Introduction: How to Make a Clipper-Card Into a Clipper-Critter

About: I make things, I am curious, and love learning and sharing.

Clipper is the card system used to make contactless payments on public transport in the Bay Area, CA. It has an embedded NFC chip which you can top up and use to access travel on the underground, trams, buses, trains, and ferries. Clipper Critter is an experiment in wearable creatures. It is made by removing the NFC chip from the Clipper card, and attaching it to a soft antenna, using copper thread so that it can be worn as a companion. The creature is flaunting the technology rather than hiding it. I think it is rather cute, and helpful!

I saw the oyster card key ring instructable, a few years ago and LOVED it. I've been wanted to make my own version ever since, and only recently found the time (removing the chip from the card is a bit of a process). I am SO happy with the result, and since then I've been getting into removing chips from cards....wearable contactless 'ible coming soon! Anyways here is a video of it in action. I hope you make one -it's a joy to use! Send pics if you do and get in touch in the comments if you have an Qs :)

Warning: Despite it’s soft and fun look, if you are seen with this you may get told off for "vandalizing" the card, and may even get into trouble -so consider yourself warned!

Step 1: Gather Materials

This instructable is to make the soft critter creature cuff, and I give a guide to make it, but encourage you to adapt it to your own patter / ideas / design.

For the antenna

  • Clipper card
  • Bottle of cheap nail polish remover
  • Low resistance conductive thread. Kobakant guide has info on a range of threads (if you can't find low a super low resistance thread, you could also use magnet wire or similar, bearing in mind it wont be as robust)
  • Needle and thread
  • Soldering equipment

For the cuff

  • Fabric
  • Soft filling (to stuff the clipper)
  • Sewing machine / kit
  • Thread
  • magnets
  • glass bead

Step 2: Soak the Clipper Card

The NFC chip is removed by soaking the clipper card in acetone (which is the main ingredient in nail polish remover). The oyster card tutorial I mentioned in step 1 says to soak overnight, but I have found a WEEK of soaking works best. I've not taken apart many cards, some work better than others. When it has been soaked enough, the chip (see image) will become free and be easy to remove. Carefully peel out the chip and antenna when it is loose enough to do so.

If a week is not long enough, simply leave it some more and check back every couple of days.

Warning: despite it being such an easy to buy product (and the fact that we wipe our hands with it regularly) acetone is nasty stuff, make sure you have a lid on the container, and store it somewhere out of reach when you are soaking.

Step 3: Sew the Cuff

I made a cuff by cutting out two organic looking shapes, and sewing them face to face, leaving a little gap to put filling in later. I then turned the cuff inside out to make it the correct orientation. I added little magnets to each "leg" to give the effect the Critter is clinging on. And finally stuffed with filling and sewed up the hole by hand.

Step 4: Make an Eye

I decided to make an eye using I would not recommend doing this -I would buy a ready made button or glass gem as making it was hard and added a long time to the process. If you are interested though I made the eye by shaping and baking a putty silicon mold, and then cast it in resin using Easy Cast.

Step 5: Solder Half of the Chip

Measure out a long length of conductive thread. Solder half the chip to one end of the conductive thread, as you will solder the other half when you have finished sewing.

Step 6: Sew the Antenna

This is the fun bit!

You are making a coil with the conductive thread, which is not insulated and so each layer of the coil needs to be separate. To sew the coil I used a method called couching, which was a technique used to sew gold thread into in medieval tapestries. You are not actually sewing with the conducive thread, you lay the thread on the surface of the fabric, and use a second thread to attach it.

Step 7: Solder the Other Half

At the end of your coil you will ind up on the other side of the "face" to the NFC chip. To get the conductive thread to be next to the chip (without coming into contact with the coil), thread it through the cuff, under the coil. Then very carefully solder the end of the conductive thread to the chip. I left the thread long whilst I soldered, then trimmed it down after.

Step 8: Add the Eye

Oh the eye! (my not so favorite bit to make!) I glued the eye on over the chip in layers and added some "eyelash" stitches after.

Step 9: Get Your Coat and Go Into Town

Oh the places you'll go!

Here it is in action again. Enjoy :)

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