound circuit. The trick is to remove all the wires but the two for power from the programmer before testing the device out.

I have two people who I am very close to who enjoy the show Dr. Who. For both of them I have made sonic screwdrivers to accompany their (mild) obsession. Both of the sonic screwdrivers make the proper sound and light up using a UV light however the more complicated one also turns TV's on and off, has an mp3 player embedded in it, uses a rechargeable battery, has a laser, has an FM transmitter and also shakes when activated. This instructable covers the construction of the simplified model to get a basic understanding however I include at the end a section on how I added features to the more complicated version as well as ideas for additional features I considered adding.
Attached to this step is a video of my first sonic screwdriver turning on a tv. The buzzing sound that is heard that should not be there is due to the vibration motor coming slightly loose. It is only noticeable within a few inches of the handle, past that the proper sound is heard loud and clear.
I do not like my props to feel cheap or breakable so both versions were made with metal handles and feature glass marbles as the light end. The amount of plastic exposed to the exterior of the sonic screwdriver was kept to a minimum so it appears as if it is a tool worthy of traveling the stars, opening doors, making cabinets and general tom foolery.

Step 1: What Is Required

Picture of What Is Required

At its heart a sonic screwdriver model only HAS to light up and make the sound in my opinion.
So a list of required parts would be:
A LED light (UV LEDs are available and make certain types of invisible ink appear)
A marble to affix to the end
A handle
A power source
A noise making circuit and speaker
A button to turn it on and off

Past these basic requirements are the fun bits; making the sonic screwdriver work more like it does in the show. If you wish to modify a SS to do interesting things skip to steps 9 and 10 to see my further designs.

For my second sonic screwdriver, a very basic model, I used these materials:
A pipe reamer - they look perfect for the business end of the device
A purple marble -the recipient of this SS's favorite color
A remote control antenna - the old type which is a series of tubes
one push button
an Arduino Uno loaded with special software (see step 7)
a piezo speaker - small enough to fit in the handle, piezos are perfect as they give an edge to the sound and are small enough to fit
          6V works better than 12V
some thin gague wire
A UV LED - I purchased mine from Sparkfun
Some metal tubing I had lying around
A small laser pointer with batteries - I only used the battery compartment portion
Super Glue
Two small black rubber bands
A few miscellaneous pieces I had lying around

Soldering Iron
Hot Glue Gun
Copper tubing cutter

Step 2: The Business End: Part One

Picture of The Business End: Part One

The business end of this prop is made from a pipe reamer.
The first step is to disassemble and clean the pipe reamer. Each one is different and a lot of trial and error was required to take mine apart, there were parts screwed together, press fit and held on by a spring device.

With the reamer disassembled take a needle file and round off all of the sharp edges as you do not want to get cut on them later.

The piece that went through the reamer and expanded it was removed as well as the bottom piece though the bottom piece was kept to make the bottom of my sonic screwdriver.

Assemble the reamer as shown in the third photo, the metal spring which held mine together was replaced by two lego rubber bands to allow the mechanism to open easier.

The piece of tubing from the radio antenna should fit inside the reamer, I had to use some specially made washers to shim it to the correct diameter as mine was a mite small.

The piece that connects to the marble is two random metal pieces I came across in my scrap bin, they just need to look correct, fit in the jaws of the reamer, somehow attach to the RF tubing and fit a LED in them, as shown in the next step.

Test fit everything as shown in the last picture, do not glue anything together yet.

Step 3: The Business End: Part 2

Picture of The Business End: Part 2

In the previous step the sonic screwdriver's front end was assembled but without the ability to light up, this step shows that step.

Solder a wire to each of the leads of your led, close to the body of the LED. Do not leave the soldering iron on the LED too long or it will be ruined.

Test the LED by connecting it to a battery, then trim the leads short and use hot glue to electrically isolate the end of the LED (simply put a small glob of hot glue on the bottom of the led that covers all the metal

My led was slightly too long to fit inside the housing I had found for it as shown in the third picture so I trimmed it shorter with a razor blade then a hand file. If you do touch the electronic internals of the LED and there is some plastic covering the LED then this is fine.

