I have 2 really cool projects for this weeks How-to Tuesday. The first one is the Drawdio developed by Adafruit Industries and Jay Silver, the other build is a modification of the Drawdio that I call “Unruly”. These are great projects to make with your kids. Although, when you are done you most likely will not be too willing to share it. It’s just that much fun!

OK, let’s get started making the Drawdio.

What you need:

Tools you need:

Step 1: Take inventory


Spread out all the parts and take a look through the instructions. It’s always a good idea to check out all the steps prior to starting.

Step 2: Soldering the resistors and capacitors


I started by adding both resistors and both capacitors. There is plenty of room to solder them in at the same time. Make sure you read the instructions carefully, the resistors look similar, but they are different.Step 3: Add the low voltage 555 timer


Next, I added the low voltage 555 timer IC. Make sure to insert the IC the proper way. The silkscreen of the chip on the circuit board has a little notch in the top. That notch corresponds with the circle/dot imprinted on the IC.


Now you can go ahead and solder all (8) pins.

Step 4: Solder the two electrolytic capacitors


Now it’s time to add the two electrolytic capacitors. Electrolytic capacitors are polarized so orientation matters! The longer lead is positive (+) and should be inserted in the hole marked (+). Fold the capacitors down prior to soldering. It is important that they lay flat.

Step 5: Adding the transistors


Now it’s time to add the (2) transistors. They are NOT the same. Be sure to read the detailed instructions describing which one is the NPN and which is the PNP.


Now that you have soldered them in, go ahead and bend them so they lay flat on the circuit board.

Step 6: Wire the speaker


Cut (2) pieces of wire (supplied with the kit) and solder one to each of the solder points on the speaker. The other end of the wire gets soldered to the Drawdio where it is marked “SPK”. Easy!

Step 7: Connect the battery


Now it’s time to add power. The battery pack is soldered right on top of the components on the circuit board. Make sure to orient it properly. The battery holder is marked with a (+) and (-), so is the board. It makes a nice small package that can easily be attached to the pencil.


All done with the electronics, now it’s time to attach it to the pencil.

Step 8: Attach it to the pencil


First, zip tie the board to the pencil. Simple!


Now run a small piece of the supplied copper tape from the end of the circuit board to the end of the pencil. Now press the thumbtack into the end of the pencil. This makes an electrical connection to the pencil’s core of graphite.


I wrapper the speaker wire around the pencil, you can bend it any way you want. Don’t bend it too much or it could come unsoldered.

Step 9: Last step, and you are all done


Finally, attach the rest of the supplied copper take to the bottom pad of the Drawdio board and wrap it around the pencil. Now turn it on and give it a try!

Bonus: Meet Unruly

Unruly was born from Drawdio. I’m not really sure how it happened since I keep all my open source kits separate, but somehow Drawdio spawned Unruly.

What you need:

  • Drawdio Kit – Available in the Maker Shed

  • (1) Quarter – Available at the bank ;)
  • (8) Pennies – See above
  • (7) 100k Ohm resistors
  • Scrap wire
  • Wooden Ruler – NOT a metal one!

Unruly is almost the same as Drawdio. In fact, you can build it the exact same way as described in the directions, or you can modify it a bit like I did. If you plan on using the Drawdio on a pencil, don’t follow my modifications. Just build it according to the standard directions.

Step 1: Build the Drawdio kit


Follow the instructions for making the Drawdio. There is only one modification that I did to the board it was the battery location. See step 2 for more information.

Step 2: Modify the Battery location


Solder the battery on the back of the board, it makes it a bit better for mounting the finished Unruly to the ruler.

Step 3: Tin the money


Solder 1 scrap piece of wire to a quarter. You need to really heat up the quarter for the solder to flow so I used a scrap piece of wood so I didn’t burn my table.


Next, go ahead and pre-tin the pennies. You might want to scuff them up a bit so the solder really sticks.

Step 4: Solder the resistors and attach to the ruler


Now it’s time to solder all the resistors to the pennies. Between each penny is (1) 100k Ohm resistor. Keep soldering all (8) pennies with (1) resistor in between each of them, creating a long chain of pennies and resistors. Do not attach the quarter to the pennies.


Once you are done, hot glue, or epoxy the quarter at one end of the ruler, running the wire in the “track” of the ruler to the opposite side. Make sure the solder is on the bottom of the quarter and against the ruler.


Next, hot glue, or epoxy, the pennies in the center of the ruler. Make sure the solder is on the bottom of the pennies and against the ruler. This makes it safe for kids, and adults, to play. No need to worry about constantly touching the solder.

Step 6: Attach the Drawdio


Now you can zip-tie the Drawdio to the ruler. That was easy!

Step 7: Solder the wires


Solder the wire from the quarter to the far end of the Drawdio.


The other pad is soldered to the chain of pennies with a scarp piece of wire. Easy!

Step 8: Play!


Turn it on and play! All you need to do is close the circuit by touching the quarter, then with your other hand touch the pennies to play a tune. Fun!

I hope you liked this weeks How-to Tuesday and my Unruly bonus build. See you next week!

In the Maker Shed:


Drawdio Kit

  • Patti Schiendelman

    I’m going to keep all my kits in a dark drawer together from now on.

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, very nice idea.
    That looks like a 1M resistor though (brown black green) not a 100k as the part list suggests. Maybe one can experiment with values and get touch sensitivity.

    • Marc de Vinck

      Good catch! That picture was taken during the development of Unruly. The parts list is correct, using all 1M made the sound too low.

      Experiment will all different kinds. If you like how mine sounds use the 100k as listed.

  • Gaggan g

    I’m new to the world of electronics and soldering. I’m trying to figure out the best surface to solder on. I have plain old wooden desk, but I’m afraid that it might burn if the soldering iron touches it. What surface do you think would work the best gadgets?

  • Gaggan g

    I’m new to the world of electronics and soldering. I’m trying to figure out the best surface to solder on. I have plain old wooden desk, but I’m afraid that it might burn if the soldering iron touches it. What surface do you think would work the best gadgets?