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updated: 2009-01-09

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Site last updated:
2009-01-09

Sex Toy Mechanics

How to repair or modify a typical vibrator

Dildos

BamThe most basic sex toy is the common dildo, which is an inert penis-shaped object, typically made from PVC, latex, or silicone.

Less commonly, one can find toys made of metal, wood, and even glass. If a toy is made of "vinyl", that's PVC. If they call it "rubber", it's probably softened PVC. If they call it "jelly", it's probably heavily softened PVC. If you're paranoid about product safety, you might want to avoid any softened PVC product, since PVC is softened with a class of chemicals called "phthalates" which are considered a health hazard. Greenpeace has actually made a big deal out of this, publicizing their concerns and publicly asking why government health authorities are silent about the dangers of sex toys. However, Greenpeace has a long history of publishing scientifically unsubstantiated alarmist nonsense (see what they did to the nuclear power industry), and they neglected to mention that one would have to use a sex toy continuously for several hours a day in order to get a dosage which is approaching the hazard level for a small child, never mind a much larger adult.

Nevertheless, if you're worried about phthalates, you could either avoid PVC toys entirely or put latex condoms on them. Latex and silicone are generally safer, but they're also more expensive. Silicone in particular is very expensive, and toys made from high-quality silicone can carry quite a bit of sticker shock. But ask yourself how often you will actually buy a sex toy; is it really something you can't afford to spend a bit of extra money on? Someone might buy a sex toy and use it for years, if he or she chooses well.

Vibrators

Vibrating EggDespite the widely varying claims on product labels, almost all vibrators use the exact same design for their basic operating mechanism. Try to imagine the simplest, cheapest way to design a vibrating device, and it should come to you: simply take a small electric motor and stick a lop-sided weight on the drive shaft. As the drive shaft spins, the lop-sided weight will spin with it, causing the entire motor assembly's centre of gravity to oscillate back and forth. Hook up the two electric leads to a pair of AA batteries in series, and voila! A vibrator.

In fact, not only do almost all vibrators use the same operating mechanism, but it's often the same exact part. One of the most common basic toys is what they call a vibrating "egg" (shown at right), which is a small rigid plastic egg-shaped shell, inside of which they hide the aforementioned motor assembly. And if you cut open a typical vibrating rubber dildo (the kind which has a battery pack attached by an electrical cord), you can see that they made it by simply embedding one of these eggs inside the dildo. Usually, they moulded the silicone around the egg. In the case of the Doc Johnson "Ultra-Realistic" toys as well as "Kong", they actually moulded it with a hole for the vibrating egg, and then they plugged the hole with a suction cup insert. You can fix a broken "Kong" vibrator by simply yanking out the suction cup (hopefully it doesn't tear, or you'll have to use needle-nose pliers to remove the rest of the plug) squeezing out the vibrating egg, and then replacing it with a new one. These cheap vibrating eggs break more often than you'd guess: our "Kong" toy had to be repaired after a year or so.

The other type of vibrating dildo is just a glorified sleeve for a cylindrical vibrator, and if you cut a cylindrical vibrator open, you'll find the same motor assembly I mentioned before.

Now that we know how vibrators are made, it becomes immediately apparent that one should be able to convert a dildo into a vibrator with minimal effort. "Why would anyone do that" you ask? Simple: there is more variety of shapes and sizes among dildos than vibrators, and sometimes, the only way to get the vibrator you want is to find that dildo with the perfect size and shape and texture, and then convert it into a vibrator.

Converting a Dildo into a Vibrator

It might be frightening to take a power drill to a sex toy. After all, you paid good money for that toy, and it looks delicate! Also, if you do any research, you will find that people invariably recommend that you do not ever try to cut silicone. There's a good reason for this recommendation; once you start a cut in silicone, it will tend to continue until it reaches air. However, the trick to cutting silicone is to realize that you can control the direction in which the cut grows. Simply leaving a cut in a silicone toy is a bad idea, but if you pull the two sides apart so that the cut continues to grow, you can direct it so that it comes back to the surface and you can get a piece cleanly off.

That probably sounds a lot more frightening than it is. It helps to have an old unwanted sex toy laying around that you don't mind experimenting on. Once you cut and drill silicone a few times, you'll see that it's really quite easy to do. Drilling in particular requires no special technique; the drill bit naturally goes around in a circular motion rather than cutting across the toy, so you don't have to worry about the toy falling apart.

Step 1: Purchase a vibrating egg (or two, if you want extra power).

Step 2: Measure the diameter of the vibrating egg. Most eggs are 1 inch in diameter.

Step 3: Get a drill bit which is suitable for drilling large-bore holes in wood. Its width should be at least as large as the egg. For soft silicone, I would use a 9/8" spade bit in order to make a 1" diameter hole, because the silicone has too much "give" in it to make an exact size hole.