Test fit the LED inside as shown in the fourth picture. When everything fits together use hot glue to fill the cavity and attach the marble

Test with a battery again, just to make sure.

The wires thread through the RF tube and will go into the handle but do not glue the marble piece to the tube yet as the tube will need to be cut to length.

I do not have pictures for this step but the marble and wires are removed and a piece attached to the bottom of the tube so it would get stuck partway though the reamer (mine had a little shelf in it somewhere)
The tube was then cut to length so that the marble piece could be pulled just outside of the jaws of the reamer. This motion is shown in some pictures but I do not have it well documented.
The marble piece was then glued onto the tube with the wires running through the RF tube.

Step 4: The Power Source or Rear End

Picture of The Power Source or Rear End

The back end of the sonic screwdriver unscrews to reveal a battery compartment.
The compartment is made from a laser pointer which was cut in half to separate the laser portion and the battery portion with the screw off end.
To get a positive voltage a red wire was soldered to the side of the tube, after some of the paint was filed off to give a good connection. the joint was brittle so it was well covered with hot glue. Note - to solder the wire on it was wrapped around the tube and cinched down.

The negative wire was harder to do though once it was started it worked well. I soldered a black wire to a spring and then hot glued the spring into the tube so that a portion of it was free to compress on the inside.

If anyone is interested in this method I can attempt to post better instructions soon but right now a regional theatre competition is keeping me pretty occupied.

The pieces of the pipe reamer that I had reserved (the pieces on the bottom of the reamer) were super glued to the back of the laser pointer cap as shown in the pictures above.

Step 5: The Handle

Picture of The Handle

The handle on this sonic screwdriver was simply a hollow piece of tubing that I had lying around. The outside diameter of the tube matched with the outside diameter of the pipe reamer that I had found.

I cut the tube to a length that felt right using a copper tubing cutter to start the cut then a hacksaw to finish the cut. I used the hack saw because the wall thickness of my tube was so thin that the pipe cutter was deforming it.

The battery compartment was hot glued flush with the end of the tube by adding about half of the glue around the laser pointer then holding it in place while the glue cooled. The other side was then filled in.

The button is added in the next step.

Step 6:

Picture of

The button location was chosen for feel but it has to be near the end of the tube to glue it in properly, within 3/4 inch.
Drill a hole just over the diameter of the button in the handle where you want the button to be. clean it up with a file.

Solder the positive wire from the battery to one side of the button.
Solder the positive wire from the LED and another length of wire (remember the color) to connect to the positive side of the sound circuit.
Solder the negative wire from the LED and another length of wire (different, remember which) to connect to the negative side of the sound circuit.
Put batteries in the battery compartment and test to see if the LED will light up. If it does then you are good, if not check the batteries, connections and polarities.

Use a screwdriver to hold the button in place (where the button lines up with the hole drilled in the handle) and hot glue the button in place. Test it again!

Step 7: The Sound Circuit!

Picture of The Sound Circuit!

The sound circuit is based around the arduino uno boot loaded with the Quasi-duino boot loader.
Follow the directions on the directions linked to install the Quasi-duino boot loader but do not install the narcoleptic library.

Install the PCM library as per instructions here

Install the included arduino file onto the arduino chip (remove the .txt from the end of the file included)

Put the programed chip onto a bread board. Connect the board as shown below.
Pin 7 and Pin 20 connect to positive
Pin 8 and Pin 22 to ground
Pin 17 to the positive end of the speaker
Negative end of the speaker to ground

UPDATE: remove the wires connecting the programmer to the sound circuit or it will not work. You can still use the power from the programmer but if anything is connected to pin 17 it will short out the speaker and cause it to click at you.

Connect a 4.5v source to the positive and negative side and if it makes the proper sound then you are good

Trim off all of the pins on the microchip besides pin 7,8,17,20 and 22 using diagonal cutters (they get in the way)

Solder the microchip together as it was set up on the breadboard using the positive and negative wires coming from the handle that were soldered in earlier. Leave a length of wire between the speaker and the board so it will fit in.
Test the circuit by putting batteries in the circuit then cover it in hot glue and shrink wrap it. Test the circuit again.

Push the speaker into the handle followed by the arduino circuit. It may take some finagling but mine (eventually) fit with room to spare. The first picture shows the circuit inside the handle.
Test the circuit again.

