Paper Record Player





Introduction: Paper Record Player

About: I'm a physics student. I like to build stuff and learn about electronics.

Wondering around the university I found a suspicious "Top Secret" cardboard folder, probably another cheap ad to attract students. To my surprise, it turned out to be a cardboard turntable, made to manually reproduce a 45 rpm vinyl with some kind of musical puzzle inside. What a wonderful way to recruit students!

I was eager to check the contents of the record. However, when I tried to play it, the cardboard turntable showed some tuning problems which made the task of listening the high notes a misery. Since I love mysteries and crafting, I decided to build my own with paper, hoping to get better results, and so I did!

Step 1: Materials

  • 2 Sheets of paper
  • 1 Belt rivet
  • 1 Needle
  • 1 Vinyl record
  • (Optional) Tape

Step 2: Base Folding

  1. Fold one of the sheets in half alongside the longest side so that you get a rectangle.
  2. Take one of the corners and align the short edge with the long edge and mark the diagonal. Take it back to get the previous position.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the opposite corner of the short side.
  4. Fold the paper by the end of the diagonals to get a square.
  5. Take it back to get the previous position.
  6. Fold the other side of the rest of the paper in half in the opposite direction. This rectangle should be a bit smaller than the square.

Step 3: Make the Complementary

Repeat the whole process in the last step with another sheet to get the other side. Take into account that this time it should be the complementary of the base figure. This can be achieved in two ways (which are the same):

  1. Make the first fold in the same direction (upwards in my case) and start by doing the square from the other side.
  2. Make the first fold in the opposite direction (downwards) and follow the same direction as in the previous figure.

Step 4: Merge and Fold

Using two sheets instead of one increase the stiffness of the structure and creates an space between layers that might help the resonance needed to reproduce the vinyl.

  1. Merge both sheets and make sure it fits by checking the edges and folds.
  2. Fold the paper inwards in the non-squared face to make a flap. I did it using half the length of the needle.
  3. Repeat the process to get a double folding.

Step 5: Insert the Needle

Ideally, this should be done in the middle of the section, but it's fine if you do it by eye, since the record is a radial surface and its going to pass through the needle anyway. I refused to fold the paper in half to get the right point because that could affect the resonance of the paper afterwards.

  1. Pierce the paper by the highest fold of the flap from the other side of the paper.
  2. Turn the paper and pierce the flap halfway and get the needle out again by the edge of the flap.

In case the needle doesn't hold in its place after a while, due to use or trying to correct the piercing direction, a bit of tape can be applied to fix the needle to the paper.

Step 6: Insert the Rivet

  1. Put the rivet in the middle of the outer edge of the squared face, between the fourth and third layer.
  2. Press gently with your finger to get the paper marked.
  3. Without taking the rivet out, pierce the paper with a pen to make a hole for the rivet.
  4. Insert the rivet to the hole.


Step 7: Play Your Record!

It's a bit tricky to use, since you have to hold it tight by pressing to the table to avoid inconvenient movements. It's useful to bend the folds again if the needle goes forward while playing.

The results were quite satisfactory, since the paper version was a bit more sensitive when playing the hidden code of the record, which have different notes and pitches not reproduced by the default cardboard version.The cardboard one was louder, but that's probably an effect of the bigger size, rather than the material used.



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89 Discussions

Use cactus needle instead of metal one. Cactus needles no not wear records.

where does the sound come from?

i can;t imagine turning a whole music record (like an hour) by hand though! my parents still have a turn table though.

1 reply

It follows the same principle as an average record player, vibrations due to the grooves! Just by shaking the needle in a certain pattern and amplifying the vibrations you get audible sound. Ain't that simply brilliant?

I can't imagine myself doing that either. You can always ask someone to do it for you, the hype should be enough fuel for like, 1 minute or so :D.

The problem with card stock is the same that cardboard has, is too stiff. You should actually be able to reproduce sound, but not with the same quality or pitch.

i tried it with some normal copy paper and it still didn't work, except for the fact that could somewhat hear a beat. the needle also scratched the records, how do i fix this?

Maybe you used a big needle or it wasn't to tightly fixed to the paper. Maybe you should try orienting the needle with a certain angle to the record, instead of being perpendicular.

Sadly, I haven't repair a record before. Google it, and see what you can find. I found this two videos:

great... an excelent way to show kids how records "used to be"... (If I can only find now an old record to play...)

But doesn't the needle scratch the record?

2 replies

I do think so, but I suppose that would happen in the long term. I haven't notice any changes in the record in the time I have played it.

However, I can't tell how much real damage does to the record, since I don't have a proper record player with me here.

i wouldn't think it would do much damage to the record, seeing as real record player also use a needle, and you can find some old records at thrift stores usually.

Did you ever figure out exactly what it says? I can't make out the web site it is saying.

Never knew you could play records with paper before!

6 replies

Yes, I actually think I understand all it is said in the record ( even though English is not my mother tongue). The website the voice addresses is

i went to the web site, and it says its for sale, i don't have a time machine app, maybe someone else could use it and go finish the mission.

According to the Wayback Machine this address has been for sale since at least March of 2006, possibly earlier.*/

Now that makes more sense! Too bad it appears to be a UK only thing, sounds kinda fun.