Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Homemade iPad Stylus

After watching this video last week I decided to create my own iPad stylus (finished results are pictured on the left).  It looked pretty easy, the parts seemed simple to find and I've been looking to put that Penultimate app to work that I bought recently (it's just not that useful to me without a stylus).

I first set out to find a suitable drafting pencil, or, as they call them in the art world, a "lead holder."  You can't just use a simple mechanical pencil because you need a large enough opening to accommodate the diameter of a Qtip stem.  Staples was my first stop, but they don't carry them in the store (you have to order them online).  I next tried a local art supply store but they were out.  They recommended another one and I finally found one for about $8.

If you watch that video I linked to earlier you'll see the only other items you need are glue, Qtips and conductive foam.  Huh?  What's conductive foam?  As the video shows, it's the stuff you usually find computer chips shipped on.  I didn't have any of that stuff handy so I headed over to my local Fry's.  They sell one-foot square pieces for $7.99.  Trust me when I tell you that a square foot of this is a lifetime supply for iPad stylus construction.

The Qtips used in that video have plastic blue hollow stems.  I opted for the solid (cardboard) stemmed ones though and I'm glad I did.  After cutting the heads off a few Qtips, I cut small pieces of the conductive foam and started playing around with creating holes in the foam wide and deep enough to insert the stem of the Qtip into.  This was a bit of trial and error but I quickly discovered it's best to use a tiny screwdriver and create openings in the foam, not force the Qtip stems in.

The foam fit so snugly around the stems that I didn't bother gluing.  I just trimmed some of the foam away to make the type of stylus head I wanted.  I made a half dozen of them and tried each one out.  Writing with one of these takes some getting used to, mostly because you're pressing squishy foam against the iPad screen.  I'm very happy with the results though and I plan to carry a few of these with me everywhere I go.

So it's goodbye to my Moleskine notebooks and hello to the Penultimate app with stylus.  If Moleskine were smart, they'd create an app like Penultimate but with their own branding and other touches to remain relevant in the iPad world.  The image in the bottom left corner of this post was made using my new stylus, btw; the lousy handwriting is all mine, so don't blame that on the stylus!

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