Digital music relies on unseen technology to translate bits and bytes into tunes. An analog machine like a record player is much easier to understand. To make it even simpler, Popular Science built a motor-free device powered by the wind. This project is cheaper than a real record player, but the sound quality depends on the breeze’s speed, which can easily turn your songs into Alvin and the Chipmunks covers. For a steady source of air, try a fan or even an air-conditioning vent.
- Time: 2 hours
- Cost: $35
- Difficulty: Medium
- Box cutter
- Wire stripper
- 11-by-11-inch plywood board
- 1⁄4-by-21⁄2-inch machine screw
- AJC washer
- 1⁄4-inch hex nut
- Two Slurpee straws
- Adhesive putty
- 1-inch-thick foam insulation sheet
- 7-inch record
- 45 rpm adapter (ours came attached to the record)
- 9 square inches of cellophane
- Box of T-pins
- Six 8-ounce Styrofoam cups
- Old headphone cable
- Phonograph needle and cartridge
- Conductive wire glue
- Loud battery-powered speaker
Drill the exact center of the plywood board with the Dremel until you can thread the screw through. Tighten it on with the washer and the hex nut, and cover it with a 3-inch piece of the straw. Stabilize the board by placing adhesive putty under its corners.
Cut two 7-inch circles (traced from the record) and a 1.5-inch circle (traced from the 45 rpm adapter) from the insulation foam. Drill out the circles’ exact centers so they will fit tightly over the straw and spin with little friction. Sand down rough edges. Cut three 1.5-inch circles from cellophane.
Line up the hex nut with the hole in the 1.5-inch foam circle, and drill out its shape. Slide the foam onto the hex nut, followed by the three pieces of cellophane, the 7-inch foam circles, the record, and the adapter. Connect the bottom 7-inch circle to the top one with three T-pins.
Cut the six cups to 1.5 inch tall. Use two T-pins apiece to fix them every 3.75 inches along the edge of the 7-inch circles.
Strip 1/2 inch of the headphone cable and 1 mm of each coated inner wire. Split the copper contact wire in two and use electrical tape to attach it to the electrical grounds of the phonograph cartridge (the lower two contact posts on the back when the needle faces down). Apply a drop of conductive glue and cover with tape.
Strip 1 mm of the headphone cable’s inner wires and use electrical tape to connect them to the cartridge's top two posts. Apply wire glue and reseal the tape.
Wrap a long piece of electrical tape from the end of the cartridge around the bundle of wires up to the headphone cable. Slide the bundle through a 7-inch length of Slurpee straw and tape the straw’s scoop end over the cartridge. Push a T-pin through the straw’s opposite end. This is the tone arm.
Fix a pushpin into one corner of the plywood and cover with a 3-inch length of straw. Top the straw with tape and push the tone arm’s T-pin through it so the arm can move freely. Set the needle on the record and plug in to a speaker.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2016 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Build a Record Player Powered by Wind.”