Step 8: Close It Up and Test!

Picture of Close It Up and Test!

The final step on how to assemble the Sonic Screwdriver!
Pull the marble section out as far as it will go like in first picture above. shove all the wires into the handle, use hot glue to keep them down. Glue the handle to the front part and allow it to cool.
Test the circuit to see if it lights up and makes the sound (it may be quiet, if you are worried about this a hole in the handle drilled before the electronics are added will greatly amplify the sound)
mine was loud enough to be heard by the bearer and in a quiet(ish) room. This was on purpose as the recipient is young and her parents would not have been appreciative of the constant sound.

Test the marble movement mechanism to see how it moves. The different positions can be seen in the photos above.

Step 9: Features of the More Complicated Version 1

Picture of Features of the More Complicated Version 1

A TV B Gone Circuit - it needs to have a capacitor connected between the positive and negative microchip connections to smooth the rough electricity coming from the sound circuit. The IR LEDs are in the front end of the screwdriver in a circle around the marble.
instructions for somethings similar found here

An embedded MP3 player - I used this one, it has a radio and an FM transmitter
This battery is rechargeable and I connected the battery to the rest of the circuitry to power the device from one battery
This was a terrible idea as I broke 4 mp3 players working on this model including the one in the image shown.
If you are feeling brave find a small one and remove the buttons, soldering them into different locations.

A laser pointer - I used a micro AIXIZ laser that had a voltage regulator included

A fuse - the back end of the device includes a fuse holder, remove it and the device will not turn on

Vibration - the handle shakes when it is turned on, make sure that the motor is not too powerful

Step 10: More Ideas

Picture of More Ideas

Lock picks built into the handle

A screwdriver built into the handle

A computer remote mouse such as this

An inductive metal detector

the sparking mechanism from a lighter

a small compressed air dart

some form of taser circuit

an adapter to export power from the handle

a voice recording circuit

connect the speaker to the Mp3 - metal detector
an electromagnetic field detector (shield your circuitry with a metal mesh screen and it might work)
radio wave alarm


nerd7473 (author)2014-02-16

Mine isn't this good...

...but it is bright

HarrisonM22 (author)nerd74732017-02-02

hello what did you use for the body and the trigger? and also what kind of led did you use?

nerd7473 (author)nerd74732014-02-17

It still isnt finished requires more paint...

AidenY (author)2016-11-28

OMG so gud

ghunt4 made it! (author)2014-12-09

So my friend is a massive Whovian, and his birthday was coming up so it seemed like a good excuse to make something. This is the first build I have done from an Instructable and there were a few frustrating moments, but on the whole I am proud of it. The picture isn't the entirely finished article. I painted the lower half a gloss white and left the top half in the chrome/silver I also kept the prongs from the reamer and they surround the marble as per the instructable

juanjosecastillo (author)2014-02-01

do you have de code for make the sound with tje Attint85 snd the circuit?

I did eventually get the atttiny sound circuit to work. It can be found here: starting on step 14

lucas8282 (author)2014-05-12

You should make one that resembles the 11th doctors sonic

The__Gingist (author)2014-01-16

o, and did the easy version make noise?

The one I am writing instructions for does make noise the noise from the show using an attiny85.

The__Gingist (author)2014-01-15

Do you have to program the sonic to turn on and off TV's? And, is there a way to make the sonic turn on most electronic appliances, such as tablets, computers, ipods, etc... Thanks, just wanted to know :)

I am using a standard tvbgone clone circuit to turn on and off TV's, so it does not have to be programed to an individual television. If you want it to turn on other appliances you would have to build a trigger switch into the appliance to be triggered by something in the sonic: the UV light off the front, an RF chip inside the sonic, some sound. There are a lot of possibilities.

MrPsyduck (author)2014-01-14

Props Monster,

I can't wait to see the update. I really want to make one of these for my kid.


The Props Monster (author)2014-01-02

I am in the process of writing a new set of instructions following an easier to assemble and more robust design I have created. For both types I used a piezo buzzer radio shack 273-0074 and an ir led like the transmitter half (should be the darker one) of radio shack 276-142. the new version uses 2 attiny85 microchips, one for the sound, one for the tvbgone. I shoild have part numbers and links for all of the parts I used.

Jennifer070 (author)2014-01-02

I'm really new to electronics but I am really determined to make this! I went to radioshack in order to buy a few things and was curious about the exact numbers you had for your piezo speaker and IR LED, I would really like for it to work and not short circuit lol. Thanks!

karimariesk (author)2013-12-02

i have one question, to put the quiasiduino bootloader, do i have to make a quiasiduino or can i just use the normal arduino uno?
im sorry if its a stupid question, but im not really good with these things :P

You can use a normal arduino uno if you like. The reason I used the Quasi-duino bootloader is that it does not use a crystal, saving money, space and battery power. The slower clock speed of the quasi will also lower power consumption making your batteries last longer and the circuit more stable at lower voltages.

maehoosadie (author)2013-11-26

I really love this tutorial; your sonics are fanatastic! I'm looking to make one of my own, but my biggest issue is I am completely new to electronics/circuitry. Some of it seems pretty straightforward, but I'm kind of stuck on the whole sound circuit thing. I don't understand how you program the Arduino Uno; do you know of a more comprehensive guide I could look at to help me figure that out? Also, what type of piezo speaker did you use? The science & surplus store I like to visit has buzzers, discs, elements, etc. and I don't really understand the difference at this point. Any help you guys could give me would be greatly appreciated!!

Do you have a chip programmer or a fully built arduino that plugs into the computer?

I use a piezo speaker. There is a bit of confusion about the buzzer but in my experience typical piezo buzzers make a specific tone when voltage is applied. An element or disk could work, it is just the speaker without the packaging. They would be harder to package inside the sonic without the sides of the handle interfering.

cos4t (author)2013-12-03

I like!!

geckostudios (author)2013-11-03

Wonderful project. I was wondering if you have a video that demonstrates the sound output of the project. Wondering how it sounds compared to other designs. Thanks!

The introductory step has a video attached. There is an annoying buzzing sound from the motor I put in the handle that came loose during the test but it sounds almost exactly like the one on the television show

Thanks. I missed the link somehow (or was just looking for an actual video screen). Well done.

Sakaniator (author)2013-09-13

Awesome project.. I'm going to make my own!!! I have a problem, I want to use Attint8/5 to generate the sound, but I'm dont know how to change the output pin of the PCM from pin 11 to another like pin 1 or 2 to use in my Attiny85... Can anyone help me??

You need to edit the PCM library
To start, copy the PCM.c and PCM.h files to a new folder at the C:/arduino/libraries/PCM2
rename the files PCM85.c and PCM85.h respectivly
open PCM95.c as a text document. I use Notepad++ to make editing clearer
replace #include "PCM.h" with #include "PCM85.h"
Then it gets interesting
You need to find out what the two PWM outputs on the 85 are, their variables (OCRX, TCRRX and such) the variables for the arduino uno will be found in the file
starting at page 65 of
should give you some idea
you need to set up the clock variables from the uno program to follow the syntax of the 85 program.
change int speakerPin = 11; to whichever pin the PWM output is required
Once that is done you might need to change the sample rate value of 8000 to either 4000 or 16000 to reflect the 8mhtz timer on the Attiny85.
I have been working on porting the code to that chip and giving my sonic's two tiny hearts though without an attiny on hand I have not been able to work much. In the next few weeks I should have some time to work on this project and will have new code for the attiny85 at that point if you wish to wait. I apologize for the complicated nature of this response, timers and PWM involve coding at a more basic level than regular arduino programs and are quite difficult to explain. If I get it up and working proper I shall attempt to post an arduino PWM explanation on instructables as well as the new code.
I hope your project goes well.

Thanks for your help! I tryed doing this, but, I was not able to upload the code for the Attinny85. It shows an error that says the "delay" was not declared. I'll wait until you can try doing this because I'm not so good with microcontrollers yet!! =D


I should have parts in by this weekend to make an attiny version, hopefully by the end of the month I will have the newest version up and running

beachbum4935 (author)2013-09-19

does anyone know how to disassemble the pipe reamer? i'm having trouble

should i cut the inner part with a saw?

