Introduction: How to Build a Tagtool Mini

What is a Tagtool?

The Tagtool is a live performance instrument for drawing and animation. It's similar to a music instrument, only it plugs into a projector instead of the sound system. It is operated collaboratively by an artist drawing the pictures and an animator adding movement to the artwork with a gamepad.

What is a Tagtool Mini?

The Mini is a separate device with the Tagtool controls that is used together with a computer and a graphics tablet. With this setup, you don't have a compact instrument, but it is nonetheless fully functional. This is recommended for people that don't need a dedicated Tagtool but want to use it with their computer and graphics tablet.

What else do I need to run a Tagtool Mini?

To play with a Tagtool Mini you also need a graphics tablet, a gamepad and a Windows PC with the open source software Nodekit which can be downloaded here.

The Tagtool is typically used with a projector, although any monitor will suffice for playing around with it.

How to use the Tagtool

Usually it is controlled by two people - an illustrator (who draws and uses the Tagtool controls) and an animator (using the gamepad to move the drawings around).

The Tagtool controls consist of 6 faders and a pushbutton. The pushbutton releases a drawing so the animator can move them with the gamepad. There are detailed instructions on how to use the controls here..

To find out more about the Tagtool project, visit

Step 1: Materials

1 x Arduino Diecimila

Sources are listed on
Cost: about 25 Euros

Plywood board

The measurements we used:
2 pieces - 26 x 20 x 0.5 cm
2 pieces - 26 x 4 x 0.5 cm
2 pieces - 19 x 4 x 0.5 cm

+ 1 piece for mounting the Arduino
(sized to fit the Arduino)

Any hardware store
Cost: ca. 4 Euros

1x1cm Slats

4 x 16.7 cm
3 x 24.6 cm
1 x 16.4 cm
1 x 2.5 cm

Any hardware store
Cost: ca. 2 Euros

6 Slide Potentiometers

Sliders 10K, 100mm linear mono (or stereo)
Electronics store, eg. Conrad
Cost: about 7 Euros per slider
High quality faders recommended.

6 Slider Knobs

Electronics store
Cost: 1-2 Euros per button

Some screws

3x10mm for the sliders
3x20mm for the wood
Any hardware store
Cost: a few Euros

2 Spacers for the Arduino board

3mm + fitting screws
Any hardware or computer store.
Cost: a few Euros

1 Resistor (for the pushbutton)

10k Ohm
eg. Conrad
Cost: about 2 Euros for 100 pieces

1 Pushbutton

eg. Allen Bradley 800FM-MM44 + 2 Part Contact Block 800F-PX10
RS Components
Cost: 5,40 Euros
A fairly big button. It is used quite heavily so make sure it has a nice feel.

Some stranded wire

eg. Conrad
Cost: 3 Euros

Ribbon cable

min. 6 wires
Any computer store
Cost: 2 Euros

Some acrylic paint
To make it pretty

Tools and materials

Soldering gun, drill, shrink tubes, plyers, stapler...

Step 2: Preparation of the Arduino

This step shows how the Arduino board gets mounted onto a piece of wood. Mark the right positions before you screw the spacers into the piece of plywood.

Picture 1
Screw two spacers on the piece of plywood.

Picture 2-3
Screw the Arduino on the spacers.

This piece will be glued into the Tagtool Mini Box later. Because of the spacers you can easily remove the Arduino board if you need to.

Step 3: Building the Wooden Box

This step shows how to build the case of the Tagtool Mini. You can choose any size you want. We tried to make it small, but with ample space for the faders, the pushbutton and the Arduino board.

Picture 1
Sand all measured and cut wooden parts.

Picture 2-6
Glue on the slats and staple them to the side boards.
Pay attention to the gap of the slats on one of the side pieces, to accommodate the Arduino (Picture 6).

Picture 7-10
Cut out (or drill out) a small hole for the plug of the Arduino.

Pictures 11-12
Glue and staple the bottom board onto the side boards of the box.

Picture 13
Measure and mark the positions of the screws that fix the top plate.

Picture 14-15
Drill the holes for the screws and widen the opening slighty with a larger drill to make space for the heads of the screws.

Picture 16-18
Fix the top plate with just some of the screws, so you can sand the whole box.

Now the base or the Tagtool Mini case is finished. Ready for the next step.

Step 4: Finishing Up the Tagtool Mini Case

The next step is to cut out the holes for 6 faders and a hole for the red button. You can use this fader layout - it helps to get the right position quite easily .

Picture 1 - Schematic of the controls
Download the PDF and print it out in 1:1 scale.
Double-check the measurements are exactly right for your faders before you use the schematics.

Picture 2
Tape the schematics for the faders on the top panel.

Picture 3-4
Mark the position of the screws, the faders and the pushbutton.

Picture 5-6
Cut and file the slots for the faders.

Picture 7
Drill the holes for the screws that fix the faders.

Picture 8
Cut out the hole of the red button.

Picture 9-10
Polish things off with a little more sanding. Make room for the screw heads.

Picture 11
Paint the box.

The Tagtool Mini case is now finished. After some hours of drying we move on to the final round.

Step 5: Adding the Electronics

In this final step the electronics are added.

These steps are also described in the Tagtool Suitcase Instructable - have a look there for additional explanations.

Picture 1
Connection Plan
This shows how to connect the Arduino to the faders and the pushbutton.
Note the 10K Ohm Resistor that is added to the connection to the pushbutton.

Picture 2
Pull off the plastic bits off the Arduino contacts so we can directly solder the cables to them.

Picture 3
Screw on the faders & the button to the top panel.

Picture 4-5
Solder the wires to the connectors according to the schematics of Picture 1. Use plenty of shrink tubing.

Nearly finished...

Step 6: Finishing the Tagtool Mini

Picture 1
Upload the Tagtool Arduino program... you can download it here.
For this you need the Arduino environment, which you can download from Check this guide on how to upload a program with the Arduino environment.

Picture 2-3
Now all that's left is cosmetics...
We screen printed the fader labels onto the Tagtool Mini (search for tutorials to find out how it's done... or just use stickers)

Ready to go! Please send us pictures if you made it this far.

PS: Just to illustrate that you don't have to go exactly by the book when you build your Tagtool Mini - here's a Flickr gallery of some variations.