How-To Geek

From the Tips Box: DIY iPad Styluses, Easy Cable Organizing, and Dirt Cheap Wi-Fi Antennas


Once a week we dump out the tips box to share great reader tips with everyone; this week we’re looking at DIY iPad styluses, easy cable organizing, and how to hack your own dirt-cheap signal extending Wi-Fi antennas.

Roll Your Own iPad Stylus With A Drafting Pencil

Branden writes in with the following tip for creating a quick and dirty iPad stylus:

I saw your cute DIY hack for the Cars iPad toy and it reminded me of a quick trick for creating an iPad stylus. When all the hacks were floating around the internet right after the release of the iPad, I skipped most of them. They all involved stuff like soldering, drilling, winding wire, etc. Not fun.

A super easy way to make a stylus is to simply take a small piece of conductive foam and pinch it into the lead holder in a metal drafting pencil. You might need to experiment with different drafting pencil bodies to get it right but all of the ones on my desk work fine.

We’ve got drafting pencils on hand; now all we need to do is go dig around in the workshop for conductive foam. Great tip Branden!

Recycle and Organize Your Cables All At Once


Ollie writes in with a clever and simple organization hack:

I’ve been using this trick for years, ever since I saw it on the tubes. I keep all my infrequently uses cables organizes with paper towel and toilet paper rolls. It’s simple really… you just gently fold the cables and tuck them in the tubes. After that you can stack the tubes (like canes in a shipping crate) inside a cardboard box. I have a couple filing boxes of neatly organizes cables in my office closet.

We’ve used a variety of techniques over the years includes ties and Ziplock bags, as far as speed goes; however, this is certainly beats both.

DIY Dirt Cheap Wi-Fi Antennas

Isela writes in with the following Wi-Fi extending hack:

I was looking at my local electronics store for some Wi-Fi extending antennas. They wanted $50 for a high-gain pair! Since I only paid $50 for the router it seemed pretty silly to pay another $50 when I could just buy another router and set it up as a repeater for that price. I went home, did a little Googling, and found this video where a guy hacks apart one of those fancy high-gain antennas and finds that its pretty much the exactly same thing as the standard antenna except the wire is longer and has a set of coils in it. Using the video as a guide I pulled apart my existing antennas and with some scrap wire, a drop of solder, and a straw (he wasn’t kidding about the hack costing a nickel), I’ve got high-gain antennas! Score!

We’re sorely tempted to go pull apart our router. We have all the necessary components: copper, solder, straws, and a healthy disregard for warranties.

Have a tip or trick to share? Shoot us an email at to share it with your fellow readers.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/19/12

Comments (10)

  1. dima

    Wasn’t the toilet paper rolls trick posted before?

  2. Rosemary Jayne

    Upgrade the toilet rolls trick by writing what the cable is for on the side of the tube, takes seconds but can save huge amounts of time!

  3. jack


    Well I never saw it so I’m happy. I’m almost looking forward to sorting out my rats’ nest of cables


    Good Point

  4. Anonymous

    I saw this toilet paper roll trick on LifeHacker first. I’m not thrilled with the idea, I’m still using Ziploc baggies for my cables. Working out well so far.

    Question: If I was to change to this toilet paper roll method, how can I get a lot of rolls in a short amount of time? This seems ridiculous and I don’t understand why its any easier. Looks like garbage.

  5. Anonymous

    That “Wi-Fi Super Extender” is amazing. I was laughing at how improbable but works somehow, unbelievably!

  6. Ran

    Don’t take the time to write on the toilet paper or paper towel roll – just fold the cable/wire in such a way that both plugs are visible at the same end of the roll.

  7. Anonymous

    Anyone doing that high gain WiFi antenna should pay very close attention to the number of loops as well as the very specific wire lengths mentioned in the video. Get it wrong or even slightly off and you might as well be using the original stubby short antenna (the “regular” antenna). The reason has everything to do with “wavelength”.

    But what’s really cool is if you make your WiFi high gain antenna “directional” you can eek out even more range. I particularly like the following web site where you can type in your soup can dimensions to find out where exactly where to drill/poke holes in the can:

    What could be better? Possibly a wireless router hack maybe?! FYI: If you re-flash your router with new firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato or something (assuming your router is “supported”) there may be a way for your turn up the power possibly by as much as 30-percent more power too!!!


  8. P.J. Dubois

    It is my first time seeing the cardboard cable-saver as well, neat idea.
    Just so happened that I had two cylinders handy, tried it ,and will do
    it again. It is a nice re-use of a material that one doesn’t have to go out
    and buy ‘baggies’. The cables don’t care how they look in storage.

  9. Brett butcher

    For super cheap conductive foam I picked up 2 scrub sponges at the dollar store for a buck. They are the sponges that are sponge on one side and scrubber on the other. The name brand version are the yellow Scotch Brite sponges, but the dollar store version works great too.

  10. Tim

    The toilet paper/paper towel roll trick has been around since before the Internet. If you need to make them more rugged wrap ’em with a layer of electrical tape or duct tape first.

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