Doctor_what (author)2013-08-23

Would an earphone speaker work as well? I've seen it used to fix a CO speaker.

Cpt_JHPonies (author)2013-08-10

How would have a different color (author)2013-07-25

best sonic screwdriver on instructibles!

The Bandogge (author)2013-07-01

Would you sell the new version on ebay

Hogbroom (author)2013-06-14

I would love to do this, unfortunately though, I have no idea how to use Arduino properly. I'm kinda new to tech-y stuff like this, as I normally do cosplay. Great design though, and I love how you incorporated the TV-B-Gone into it!

JACOBC777 (author)2013-06-04

Car is painted like the TARDIS
the car key looks like the 7th Doctor's New TARDIS KEY
I dress like the Doctor
I even write in Gallifrey (Time Lord Language)
I carry around Psychic Paper (Credentials :Changing to what ever you say)
All I need is a Sonic
Everyone calls me The Doctor or Doctor

mattna4 (author)2013-06-03

let me test a few things out. If I can't get it up and running then I will send you what I have done, in what I can only imagine will be quite a lengthy email! lol! It might be a few days, but either way, you will hear from me. Either with pics of the up and running S.S. , or a series of steps and what went wrong :)

mattna4 (author)2013-06-02

well... if i ever get it finished I will send them right your way. After our discussion yesterday I tried a few things out. Essentially I re-burned the bootloader and once it said "upload done" I just went straight to upload the file by "upload using programmer" which...well... sort of... worked. Now all it does is click at me nonstop. I uploaded the same file straight to the arduino, and that plays fine... but now I get a "Expected signature for ATMEGA328P" error. Im so very close but can't manage to get the sound file uploaded to the chip properly.... think you can help a fellow techie out? If its more convenient I can private message you my email address or something... I would be very greatful for your assistance.

When you upload the program is the board "quazi-duino 8MHz clock" selected under the tools?
if you did not switch back to the arduino board when you programed your nice arduino it might have thrown that exception.
how are you powering the circuit when testing it?
can you make the quazi-duino loaded board do a simple blink test using pin 13?

mattna4 (author)2013-06-01

Hey! thanks for the instructions! Im almost done with my sonic screwdriver with your help! I deviated a bit, and will send you a pic if you like, but I am currently stuck on some "wording" you used. I just finished programming the chip with the bootloader. And I have loaded the PCM library to the Arduino. I am BRAND NEW to ardiuno (specifically to just do this project).. and i need to know what you mean when you say "Pin 7 and Pin 20 connect to positive". Do you mean the 5V on the arduino? I just want to verify before I go hooking something up and ruining another chip :) heheh Thanks for the help again!

I would love to see pictures, it is quite awesome to see someone else taking on this style of project.
Are you using a full arduino that plugs into the usb port of your computer?
How are you programing the chip?
Pin 7 and Pin 20 connect to the positive lead of your power source, for programing this is the +5v from the arduino, for testing later on it is the positive lead of the battery.

SocialCactus (author)2013-05-25

Nvm I got someone else to

SocialCactus (author)2013-05-25

Can you please make one for me I'd happily pay you.

SocialCactus (author)2013-05-23

Also it would be Fantastic if you could email me a full photo of this model of this sonic screwdriver

SocialCactus (author)2013-05-23

I'm pretty sure they can't get you in trouble for copyright. You don't have to call it a sonic screwdriver it's not necessarily a copyrighted product because you don't have a professional company of sorts and Its your creation if you call it . For example, "handy dandy tool" they can't do anything to stop you ill pay you whatever price you wish I just need something like this it's amazing and I'm tired of the plastic toy ones

SocialCactus (author)2013-05-23

You can email me at

SocialCactus (author)2013-05-23

If I were to pay you to make me one of these about how much would it cost

mnieto3 (author)2013-05-20

If I got one from radio shack which one would you recommend?

they will have a voltage and decibel rating on them. Decibel is how loud it can get, voltage is at what electrical input it will be most effective. The sound is measured at 10CM away.

mnieto3 (author)2013-05-20

Please keep in mind that I want mine to be kind of loud

I believe something like
would suit you well.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Dan Corrigan and I am a college student interested in Props and Lighting Design. Some of my favorite projects have been the ... More »
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