Introduction: An Experiment in Transformer Rewinding

I've had this transformer sitting in my junk box for a few years now. It came from a cheap hi-fi system. of (possibly) 80's vintage.

I'd worked out it must be rated 90-100VA, but with windings for 11.7v, 15.4v and 40.5v, it was a bit useless.

So when I needed a transformer with a power rating of at least 50VA to power a low voltage soldering iron at 24v, 2A, seeing as transformers are quite expensive to buy I naturally thought about re-winding this lump.

I established from looking at wire specifications that the correct wire gauge to use is about 18 SWG. The next thing I discovered is that a normal sized reel of this wire costs only a little less than a complete transformer. Whilst a smaller (read as, "hobbyist sized") reel is cheaper, it is much more costly in terms of £'s per meter. At this point I nearly abandoned the project.

However, also sitting in my junk box were two de-gaussing coils from old monitors. One I had previously unwound and rolled the wire up onto a cardboard tube. The other was untouched. I wondered if I could use this wire to wind multiple coils, and connect them in parallel to get the necessary current rating.

This is not an exercise in good transformer design! This method is almost certainly less efficient than winding the transformer with the correct gauge of wire. It is presented here as a way of making something I needed, with the materials I had available.

And so the experiment begins...

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You need:

A transformer to modify
Wire for re-winding the transformer
Lubricant to get the last of the laminations back in
Insulation, ideally yellow transformer tape.
Terminations for your new winding

A chisel you don't mind damaging
A mallet
A bit of thin, strong steel
A vice

I found it very helpful to read this article: and this one:

Step 2: Dismantle the Core

This is tricky.

The core is made of steel laminations in E and I shapes. If you are lucky, you get a transformer where all the E's are stuck together, and all the I's are stuck together. It's far more common however to find that they alternate.

Getting the first E out is the hard part. All the laminations will be stuck together and tightly wedged into the bobbin. You need to crack the adhesive and drive out the laminations without damaging them - particularly without bending them.

I used a woodworking chisel to split each lamination from the stack. I drove out the first one part way using a small steel ruler as a drift, then gripped the edge in a vice. I then tapped the transformer upwards on alternate corners using a mallet, so it came out in small stages.

After the first lamination is out, the rest are much easier as there is a space for them to go into when you crack the bond between them.

Once all the laminations are out, put them somewhere safe.

Step 3: Unwind the Old Secondary

In this particular case, unwind 3 secondaries.

This particular transformer uses a split bobbin construction, with flying leads, making it very easy to dismantle. You may find you have one where the secondary is laid on top of the primary, in which case you can just start unwinding.

With a split bobbin, you get the primary and secondary coils wound onto separate bobins, which are stuck together in a plastic holder. A bit of prising and a few taps with the mallet, and the secondary bobbin came out.

Remove any tape and other insulation as you go. Save any useful looking bits of insulation, you can re-use them.

Knowing the voltage from each secondary winding, and by counting the turns from each of them as I unwound it, I was able to obtain a turns per volt figure by dividing the number of turns by the measured voltage. I actually obtained 3 silghtly different figures, so I averaged them and obtained a value of 4.26. To obtain a 24 volt output I therefore need 4.26*24=102.24 turns. A little experimentation to obtain the exact number may be required.

Carefully wind the wire onto something, since you may need to re-use it, for either re-winding this transformer, or for something else.

Step 4: Determine the Wire Thickness

I spent a lot of time investigating this.

Wire is specified as having "ampacity". This means the current it can safely carry without getting dangerously hot. This figure is generally given for conditions of normal wiring, and is far too high for transformer winding. The reason this figure is far too high is because in a transformer, many current carrying turns of wire are tightly packed side by side, all generating heat in a parallel manner. Ampacity ratings are given for the wire laid out in a cable run, where it is far easier for the heat to escape.

Rather than get involved in a lot of maths involving current densities, I took the rule of thumb figure from the wikipedia entry on magnet wire of 2.5A per square mm. I need the wire to carry 2.08A, so it's sectional area needs to be .832 square mm. This gives a diameter of 1.03mm - the nearest standard sizes are 19SWG (in practice, 18SWG) or 18AWG. As previously stated, the wire quite expensive, so this is where the idea comes in of using many coils of thin wire which I already had.

I weighed and measured the wire I have, and concluded it is nearest in size to 26 AWG. The diameter is 0.4 to 0.45 mm, giving a cross sectional area of around 0.126 square mm. Since the current capacity of wire is directly related to it's cross sectional area, it's simply a case of seeing how many strands will make up the area I need. In this case it's 7 strands, which I can wind on as a minimum of 7 coils connected in parallel.

For current capacity, the thicker the winding the better, so I'll be adding as many windings as possible. I estimated that I have enough wire for 9 or possibly 10 windings, so that's how many I'm going to try to fit.

The amount of space the winding takes up needs to be considered. The amount of space on the bobbin I have is 17 x 11mm. This allows room for 1665 turns of 26AWG wire, however, due to the space taken up by insulation and wasted space at least a couple of hundred turns are easily removed from this figure.

