Picture of Be a Scientist: Bottle Electricity.

This is a quick-and-dirty method for making a Leyden Jar (an early form of capacitor) from my old friend, the 35mm film cannister.

Step 1: Tools and materials.

Picture of Tools and materials.


Something sharp.


Glue stick.


35mm film cannister

Aluminium (kitchen) foil


Sticky tape


Proper wire strippers.

KKremke4 months ago

Considerably easier than using a soda bottle or something of the sort, with nails and such in the lid :)

Kiteman (author)  KKremke4 months ago

Thank you.

Can i use something instead of film canister?
Kiteman (author)  sahaab noor1 year ago


The first Leyden jars were glass jars, and instead of foil inside they used water.

As long as the vessel and lid are non-metallic, you'll be fine.

great one.truely amazing
Kiteman (author)  argha halder2 years ago
Can we use this project to charge it, http://instructables.com/id/Statically-Charging-a-conductor/. I mean to statically charge a conductor and then chage it from that conductor.
To be honest, I don't know.

It looks promising, though.
chubawabu2 years ago
can you use an old medicine pot?
Kiteman (author)  chubawabu2 years ago
Absolutely - just as long as it isn't made of metal.
WarLlama3 years ago
This is going to be fun! I was going to build a bigger one, but I was afraid it would hurt someone. If I made one with like a bottle, how bad would it hurt?
Kiteman (author)  WarLlama3 years ago
Jump, more than hurt.
chubawabu3 years ago
Great instructable.
Kiteman (author)  chubawabu3 years ago
Quick tip: NEVER try to strip wires while your hands are covered in glue. You will end up making the wire so gluey that you cannot grab it, and your tools will be filthy. :)

By the way, GREAT Instructable
Kiteman (author)  Michael_Bell3 years ago
Hehe, thanks!
Higgs Boson3 years ago
So to charge it using the CRT you would just rub the wire connected to the inside foil on the screen? could you charge a leyden jar with a fly back transformer or would it have to be an electrostatic generator?
Kiteman (author)  Higgs Boson3 years ago
You know when you switch a CRT on or off, and you hear a crackle? Wave the back of your hand near the screen, and you can feel the static make the hairs move on the back of your hand. That's when you "wipe" the wire across the screen.

As for a flyback, I'm afraid I don't know - I've never tried it.
freeza363 years ago
how else can i charge it?
Kiteman (author)  freeza363 years ago
Which ones have you tried?
ballons don't work for me. I have yet to try my old tv
vishal114 years ago
Wat ll charge it
Kiteman (author)  vishal114 years ago
See step five - if you don't have a high-voltage source, use an old CRT or balloons.

Electorials4 years ago
nice tutorial!
it works perfectly ;)

Kiteman (author)  Electorials4 years ago
Thank you!
think30004 years ago
could you charge it with a plasma globe?
geeklord6 years ago
does a CRT monitor charge it very effectively???
put tin foil on the front of the screen then brush the wires on the tin foil, but be careful you can get A pretty nasty shock
O, good idea. I thought about doing that with a plasma globe.
Did you try that method?
i'll revamp this leyden jar with that method but with a 1.5l soda bottle

Kiteman (author)  geeklord6 years ago
Yes - switch it on and off, then brush one of the wires over the screen. Repeat that a couple of times (more if you made a large version.
2743 Kiteman6 years ago
BUT, what would happen if we hold the tin foil onfront of the crt tv screen with our bare hands?
Kiteman (author)  27436 years ago
The charge earths ("grounds") through your body instead of charging the jar.
this applies to tube tvs right?
Kiteman (author)  Coffee bean6 years ago
Yes - "CRT" stands for Cathode Ray Tube.
thanks i was pretty sure.
lunchweek5 years ago
Thank you, great instructable. I built two of these yesterday and they're working great!
Kiteman (author)  lunchweek5 years ago
Cool, glad you like it.
yoyoyolilay5 years ago
 wait, what source? do you just rub the wires together? or do the wires have to be connected to something?
Kiteman (author)  yoyoyolilay5 years ago
Have you not read this?
...try switching your CRT TV or monitor on and off whilst brushing the screen with the centre wire, or rub balloons on your jumper and stroke the bare wire along them them pick up charge.

Kiteman (author)  NicOmbra5 years ago
Not easy...
get a pvc pipe and an old t-shirt rub the pipe over the top wire. it works much better than destroying your crt tv.
pocholox85 years ago
could i use aluminum tape?(pls answer asap)
Kiteman (author)  pocholox85 years ago
That should work.

(Sorry about the delay, I've been away for Christmas)

AlphaRomeo5 years ago
how about using a gas lighter - I suppose that it self is generating good are, isn't it
AlphaRomeo5 years ago
would it be better to use some rubber gloves or stand on some wooden platform to save oneself getting hurt?
Kiteman (author)  AlphaRomeo5 years ago
Not with this little thing - you hardly get a kick off it - but, with a big one, rubber gloves wouldn't hurt.
I have been checking various high voltage instructables - can someone add safely measures that one should take - of if those are already explained - can we have the link please
the biggest safety measure in my opinion would be don't let both of your hands touch a conductive material at the same time just in-case it has a charge in it. Because the most dangerous shock is from hand to hand because it goes across your heart which could potentially stop your heart.
Kiteman (author)  AlphaRomeo5 years ago
With this particular leyden jar, no special measures are required.
yoyoyolilay5 years ago
 do you have to have a battery or something to charge this? or do the wires do the trick? and do they have to be a certain kind of wire?
Kiteman (author)  yoyoyolilay5 years ago
The high-voltage source does the charging (see the second paragraph of step 5).

The wires - anything will do the job, as long as it is slightly stiff so that you can position it.
woody5585 years ago
This is the best leyden jar on instructables! It can create small sparks in 90% humidity!

