Classical VCR Head Jog Wheel

[Osgeld] takes on the classic VCR head jog wheel in this instructable. He has done a fantastic job not only in his build quality, but in the quality of the writeup. As he points out, the idea of using the head as a jog wheel isn’t new. His construction and build quality however have yielded a fantastic looking reliable device that we would be proud to have sitting on our desk.

As usual, the most interesting bits of the writeup are how he solved problems he encountered. For example, he’s using an optical mouse to detect the motion of the wheel. This requires that he print out a pattern to mount opposite the optical sensor. This sounds straight forward enough, but he found the results to be less than stellar. He documented his fix, basically reworking it in GIMP, so others can save some time. That is how tutorials should be. Great job [Osgeld].

51 thoughts on “Classical VCR Head Jog Wheel

  1. grr… instructables.

    I really wish someone would come up with a good alternative to that horrible site. One that respects your licensing and doesn’t put vital steps of your project behind a paywall. If I license my tutorials as cc noncommercial, they shouldn’t be allowed to claim full ownership of it, edit it, lock people out of seeing vital parts of it, and charge people money to read it. Not to mention if you so much as mention anything even remotely related to this policy you will be censored.

    Never clicking another instructables link ever. Shame really, that looks like a very nice project.

  2. Oh also I am not using the optical sensor that came from the mouse, it just happened to be all packaged in 1 chip, yes I am using an optical sensor made out of IR parts, but its hooked up to the rotary encoder inputs on the IC

  3. lol i have a free account at instructables to. the only thing you get with pro. its pretty useless and thats why they give them away with every contest.

    back to the project

    very nice great build quality, I never seem to finish off a build, especially that nicely. Question though. I’ve taken apart a few VCRs and every time It seems like a week or two after the heads seem to have corroded and oxidized. have you had this problem or is it just my sweat is very corrosive? :(

  4. 1. Why should we have to sign in and AGREE to their more than nonprivate AUP, giving up age, gender, zipcode, so we can enjoy your project spread across a dozen plus pages.

    Sorry, but there is a growing number of HAD readers that won’t go to instructables to check out a potentially cool project.

    Not knocking your project. Knocking the presentation of it.

  5. @bobdole

    I for one don’t think there’s anything ignorant about that opinion. I think the concept of instructables is great, but I’ve also been having misgivings about the site. They are getting ad revenue for content which is donated to them for free. I think it’s totally reasonable to expect that they at least serve that content up without a membership hoop.

  6. Great hack!!
    I’ve always loved VCR heads, as a kid I took apart several VCRs. That’s a great use for them. I never did figure out a good use for them.

    Anyways I’m not a fan of instructables, I’ll concede it’s cheaper and often easier than hosting ones own personal site for their hacks. For some odd reason it does NOT remember me when I go to that site, and am forced to log on every time to view a hack. The main annoyance is after logging on, it takes me to a different page(some main page deal) and when I press back, it doesn’t think I’m logged in,…still can’t view the entire article. It’s just annoying, having to log in, then click the link…..

    I really would like to see a HaD forum, optimized for HaD users to post hacks.

  7. no this thing has been sitting around since last summer and while it did get a little dull, its nothing that a little brasso once in a while doesn’t take care of

    Chris, you dont have to give up age, I didnt put it in there until well over a year after signing up, same with zip code cause I won a contest, and my gender is set to robot, one of the darn near dozen choices, if you dont want to sign in thats your deal, and so far the “growing number” are mostly a bunch of people who wont spend 3 seconds to actually look at the account chart and want to scream PAYWALL!!! I think you are the only one I have ever seen to have a legitimate reason, though they are optional

  8. it’s a good hack and right up but unfortunately a little more than what most people will do.
    i know you wanted to make it look nice and i agree it does

    i might do this since i have a mouse and a vcr head laying around but i’ll probably just put the encoder on the bottom and stick the mouse parts under that, you could do that and still make it look nice if you just encase all the junk inside and have the head sticking out
    by the way, not all vcr heads look nice on the top like yours, mine has wires sticking out and solder and stuff written on it

    also you didn’t really include any links to other stuff you could do with a jog wheel like midi, which is what i’d use it for
    but still, nice job

  9. Zool:
    Mine had a bunch of crap printed on the top, most of it washed off with a little acetone, but by the time I got done sanding down the polyester it was totally gone :)

    and yes I agree most people would not go though all that, and yea you can stuff the junk in a box, but it looks so much cooler free floating

  10. what kind of motor is in a VCR head? A stepper I’d imagine? could you spin it, read the changing output voltages, and extrapolate the wheel’s direction and speed from that?

    It seems like with the wheel, a few diodes and resistors, and a little AVR programmed to act as a USB device, you could make a little generic board that converts any VCR head into a jog wheel. New project maybe…

  11. I thought this would use the motor pulses to generate scroll activity. That would be cool with a naked hard drive sans head and arm. I will search my notes on three phase logic to digital pulse converter, I found on the web. It seems to be just 3 LM324’s with a minus common to a fourth term on the drive, but no logic. No drives use a Y connect, they use a Delta of just three wires. This is worth a hack. I have one drive mounted on oak with a 1/4 inch plug, it is a solo “scratch” instrument for live music or DJ. It is engraved 1906 Telharmonium 2006. Bass not scratch is the sound and a serious sub shakes the the ground.

  12. when I opened this thing up it had 2 sets of 4 coils (one stationary one on the spinning part), it was defiantly not stepper, and there is no need for stepper in a vcr head, it just whizzes around

    though I am not totally discounting the idea of using the motor, but it doesnt work that way in this case

  13. Nicely done and very well put together. That thing looks pretty sweet, I was just sitting here day dreaming about trying to use something like that with a propeller uC (because its what I’m learning to use) as an input device for a small LCD. Mount it on a push button some how and you would have a smooth wheel pushbutton interface for menu selection. It would really come in handy for going through large ranges of numbers or settings, like say for a temp controller on a kiln.

    I even got all the parts lying around!

    I don’t go to instructables either, to be honest, I just find the interface clumsy and awkward. I have an account and I was in love with the site when it first came out, but all they have done since then is make the site harder to use and annoying. If I want to post content I can see needing to sign up. But just to view it? Thats crazy, especially when you generate your revenue from user submitted content.

    I might go there for this if I can’t find an alternate tutorial with a quick search.

  14. @ gottabethatguy – I have that same screwdriver as well. :)

    Gentlemen, your views on and are all valid and everyone here is aware of the situation. This is a worthy hack, so say your thoughts on it or otherwise move on. This page isn’t either of the aforementioned websites. Which is why we are here. Let it go.

  15. with the idea of using the inbuilt motor.. this type of brushless motor has hall effect sensors for motion feedback, it would be pretty easy to hook one of those up to a mouse chip. could remove the motor stator for less rotary resistance

    also the problem with the optical encoder printout was obviously too low resolution, you can open up paint and print at 300dpi, there is your pixel to inch conversion!

  16. For those who are wondering about the coils in a VCR head drum: you’re probably referring to the coils (really a transformer with one moving part, one stationary part) that carry the signal from the heads to the electronics and back. The drum normally spins around 25 or 30 times per second, so no, it’s not a stepper motor.

  17. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I probably would have struggled for a long time trying to fit 3 or 4 small rectangular PCBs into that space rather than cutting one to the exact shape.

    BTW, I finally broke down and setup a (free) instructables account. I didn’t even need to wait for an email confirmation — the account worked immediately.

  18. I really can’t understand why everyone hates instructables so much. Every site has ads and even HAD has ads and nobodys complains that they are getting money for them. That is how websites work!

    Its better then having nothing and having people build all of these projects and never being able to share them because they don’t want to build their own site or run a blog. Instructables and wikihow have their place, Just like the Arduino and Basic Stamps. They are not perfect but they are better then nothing and have their uses.

  19. – article related
    Saw this on instructables before i saw it on HaD. Nice job on the build! I changed my computer mouse a few years ago from an MX Revolution to a razer lachesis and i’ve never regretted it… except for the fact that the revolution mouse has the most amazing scroll wheel. This project could be used to make a keyboard appended scroll wheel.

    – Instructables related
    A site has to have some kind of revenue to support the cost of having visitors; donation or adds basically. Staff and materials also count.
    The limitation posted on instructables is so you’re enticed to get a free account and get registered it’s called “Customer Retention” for you normal folks :) After that it’s a minimal what you can’t access and if you have an old free account (like mine) you have access to just about everything a pro member has.

    To those that whine about registration: The world isn’t open source, nonregistration, CC and free isn’t always better. Instructables is a platform that capitalizes on ideas for revenue and in return they offer a platform that gets your idea to the masses.

    With a free account and ad block it’s actually a rather great platform with a nice community… did i say nice community? Do you get banned for using the word “nice” here on HaD? :P

  20. Maybe somebody should download the pdf when instructables hosts the project and put that pdf up somewhere for the hackadayers.
    Although then you have to be careful in what pdf reader you use, don’t use adobe reader since it’s the most prolific virusvector available.

  21. @panikos: I’d like to look into that, but I worry that the wheel won’t have the needed stability or resolution. There’s also an issue of durability when you have a paper pattern glued to metal and being rubbed over other metal.

  22. I love this site. I’m an undergrad going for a CSCI+Eng, and while alot of this stuff does go WAY over my head at this point, some of it doesn’t =) And you don’t have to be a engineer to appreciate the concepts behind alternative energy sources!

    I would really love this site had some forums, or it’s own instructable section, hell, I would even DONATE to HaD to have these posted here, and never leave this site.

    Keep up the great work community, I hope to contribute someday!

  23. the pattern never touches other metal M4CGYV3R, it actually does not touch anything at all

    resolution you could bump up to probally about 4x or 64 spaces, its at 16 right now, and yea its pretty darn stable, as long as you break all inertia :)

  24. cause its not using the optical sensor in the mouse, the mouse IC was just 1 single IC so if I did use the sensor it would just be xy data, so I used IR leds and photo transistors hooked up to the rotary encoder inputs, thus the pattern is needed to break the IR reflection

  25. HaD community is just a bunch of whiner. Always complaining about everything: arduino sucks, not a hack, led project, instructables are horrible, old, etc.

    All those useless comments should be filtered.

  26. Cool Hack! Been putting one of these together myself. Video heads are great. 2 Bearings, hall effect sensor, 2 brass collets w/setscrews and sometimes a floating magnetic collet in older heads. $30-40 bucks worth of parts! Get them from the garbage tip of nothing or maybe a couple bucks. The stationery part of the head is a bearing block :) All great for small cnc projects etc.


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