About a month ago, I realized I just couldn’t deal with loose batteries in my notebook anymore. I couldn’t figure out a non-fiddly way to securely store them—if they were secure, then it took forever to fish them out and if not, well, I’d lose them. It made me think of Jie’s wonderful circuit sketchbook prototype that uses an auxiliary cell phone battery embedded in the back cover and can be charged via USB. Inspiring, but intimidating given my lack of electrical engineering knowledge. While I hope to get to that level of technical competence some day, I’m not there yet. Still, the basic idea of having a stationary power source built into the notebook that can then be connected as needed to the pages is doable for someone at my beginner’s level with a few tweaks.

Conductive thread crocheted into leads, connected to alligator clips with copper tape. Leads are attached to paper battery holder using copper tape with conductive adhesive.

As much as I would love to deconstruct my notebook like Jie did to add leads on each page, I just don’t have the time. I figured a quick and easy hack would be to create simple battery housing and connect leads. Alligator clip jumper wires are used for prototyping in other electronic contexts, so they seemed an obvious choice for making the connection to the circuit pages in my notebook. The wires are pretty thick though, and I wanted to keep my notebook bulk down. So what could I use instead of wire?

Conductive thread! At first, I thought about knotting the cord friendship bracelet-style to create a flexible but strong lead, but realized it would take too much time. Being a bit of a yarn geek, I realized crocheting the thread using the chain stitch would be much faster, and worth testing. This produced a very flat, flexible length ideal for the notebook.

Success--it works!

After connecting the alligator clips to my crocheted leads using copper tape, I made a little paper envelope to hold the 3V coin battery. I lined each side of the envelope with a piece of copper tape and attached the non-clip end of the crocheted lead. The top lead connects to the positive, or anode, battery terminal and the bottom lead connects to the negative, or cathode, battery terminal.

To keep the leads from touching and draining the battery, I secure the clips to the spine of the notebook.

This is just a first pass. My notebook is almost full at this point, so I’m beginning to brainstorm what the next iteration of my hacked notebook might look like. Stay tuned!