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Image of assembled unit

A small, cheap (~$5/piece if you build 100 at a time) optical theremin that can be assembled with no soldering.

The idea is to fabricate a custom perfboard from acrylic, heavy cardstock or other suitable material. Components are pushed through the top of this perfboard and the leads are twisted together to form a circuit.

I've been using laser-cut acrylic, but anything from CNC routing to an inkjet printer should be sufficient (I think heavy cardstock + hole punch would be very cool)

Making the Boards

There are several SVG files in this repository. laser_cut_board_paths.svg has had all objects converted to paths and should be ready to import into whatever vector graphics program you use.

laser_cut_board_source.svg is an inkscape SVG with text as text objects - use this one to spin your own version of the board.

Board Art

I cut my boards on an Epilog Mini30 laser engraver. Any similar CO2 laser would work just as well. This SVG is set up for correct cut/raster behavior in the Epilog print driver - tweaks may be required for other machines.

Other methods that might be worth investigating are CNC routers and even inkjet printers (Cardstock + hole punch!).

Prep work

One of the first obvious problems is how to get the legs of the IC through the board so they can be twisted. This is currently solved with a wire-wrap DIP socket. There are three unused pins on the IC (pins 1, 4 and 5) and these pins should be trimmed on the sockets so they're not in the way. Wear your eye protection!

Programming the microcontrollers benefits from a ZIF socket - I like to have the circuit built on a breadboard/protoboard around the socket, so as each chip is programmed the functionality is instantly verified. I program the microcontrollers by calling avrdude directly and uploading the compiled hex file. This is much faster than using the Arduino IDE, which compiles each time you press upload.


  1. Create info card
    • Page with information on 'how to' noisemaker
    • github link
    • Materials - costs, sourcing, prep work
    • photos or diagrams of process?
    • hand these mofos out at every event to get other people using the noisemaker
  2. Create assembly photo series
    • Just a photo of each step - to live in the repo to simplify assembly for others using the project


A small, cheap optical theremin that can be assembled in a variety of ways




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