Introduction: How to Make a Circuit Sculpture

About: I like to make stuff, and I am always thinking of new ideas.

Circuit sculptures are pieces of art made from old or new circuits. They can glow, beep, or just sit there and look good. A couple of great examples can be found at this Hackaday contest.

This Instructable will guide you through making your very own circuit sculpture. It's simple to create your own, as long as you have an idea of what circuit you are making and what you want it to look like in the end.

As an example, I am making a glowing stegosaurus with a potentiometer to control the speed of the LEDs.


These tools are helpful for any circuit sculpture:

  • Soldering Iron and solder
  • Pliers or tweezers to hold parts while soldering
  • Wire cutters

If you want to make the same sculpture that I am using as an example, you will need:

  • A 555 timer
  • A 4017 decade counter
  • A 10 uF capacitor
  • 9 rectangular LEDs
  • 2 normal/round LEDs
  • A potentiometer
  • 2K ohm resistors (2 total)
  • Wire
    • Thick copper wire (around 20 gauge)
    • Enameled thin copper wire
      • This wire is coated. You will need to scrape the coating off before you solder it.
  • A coin cell battery holder
  • An on/off switch
  • A base to mount it on
    • I used an old circuit board to look like green grass

    Step 1: Get Inspired!

    Find an object, person, or creature that you want your circuit to look like.

    If you don't know what you want to make, look up other circuit sculptures to find inspiration for your own creation.

    Next, find or create a circuit that you can use to create the sculpture.

    Tip: Think about what the parts of the sculpture will do. Does it have eyes that light up? A speaker for a mouth? Does it sense when the amount of light changes, or when someone approaches?

    Step 2: Draw Your Plan

    Using pictures or diagrams of the object you want your sculpture to look like, sketch out a plan and/or a circuit diagram.

    Step 3: Make the Frame

    Start to construct a frame for your sculpture that the rest of the circuit can be built off of. To do this, bend a think piece of copper wire into the needed shape.

    For mine, I made the backbone of the stegosaurus.

    Tip: Use a central supporting part of the sculpture, such as the stem, backbone, or outline. It can also act as a ground or power wire.

    Step 4: Add on the First Part of Your Circuit

    Attach the main part of your circuit to the frame. Make connections in this circuit with the enameled wire. You will need to scrape (or melt) away the thin red coating on the wire before soldering it.

    Leave any wires coming in or out hanging to the side for now.

    In my circuit, I built the 555 timer part of the circuit first.

    Tip: Put the most complicated part of your circuit in first. This allows you to work on the complex wiring before things get too crowded with the other parts.

    Step 5: Add Outer Circuit Parts

    Add any parts that are farther away from the center circuit now.

    In my circuit, I added the capacitor and the potentiometer in this step because they are part of the main circuit, but they are placed farther away from the center.

    Step 6: Add the Secondary Circuit

    Add the second part of the circuit (if you have one) onto what you have constructed already. Make any connections to the first circuit and the outer circuit parts now.

    In my circuit, I added in the decade counter in this step and connected it to the 555 timer circuit output.

    Step 7: Add Accessories

    Add any "accessory" parts now, such as LEDs, speakers, or any other finishing touches.

    Step 8: Finish the Frame

    To finish the frame or add more detail to your final design, add more thick or enameled copper wire.

    In my sculpture, I added ribs to define the shape of the stegosaurus.

    Step 9: Mount It on a Base and Add Power

    Mount your sculpture on a base to hold and display the final product.

    Tip: Try to make your base fit in with the sculpture. In my sculpture, I used the green side of an old circuit board to look like grass beneath the dinosaur. You could also make the base out of wood or another material to provide a contrast to the wire, or a neutral colored object to make the sculpture pop out. You may even want to use more wire to form a base instead of using another material.

    This would also be a good time to add power. Use a battery holder or clip to connect the sculpture, or solder on a power input. You may also want to add an on/off switch.

    Step 10: Power It Up and Watch (or Listen To) Your Creation Work!

    Insert a battery or plug in your sculpture and turn it on. Admire all of the hard work it took you to get to this point.

    Tip: If your sculpture is not working, make sure that all enameled wire is stripped and connected properly, and no open wires are touching.

    Thanks for checking out my Instructable!

    If you liked it, please consider voting for me in the Make it Glow Contest.

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