Thanks Mr. K
Hey kiteman!
I just finished with my first Leyden jar! And it's working!Thanks a ton,for this 'ible.
Just had a few doubts.
Why does it get charged by static electricity in particular and not by a 9v dc power supply?
Thanks once again!
Kiteman (author)  Yashknowsbetter5 years ago
It does get charged by a 9V cell, but only to 9V.

You need thousands to get a spark.
I rubbed the central wire on a TV screen and I got a spark when I touched the two wires together!
How many volts are stored and discharged in this procedure? Since it produced a spark, the amount of charge must be thousands of volts right?
Why doesn't such a high voltage kill a person then? Why does it cause only a tiny tingling shock?
( I'm really amazed at how we can  store electricity in this manner. I even made the salt water based Leyden jar! Thanks again!)
Kiteman (author)  Yashknowsbetter5 years ago
It's a reasonable rule of thumb to say that every centimetre of a spark equals 5000V.

It's safe because the high voltage only carries a small current - it is a combination of current and voltage that does damage (the amount of energy delivered).  Mains (UK) electricity is only 240V, but it is 13A, plenty to burn or kill.
Arduino Guy5 years ago
I have a 300vdc power supply will it do to charge?
Kiteman (author)  Arduino Guy5 years ago
Not for a good spark, no.
i can't get mine to work  :(
Kiteman (author)  Picothellama5 years ago
How are you charging it?

Could you add an image of what you've made?
woody5585 years ago
I got it charged a few times and it worked, but after a while I couldn't hear the spark when I would discharge it. Any tips?
Kiteman (author)  woody5585 years ago
Could the weather have changed? Humid air lets the charge leak away much more easily.
woody5585 years ago
I made one of these except it used salt water and the top was a nail. The nail rusted and the water came out reddish brown.
is there no liquid involved?
Kiteman (author)  electrokid1015 years ago
Not in this version.
kiteman is there anything inside the container besides foil? some ppl say u need water with salt in it and no foil, which is it for this project?
Kiteman (author)  chi chi chippy5 years ago
I just used foil, but either will work. The important thing is to line or fill the container with a conductor.
so with the foil i dont need the water?
Kiteman (author)  chi chi chippy5 years ago
pyrorower6 years ago
Are you familiar with the disposable camera "tasers" that people build sometimes? It's basically a capacitor itself. So, what I am wondering is if I could charge my leyden jar with that, essentially charge one capacitor with another...
Yes my brother made one of those awhile back and I think it's still out in our garage, it could put two small "craters" in metal when it went off. It mad an ominous "Eeee..." when charging.
It will make two small holes in aluminum foil too and produce nice sparks at the same time. Oh and zapping steel wool can be pretty cool too :P
Kiteman (author)  pyrorower6 years ago
That sounds feasible.
joelr976 years ago
so this is not dangerous
joelr97 joelr976 years ago
Kiteman (author)  joelr976 years ago
This one isn't, but big ones can hurt and kill.
zoltzerino6 years ago
Any idea on the Ampage? And if that is Rapid wire I love undoubtedly - we order all our stuff from Rapid at school (and I do at home). ZZZZ
Kiteman (author)  zoltzerino6 years ago
No numbers, just "low". I have no idea where we got the wire, it just came out of stock.
Is it possible to charge this from a cell, or does it have to be static? ZZZZ
Kiteman (author)  zoltzerino6 years ago
It has to be high-voltage static.
I made a slightly larger one, and charged it up at school with a Van Der Graaff gen.
I managed to position the wires so that it would change for a few seconds then discharge with around a 3cm spark, all I had to do was hold it to the VDG.

This, oddly was during chemistry, my teacher had very insulating shoes on and managed to charge himself up, he obviously went round zapping people.

The spark was about 1.5mm thick as well, which I was impressed with, very bright. The best we could get out of the VDG was 4cm x 0.5mm because it was very humid. ZZZZ
Plasmana6 years ago
Here is a photo of my leyden jar with a big spark!
Kiteman (author)  Plasmana6 years ago
There is such a thing as showing off, you know... ;-)
Umm, I don't know what you mean...
Kiteman (author)  Plasmana6 years ago
It's humour - your spark's bigger than mine.
Many of my things of mine are bigger than yours... ;-) ZZZZ
Kiteman (author)  zoltzerino6 years ago
We'd have to ask your tailor about that.
Feel free, you'd struggle to find him now... ZZZZ
Oh, I see.. I made it big because I, umm, cheated, I used a high voltage power supply. Sorry Kiteman.
i'll just use my trusty old stungun to charge them.
You will need to rectify the stungun's output, because the stungun outputs only AC, and the leyden jar can only be charged by DC.
Kiteman (author)  Plasmana6 years ago
Don't be sorry, it's cool. I was just jealous.
Umm, okay...
Yes, yes-it's HUMOR!

static Kiteman6 years ago
Well, if it where not for people showing off, instructables. com would not exist. Long live the show offs :)
lobo_pal6 years ago
All that really matters as far as danger is amplitude, so how many amps can you charge a capacitor of this type with.
Kiteman (author)  lobo_pal6 years ago
Very, very few. I haven't measured it, but it is safe for even small children to handle. ("Amps" is not the same as "amplitude")
Isn't it "ampere"? ZZZZ
Kiteman (author)  zoltzerino6 years ago
Indeed it is.
Been a while since I studied that.
Say if i had a tazer, and i built a leyden jar from a 10 gallon bucket with this method, would i be able to adequately charge it?
Kiteman (author)  biggy smalls6 years ago
Charge the jar with the tazer? I guess so. Charge the tazer with the jar? No need - a 10gall leyden jar could store enough charge to seriously injur somebody, maybe kill them if they had a weak heart.
i meant charge the jar with the tazer. thanks.
Kiteman (author)  biggy smalls6 years ago
I can't think of a reason why not, except to remember that it discharge at a higher rate than you charge it - same voltage, but more current, so more dangerous to you.
thanks, when i get around to building a leyden jar this will be useful. have you read 20,000 leagues under the sea? if so what is your take on the leyden concept-based bullets used for undersea hunting?
Kiteman (author)  biggy smalls6 years ago
A forerunner of the tazer, clearly, but I doubt they would hold any charge at all in the conductive sea water.
have you read the book? you may not remember but the bullet consisted of a glass shpere surrounded by a lead jacket. when it hits and breaks it realeses a charge. the point to my earlier question was "can a container of that size (1/2") contain enought power to do damage?"
Kiteman (author)  biggy smalls6 years ago
I forgot that bit (it is decades since I read it!). I think that such a projectile would be essentially harmless - the water would mean it's velocity would not be particularly dangerous, it's size would preclude the storage of a particularly large charge, and the charge would only pass through the flesh immediately adjacent to the impact, rather than through nerves or muscles. So, just a pleasant fiction, really.
oh, it is as i thought. thanks for your take on it though.
zoltzerino6 years ago
Well Kiteman, you did it again, thank you.

