Flying Concertina: Light-Up Accordion Book




Introduction: Flying Concertina: Light-Up Accordion Book

About: I'm an Educator, Artist, and Maker. @Switchback42 on Instagram

Spring has sprung, and this illuminated floral accordion book (also known as a Flying Concertina) would make a perfect gift for Mother's Day, Graduation, or Teachers Appreciation Day!

In this tutorial, I will show you how to add motion and light to a fun and flashy variation of the traditional accordion book structure! You'll learn how to use conductive thread as a decorative and conductive element and how to use a reed switch to add interactivity and conserve battery life.

If you don't have a reed switch and magnet handy when you start this project, you can still construct an accordion book that flutters and lights up, as long as you have the other supplies. A reed switch is a nice feature to add a little intrigue and interactivity (and help you control when your battery is using energy), but if you don't have one, you can simply remove the battery when you don't need the book to be illuminated.


Useful Tools

thin piercing tool (a thumb tack, awl, or needle pushed into a cork works well)


C-thru ruler (useful, but not required)

craft knife


cutting mat

steel ruler

bone folder (or you can use a popsicle stick/ finger nail)

pencil with eraser

printer (for the printable paper battery template)

Screw Hole Punch or other small hole punch (optional)

clear nail polish (optional)

Craft Supplies

2 strips of paper (4" H X 24" W)

(I am using Canson XL Mix Media paper, which comes in an 18 X 24" pad, that I've cut to size with a paper cutter.)

UHU glue stick (it doesn't have to be this brand, but I love that this glue is acid-free)

double-stick tape

Scotch tape

decorative scrap paper or art supplies of your choice

printed paper battery template

Electronic Supplies

a roll of copper tape (preferably one with conductive adhesive)

a roll of Chibitronics Conductive Fabric Tape (or Conductive Fabric Tape Patches)

a reed switch (normally open) with magnet

4 Circuit Stickers (or another type of sewable LED with a built-in resistor)

1 X 3V CR2032 coin cell battery or the thinner CR2016

a spool of stainless steel conductive thread

Step 1: Fold and Cut Your Accordion

When you fold your two pieces of 4" H X 24" W paper into sixths, you'll end up with an accordion that is 4" H X 4" W.

Because you will be sandwiching a circuit between the two pieces of paper, it's best if you carefully fold and cut them at the same time. That way, they'll fit snuggly together when you use double-stick tape to combine the layers.

My video shows how to do this, but here are the basic steps.

1. Jog the two pieces of paper together so that their sides and corners match up. Fold them in half lengthwise. Crease with a bone folder or a fingernail.

2. Measure 4" inches from the folded edge with a ruler and mark it lightly with a pencil. Fold the open edge to that line. Match the folded edge to the crease that was made during the first fold. Refold the accordions so that they look like six-page zig-zags.

3. Fold the front and back flaps so that they are touching, but leave the remaining pages folded. The shape will sort of look like a winged "W," with the cover flaps on your left and the creased folds on your right.

4. Create a 3" X 3" template to trace around, or use a C-thru ruler to measure 1/2" all the way around the top-most layer.

5. Use a craft knife to carefully cut through all of the layers. Carefully punch out the squares. You'll be left with a front and back cover and 4 framed pages where your LEDs will go.

Step 2: Prepare Your Sticky Paper Battery Holder

An origami paper battery holder is an easy way to keep your battery discretely hidden inside of the cover of your book.

Print the battery template after downloading it at this link. There you'll find a PDF containing four templates that fit an 8 1/2" W X 11” H piece of paper.

While my video quickly addresses how to assemble the paper holder, Chibitronics has a very detailed tutorial that goes at a slower pace; you may view it here.

Step 3: Add Copper or Conductive Fabric Tape

Put the top layer of your accordion aside and lay the circuit layer onto your work surface with its front cover on your left.

If you are using copper tape, you'll also need to use a conductive fabric tape or conductive fabric tape patches on all of the hinged areas, because copper tape will crack after too much folding. If you are using conductive fabric tape to create your circuit, you do not need to reinforce the hinge areas.

In my video, I used copper tape and fabric patches for the negative (top) trace and conductive fabric tape for the positive (bottom) trace. I did this for demonstration purposes.

Using one continuous piece of copper or fabric tape, adhere the ground (negative) trace on the top of your accordion, starting inside of the front cover (see picture and/or video), where it will be connecting to the battery holder.

Repeat this for the postive trace on the bottom of your accordion.

You are creating a parallel circuit. If you look at the circuit diagram, you might see why it's called that.

Step 4: Connect Your Battery to the Conductive Traces

Stick your battery holder to the inside of the front cover, so that the negative leg is overlapping the negative (top) trace that you stuck down. Adhere the positive leg of the battery holder over the positive (bottom) trace.

Stick a conductive fabric patch (or piece of conductive fabric tape) on top of the spots where the battery holder overlaps the positive and negative traces.

I like to label my top trace with a "-" and the bottom one with a "+" as a visual reminder of the circuit's polarity.

You may want to add a ball of Scotch tape behind the paper battery holder to keep it secure. I often place a piece of Scotch tape over the bottom edge of the battery holder, and slightly over each of its legs. Just be careful not to cover too much of the copper legs, or the tape may interfere with the connectivity of your reed switch in a later step.

Step 5: Connect LEDs to Conductive Thread

This step is the most fiddly part, but it's also one of the most important. The first time I tried doing this, I made my holes too close together and ended up ripping a sticker.

