Build and Code a MONSTER Musical Tesla Coil with a Microcontroller

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As the winter months come up, many will be forced to stay indoors… To many, this will mean playing scrabble with grandma, watching television, doing puzzles, and sitting around the house. Why not begin an awesome project to spice up those potentially cold, dreary nights with an amazing light show decoration?

In this instructable, I will detail how you can do just that in creating an Audio Modulated Solid State Tesla Coil. Quite a mouthful isn’t it? For those foreign to the electronics engineering field or who simply just have no clue what “audio modulation” or “tesla coils” are, essentially what this device will do is produce visible streamers of electricity into the air (“lightning bolts”) pulsed at frequencies that correspond to audible tones (the device will “turn on and off” so quickly that the vibrations that the streamers make with the air sound like different notes). As we will see, we can exploit this neat effect to have the device play music and control it from behind a computer. So far, the secrets behind how these devices that sometimes make appearances on tv shows and movies has been kept under wraps and exclusively within the electronics engineering and computer science community or for very dedicated hobbyists putting in hours of research. In fact, for many high classes in elite colleges, n00b engineers would even have trouble making this on their own! This project could also be used to FREAK THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of people on Halloween! This year, I finished the project just in time to have this prop set up to play an eerie tune and trick-or-treaters were mesmerized (goes great to decorate a Frankenstein set).

This project is not for the light-hearted and is very difficult, but when completed, is extremely rewarding (it took me 2 years to learn how to build and finally do it). Not only will one learn loads about electronics and computer science, but simply taking this device to an event or (safely) to a public space rarely fails to produce a crowd of people taking pictures, impressed with your wizardly h@x0rz skills. Certain types of light bulbs or sticks will magically turn on without any wires. Good skills with power tools, machining, carpentry and the like are essential for crowd appeal. You have been warned, however, that there will be much tweaking, experimenting, and required dedication. In addition, be smart when operating tesla coils around sensitive electronics or in areas occupied by many people (basic common sense, I don't think there's much of a need to babble on, but if you are unsure, please work with an experienced engineer).
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Hi, Tesla peeps! Can I use ignition coils of cars instead of capacitors? Can someone help me build one that is in Solid State? I'll be helping my son build his (and mine, as well) first Tesla coil for his Science Project (one that could play .mp3 music from his iShuffle). After which, we could use this on New Year's day & 4th of July. This has to be done on or before December (2014).

No. Ignition coils can be used but they produce very high voltage like 30 kV so stay away from that. Instead for a 4th of July party I would suggest using a fly circuit from an electric fly swatter (tennis racket) or electric bug zapper (the lanterns). These can produce a more suitable 5 kV while still providing a great show.
maboy7 months ago

What gauge wire would be optimal for the secondary coil? I've heard around 24 gauge works well, though I'd probably go with 25, as it's more widely available. Additionally, with the primary, I was thinking something like 1/4" copper coil spaced 1/2" apart (with an archimedes spiral type design). Would this be a practical setup? Any advice?

jbrown146 maboy10 days ago
I used 30 gauge but just make sure your primary is double the diameter, which isn't 15 gauge it's a different scale.
rhoult3 years ago
This is really cool! I'm planning on doing this for a school project and have a few questions. How much did the whole project cost? I'm kinda broke so i want to know if it'll be affordable. Also, what's the time frame on this? I have a deadline of 6 weeks. I'll be presenting the whole project and have a reputation of great presentations. I was planning on doing the Doctor Who theme on the coils, with the arcs going to my hands. obviously i'd need some insulated chainmail gloves to keep from getting shocked, are there any other safety precautions i should take? If there are any other pointers or tips i should know, i'd be happy to hear them!

Hey man I know you commented this two years ago my me and a friend want to make one and we were curious if you made your deadline and how it worked for two first timers? You can email me at, you could be a huge help

john mosier9 months ago

i wish i could build this. my dad thinks i will blow up the house :(

Jan_Henrik9 months ago


sullymonster0110 months ago

You really need to put in a full circuit diagram of the whole thing because some of it it is hard to understand, a pictures worth a thousand words as they say.

sullymonster0111 months ago

Could you put in a full circuit diagram of the whole thing?

