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How to make a low tech record player out of cardboard or foamboard

One of my sisters game me an LP record for Christmas. It is a very nostalgic gift and was a lot of fun to receive. This was one of my favorite albums as a teenager. But I don't have a record player! Who does?

So, I figured I would make a record player - something low tech and just for fun just so I could hear a little bit of the album.

I also have a video on this project where you can listen to my phonograph playing. It's at the bottom of the page.

In part 2 of this tutorial I electrify this phonograph by adding a motor, amplifier and a speaker. You can see that part here



Materials and Tools:

  • 2 sheets of foamboard - You can use cardboard instead
  • 1 sewing needle or thin pin
  • several large rubber bands or a length of string
  • about 1 foot of wooden dowel ( 1/4 inch diameter)
  • Hot glue and gun, or just about any kind of glue
  • 1 record


Some Building tips if you are going to make a phonograph like this:

Two things are the most important. First off you want the turntable to spin as smoothly and evenly as possible. This will give you the best sound. It is tricky to do by hand but if you can get it very smooth it will sound ok. It will be fun and a little bit amazing to hear the music.

Secondly the cone is important. Make the biggest paper cone you can make. The bigger the cone the louder the music. I was initially worried about the construction of the cone and tried to make cones with as little tape as possible. My thinking was that the tape would muffle the sound. This doesn't seem to be the case. Using tape to assemble the cone doesn't seem to have much of an effect on the sound quality and volume.


Various sizes of sewing needles

About the needles I used

This is the most important part of the whole project. But you have a lot of flexibility. I tried the phonograph with several different sized sewing needles and they all worked. Some sizes were a little bit better than others. But you can probably use any size sewing needle or pin.






Placement of the needle in the cone

This is how you should place the needle in the cone. It is near the tip of the cone, placed at a forward angle and only sticking out the bottom a little bit.








Taping a penny to the cone might prove helpful. It weighs the needle down a bit. It doesn't have to be near the pin. Just somewhere on the cone. I experimented with this and my penny helped when it was about at the mid point of the length of the cone.


Ok, let's take a look at the completed phonograph:

The completed phonograph


NextOkay! Let's build it. (continue)


Watch the Video Tutorial here - I also play a record on this phonograph if you would like to hear it. It is at the 4:00 minute mark: