Poor Man's Capacitive Stylus (iPhone/Android/etc...)




About: I've never had much, so I try to do the most with what I have. Most of the time that means breaking stuff...

I've been looking around the interwebs for the past few days looking for a cheap and easy way to make a capacitive stylus for my Droid 2. Most of the ones I've seen require either conductive foam or anti-static packaging. I had some anti-static packaging laying around and decided to try it. Barely worked at all. And I don't have any conductive foam. So my search continued, until I read that you can use the negative terminal on a AAA battery. That got me thinking. Why can't I make a bioelectrically-powered stylus with only the things I have on my desk? 

Things you will need: 

*0.7mm plastic mechanical pencil (I used a BIC, remove the lead)
*one small metal paper clip (cannot be plastic coated)
*one silver thumbtack (the brass ones will probably work too, but I only had silver ones)
*needle nose pliers

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Step 1: Step One: the Bending

Unfold your paper clip all the way. Using your needle nose pliers, wrap one end around the very tip of the pliers once or twice, until it holds the shape. Then bend the rest of the paper clip back perpendicular to the loop you just made. Insert your thumbtack into the small loop.

Step 2: Step Two: the Pushing

Remove the lead from your pencil. With the paper clip still looped around the thumbtack, push the tack into the tip of the pencil. It will be a snug fit. 

Step 3: Step Three: the Wrapping

Wrap the remainder of the paper clip around the pencil approximately where your thumb falls when you hold it.

Step 4: Step Four: the Finishing

You are done! This stylus works on the principle that the electricity generated by your body that travels through your fingertips that normally activates your capacitive touch screen will also travel through a paper clip and thumbtack. As long as you are touching the paper clip, the tack will be electrically charged enough to activate your screen. 

Here is a terrible video demoing the stylus. I apologize for the quality, this webcam is from 1972...

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    16 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I just use a steel spoon.


    3 years ago

    what if i dont have those pliers?


    4 years ago

    Should I need to remove the screen guard to work stylus


    5 years ago on Step 2

    I used a safety pin. I stuck the pointy part into the pencil itself, then I bent the "safety"part around to the top, and I use that as the stylus part. I wish I could post a picture in the comment lol


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is genius!!! Is your nickname MacGyver? It's hard to tell from the video, but are you using the edge of the thumbtack to draw thinner lines? If so, I'd imagine some tool could be used, possibly a plain stainless steel sewing pin to do the same thing with a very fine point. You'd definitely have to stay with something that wouldn't scrape or damage the screen...which is why I think of a sewing pin, since the generic non-decorative type has a globe-type top.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Why not turn your fingers into styli? Check out The Fylus, the discreet way to bring accuracy to touch screens: www.thefylus.com


    8 years ago on Step 4

    This is neat! I WAS going to ask what the point of using the paper clip was if the tack fit just fine but then i remembered, the metal! xD

    This is brilliant! And I plan to use my lathe skills to make something a bit nicer looking, but essentially the same concept! Thanks! You've inspired me!


    8 years ago on Step 4

    cool! something like this is perfect for the iPad for artists who prefer to work with a pen. great job!

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    You have read my mind for the past week!
    I have been doing the exact same stuff for my ipod touch. although i ended up putting a tinfoil cap on the battery and covering it with the antistatic packaging. I will try this out!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    For some reason the embed code disappears every time I edit the article again, so the link to the youtube video is at the end now.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    wat about the chances of the tack scratching up the screen a bit? thats the only thing stopping me trying bare metal on my htc's screen x3

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well generally the tack is smooth on the top to prevent it scratching. If you are worried about it scratching you could cover the tack with antistatic film (the kind you get hard drives and stuff in). That way it is still conductive but won't scratch. Most phones now have some variety of Gorilla Glass, which is essentially scratch proof, so I don't bother with covering the tack.