Atomic force microscopes (AFMs) are versatile tools for characterizing surfaces down to the subnanometer scale. Researchers wanting to,say, map out the optical antennas they’ve inscribed on a chip, or measure the quantum dots they’ve created, can image objects at resolutions down to the picometer level by scanning an AFM over the surface. Useful as they are, AFMs seem out of reach to many academic scientists, graduate students, and researchers at small companies because of their high cost, which runs in the range of $200,000. Fortunately, researchers can build their own AFMs for as little as $30,000 using off-the-shelf components such as nanopositioning stages. This white paper describes the process of building a do-it-yourself AFM using readily available components.