IMG_0025Being a long time iPhone user and a recent iPad user I have become fancier of the use of a stylus when using one of the many drawing and painting apps. I have used one of the commercial options from Pogo and love them.

You may be aware the iPhone and iPad use a capacitive touch screen for navigation. Capacitive screens use a kind of  electrical static thing that works with the conductive nature of human skin. It will also work with anything that can conduct electricity, that is why the styluses your buy are made of metal with a special conductive soft tip. Do it yourself-ers have made home made pens from things like aluminum foil and wet sponges, even meat products like sausages and the ever popular and tasty Slim Jims. Trouble is meat tends to make the screen greasy.

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It didn’t take long for someone to discover that capacitive foam works great as a pen tip. This type of foam is most often use for the shipping of sensitive electronic components that need to be protected from static charges. And it’s cheap, I bought a small 5×5 inch square of the stuff on Ebay for $3, that is enough to make dozen of pens.

The actual barrel of the pen needs to be made of a conductive material, steel, aluminum, copper etc and I wanted something thin and light. Looking around the studio I found an old TV antenna. It was perfect and had different size segments. Cutting it apart I found a size I liked and cut

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a piece of the conductive foam, doubled it over and rolled it between my fingers to compress the foam to fit in the antenna section. By pushing it into the end of the tube and allowing it to expand it fit without moving, just leave a 1/4 inch at the tip and you are done. The size of the tip is important, it has to be about the sizes of the tip of the average finger tip, I guess that is sort of a minimum area required by the iPad to sense input. I have made several pens of different sizes and lengths.

I have found the capacitive foam is actually better than the store bought stylus, it seems to slide over the screen easier. I like the thinner barrel and I have made it longer to help avoid accidental double touch of the touch screen. Having many of the pens around is a great convenience, less looking for a pens, one is sure to be in reach or in my pocket.

 

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