I invested 1/2 an hour of my time into this (I suffer from perfectionism) and I was not unsatisfied...
After shocking everything that moved in my house of course.

Neat little project, I will encourage my "school colleauges) to make this during lessons.
My Physics teacher loved this.

Thank you once again.

Kiteman (author)  zoltzerino6 years ago
You're welcome!
knektek6 years ago
do u need to add water or something to it for extra charge?
Kiteman (author)  knektek6 years ago
You could use salty water instead of the lining foil, but it gets messier.
Wonder if you u can produce a higher voltage with safe amounts of amperes (curious if i can make a stun gun out of it)
dude66574556 years ago
would discharging the static from a crt tv damage the tv itself?
Kiteman (author)  dude66574556 years ago
Not that I am aware of - it's the same as if you touch the screen with your hand to make a crackling noise.
emdarcher6 years ago
how much voltage does this hold or discharge?
Kiteman (author)  emdarcher6 years ago
Since the spark can typically jump 4 or 5mm, I'd say a few hundred volts, but very little actual charge - maybe enough of a spark to ignite flammable gases, but definitely not enough power to do any useful work.
Could you use electric tape instead of glue?
Kiteman (author)  Rock Soldier6 years ago
I should think so, just be careful not to tear the foil.
kijac gang6 years ago
can this be used as a battery and how many volts can come out of it???
Kiteman (author)  kijac gang6 years ago
No, it can't be used as a battery, and it gives out the same volts you put in (but the current will be tiny).
kostassk86 years ago
This is like a capacitor right?
Kiteman (author)  kostassk86 years ago
Yes (you did read the first line of the introduction, didn't you?)
Thanks Kiteman!
What if you live in Florida where it's always humid? How would you charge it then? And can you use any other bottles such as glass jars because I'm out of film canisters?
Kiteman (author)  fireblast_12126 years ago
You could warm it with a hair-dryer, and, yes, you could use any non-conducting container - the originals were glass.

(Google for leyden jar)
How long does it hold a charge? Let's say I charge it up and leave it for an hour or two, will it shock then? And do you have to touch both wires for a shock or just one?
Kiteman (author)  fireblast_12126 years ago
I don't know how long, I've never tried, but I doubt it will be very long. And, yesy, a jolt will be easier if you touch both wires at once.
lobo_pal6 years ago
I can't get it to charge, could I use a wall outlet with an exposed plug? Safely enough to not kill me?
Kiteman (author)  lobo_pal6 years ago

Play with one of these and mains electricity and you will get hurt!

If none of the ideas in step five work, check it's made OK - it's surprisingly easy to give the charge a route to earth - and that the room is dry, as humid air also lets charge leak away easily.
I'm in NM, so it's pretty dry, but I couldn't get much of a charge off the TV, and then all the static was gone.
nave6 years ago
could this zapp someone? (and hurt a little)
Kiteman (author)  nave6 years ago
This one, not really - just a small tingle. make it larger, though, and it could. Be careful, though, as large ones, charged fully, can do actual harm, possibly killing somebody with an unsuspected heart condition.
could you use a battery to power this? If you could, you could mod it with some sort of switch so you could turn it on and off. I'm not sure if that would be a bad idea or not though...
Kiteman (author)  Rock Soldier6 years ago
No, it needs to be high voltage - most batteries are only 1.5V-9V, but this needs thousands of volts.
ok, thanks.
sbcglobal7 years ago
Take a look at my really BIG scary leyden jars...


Holy crap! That is amazing!
could that be used for one of those umm...bug zappers? What about with a few dozen of those 5 gallon containers?
woah, awesome.
HOLY SH1T!!!!!!!!!
0 0
... wat wud happen ifyoutuch it....
You die..
Better buy some life insurance before you do that ;-)
Electric Fence Anyone ? ...That would keep the criminals out of my yard..... Do you know how many Volts ?
Kiteman (author)  littlechef377 years ago
Only once, though - they'd discharge with the first touch, and be safe after that.
....AFTER THAT nobody would THINK of touching my fence....LOL
if you made one out of a 5 gallon bucket you could potentially kill them right? :D
Kiteman (author)  geeklord7 years ago
Put it this way - I wouldn't touch it.
Oh My Gosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thats awesome!!!!! i tried making one with a glass jar, but its not working for some reason...
Hey, I made one of these for a school project and my teacher practically killed herself when she almost touched it moments after I had charged it : )

To make mine I used a 55 gallon drum (cardboard), cut it down, put that tin flashing stuff for roofs over it and BOOM a one foot spark

I love how its sitting in the living room. ordinary men would put this outside or in the garage, the shop but you! you throw it all to the wind and set up this large arcing mad-scientist contraption in the living room, with the good carpet. and for that i applaud you. BTW would you ever consider putting up an 'ible on making a Wimshurst machine?
dude you raise the bar(and you look like tom cruise lol) ps/kiteman you rule this school!
Kiteman (author)  sbcglobal7 years ago
Oh my good gravy! The size of that spark! Hey, that's a Wimshurst machine! I've just bought a 1953 copy of Practical Mechanics, just to get the directions for making one of these. Did you make yours yourself? How?
It' s not just the size -- it's the current that makes it thick, loud, and dangerous. Big leyden jars can be as dangerous as a loaded gun. I have made many Wimshurst Machines and Bonetti Machines. I have also made other types of electrostatic generators. On my personal website, I combine electrostatics with laser technology :


If you are interested in building a wimshurst machine, then please contact me (go to my website for details). I can tell you how to do it with minimal cost and effort, and in a way that will increase you chances of succeeding.

Thanks --
Kiteman (author)  sbcglobal7 years ago
carbon8 years ago
Ha! I scaled it up a little: (Next step: 50 gallon drum size :P) Any rules of thumb for estimating the voltage? (It makes my arm flex, if that helps :P)
Scaled Up Jar.jpg
Kiteman (author)  carbon8 years ago
How long a spark can you get? It's 20-30 kV per inch. (Is that a Lego tub?)
carbon Kiteman8 years ago
It takes a long time to charge up, (waving it in front of the TV while flipping it on and off), and the one time I spent 10 minutes solid doing that, it sparked a little over half an inch. o.0 I think that's impressive, but what do I know? :P

Yeah, it's one of those "Bionicle" tubs. I loved those things sooo much. A few years (5?) back I spotted the entire series of Bionicle stuff at a thrift store for a dollar each. (Yay for overstock!) Needless to say, I got my parents to advance on my allowance. 20 bucks for timeless childhood memories is a good deal.

Re: Best construction toy ever.

Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys kick ass.
Kaiven carbon6 years ago
No knex? :(
Ian01 carbon8 years ago
A Kopaka Nuva can to be precise.
carbon Kiteman8 years ago
Two questions: Does filling the interior with water work as well? (I want to make it look more science-y for when I show it off). Why is the "discharge loop" a loop? Do curve-y surfaces work better?
Plasmana carbon6 years ago
Kiteman (author)  carbon8 years ago
They used to fill them with water instead of the foil, but there's no improvement. Charge leaks from points, so making the loop a loop cuts down the leakage before you intentionally discharge it.
Azzlan6 years ago
is it possible to use salt water instead of putting tin foil on the inside like in some of the other instructables
Kiteman (author)  Azzlan6 years ago
It is, just be careful of spills when you pop the lid on.
Kryptonite6 years ago
Hmm, nice instructable but even if u do have a VdG how do you charge it? do u put the wire connected to the outside foil or the wire connected to the inside foil against the top of a vandograph. for all i know u might have to do both wires
Kiteman (author)  Kryptonite6 years ago
You just connect one wire (either one, but just one) to your source of charge.
mmm, i see now, thanks for that. I haven't actually got a VdG yet but i'm planning on making one and i've already made this, so all in all itshould work out as something pretty cool. :]
i'm using my trusty old stungun to charge mine...

as soon as i make it
i guess i'll get on that right now...
Jor2daje6 years ago
Does it have to be any special sort of plastic or will any container do?
Kiteman (author)  Jor2daje6 years ago
I think most plastics will work.
would scuffing the foil up with really fine sandpaper give it a higher surface area? And are there any other containers that this can be made with easily?
You cant create more aluminium foil.
Kiteman (author)  huldumadurin7 years ago
I don't think the effect would be significant.

Containers? Anything made of glass or plastic would work - the original Leyden jars were glass with cork stoppers. The only limiting factor is that the larger the container, the more charge they hold and the more dangerous they can be. This was supposed to be a "proper" Leyden jar that is easy and safe enough for a child to make and use (I did this with my school science club).

If I ever see a plastic rain-barrel wrapped in aluminium foil, I will give it a very wide berth...
edfel017 years ago
What does the discharge loop do? And couldn't u charge this with a solar panel?
Kiteman (author)  edfel017 years ago
The discharge loop provides a "target" for the sparks that is better than a spike (you need higher voltage to jump from a curve, so you get a better spark).

No, you couldn't charge this from a solar cell - you only get thousands of volts in the jar if you have a source that provides thousands of volts.
Idea: SHOCKY STICKS...... Why not attach the wires in your leyden jar keep to some pvc pipe and run wire up to the top add some tin foil and ANGER your friends.......
killajones7 years ago
About time. I used my other T.V. and I got it to work... after about 30 shocks on the same finger it starts to get numb! P.S. it doesn't hurt, that's why I kept going back for more!
killajones7 years ago
Not really, from the capacitor, I was holding it in my hand when I turned the T.V. off, that's the only time it has ever shown any electrical properties.
killajones7 years ago
Ten minutes later and my thumb is still numb!
Kiteman (author)  killajones7 years ago
From the shock? Wow - yours worked better than mine!
killajones7 years ago
Oh yeah... P.S. I used the remote to turn the T.V. on and off because when I turned if off by hand my hand went numb (it is still numb, but less now).
killajones7 years ago
Hmmmm...Mine didn't work. I used wire from an electrical cord( the kind you plug into a wall) and I charged* it with my T.V. Why won't it work?

*I think
arhodes187 years ago
I tried it again and it still didnt work. It kinda held a charge but you couldnt even feel the jolt. On my multimeter it registered as 11825 or thereabouts on the high voltage selection. :/
Kiteman (author)  arhodes187 years ago
I'm guessing, then that there's a humidity problem - dry air is a much better resistor than damp air.
oh ok that might help. Im going to try rebuilding but make a smaller one because that one was a one gallon plastic ice cream container.
arhodes187 years ago
Can you tape tape the foil on instead of gluing it??
Kiteman (author)  arhodes187 years ago
Yes, I just find glue easier to use because I can line the foil up before the glue dries.
Oh ok. Is any type of tape o.k. or should you use electrical tape only?
Kiteman (author)  arhodes187 years ago
Any type should work to hold the foil in place, but electrical tape will look nicer, and probably help it hold its charge longer.
Oh ok because I was gonna use duct tape so I just thought I would makes sure.
arhodes187 years ago
I've tried making a leyden jar before and never got it to work and could figure out why. Any ideas at all on why or tips are appriciated.
Kiteman (author)  arhodes187 years ago
Oof, all sorts that could be wrong without seeing it... the answer to all these questions should be "yes":

Is your foil neat?