The number of turns required is estimated as around 103 (given that I don't know the exact turns ratio, and I chose to round up rather than down), and with the correct wire gauge that would be it. However, with 7 windings, the total number of turns is 721.

Another factor that needs to be considered is the resistance of the wire. I measured the average turn as 17cm. Multiplying this by 103 gives 1751cm, or 17.5 meters. At approximately 138 ohms per kilometer, the resistance of this length is 2.4 ohms. Since I'm using 7 windings in parallel, this is divided by 7, giving 0.34 ohms. At 2A of output current, the loss due to this resistance is 0.7 volts - about 3 turns worth of voltage, so I'll add this onto the winding. Obviously there is a tradeoff here between the increase in resistance due to the extra wire, and the increase in voltage due to the extra turns, however for this purpose it's not important.

Step 5: Test Winding

I wasn't going to wind hundreds of turns without checking that the voltage would be correct!

I wound the first coil with 104 turns and held it in place with transformer tape, since this was the figure given by the lowest turns ratio from the original 3 windings.

I quickly discovered that doing this in the living room with distractions of the TV and my other half is a very bad idea. I'd keep losing count after a few turns.

The ideal solution to the problem would be to mount the bobbin on a spindle with a turns counter. Lacking this, I used a permanent OHP pen to make a dot on every tenth turn - much easier to count when I lost my place!

This particular transformer needs to deliver 24 volts at full load. Since the winding is only at 1/7th of it's final thickness, only 1/7th of the load is needed, so I tested it with a load resistor consisting of 5 x 470 ohm resistors in parallel - not quite full load but it will do - actually more appropriate to 8 windings in parallel.

You can see in the two photos, 23.7 volts, which was the no-load output, and 23 volts, which was the output with a test load. It could really do with being a volt higher, so I'll add on another 4 turns, making 108 turns per winding.

Step 6: Rest of the Windings, Core Reassembly

As this is a "many windings in parallel" design, it now only remains to wind on the rest of the coils. A pretty boring and tedious job by any standard! I actually managed to fit 8 windings onto the core.

I took a photo of the second winding so you can see where I've made a dot every tenth turn. I did this because of numerous distractions, which caused me to keep losing count! At least with the dots I have a record of where I recently got up to.

I tried to start each winding at the place where the previous one finished, in order to keep it flat, however this plan began to fail on only the third winding, and I just had to fill odd spaces when I was able to.

I tested every winding using a partly reassembled core, to ensure each one produced exactly the same voltage. This is really important, a mis-match would lead to losses and heating! Good job I did, nearly every winding needed adjustment.

I joined all the start of winding ends together, and end of winding ends together, and connected them to flying leads. I used the pieces of card from the original windings to safely separate the soldered joints from the coils, before wrapping the whole thing in transformer tape.

You can see how the card works. First a wide piece to protect the windings. Next a narrower piece. The ends of the windings are hooked over this, so that if the leads get pulled, they are pulling against the card, not the winding. Finally a wide piece again to insulate it on the outside.

Put the core back together the same way it was built originally, slotting E's in from alternate sides.

Put in the 3rd and 2nd to the last pieces the same way, then you can slot the last piece between them, rather than up against the bobbin. You may need to file the edges a bit so it will go in. Mine was such a tight fit I ended up driving one of the I pieces in the other way to open up the gap, pulling it out when the final piece was part-way in. I squirted in some switch cleaner as a lubricant to help things along.

Slot the I pieces in, then tap it all together with a hammer. You don't want to see any gaps between the edges of the E's and the I's.

And there you have it. You can see the transformer connected to a 100 ohm load. With the full 2A load connected the voltage dropped to about 23.5 volts, which although not ideal, is adequate for my needs. Another couple of turns per winding would have been a good idea. The load (a soldering iron) gets nice and hot, and whilst the transformer laminations get warm - I suspect due to the iron loss having gone up due being dismantled and reassembled, but the winding stays nice and cool - just what is needed!

You can also see that the bobbin is quite full. I was wildly optimistic about how many turns would fit! If it was a single winding, the amount I reckoned on may have been more realistic.


rafaqata (author)2015-10-24

Hi sir I want to wind my tarnsformer .this tarnsformer cora size 3" 4" I need to wind 12v dc 230v ac

throbscottle (author)rafaqata2015-10-25

If you need 12Vdc you will need to rectify and smooth the output of your transformer. For a sine wave such as mains electricity, Vrms = 0.707 x Vdc,
but you also need to allow 1.4 volts for the 2 diode voltage drops of your
rectifier (assuming it's full wave). But then you will probably want
regulated dc, which is a whole other kettle of fish. Anyway, I really
recommend you carefully read through the homo ludens transformer
page to learn how to determine the size of your windings. If the 230v
one is already there, then all you need to know is that the ratio of the
voltages from each winding is nearly equal to the ratio of the turns of each winding (you need a few more turns to compensate for iron and copper losses).

