Working LEGO Phonograph

I have built a series of Lego phonographs, but none as successful as this model. Based on an arm design by Jose Pino and using a Lego WeDo motor and the Scratch programming environment, my friends and I built a phonograph that played a record loudly enough to be heard across the room with no amplifier needed: just a nine ounce plastic drinking cup serving as the horn!

This particular phonograph is build from the programmable Lego WeDo Kit. The motor speed is programmed in Scratch, which interacts with the phonograph through a USB hub. You, of course, might already have all the bricks needed to build the phonograph and can purchase the Lego M-Motor and Lego USB Hub separately. This phonograph is by no means high-fidelity but provides the tool to play records from the $2 bin or other vinyl you do not mind damaging as you experiment with building Lego and programming in Scratch. You can use this phonograph to play records recorded at 33 1/3, 45, or 78 RPMs because the motor speed is controllable by the program you write!

LEGO Phonograph Materials


  • Vinyl record that you do not mind damaging
  • Lego WeDo Kit Design ID 9580
  • Lego Base Plate
  • Lego USB Hub Design ID 9581

For the turntable:

  • Lego Power Functions M-Motor Design ID 8883
  • Lego 2×6 brick
  • Lego Cross Axle 3M Design ID 4519
  • Lego Bushing (2) Design ID 6590
  • Lego Technic Gear 24 Tooth Design ID 3648
  • Lego Cross Axle 8M Design ID 3707
  • Lego Technic Gear 24 Tooth Crown Design ID 3650
  • Lego 2×6 plate (2)
  • Lego 1×2 brick (6)
  • Lego Wheel 81.6 X 15 Design ID 2903/6596
  • Lego Technic Wedge Belt Wheel (Pulley) Design ID 4185/70162

For the arm:

  • Lego 2×6 brick (3)
  • Lego 2×4 brick (4)
  • Lego 2×8 plate
  • Lego 2×6 plate (2)
  • Lego Technic, Axle and Pin Connector Design ID 3651
  • Lego Connector Peg/Cross Axle Design ID 6562
  • Lego Technic, Pin Connector Plate 1x2x1-2/3 Design ID 32530
  • Lego Turntable 2×2 plate
  • Lego Cross Axle 12M Design ID 3708
  • Lego Cross Axle Extension 2M Design ID 59443
  • Lego Cross Axle 10M Design ID 3737
  • Lego Technic Lever 3M Design ID 6632

For the horn:

  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Sewing needle
  • 9oz. plastic drinking cup
  • Foam, cut into wedge and small square shapes such as Darico Foamies Foam Marshmallows
  • Rubber band
  • Paper towel or napkin

About the Author

Josh Burker works with elementary age students on constructivist technology projects at an independent school in Connecticut. He has been a Lego maniac since kindergarten.

Photos by Meghan Scheck


Step #1: Construct the turntable.

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Insert Cross Axle 3M into Lego M-Motor. Place Lego bushing on axle, followed by the Lego Technic Gear 24 Tooth.
  • Connect M-Motor to 2x6 brick. Connect M-Motor to base plate.
  • Place Technic Gear 24 Tooth Crown at one end of Cross Axle 8M with teeth facing upwards to mesh with Gear 24 Tooth.

Step #2:

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Assemble stabilizing element on the base plate, next to the M-Motor and Gear 24 Tooth.
  • Use the Lego 1x2 bricks and the Lego 2x6 plate to build the rest of the stabilizing element.
  • Top the Axle 8M with another Lego bushing.

Step #3:

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Place Lego wheel 81.6x15 at top of Cross Axle 8M to act as the turntable.
  • Connect M-Motor to USB Hub.

Step #4: Construct the arm.

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Stack three Lego 2x8 bricks.
  • Stack four Lego 2x4 bricks, connect to 2x8 bricks.
  • Connect Lego 2x8 plate to top of stacked bricks.

Step #5:

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Stack two Lego 2x6 plates, then connect them to the top of brick stack.
  • Place WeDo Turntable 2x2 plate at center of 2x6 bricks.
  • Place Connector Peg/Cross Axle in top hole of Pin Connector Plate.

Step #6:

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Connect Axle and Pin Connector onto Connector Peg/Cross Axle, connect to WeDo Turntable 2x2 plate.
  • Connect Cross Axle 12M to Lego Cross Axle Extension 2M.
  • Connect Cross Axle 10M.

Step #7:

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Connect Technic Lever 3M to end of the arm.
  • Connect arm to Axle and Pin connector.

Step #8: Build the horn.

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Use sandpaper to sharpen the end of the sewing needle so it will fit into record grooves.
  • Pierce bottom of plastic cup with sewing needle. Push needle through small square of foam.
  • Push the needle through the hole in the bottom of the cup, sharp end pointing out.

Step #9:

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Double- up the rubber band and place around base of cup. Use rubber band to connect cup to Technic Lever 3M.
  • Insert wedge of foam between the cup and the Technic Lever 3M to angle the cup.
  • Put paper napkin in the base of the cup, mindful not to dislodge the needle.

Step #10: Attach arm/horn assembly.

Lego Phonograph

Attach arm assembly to Lego Base Plate. Make sure your record fits and does not touch the arm assembly. Move the motor and turntable assembly if necessary.

Step #11: Put the record on the turntable.

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Place the record on the turntable wheel. Center the record over the Cross Axle 8M as best you can.
  • Secure the record by placing the Lego Technic Wedge Belt Wheel (Pulley) on top of the record.

Step #12: Program scratch.

Lego PhonographLego PhonographLego PhonographLego Phonograph
  • Connect the Lego USB Hub to your computer.
  • Open Scratch. From the Control Blocks, add a When (Flag) Clicked block and a Forever block. Connect these blocks.
  • From the Motion Blocks, add a Motor Direction (That Way) block and a Motor Power block. Put these two blocks inside the Forever block.


Experiment with the motor speed. On my turntable I was able to get close to 33 1/3 RPM with a motor speed of 22. You can adjust the motor speed as the turntable turns by changing the motor speed value and pressing Return on your keyboard. In Scratch, click the Flag to start the motor. Place the needle on the record and listen to the music! If the needle makes a high pitch squeal, try adjusting the angle of the needle. You might have to cut a differently angled piece of foam. You want the needle just shy of being perpendicular to the record. If the needle skims across the record, sharpen it more. Time to head out to the record store to find some more records in the $2 bin!
Josh Burker

Josh Burker

Josh Burker is a Maker with experience in the classroom, as a Maker-In-Residence at the Westport Library MakerSpace in Connecticut, and at home with a 3 year old. From November, 2014 to April, 2015, he and Joseph Schott have led six young makers in grades four through high school in constructing six automata from wood, aluminum, and 3D printed parts for display at the Westport Mini Maker Faire in April, 2015. Josh maintains an online presence on his blog, on Twitter, and a portfolio, including a few automata projects. His book, Invent to Learn Guide to Fun will be published in spring 2015 and available on Amazon.


  • I used to do this as a kid with a pencil, a pin a piece of paper and some tape. I would fold the paper into a cone shape and tape it in place. Then I would put the pin in the point of the cone. Then I would wrap some tape around the pencil somewhere towards the middle to make a wide spot that doesn’t fit through the record’s hole. I would put the pencil through the record so that the record is resting on the tape with the point facing down. I would spin the pencil to make the record spin like a top. Carefully touch the pin to the record and it plays!