Does the connector through the lid actually connect to the foil inside?

Are the inside and outside foils separate?

Do you use it in a dry atmosphere?

Are you charging it with a high voltage supply, such as an old-style TV screen or a Van Der Graaf generator?
OOOOHHHHH ok. I see what I did wrong. I never relized that the wire actually had to touch the foil on the inside of the pot. DUH, I know. haha
Aar000n3y7 years ago
Pretty cool. I've made a type of jar before, but I hadn't heard about wrinkles leaking the charge. How does that work? Also, instead of having a bigger container, why not just more foil? I'm sure these are obvious concepts with these jars, but I just don't understand them.
Kiteman (author)  Aar000n3y7 years ago
Charge collects at, and jumps from, points more easily than curved surfaces. Wrinkles make points. Size is important because the charge only collects on the surface of the foil, not inside it. If you have more foil (in this design), you don't get any more surface area, so there's no extra charge can collect).
i got a 5mm spark by charging it up on the tv!
Kiteman (author)  carrierpilot13577 years ago
sbcglobal u gotta send me the insurctions for that carzy layden jar u have made. its frieken awesome dude:D
This reminds me of the Leyden balls from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. ..you must see yourself that, during our submarine hunt, we can spend but little air and but few balls." "But it seems to me that in this twilight, and in the midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go far, nor easily prove mortal." "Sir, on the contrary, with this gun every blow is mortal; and, however lightly the animal is touched, it falls as if struck by a thunderbolt." "Why?" "Because the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little cases of glass. These glass cases are covered with a case of steel, and weighted with a pellet of lead; they are real Leyden bottles, into which the electricity is forced to a very high tension. With the slightest shock they are discharged, and the animal, however strong it may be, falls dead..
Kiteman (author)  Solenoidclock7 years ago
What a novel idea - I wonder if that passage inspired the tazer?
I believe it may have. I know the name came from the book written four decades later 'Daring Adventures on Elephant Island' as an acronym for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle, but Verne shows influence in the Tom Swift series.
ManIRL7 years ago
I was wondering, how would you use a voltmeter to actually measure the volts discharged by the spark?
Kiteman (author)  ManIRL7 years ago
First, find a voltmeter that measures kV. I haven't got one, so I work to the rule of thumb that a 1cm ~5,000V. It can be up to 10,000V if the air is very dry, but this is the UK.
ManIRL Kiteman7 years ago
Whoops! Sorry, I meant a multimeter. Concerning the multimeter, where would you attach the two cords to in order to measure the voltage? Thanks~For Answering.
Kiteman (author)  ManIRL7 years ago
Again, you need a meter that can measure at least hundreds, and maybe thousands of volts.

I've just checked ebay, and there are several electrostatic voltmeters for sale, but they mostly cost hundreds of dollars, though there seem to be a couple of second-hand units for a few tens of dollars.
DrCoolSanta7 years ago
I just made one, I used a film canister and put foil on the inside and on the outside using glue stick. Then I poked a hole in the lid and I used an enemeled wire and removed the enemal at three places, the middle one was wrapped on a screw. One end of wire was touched to the inside foil and the other end was left out. Using another enemled wire I joined the screw and the body, didn't touch though. Using a PVC pipe a charge it and test, and it works. The problem is that my sparks are small, around 1 mm or something, any ideas how to fix?
Kiteman (author)  DrCoolSanta7 years ago
The more you charge it, the bigger the sparks will be, especially in dry weather.
Mine doesn't work anymore, its winter -_-
omnibot7 years ago
Made one from a much bigger yoghurt-jar :) My thumb went blue :(
Kiteman (author)  omnibot7 years ago
What? You killed your thumb? Or just stunned it?
omnibot Kiteman7 years ago
Luckily I just stunned it for a few minutes .. badass spark though :)
Kiteman (author)  omnibot7 years ago
LOL, a new weapon in the police armoury - tasers for dealing with rogue body-parts.
omnibot Kiteman7 years ago
LIGHTNING-GRENADES!!! Stop or I shall rub this tin against my hair and sweater an throw it at yer!
Would the Pizo-electric sparker from a lighter work to charge it? I don't know if it is DC or AC. Has any one scoped it? I guess I will have to test it out.
Kiteman (author)  random squigles7 years ago
Piezo-sparkers are DC. Please, try charging it and let us know what happens.
whiteNnerdy7 years ago
i am going to build a van de graff for the science fair, maybe that will work
Kiteman (author)  whiteNnerdy7 years ago
Hey, the VdG will do for me - get a good earth connection and make the judges leap miles.
Jezza Bear8 years ago
Nice Instructable. Grrr...you beat me too it :-) I have one of these on my work bench, almost exactly the same but I used a 4mm bolt instead of you discharge loop. I was going to post it this weekend
Go ahead and publish it as well! I'd much rather see half a dozen variants of Leaden Jars than yet another Knex toy.
You spelled leyden wrong (leyden, not leaden) and btw, knex are the best construction toy ever.
Kiteman (author)  knexer18 years ago
One word: Lego. Sorry, two words: Meccano. (End of argument).
knexer1 Kiteman8 years ago
(not end of argument) everyone knows knex are way better than legos.
dude knex is made for kids around 8-10 years old who are too young to have real construction 'toys'. Meccano is definitely the next step up. The top of the ladder, however, is Lego Mindstorms. You CAN build anything out of it (if you have enough). This is only made possible with the Mindstorms NXT controller, though. People have multiplexed 24 motors to one unit, mechanically connected much more, and someone with too much free time built a 25 kg fully automatic tank. It roams around avoiding objects, and fires at (you) if it sees something moving. This is just one example. There is an entire site similar to Instructables that has only Lego NXT creations. If that isn't enough, more reasons why Lego is superior: Truly anything to anything: any part can be connected to any other part (at least, much more than most things) It actually has an intelligent controller: None of that amateurish roller coaster shit, we're talking A.I. robots Advanced sensors: Look, ultrasonic! Open source hardware, software and firmware: You can buy such things as compass sensors, tilt sensors, accelorometers, etc. Bluetooth: Connect to other units, or use multiple processors in one construction And, you can order spare parts online! Yeah. I'm talking lego dude.
the best in my mind is the VEX robotics kit, google for it I have the starter kit and It is so easy to program with the computer, I have spent hours at a time using it , and I have the patience of a 13 year old
You haven't posted any instructables yet either, and if you haven't ever played with knex, how can you say that they are crap? Also, with your mindstorms lego sets, can you build anything that is taller than you for under $100, oh wait, you already paid twice that for the stupid NXT brick. Legos are just overpriced pieces of plastic, maybe if the price was lower, more people would use them.
I had knex... when i was about 9. FYI, one mindstorms kit can build plenty that is taller than me. IF you know how to do it properly.
Ian01 knexer18 years ago
But can you build a car factory , go-cart/racer factory, or a duck factory out of K'Nex?
knexer1 Ian018 years ago
of course you can, you can build ANYTHING out of knex.
Ian01 knexer18 years ago
Show me.
knexer1 Ian018 years ago
Show you what? You name it, and i'll try my best to build it.
Ian01 knexer18 years ago
Can you make a K'nex car factory, that builds cars out of K'nex, like the Lego car factory linked below, and post a video on YouTube?
Mindstorms Autofabrik
knexer1 Ian018 years ago
I will try, it might take me a while, give me two months.
Killa-X Ian018 years ago
Well, Someone made a 20 ft tall coaster that was based off top thrill out of knex. I don't think legos can make that, now can it.


maybe legos can, but it takes alot of parts. As the link above, has knex coasters that had to be built ouside, and in a schoool gym, due to size.
knexer1 has not posted any instructables yet... so you sign up, just to post comments like this, and you are 69 and play with a toy that says 'age: 6 - 12 Years' on the box. i don't think you really have a right to comment. knex is a kids toy. Lego NXT is a serious construction kit which is so versatile laboratories are using it to prototype robots. You can build a Mars rover type device with it. Do I really need to continue?
I'm not really 69, I just said that to win an argument, I am really 15 (but don't tell Kiteman), and I certainly don't have three kids.
Kiteman (author)  knexer18 years ago
Some time ago, I tried an experiment with my pupils. I gave them a blank piece of paper and a pen, and left them alone for a while to doodle.

Results? Post-pubescent boys doodled band names, film and football team logos, pictures of scantily-clad girls or practiced grafitti techniques. Pre-pubescent boys drew pictures of little stick-men shooting little stick-guns at each other and hitting each other with little stick swords.

Today, I browsed this site:

There are 71 Instructables under the keyword "knex". 68 are weapons, and one is a way of designing weapons.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

(BTW, it's K'Nex and Lego.)
knexer1 Kiteman8 years ago
I'm 69 years old and have three kids.
knexer1 knexer18 years ago
oh, and are you trying to tell me that I should try to build scantly clad women out of knex?
That would be funny :)
when u build em let us know......don't forget the pictures!!
it'd be a challenge, certainly
Legos are good. Definitely, IMO, better than knex crap. But niether will ever beat the original (not modern cheap knock-offs) Tinker Toys. Lincoln Logs were a great as well.
carbon LasVegas8 years ago
Just the words bring back fond memories...(My parents were too cheap to buy Lego or K'nex :P) And what about Erector Sets?
LasVegas carbon8 years ago
I have a friend that owns an original Erector Set! It's in a wood cabinet with solid steel bars, brass pulleys and brass gears. A marvel to look at! :)
rofl... OK careful what you wish for. This is my version made last year sometime and never quite finished (never got around to the internal connection) Mine has a group of wires connected to the bolt which act as a brush to collect static. I was going to take it from a plastc rolling pin and silk
whiteNnerdy7 years ago
the lyden jar that i have was made in a factory but i cant get a spark wuzzup?
Kiteman (author)  whiteNnerdy7 years ago
Not a clue without getting my hands on it.

Some thoughts:

  • How are you charging it? Maybe you're not putting enough volts in.
  • Are you holding it oddly, earthing the jar?
  • Are the contacts close enough together?
Dude9028 years ago
How exactly do I charge this thing? I'm having trouble making a spark and I think this might be the problem (I can only make a tiiiiny little light in the loop) . Do you just place the wire on any turned-on tv? Does touching the outside or the metal part of the wires mess it up?

Also, the only wire I could find was a split wire. I'm not too good with this stuff, so I'm not sure if this could cause anything.

