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How do redstone torches (circuits) work in Minecraft?

New to Minecraft, just got beta, mastered most of the mechanics (mining, picks, the Nether, etc.) and now my final project, (besides building some unbelievable thing) is mastering redstone circuits.

I only know basic stuff, and I can't exactly access the MinecraftWiki just yet. In the meantime, I'd at least like some help before i go off and screw everything up with these circuits. I'm still having trouble with the mechanics of metal doors, pressure plates, etc. Hard to get a lever to work on both sides of it.

  • 5
    Your question is a bit vague at the moment and is likely to be closed as it stands. You should edit it to ask a more specific, concrete, objectively answerable question so that we may best help you. – Invader Skoodge Feb 8 '11 at 14:57
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    Welcome to the site, @Mike! In addition to StrixVaria's advice, feel free to break up your post into separate questions (though I'd advise doing a search to make sure any separate ones you have haven't already been asked). That way it's easier for others to give you a clear answer and for you to accept one. – FAE Feb 8 '11 at 14:59
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    A good way to rephrase this question to avoid closure may be something along the lines of, "How does Redstone circuitry work?" :) – Brant Feb 8 '11 at 16:17
  • Why can't you access MinecraftWiki? – zzzzBov Mar 9 '11 at 20:17
  • @zzzzBov, maybe his school is blocking access? :) – Cyclops Mar 10 '11 at 1:58

Redstone circuits are based on two items, Redstone Dust and Redstone Torches. Both of these items are mined from Redstone Ore. When you mine Redstone Ore, it drops many pieces of Redstone Dust. To craft a Redstone Torch, you put a stick in the crafting window with one piece of redstone dust above it (like a regular torch but with Redstone instead of Coal).

When Redstone Dust is placed on a block, it becomes Redstone Wire.

Redstone Torches are power sources. When placed adjacent to Redstone Wire, the wire will become powered and begin to transmit power. Redstone Torches can also be thought as a NOT gate. If the block a Redstone Torch is placed on receives power, the torch will turn off. If the block is not receiving power, the power will stay on.

Buttons, levers, and pressure plates all transmit power as well. A button will transmit power for about 2 seconds, and then turn off. A lever will not transmit power if the lever is in the off position, and will transmit power if the lever is in the on position. A Wooden Pressure Plate will transmit power if any object is on it (dropped items and empty minecarts count), and a Stone Pressure Plate will transmit power if a mob or the player is on it.

Doors, TNT, and minecart tracks accept power. Doors are fairly straightforward - if the door receives power it will open, and if it doesn't receive power it will close. If a block of TNT receives power, it will ignite (good for making TNT-based traps). If a minecart track junction receives power, it will switch directions.

It's important to note that doors can receive power from the blocks surrounding them. If you want to make something that opens the door momentarily when you hit a button, or open when you step on a pressure plate, you don't need any Redstone Dust - you can just place the button on the block next to it / pressure plate in front of it.

However, Redstone has its quirks. Power can only travel 15 blocks across Redstone Wire. If you have a long strip of Redstone Wire 20 blocks long and place a Redstone Torch at the beginning, it will reach the 15th block and the remaining pieces of wire will be unpowered. To circumvent this issue you can build repeaters, which are simply two NOT gates in sequence (switching the signal twice results in the same signal).

Also, Redstone can burn out. If you make a circuit that is designed to flash on and off too quickly, it will eventually stop working until you remove a part of it and wire it up again. Specifically, a device that flashes on and off every 1, 2, or 3 ticks (there are 20 ticks in a second) will burn out.

Here is an image with various logic gates taken from the Minecraft Wiki - the article there has more info on each gate.

enter image description here

Redstone circuits are generally shown through schematics like this one:

enter image description here

These are three designs for an AND gate: output O is only on when inputs A and B are on.

Using a combination of these gates, you can make many things. For example, a Monostable Circuit. I picked this example because it uses an RS-NOR latch and relies on the burnout quirk.

enter image description here

(image from the Minecraft Wiki)

When a button is pressed, it delivers a signal for a while and turns off. This Monostable Circuit will extend the amount of time a button press delivers a signal. The navy blue section of the circuit is an RS-NOR latch. The green section is a clock that will burn out after a while. When the button is pressed, the RS-NOR latch flips and activates the clock. When the clock burns out, the RS-NOR flips back. This makes a circuit that will extend a button press.

Here's what is looks like in-game: enter image description here

Now that many new Redstone items have been added, I felt it was time to revisit this answer. The first (and probably most important) item that was added was the Repeater (added in Beta 1.3)

enter image description here enter image description here

The Redstone Repeater is a unique block, as it has 4 different settings. You can cycle through them by right-clicking. You will notice that each setting places the "Redstone Torches" farther apart. This is because at each individual setting, a Redstone signal will take longer to propagate through the item. The settings are 2 ticks, 4 ticks, 6 ticks, and 8 ticks (or 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, and 0.4 second delays).

The Repeater has also been called a diode, because it only lets a signal travel through it in one direction, much like an actual diode does. Repeaters will only accept an input directly into it.

enter image description here

Another interesting property of Repeaters are that they can "power" a block if the block is placed right after the Repeater.

enter image description here

Some uses of Repeaters are compact (adjustable) clocks:

enter image description here

And having isolated parallel signals:

enter image description here

Beta 1.5 brought Detector Rails and Powered Rails.

enter image description here

Detector Rails will simply give off power if a minecart is on them, and not if there is no minecart on them.

enter image description here

Powered Rails will act as brakes with no power applied to them, but will boost a cart if power is applied to them.

enter image description here

  • This is just a general introduction, I'll update it with more if I can think of anything. – Kevin Yap Feb 8 '11 at 16:11
  • Maybe basic examples? – tzenes Feb 8 '11 at 16:28
  • Examples of the logic gates? – Kevin Yap Feb 8 '11 at 16:47
  • @Kevin looking good. Only thing I might add is a quick tutorial at the end that creates something interesting out of the logic gates (a binary clock?); plus a screenshot of the final product (if you have time). – tzenes Feb 8 '11 at 19:22
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    This right here, is how you turn a not so great (it has close votes!) question into a very good one, by way of an amazing answer. +1! – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 9 '11 at 19:27

The question is pretty broad, but I think this Youtube video by EbolaZidane is a good introduction to redstone circuitry. It also covers problems you mention like metal doors and levers on both sides of a block:

  • What's the thing at the left of the block? I can't recognize it (at least not with this texture theme). – Denilson Sá Maia Feb 8 '11 at 20:23
  • @Denilson A redstone torch. It's clearer if you see the video in action. :) – badp Feb 8 '11 at 20:55
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    Yeah, videos are much better for explaining something visual like Redstone than text is. – Kevin Yap Feb 9 '11 at 1:21
  • @Kevin I just think that those charts are a bit cumbersome to read, but useful to people who do have a clue. :) – badp Feb 9 '11 at 1:25
  • +1 for videos are better. Also experience; once primed by the video tutorial there's no substitute for getting your hands dirty building some experimental circuits to see what they do. It's about knowing where to put the blocks as much as the circuit logic. – kinofrost Feb 15 '11 at 13:02

You can make a fast flashing redstone circuit without burning it out, you need to direct the power output away from the circut like to a dispenser to make a machine gun and you can also attach a lever to the circut and turn it on to stop the power and keep it from burning out.

You can make a small circut with 3 redstone torches 4 redstone dust and three blocks.

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