Step 4: Hold the dildo in one hand (yes, grip the shaft, don't be shy) and then use a power drill in the other hand and drill up from the base into the shaft.

Step 5: Remove all of the excess material from the hole.

Step 6: Shove the vibrating egg(s) into the hole. Push it as far in as it will go. Friction will most likely hold it in place; if it is in danger of falling out of its own accord, then you made the hole too big. Of course, you can't shrink the hole now, but you can solve this problem by plugging the hole with a wooden dowel. Just make sure the wooden dowel is big enough, and you'll probably want to put a hook in the base of the dowel so you can easily pull it out for repairs. These cheap vibrator eggs are made with some pretty damned crappy components, and you should not expect them to be very durable. Worse yet, the more expensive ones often use the same components, and the extra money goes to pay for bullshit features (like fancy "pulsing" vibration patterns that will make her say "That's neat" but won't actually help get her to that earth-shattering orgasm she craves).

Tips:

1 1/8" spade bit with length extenderTip 1: If you want to drill a hole in soft silicone, you should use an oversized spade or Forstner bit. Spade and Forstner bits cut grooves around the circumference of the hole before the main body plunges, thus making a much cleaner hole than a regular spiral bit ever would. I can pretty much guarantee disappointment if you try to do this with a regular spiral bit. The example shown at right is a cheap spade bit, attached to an extender because it was used on the infamous "Bam" dildo, which is huge (more than a foot long).

Tip 2: The choice of bit will affect the amount of oversizing you want to do: a Forstner bit will typically cut a more exact hole than a spade bit will, so you don't need to oversize the bit as much. I'll go ahead and say that Forstner bits are superior for this job. But Forstner bits are also more expensive, and you probably don't happen to have one laying around in your toolbox. Spade bits, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen.

Tip 3: The harder the dildo material is, the less oversizing you need to do on the drill bit. That's because the softer materials tend to stretch so much that the hole will be smaller than the drill bit was. More rigid materials don't do this as much.

Tip 4: Remember that the softer varieties of silicone, unlike wood, will not chip away. Instead, they tend to form long stringy chains of material, almost like snakes. Sometimes they will stubbornly stick to the base or walls of the hole, and you'll have to use needle-nose pliers to reach in and pull the excess rubbery material out. In fact, you will typically have to stop drilling several times so you can pull out strings and lumps of rubbery material. You might even be tempted to clean it out with a water jet, although I've never tried this (too much pressure and you might damage the toy).

Tip 5: It is better to err on the size of making the hole too big at first, rather than too small. If you start drilling and the hole is too big, you can switch to a smaller spade bit as you drill deeper. But if you start drilling and the hole is too small, you can't switch to a bigger spade bit. Spade bits, unlike spiral bits, need a base to grab onto in order to work. You can't use a spade bit the same way you'd use a regular spiral bit.

Results

Preparing to drill.
Preparing to drill.
Drilling away!
Drilling away!
Finished drilling.
Finished drilling.
Close-up. The ring around the hole is the outline of where the suction cup used to be.
Close-up. The ring around the hole is the outline of where the suction cup used to be.
If the hole is the right size, the egg should slide in fairly easily.
If the hole is the right size, the egg should slide in fairly easily.
Finished conversion.
Finished conversion.

"Bam" is a good example of a dildo which must be modified into a vibrator. Doc Johnson does not sell a vibrator-equipped version of this toy, and it's a notoriously popular toy among size queens. It's also widely available; there are other huge toys on the market, but few of them are equipped with vibrators. TSX Toys sells some huge vibrator-equipped toys, but they must be special-ordered and are often difficult to find. And women can be surprisingly finicky with toys; sometimes it's a certain trick of the shape or texture, but they can take two very similar-looking toys and declare that only one of them is acceptable. In that case, if the toy she likes is only available as a dildo, it's time to do a bit of repair work.

Another nice thing about altering a dildo into a vibrator is that you can make it more powerful. Many vibrators only come with one egg, but if you drill your own hole and do the conversion yourself, you can add a second egg. You can also use more powerful eggs; some suppliers sell an egg which runs on three AA batteries instead of two, for MORE POWER. This is particularly important with a large toy like Bam, whose size and mass is so great that an ordinary vibrator probably won't cut it. By putting in two three-battery vibrator eggs, you end up effectively running three times the power you would normally find in a typical vibrator.

Summary

Sex toys are not complicated devices, and it is surprisingly easy to repair a broken vibrator, modify a dildo into a vibrator, or modify a vibrator for more power.

PS. You can damned well bet that Tim Taylor did this kind of sex toy modification for his wife, in the un-aired X-rated episode. Of course, Tim's modified vibrator would have run off a 7 horsepower Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine. And it would have a Binford logo on it.


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