I actually have a use for this thing. I heard that you can make a spot welder with a capacitator, but I don't really have any lying around the house. I wanted to use one for a battery. What do you suggest I do if I want to use it to weld? I think I'll need a bigger spark first of all, but I'm not too sure.
Kiteman (author)  Dude9028 years ago
If you're getting a spark, you're charging it up. Try brushing the central wire across the (cathode-ray) TV screen several times, just a moment after you've switched it on, to charge it more. Unfortunately, this will never weld - you'd need to make one the size of a big trash-can, it would take ages to charge, and you would need to re-charge it after every spark
Patented8 years ago
can we just charge the leyden jar with batteries?
Kiteman (author)  Patented8 years ago
I don't think so - you need a high (5kV+) voltage to get the spark, and a 3V battery would only charge it to 3V
WolvesOfWar8 years ago
I fail every time. I just dont know why. Maybe im not charging it correctly(thats why i am making a van der graaf generator) or it isnt isolated well.
Kiteman (author)  WolvesOfWar8 years ago
Jagged edges to the foil make it leak charge quickly, and could the inner and outer layers be touching under the edge of the lid?
they are not touching eachother. But maybe the glue makes it discharge? Could that be possible?
Kiteman (author)  WolvesOfWar8 years ago
Especially if there is water in the glue.
even when the isn't touching the outside?
Kiteman (author)  WolvesOfWar8 years ago
Possibly - charge can leak over gaps without obvious sparks.
yeah its cool and all but i made one from a icing jar its very powerfull any ways dont put in water good try though.
Killa-X8 years ago
Is it a bad thing, where I'm charing it on TV while holding it, and I get shocked? If so, How can I fix this, How can I prevent it!
Killa-X Killa-X8 years ago
I made mine using a film canister and half-filled water.
Killa-X8 years ago
A lil old of a post i have to say. I made one of these today. the first few failed (no film canisters) but then, i make a 1.5 inch wide, 5 inch tall one out of a plastic strong pipe. The first time, I was shocked the second it touched TV. I guess the tape isn't shock proof. So now I were gloves, seeing that it hurt and tingled my arm for a good 10-20 minutes. Few questions. 1: Will increasing the bolt length, increase the power? 2: if the inside foil isn't touching the edges all around (rounded it too small) will this make it work less? 3: Is it an instant charge, or awhile.
Kiteman (author)  Killa-X8 years ago
Lets see...gosh, that's a big one! 1. No. The strength is controlled by the area of the foil, the separation between the layers and the nature of the material between them. 2. No, as long as the edges are as straight as you can make them (jagged adges and points cause charge-leakage) 3. The charge builds quickly, probably less than a second, but you can "top it up" by trailing your charging lead all over the screen of your TV, or switching the screen off and on again and re-trailing the chargeing lead.
Killa-X Kiteman8 years ago
Killa-X Kiteman8 years ago
thanks for the advice. Seeing mine though, You can see outer foil, and a lot of tape covering some. Duck tape actually. Now, does the tape blocking it, defect the surface area? If the tape was smaller strips, showing more foil, would it charge more? Or does it not matter. (Also, I wear rubber gloves on charging, i was zapped while holding it last time :( Threw the duck tape :( )
Killa-X Killa-X8 years ago
Detonator8 years ago
Hey, k'nex is for kids.
Jmraub868 years ago
Cool Ive Built Some Biggins One Scared Me From Ever Attempting To Create Another It Shot 5 Inch Bolts
WolvesOfWar8 years ago
nice instructable, gonna make it right now. You know "pringles" would these aluminuim canisters work? and what about the water thing?
Kiteman (author)  WolvesOfWar8 years ago
Is that silver lining actually metal? Then probably, but you'll still need foil on the outside. You don't need water, though. Try it, let us know what happens.
HOMEPIE648 years ago
anybody who wants a bigger shock when releasing discharge stand on something insilated or put it on something insulated like a plastic chair
Waterpolo938 years ago
Is the foil 1 layer thick or how man cuz im gonna try a few layers thick for an extra charge? or does that make no diffrence
Kiteman (author)  Waterpolo938 years ago
The charge builds on the surface of the foil. If you roll lots of foil around, your just wasting foil.
PYROMan18 years ago
What the point of the discarge loop
Kiteman (author)  PYROMan18 years ago
To discharge the Leyden jar? It makes handling easier, since you only have to move one wire, and you get a better spark, since it takes a higher voltage to spark off a curved surface.
thank you
Fenwick8 years ago
My physics teacher made one of these. Except it was made out of a plastic 50 gallon drum and a copper rod. We charged it up with a Van Der Graff generator and used a wire to make the electricity jump. The electricity jumped about 4 inches and made a huge blue spark. It was awesome. It would probably kill you if you did it wrong though :P.
Kiteman (author)  Fenwick8 years ago
4 inch sparks?? Off the top of my head, that could be 100-150 kV, enough to make jump hard enough to hurt yourself, and maybe do permanent damage to your heart if it shorted via your chest. I've been charged up to half a million volts before (I could feel my beard-hair moving!), but discharging wasn't pleasant...
i no this is cool! :-D ...But what would i possibly use this for¿!? (any suggestions?) lol
use it for, or possibly on people you don't like. Anyone know a good instructable for throwing lightning?
Kiteman (author)  !Andrew_Modder!8 years ago
iman8 years ago
Heres one I made about a day ago, but it wont work I have no clue what I did wrong, any help?
Picture 3.png
Kiteman (author)  iman8 years ago
Possibly your wires are too close - if both inside and out are charged the same, you won't get a spark. Try adding some length to the middle wire, then charge it by stroking the longer middle wire over your TV screen just after you switch it on.
iman Kiteman8 years ago
I'll try that thanks.
pooboy8 years ago
kiteman r u kipkay from meta cafe?
Kiteman (author)  pooboy8 years ago
No, sorry. Any time I'm online, I'm Kiteman. I don't post to many sites - BBC, ScienceFile and here are about the only places I'm visibly active.
also if you wanted to get a BIGGER spark you could do it with a big bucket (like the ones you get pool chem's in) and tin foil, and the wire :-D be carful muhhahahahaa!...yeah
benstern8 years ago
to get an even better storage capability you could have ditched the foil and used conductive paint
spinach_dip8 years ago
just made one tonight in about 20 minutes and worked perfectly (hardest part is dealing with aluminum foil lol). I get about 1/4 inch audible sparks off mine. not bad for a film container, a screw, some wires and 2 peices of foil.
Kiteman (author)  spinach_dip8 years ago
Well done. I've just made a load with a bunch of fumble-fingered kids, and I've worked out a method for putting the foil inside:

> Cut the foil to size, and glue the back with the stick.

