DIY FoldScope

While I was waiting for my FoldScope to get here, I made one for myself.  I found a picture on the foldscope site and printed it out on cardstock.  I skipped adding the back section and just held it up to the light to use it.  The lens was the only harder to get part of this project.  For mine I used a lens salvaged from an old computer CD drive.

DIY FoldScope

Now that I have the real FoldScope, I had a chance to compare my homemade version with the real one.  The magnification power of the real one seems to be a little higher (using the low power lens) than the homemade one.  The “plastic paper” used on the real one makes a much nicer microscope that should hold up better.  All the extras like the light module and camera attaching magnets are all great features.

My homemade slides were from the same cardstock which I cut out a square (or several squares) and then put clear tape over the hole.  I then placed whatever I wanted to look at on the sticky side of the tape and covered it with another piece of tape to seal it in place.

The problem I found was with the tape turning white if any moisture or water was in the sample.  Here is the slide I made of a drop of water.

Water Drop Slide

I did get to view some microscopic creatures swimming around in that drop of water before it clouded up.  I didn’t have the real FoldScope when I made that slide so I didn’t get a picture but will very likely try it again.  This was one of the things I hoped to view with a microscope and now I have.  The slide took a little while before it turned cloudy and I still found little things swimming even after it started turning white.  After an hour or so, no more movement could be found.

Hera are some of the slides I have made so far.

homemade slides

The one with 4 sections didn’t work real good.  You need enough left on the ends to hold it in place.  Making a good slide if harder than I expected.  Most of the slides shown had objects that were too thick to see much detail through.

Here are a couple scans I made and edited of the new Foldscope.  It is only the two main parts but, if you can find or make a lens, it works.  Not as good as the real one but better than nothing.

Foldscope scan1

This second one is not as clear but uses a lot less ink if you print it out.

Foldscope scan2

On that site you can find a nicer pattern to make one of these type microscopes yourself.


Manu, if this is sharing too much, remove it or let me know and I will.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Hedberg says:

    Where did you procure the lenses and LED light and power source for your DIY Foldscopes? Also do you have the assembly instructions?

    I signed up and have been waiting but not heard anything back yet. I shared this with a colleague and she already has been contacted.


  2. MadGreen says:

    I got the lens out of an old computer CD drive. For the light, I just held it up to a light or a bright window. I also used a cheap LED flashlight to shine on the back of the DIY microscope from a distance.

    On a different style of DIY microscope, you could check out this website:

    I don’t have assembly directions and I just left out the back piece completely. After I got the real Foldscope, I did scan it and made a printable copy of the two main parts. Both versions were assembled as close as I could follow the assembly videos here:

  3. Avi Solomon says:

    Maybe you could use the drawings from the FoldScope patent for the printout?:

  4. MadGreen says:

    Yes, the drawings from the patent would work to build your own. The latest version of the Foldscope is a better design but either one would work. Once you understand how the focusing works and have a lens of some kind to use, it really is a simple design. The built in light and camera attaching magnets are great features to have and the plastic paper the real one is made from makes the Foldscope a great tool for exploring and learning. Those extra features are not really needed for a homemade version. Basically all you need is a lens, a way to hold whatever you want to look at, and a way to hold the lens the right distance to focus. You can hold the scope up to a light or use a flashlight or lamp instead of the built-in light.

  5. djbeede says:

    Thanks for this posting. I’m in between the beta roll out and the kick-start availability so had to try a DIY version. I made both the old and the newer gen version. They both worked fine. Still trying to rig some magnets to attach to my iPhone. I’ve made some pretty good pix just juggling. I found lenses at McMaster-Carr, part number 8996k21. Fifty of them are $8.75 with shipping $15. Can’t wait t get the real thing, as the light module will be sweet. I’ve set it on an LED flashlight so far.

    1. MadGreen says:

      You will not be disappointed with the real FoldScope but I think the homemade version is still worth making if you have or can make your own lens for it. I edited my original post here to include a link to my website where there is a nicer pattern (not made by me).

      The light module is nice but I usually just hold it up to a window or other light source instead. That seem to work good enough for me, eliminates the need for the extra parts, and doesn’t require any power.

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