Lima79 (author)throbscottle2016-11-24

Thanks for the link, the article is bit long(: but it looks like its worth the time spend and learn something and try to make one myself BTW i failed twice:P trying to make this one, my light bulb lit, when i tested the light bulb test.

it could be because i used old aluminum coils, don't want to pour lots of resources because i am just a beginner in electronics.

throbscottle (author)Lima792016-11-25

I kind of skipped through the video but it looks really good. I must watch it properly when I have time.

Ambitious for a beginner!

It could be your old aluminium coils have cracked insulation, causing a shorted turn, or that you didn't make a good enough connection - as you know, you can't solder aluminium without special solder.

Lima79 (author)throbscottle2016-11-26

yep was thinking the same, the aluminum coil is from an old UPS BTW
yesterday i rewind a 12volt transformer secondary coil, to see how many
turns makes the output VAC i know there are calculations but theories
are not my profession nu(: so i wind 100 turns and put them back and
checked the VAC output and the rating was around 17.1/2VAC but now the
primary coil gets hot but as we know old aluminum coil was used, i need
to do some testing and if i succeeded then i will make a post out here.
Thank you.

Herilala (author)2016-03-03

Formule pour faire rebobiner une transformateur c'est a dire pour obtenir le nombre de tour par volt

throbscottle (author)Herilala2016-03-03

J'ai utilisé Google translate, il peut ne pas être exacte.
Vent 10 tourne sur le secondaire, appliquer la puissance au primaire, mesurer la tension aux bornes du secondaire. Diviser cette tension de 10, et le résultat est le nombre approximatif de tours par volt.

I used Google translate, it may not be accurate.
Wind 10 turns onto the secondary, apply power to the primary, measure the voltage across the secondary. Divide that voltage by 10, and the result is the approximate number of turns per volt

mushtaqa8 (author)2016-02-15

500 watt power inverter transformer winding primary and secondary coils turns and their wireguage number and winding core case Suse data send me pleas

mushtaqa8 (author)2016-02-15

500 watt power inverter transformer winding primary and secondary coils turns and their wireguage number and winding core case Suse data send me pleas

mushtaqa8 (author)2016-02-15

I made 500 watt power inverter in 40 amp pleas help me which turns and wireguage sutible for primary coils and which turns and wrieguage sutible for secondary coil and winding core case size pleas send me this data soon

throbscottle (author)2014-08-10

Usually the transformers themselves are small, compared to a similar rated normal transformer, but you have a load of electronics to make it work, so there is a box that all that has to fit in.

throbscottle (author)2014-08-04

It will be switched mode then. You have three options. Work out which are the feedback resistors which set the voltage, and change one of them (most efficient, potentially risky), or feed the output into a small buck converter, which will reduce the voltage, or put the output through a linear regulator (least efficient, but also smoothest output)

wilgubeast (author)2014-08-01

"It is presented here as a way of making something I needed, with the materials I had available."

Awesome. I suspect you'd dig this interview the previous commenter did with us a bit ago.

throbscottle (author)wilgubeast2014-08-02

You put a bogus link!

wilgubeast (author)throbscottle2014-08-04

aw snap.

fozzy13 (author)2014-08-03

This is really cool. Thanks for sharing your experience in this with the rest of us! I'm always nervous about trying to rewind transformers, but if I thin I need to in the future I'll definitely reference this.

wblakesx (author)2014-08-03

A diode to use 1/2 cycle, resistor (nichrome, lightbulb, why) to form a voltage divider, a diac or triac lamp dimmer for variable va? a cheap used variac?

FtForger (author)2014-08-02

if the differing voltages on the output are just taps off a single winding, couldn't you have taken the output across the 15.4 to the 40.5 to get 25.1? Or were the outputs independent windings with separate ground connections? If they were truly independent windings for the output, you may have been able to connect the outputs of the 15 volt windings to the input power (have to check the polarity of the windings) to buck the primary, reducing its voltage, which would then also reduce the output of the 40v winding (would take some experimentation to get the polarity right and knowledge of the winding ratios to determine the reduction, and measure to verify).

throbscottle (author)FtForger2014-08-02

Unfortunately it was 3 separate windings, the thicknesses being different too, but otherwise that would have been a really good idea! Don't quite get what you mean about "buck the primary"?

FtForger (author)throbscottle2014-08-02

If you wire one of the secondaries to the same input as the primary, but have it such that the magnetic field is opposing the field of the primary, then the other secondaries will have reduced output.

throbscottle (author)2014-08-02

You would get the same amount of power, so a 7.5V adapter at 1A gives you 7.5VA. 7.5VA divided by 3V gives you 2.5A. However unless it's quite an old adapter it's probably switched mode, and you definitely don't want to go tinkering with that!

technovative (author)2014-08-02

I admire your tenacity. Well done!

tominjose (author)2014-08-01

nice work!

rimar2000 (author)2014-07-26

Very interesting work.

About This Instructable




Bio: Loving getting back into electronics as a hobby after a break of many years. Now I work as an EPOS engineer, so I spend my ... More »
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