Sonic Screwdriver 2.0

Introduction: Sonic Screwdriver 2.0

This more advanced sonic has improved sound! The previous sonic screwdriver had several disadvantages: The LED was weak, charging the 3.6v supercap took some finesse and various resistors, and the sound was provided by just a buzzer. Also, I kinda started charging it and forgot about it and the 9v battery busted my supercap. So, after breaking my original screwdriver, I started on making a better one. I took some suggestions from the comment field, and I have a 556 IC in Atari punk console circuit (Thanks to S. Cameron, I wasted a whole afternoon playing with that thing), a few new supercaps in series to make 5v, and a mini-USB port for charging (kudos to Drabinowitz).
I drew up a little schematic, and with some jiggery-pokery and a thin speaker in place of a buzzer it just fits. I also found some super-bright LEDs, and a red magic marker. Red is much cooler. Anyways, on with the building!

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Step 1: The Stuff

There are a few disadvantages to the new design: The sound is a bit weak, and the bright LED only allows for around 5 minutes of continuous soniking with each charge. Also, be warned that supercaps are known to not hold a charge well, so don't expect it to work after leaving it lying around. 

That said, you will need:
As before,
a magic marker,
cheap pen,
Push switch,
and a mini-usb port (mine broke so I went with the audio jack and rigged a custom charger).

The new stuff!
A pair of supercaps! these will be in series for a nice 5v, which is also what USB provides.
556 IC! Basically, it's a pair of conjoined 555's.
LED's! I found some cheap ones at that link.
An earbud speaker, or similar small noisy device.
Some capacitors and resistors; capacitors are 10, 0.1, and 0.01 uf. resistors will vary.

scissors, craft knife, pliers,superglue, a drill, and soldering stuff.

Step 2: Making the Body

This will be a bit condensed. If you need clarification, see the previous sonic screwdriver for details.

Take apart the marker and pen. Grab the drill, and with something like a 1/4 in. bit drill out the stuff inside that held the felt tip in place. Make a hole in the end cap, as well.
Take apart the Tirefly, and drill a hole in the bottom.
Get rid of the tip of the pen, and cut the body to about 6 cm. Cut a slot in it about 2 cm long, since the switch will take up some space later.
Head back to the marker, and craft-knife two holes in the side to fit the switch and your recharge receptacle of your choice.
Stick the pen in the marker, and the Tirefly on the pen. Put some layers of tape around the base of the pen inside the marker; this will stop the top from extending too far.

Step 3: The Fancy Electronics

Grab a breadboard and prototype the atair punk console. Go ahead, I'll wait. OK, you'll notice that by playing with the two potentiometers you can make funky sounds.Find a noise that's sonic-y enough for you, and measure those values. You'll need a 1k resistor, and the other two are up to you. Or, you can follow my advice and make them 100k and 51k.

Since space is at a premium here, this will be soldered as compactly as possible. You can see in the pictures that I set the resistors and jumpers towards the inside connecting at a common positive side, and the more bulky capacitors along the outside. The supercaps will connect end-to-end, the negative of one going to the positive of the other, and as a unit (or UNIT)  they fit together under the whole 556 assembly. Attach ground on the diagram to the negative side of the series supercaps, but don't do this for the positive side!

Step 4: It's Not Bigger on the Inside...

You probably noticed that the 556 assembly is a bit larger than the marker. You can sand or file down the inside, and that will help some.
Also, you'll need to attach some wires. Make sure they're small, but not magnet wire size. Just something small.
Attach 2 to the negative terminal. One should be longer than the other; the long one will go up to the LED (make sure it will be long enough even when the pen is extended). The other will go to the charging port. The positive side of the supercaps will have 2 wires as well. One for the charging port, one for the switch. The positive side of the circuit should be attached to the other side of the switch, as well as the positive side of the LED. Thus, 6 wires in all. 

Now, to squeeze it in...
Feed the wires in first. Leave them as long as you can, so you can easily guide them to the proper holes without having to deal with pushing the 556 inside. Using a pencil and some small pliers guide the charging port wires to the hole for your mini-usb, the positive terminal and positive side of the circuit to the hole for the switch, and the long wire to ground up into the tip.
Solder on the LED and resistor, and add the wire from the cathode of the LED to the switch from that end as well, guiding it to the switch hole. Again, make sure it is long enough to extend.

Step 5:

Almost there! Cut the wires to a reasonable length (any extra will have to fit inside!) and add the switch and port. Use the superglue to secure these parts in place. Also, glue the Tirefly to the pen if you haven't already, but don't glue the Tirefly together; if you want to modify the LED later (maybe add a red setting, UV, or infrared), you can unscrew the Tirefly.

The end cap of the marker might have to be cut thinner, and then you can glue that in place. Molto Bene!

Step 6: Add Style!

I finished my sonic with a coat of shiny paint. Add whatever you want, and then charge it up! You can see my amazing orange custom charger, made because the infuriatingly tiny pins of my mini-usb port snapped and all I had at hand was another audio jack. These supercaps charge pretty rapidly, and held a charge overnight. If you plan on using your sonic a lot, well, usb ports are a plentiful resource, or you can make this little gadget from MrMunki.

Now you can head out into the world, secure in the knowledge that no door can stop you!

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    Luigi Pizzolito
    Luigi Pizzolito

    5 years ago


    if you use a tiny micro-controller like the ATtiny85(8-pin dip) then you could probably fit a AA or AAA battery and a small step-up module.......

    When I have some free time I wnat to try building this..


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Also, do you have to use super capacitors? My class has everything BUT those.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm really confused as to how you put the punk console together. I get the concept of it, however I can't seem to figure out your execution in "shortening" the build by removing all the jumpers and such. Could somebody please help me with this? I'd love to do it for my electronics class.

    Spencer Jackson
    Spencer Jackson

    9 years ago on Step 3

    Sorry if this question sounds dumb, but I am a novice at eletronics.

    Basically the circuit is an Atari punk with the 100k and 51k. replacing the capacitors, is that correct?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Is the main picture (a little more sonic) a reference to Jack Harkness's line "Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, 'Ooh, this could be a little more sonic'?"


    9 years ago on Introduction

    What power sources can I substitute for the supercaps? Would a simple rechargeable AAA work?