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How to make a capacitive stylus (photos)

A step-by-step tutorial on making a touch-screen-compatible pen for your tablet or smartphone using inexpensive parts from around your home or office.

Donald_Bell.jpg
Donald Bell
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1 of 12 Donald Bell/CNET

Materials

In this step-by-step tutorial (inspired by iLearn), we're going to show how to make your own capacitive stylus that you can use with touch-screen devices, such as tablets and smartphones. The materials you'll need are a pen, a paper clip, and a sponge. With any luck, you can "borrow" these from your work.

You can also watch a video version of this tutorial.

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Tools

In terms of tools, we're using pliers, scissors, and a low-powered electric screwdriver with a drill bit.
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3 of 12 Donald Bell/CNET

Pulling the pen apart

Pull the pen apart and remove the ink cartridge. Keep it around though, you'll need it later.
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4 of 12 Donald Bell/CNET

Cutting sponge

Next, slice a little rectangular wedge off the sponge. You're going to be squeezing a chunk of this through the barrel of the pen, so make sure it's small enough to get in, but thick enough to stay put. Any sponge should do, so long as it has a little moisture in it. You can always test it out by just using it directly on your screen.
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5 of 12 Donald Bell/CNET

Drilling

Carefully drill a hole on the pen barrel near the tip. The hole needs to be big enough for the paper clip to get through.

If you don't have a drill bit, you could also a Phillips-head screwdriver bit (and some patience). One CNET reader also had some success melting a hole in the pen with a cigarette lighter. Whatever MacGyver technique you use, please be careful. It's very easy to slip and hurt your fingers. However tempting it may be, do not use a knife or scissors to accomplish this step or you will get cut and people will laugh at you. Seriously, don't.

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6 of 12 Donald Bell/CNET

Fitting the sponge

Now, shove the sponge through the barrel so it pokes out of the tip. This part is easily the most frustrating. Make sure the sponge is moist enough that you can pinch the end and feed it through the opening. Then try twisting and pushing the sponge until it's most of the way in.

If you're not having any luck, try trimming the sponge down to a smaller size.

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Pushing it through

To give the sponge the final push it needs to poke through the tip, use the top of the ink cartridge you removed earlier.
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The tip

Ideally, you should have a tightly compressed nub of sponge poking out the top, like this. If more sponge is showing, give it a trim with the scissors.
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Inserting the paper clip

Finally, flatten out the paper clip, and poke one end into the hole you made so that it's jabbing into the sponge.
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Wrapping the wire

With the wire held in place, wrap the remaining wire around the pen barrel.
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Putting it back together

Now just put the pen back together (minus the ink cartridge), and it should look something like this.
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12 of 12 Donald Bell/CNET

Try it out

So long as your hand is in contact with the paper clip's metal, it will carry an electric charge through the sponge and to the screen. It won't work if the sponge is completely dried out, but a few drops of water should get you back in business.

You can also watch a video version of this tutorial.

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