Poke a couple of holes (not too close together) in each end of your four Circuit Stickers. You may use a needle, a thumb tack, or an fine awl.

Thread your needle with a 7-8" strand of conductive thread for each end of your stickers. Do not knot the thread onto the needle. If your thread is frayed, try a little wax or even ChapStick to tame it.

Sew through the holes on one end of each sticker a couple of times, leaving a 2" tail on one side. Tie a secure knot.

(TIP: Steel thread is slippery. I didn't need to use nail polish to knot my 2-ply conductive thread, but a 3-ply thread is more unwieldy, and may require a dab of nail polish to keep knotted. If you end up using nail polish, be careful not to get it on the conductive metal pads of the stickers.)

Trim the short tail (BUT, NOT TOO CLOSE TO THE KNOT) and leave the long one dangling; it will be used to tie the LED to your book. In the second photo, you might notice that I have a little tail sticking out. It's okay to leave it this length; just be sure that the tails from one end of your stickers do not touch the other end, or you'll end up with a short circuit.

Repeat this process for each of your LEDs.

Step 6: Create Your Paper Flowers (or Substitute Your Own Idea)

To create my flower tops and bottoms, I made small paper circles by tracing the inside of a roll of Scotch tape onto the scraps I had left from cutting the squares out of my accordion.

I then used some colorful scrap paper to cut flower petals, ensuring that they weren't too tall or fat, since the flowers needed to swing without obstruction.

I made my blue flower bottoms and pink flower tops by adding UHU glue to a paper circle and then sticking four paper petals onto it.

I used a screw hole punch to poke holes in the centers of my flower tops, but you can use a small hole punch, thumb tack, or awl. While the hole isn't required, it makes the light appear brighter.

When my flower tops were ready, I added a couple of pieces of double stick tape to both sides of the hole and stuck them on top of the flower bottoms containing the LEDs (see next step).

Step 7: Add Circuit Stickers to Your Book

Two images show the Circuit Stickers suspended from conductive thread without the paper flowers. This is how I approached making the book for my first prototype. I have since found that it's easier to tie the LEDs to the book if you adhere each Circuit Sticker to the back of a flower and reinforce the positive and negative contacts with a patch of conductive fabric before tying them to negative and positive leads on the accordion.

Ensuring that the negative (pointy) end of the LED points up and the positive (wider) end of the sticker points down, carefully position your flowers where they will swing without obstruction. Wrap the conductive thread around the top (negative side) of the accordion at least two times and then secure it with a piece of conductive copper tape or conductive fabric tape. Do this for all four of the LEDs.

Once they are secure (and you've ensured that they are all lighting properly), add the flower tops, securing with double-stick tape.

Step 8: Make a Circuit Sandwich With TAPE

Once you've tied and secured each of your LEDs into your flying concertina, it's time to use double-stick tape to create a circuit sandwich.

Apply double-stick tape to the back side of the second accordion, ensuring that you DO NOT PUT TAPE ON THE INSIDE FRONT COVER, where your battery lives.

I like to smooth my book down one section at a time, to keep everything aligned properly.

Step 9: Add Reed Switch

If you want to add some intrigue and interactivity to your project, it's time to add the reed switch. The type of reed switch I'm using is normally open, meaning that the circuit will remain open until a magnet is brought near enough to close it. In other words, the lights in your project will remain off (since the circuit will be open) unless a magnet is close enough to close the circuit.

Using a craft knife, carefully remove a little of the copper tape to create a gap in the circuit on one of the battery holder's legs. I tried to place my reed switch as close to the center of my front cover as I could. If you used a piece of Scotch tape to keep your battery holder from shifting, pay attention that the tape is not inadvertently covering the copper tape in the area where the reed switch will be adhered.

A reed switch does not have polarity, so it doesn't matter which direction you place it. Use a conductive fabric patch (or a piece of copper tape with a conductive adhesive) to secure the legs of the reed switch on both sides of the gap you made. I carefully bent the legs of the reed switch into little half circles to increase the amount of metal in contact with the copper tape.

Step 10: Add a Magnet to a Decorative Element (to Close the Circuit)

Decorate your front cover. I adhered a paper flower to the front. I tried to align the center of my flower with the location of the reed switch on the other side.

Using trial and error, figure out the optimal position for your magnet and then use a bit of double-stick tape to secure the magnet to the back of a flower or other decorative element. This part can be fiddly. At one point, I had to go back and add more conductive tape to my reed switch, because it had gotten loose. In my first prototype, I also had to remove some of the paper from my cover decoration, because the thickness of the layers made it difficult for the magnet to connect with the reed switch.

Once you find the optimal position for the magnet on your decorative piece, draw an arrow at the top to make it easier to find that ideal placement again.

Step 11: Make a Pocket to Store the Magical Magnet Piece

Measure a 1.5" H X 4" W piece of decorative paper. Add double stick tape to the bottom edge and both sides and adhere it to the back cover as a place to store you magnet when you want the circuit to remain open (and the lights off).

Step 12: Make It Your Own!

How might you make this project your own? What variations can you come up? What about Halloween bats with glowing eyes? What about a different size and color of paper for your book? How might you add more than one LED to your flying creations? What if your flying concertina had more than four panels to play with?

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    1 year ago

    This is a really cool idea!

    Bling the Book
    Bling the Book

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you! It was fun to make!


    1 year ago

    That's beautiful!

    Bling the Book
    Bling the Book

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you very much!