> Roll it loosely around your thumb, glue side out.

> Put your foiled thumb into the pot, and gently roll the pot around your thumb several times. The foil will smooth against the inside of the pot.


Too much glue near the top of the pot is as bad as having the foil too close to the top - it turns out that it is a fairly good conductor until it is bone dry (which can be a long time inside a closed pot)
Kiteman (author)  Kiteman8 years ago
... and I've just added that to the Instructable.
Hungry_Myst8 years ago
I've done similar things before, except instead of foil on the inside I used water. It worked well, but this was a while ago so I don't remember the specifics about the sparks.
Spedy8 years ago
heh, nice to know I'm not the only one around that can make a leyden jar. I made two and connected them in erm, parallel? I think parallel. Yah. It took twice as long to charge w/ pvc pipe and napkin, but makes sparks half as wide as my little finger. I wish my arm would last long enough to charge my jar 300 times. My first jar used a cheap little GLAD container, a tiny one. I did the whole tinfoil thing and jammed a nail through the center. I wrapped a bit of stripped multi-stranded copper wire around the nail as a collector, as well a paperclip as a discharge point between the foils. I once got a 1/2 inch long spark from it w/ only 11 charges. One time I charged it fifty times, my body ungrounded and got a gigantic zap from my door nob. Fun times. Heres a pic:
rimar20008 years ago
When I was a young boy (around 1958), I was experience with a plastic jar, my hair and my finger. At the beginning I obtained an invisible spark, but I got excited with the game and, although it costs to believe it, the spark went being more and more long. I ended up obtaining some with form of tree that measured more than 10 cm among the tip of the "branches" that it hugged the jar and the "roots" that it hugged my finger. The noise was a very audible explosion, but the sparks in spite of its great size they didn't produce me any tactile sensation. If I brought closer to the jar a needle instead of my finger, the spark was very much longer, but it was seen as a shine after the tip of the needle, and the noise became a soft buzzing.
Explanation: I took the polyethylene jar for the handle, rubbed it in my hair during some seconds, then I brought closer him the index finger of the other hand. The whole experience lasted more than one hour.
stefan8 years ago
When I was a kid I made one from a wine bottle, with several wraps of foil on the outside (cylindrical part only) and salt-water on the inside, and a coat hanger wire going though a rubber stopper into the salt-water. I don't think I even tried discharging it through my body - it could really pack a jolt, with sparks as much as 1/2" long. It was charged from an electrostatic generator inspired by A.D Moore's book "Electrostatics" (I highly recommend that book - great stuff in there!).
lemonie8 years ago
Some have postulated that the Ark of the Covenant was a Leyden jar.
E.g. see here:
rerat8 years ago
I have mine built ( albeit from a considerably larger container) and using the TV method, can only get a tiny, tiny spark, inaudible and only when I explicitely touch the wires together. I tiny blue flash is all I get. And other times nothing at all?
power8 years ago
nice and fun to build. but it doesn't work sometimes
Kiteman (author)  power8 years ago
They're sensitive to the weather - dry air is a better insulator, which is why lightning is a Summer phenomenon. Also, if you've used a lot of glue-stick near the top of the pot it willl conduct the charge away, and ragged edges let charge leak away very quckly. I haven't tested it, but I suspect your clothes (especially shoes) and the flooring (carpet? steel-reinforced concrete?) will affect the rate at which charge flows away.
gobob298 years ago
i made one too
Kiteman (author) 8 years ago
LOL! I've had the instructions sitting "unpublished" for quite a few days, then I actually got round to making it last Thursday with my Science Clubbers. The photos are of the demo prototype. I won't tell you what is sitting in my "unpublished" folder at the moment - after all, you never know ;-)
Oh man... don't get me started :P I documented how I built my bed (based off of a Danish company's design :P) and it's been sitting since the beginning of December waiting for my lazy butt to scan in some sketched.

I even have something I started July 11 of 2006 :D How to measure the internal pressure of a soda can -- with a strain gauge.... I just haven't had the opportunity to do it again (but maybe soon).

Nice post too :)

Simmering on the back burner for that "Homemade" flavor :D
erfonz8 years ago
So awhile ago I made one of these out of a Cool-Whip container. I charged it with pvc pipe and a rag. Every time I passed the pipe by the bolt it would charge it up with about the same force as a normal shock you would get from a plastic chair or anything like that. The first time I was charging it up I didn't know that and I passed the pipe by the bolt 300 times (not kidding, I actually counted). I touched the ground and then the bolt and the spark it made was about 3 inches long and left a scorch mark on my hand. It tingled for some time after that. Another time I charged it up with 200 passes and bet my friend he wouldn't touch his tounge to it (stupid, I know) but he did it and his whole upper body froze up and he screamed. Hilarious. I had some good times with that leyden jar...
pyrokid8 years ago
rrrrrr....i made an instructable on this but it got deleted because i had no pics. mine was basically the same.
Aeshir pyrokid8 years ago
Lmao. They didn't delete it. They never do. They just unpublished it. that happened to me before too.
iman8 years ago
nice instructable I made one too but it was made out of glass quart jar and conductive spraypaint. :)
PetervG8 years ago
Damnit, I have one too, maybe i'll still make it because mine is different. I also always have a quick way of getting pics up in under a min. :)
Kiteman (author)  PetervG8 years ago
Two things - how is the nail connected to the foil (?) inside, and do you just touch the nail for a jolt?
PetervG Kiteman8 years ago
Yea, the nail is quite big, and yes, I just touch it after scanning it over a tv and I get a shock.
PetervG PetervG8 years ago
Though, actually, I did mine the right way before, then I realized I just wanted it to zap myself. It works really well with adhesive metal tape stuff.