Off Topic: Tesla Project 2006

By Jon|March 7, 2012|Empirical Science, Fun, Modern Philosophy|

Back in 2006, when I was a senior in high school I was in physics class and our physics teacher, Mr. Scott, showed us the Van de Graph generator. I thought to myself, cool…lets make one. After doing some research, I found a better version would be the Tesla coil which was invented by the infamous, but not as famous as he should be, Nikola Tesla. It is often claimed that he rather than Edison actually invented the light bulb. The intent of this post is to give you the basic idea of what a tesla coil is, give you a head start if you are interested in making one and to show the pictures of my completed tesla.

After doing some research realized that the schematic for the tesla coil is quite simple, before the math. The type of components one would need to buy are all  based on the voltage of the transformer and the number of wraps of secondary and primary coiling. The capacitor is constructed by putting 12 or 13 beer bottles filled with salt water, wrapped with aluminium foil and place in a bucket which is sealed to separate each plate of the capacitor. The components are as follows:

  • Transformer 10-15kv
  • Spark Gap
  • 15-30kv “beer bottle” capacitor
  • Filter
  • Primary coil 8-17 wraps
  • Seconary coil 800-1,500 wraps
  • Toroid

Here is a very simple way to calculate the size and type of components you need to create a spark of your desired length. The amount of power needed for a spark is determined with this formula, where P is power and L is the length of the spark. :

Essentially how the machine works is that the power enters the transfomer from normal wall voltage and is multiplied to 12,000 volts where it is then filtered, charges the capacitor which everytime it fills, it discharges on the spark gap. This spark creates an electromagnetic pulse which goes into the primary (thicker coil). This primary coil in no way touches the secondary coil, but because the electromagnetic pulse is so strong, it transfers its power into the secondary coil and moves upward making a quite noticeable humming noise.

So, now that you have the proper components you start building. You will have to create a wood or plastic support for the components obviously. Here are photos of it after completed construction:

Spark Gap
12kv Transformer
Primary coil
Transformer and beer bottle capacitor

I changed the toroid a few times and made the primary coil slope upwards. Also, after a little adjusting to acquire resonance between the spark rate in the gap, and the primary coil’s interaction with the secondary coil, this is what we get:

Compare it to what it could have been (these people are slightly more insane than me):

In the end, I ended up listing my coil on Ebay. I put about $45 or $50 into the project as a whole (very inexpensive.) It sold for $350.00 to a physics teacher from Toledo who came with his pickup truck….  Maybe a good business idea for anyone interested?

If you want to try, check out this site:

About Jon

Jon connects leaders and organizations to Catholic philosophical resources to battle for the soul of the western world.