Make a razor blade diode

A razor blade and a pencil can be used to make a diode for use with a crystal radio, or more popularly, the simpler version called a foxhole radio. Instructions are given here as well as in my full step-by-step video below.

The completed razor blade diode.
Blued razor blade with pencil for diode for crystal radio or foxhole radio.
The razor blade diode in use with a crystal radio.
Blued razor blade diode with pencil being used with a crystal radio.

How to make the razor blade and pencil diode

The first step is to blue the razor blade. This is done by heating it to a glowing orange color as shown in the photos below. I used a propane torch. I found that it worked when it was more greyish than blue. Notice that you don't blue all of the blade. As well as making electrical contact through the pencil, you also have to make contact directly to the metal of the blade too. In the photos below I'm not bluing the area that's held by the pliers. You may have to try a few blades before you get success. I went through three of them myself.

Once blued, I used a thumb tack to hold it to a piece of wood. I left the unblued area hanging over the wood so that I could attached an alligator clip to it.

Bluing the razor with a propane torch.
Bluing the razor blade using a propane torch.
Close-up of the blade.
Close-up of bluing the razor blade to make the diode.
Attaching to a board.
Attaching the blued razor blade to the wood using a thumb tack.

Next to prepare was the pencil. Give it a sharp tip and then cut it short, roughly around 1 inch (2 cm) (see photos below.) Then take a clothes pin and push the sharp end into the lead of the flat end of the pencil. The lead is the black part through the middle that's actually made of graphite.

Clothes pin and pencil.
The clothes pin and pencil for the razor blade diode.
Pushing the pin into the lead.
Pushing the pin into the pencil lead for the razor blade diode.

To wire it up, put it in the same place where a regular germanium diode would go in your crystal radio or foxhole radio. The diagrams below are for the crystal radio I use most which is the same one as in the photos on this page. The pencil is connected to the same place that the end of the diode without the stripe goes. The unblued area of the razor blade is connected to the same place that the end of the diode with the stripe goes.

With the germanium diode.
Diagram of crystal radio with a germanium diode.
With the razor blade diode.
Diagram of crystal radio with the razor blade and pencil diode.

Once it's connected it's just a matter of finding where on the blued area of the razor blade to touch with the pencil tip (see photos below.) Make good contact but don't press too hard. You don't want to damage the blued layer or put graphite on it from the pencil lead. You'll have to try many places while also tuning the radio before you'll hear anything. And if you don't succeed at all, try bluing another razor blade but leaving it in the flame a different length of time to get a different bluish color. It may take a few tries.

Searching for a place.
Searching for a place on the blued razor blade with the pencil.
Searching while listening to the crystal radio.
Searching for a place on the blued razor blade with the pencil
      while attached to the crystal radio.

The place I found that worked was near one end of the razor blade, as shown in the photos below. So I used a thumb tack to fix the clothes pin and pencil in place such that the pencil tip was over that area. I could still swivel the pencil around in an arc and I could still move the razor blade around under the pencil. Just be careful not to make pencil marks on the razor blade.

Fixing the pencil in place.
Fixing the pencil of the razor blade diode in place.
The finished razor blade diode.
The finished razor blade and pencil diode for the crystal radio
      or foxhole radio.

Video showing how to make a razor blade diode

This video shows step-by-step how to make this razor blade diode along with how to tune it and use it.

rimstar.org
Contact:
Liked this? Share it with: