Stephen Coyle

Kilnettle Shrine Talking Tape Dispenser

A couple of years ago I wrote this post, wherein I detail how I built a working version of the tape dispenser from Father Ted (the one that says you have used two inches of sticky tape, god bless you). While it worked surprisingly well, that version had a number of flaws. It used unnecessarily overpowered hardware, was fragile, and didn’t sound very good.

Since making that one, I’d toyed with the idea of creating a better, more repeatable design. So, in very procrastinate-y fits and starts over the last few months, I’ve been doing just that.

This new one is much smaller, sounds better, and I daresay looks a touch more professional than its predecessor. Read on to find out how to get one of your own!

More importantly, it’s also much easier to make and I’ve got actual documentation for doing so. The case is 3D-printable, and all the parts print with no supports. Instead of a rotary encoder to measure the tape rotation, it now uses an IR led and sensor. The logic runs on an ESP8266 microcontroller instead of a Raspberry Pi Zero, all of which means the electronics inside can be purchased for less than €10.

It was a lot of fun improving on my 3D modelling, electronics, design and general planning skills in the process of making it. The initial body design was more complex, as was the circuitry, and I enjoyed iterating on and simplifying those significantly by the final product.

I did nurture the idea of actually selling these, but ultimately I think I’ve decided against it for now, for a few reasons:

  • Making one is fun, and a nice evening or weekend project. Making lots is more effort than I have time for at the moment.
  • I’ve got several earmarked for people already, and when I subtract those from the dozen I’ve made, I’m left with only a tiny batch to sell.
  • Factoring in the cost of components, time to assemble, and shipping, I don’t think there’s a compelling price point that doesn’t run at a loss. In which case I’d rather just give them away on my own terms.

How can you get one?

The good news, though, is that you can build one yourself! I’ve made the software, 3D-printable models, and instructions public on GitHub. You can also view the print files on Printables. It’s not a super complex build, so if you can manage basic soldering and have a 3D printer it’s probably a one-day project. I could potentially make kits, which contain all the required parts, that folks could assemble by themselves. If that's something you'd be interested in, do let me know. And if you do make one, or make some kind of remix, please send me pics!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you do make one for yourself I'd appreciate if you made a donation to a charity that supports trans people. It's an awful shame that the creator of Father Ted is doing so much damage to an already vulnerable group, so anything that can help offset that is appreciated.

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