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What does the foil insert from an Orbitz chewing gum box,  the foil top from a container of O’Soy Stoneyfield yogurt, the foil wrapper from a Clif bar and a piece of conductive foam, all have in common?


Well, they’ve all been used to handcraft a homemade stylus for use with an iPad.


The first question is why make your own? There are stylus for the iPad out there to be purchased that come in all their prepackaged branded glory. And let’s not forget the ultimate stylus, your finger.


The finger does work, but not well for all things. I’ve tried the Targus ($14-$17) and Faraday ($10) stylus models (and there’s also the Pogo, $15). Both worked well, but both feel like I’m trying to use a writing instrument made for the hand of a small child. The problem for me, and others, lies in that not one of those has the feel or length of a pencil/pen that is used for writing or drawing. They are too short and the barrels are too slim.


So, the hunt was on for the presently non-existent longer pencil-feel stylus and that hunt lead to many YouTube videos on how to create your own.

I tried creating the pen/aluminum foil/clear tape version first. 

I got absolutely no love from this mock-up, and by the time I was done with it, it looked worse than lipstick on a pig. It was ugly and ineffective. 


So I went hunting for more YouTube videos and found one version with a stylus constructed using a drafting pencil lead holder and conductive foam. The lead holder I have. It has the right weight, length, and feel. The conductive foam…That’s another story. Surely I can get that from the local electronics store. Ah, no. Asking the wrong people, I got glazed stares, and lots I don’t knows. So I went to the place where I knew I’d get some help. And, thanks to members of our MacGroup iBBS, I got in a piece of it.


OK, now I had my (clean) test subjects; conductive foam, Clif bar foil, gum box insert foil, O’Soy yogurt container foil. Which would or could make the better stylus for me? 


With several of my test subjects, the biggest issue I thought I would have was stabilization of the medium. So with two of the foils, (gum insert, yogurt top) I wrapped them around the tip of a Q-tip. With these, if the diameter of the tip I created wasn’t around 1/4“, the tips would not register on the iPad. I also had to hold them perpendicular for them to register with the iPad. Hmm, not ergonomically correct for writing or drawing.


With the Clif bar foil I just cut a piece, folded it and stuck it into the drafting pencil lead holder. While using it the foil of course flattened out (drawing/writing angle) just from the simple pressure of writing or drawing. But, as long as the foil was the right size to register, the line drawn would only be the size that you selected to draw with in the app you were using. The Clif bar foil glides across the surface effortlessly, so I was happy with the feel. What I wasn’t happy with is that I couldn’t see the point of contact; where the pencil tip would meet the paper, so to speak. This only seemed to bother me when I was writing. When drawing, the experience seemed more like using a paintbrush.


With the conductive foam, I also cut out a piece just large enough to fit into the lead holder.

Trimmed and rolled it on the table to ease the square sides, stuck it in the lead holder. No frills. My experience with the conductive foam was pretty much identical to that of the soft foil of the Clif bar, it just looks a lot neater. I’ll have to let you know about wear and tear, as I haven’t gone through one yet.


So, I’ll be using this one (conductive foam, $0, lead holder, $0) with my iPad, but still continuing the search for the next ingenious version.


Here’s the YouTube video that inspired my simpler version of the conductive foam iPad stylus.



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2 Responses to Necessity Breeds Invention

  1. Calvin says:

    Wow….. The McGiever part of you really impresses me. Not doubting you ability at all but the innovation…

    It’s amazing how you got a solution for an accessory for a hi-tech device with such a low tech solution.

    I would want you on Gilligan’s Island if I went on a 3 hour tour.

    Now here’s the part where I get in trouble…..

    To answer your question:

    “What does the foil insert from an Orbitz chewing gum box, the foil top from a container of O’Soy Stoneyfield yogurt, the foil wrapper from a Clif bar and a piece of conductive foam, all have in common?”

    They all taste about the same?

    Last comment, I like pork as much as the next person. But why put lipstick on a pig? Unless you are a guy going out on a date or you want your pig to be vice president.

    Don’t hit me……

  2. Chita says:

    “They all taste about the same?”

    Cal, are you eating the containers and not what’s in them, again?
    Remember, that kind of behavior effects you adversely. 🙂

    Chita McGyver