I am trying to build a Tesla coil for a school project and this is my first one. Where did you get all of the parts and how much did it cost?

Most of the components can be found at an online supplier such as Mouser or Digi-key (RS and Farnell if you're in the UK). You can buy magnet wire and even pre-made secondaries on eBay, and stuff for the frame, including the primary, at your local home improvement store.

I'd estimate it cost a couple hundred dollars. If you want to keep cost and complexity down, try building a spark gap tesla coil.

What are the primary capacitor values?Are the capacitors in the bridge circuit pulse rated and what are the values of those?
This is a great instructable. But the electronics schematics are a bit on the thin side. What's needed is:

A) A block schematic, with all the major blocks indicated, and their connections. Okay, you did that on Step 2 Overview. But don't forget to indicate the value for the capacitors used in the final design.

B) Each block within the block schematic needs after that its own schematic on a separate diagram. Clearly draw the diagram for the bridge circuit, with all components and all connections, and indicate the value and type of each component that were used in the final version.

C) Same for the microcontroller block. I looked and looked and couldn't find the schematic for the microcontroller.

D) Same for the rectifier block. This is pretty trivial, but you should do it anyway.

E) Then put all schematics together. Block (overview) schematic first, then each part of it with its own detailed schematic. Or leave them separate, on different pages on your instructable, but make it clear which detailed scheme corresponds to which block on the overview scheme.

You did everything very well, but I think you probably learned the electronics stuff on-the-fly. Don't get me wrong, I think you did a great job, but just clean up the schematics part of the project. This is not a criticism, it's a suggestion for improvement.

Here's another project that is much less thorough than yours in the practical aspects, testing, etc., but the electronics are better explained, see the links to the PDF schematics at the bottom of the page - if you could provide clear, detailed schematics the way they did, yours would be hands-down the best instructable I've seen yet:

You don't have to provide the schematics in PDF form, it's the idea that matters.


He does not provide them because it is not his design, the circuitry minus the midi parts are my design including board layout and all mechanical aspects. I also make the toroids myself. He should be giving credit where credit is due. The design is much better now then it was when this was written. The schematics are all located here on my site. I am still working on more info on how to build them. The boards can be bought through eBay if I have any listed or by sending me an email.
My site is here:!screamer/cjg9
Deejean1 year ago
I have a very old high voltage driver, and the transformer and high voltage compositor cannot be separated because they're in the same ferrite core. Should I be putting the bridge circuit before or after my driver? I also think it still puts out AC.
mopuccino1 year ago
dude that is a hell of an instructable! i m pretty sure that a lot of people will appreciate it...thank you for sharing so much of your time and knowledge in such a complete "understandable"...
SirCheez1 year ago
New meme! 'Scumbag electrical engineer' :D

Nothing personal, that picture just strikes me as very funny.
Could you show a schematic of the switch diagram please?
Adrenal1ne2 years ago
It's probably because I am a technical idiot, but there are large parts of this ible of which I cannot understand. I understand how a Tesla Coil functions, and I understand how the Microcontroller unit system works, but I can't understand exactly how it all goes together. But from what I understand of Tesla Coils, could I build the Tesla Coil described here ( and place the Interrupter somewhere between the power source and the control circuitry? Or is there something in the control circuitry that I would replace with an interrupter? What would that be? Where would it go? Where would I get one? (Is it obvious I don't know what I'm doing yet?) Any help on this subject would be extremely helpful.
mnieto22 years ago
I have two questions regarding the circuit diagram:
1. Do you just plug the part that says "outlet" into a wall outlet, or do you need a high voltage source (I dont think that 120 volts on the primary is enough to run the secondary coil at a high enough voltage, or is it?)?
2. Do you run the outlet on DC or AC current?
how much does it cost to make?
moviemanic3 years ago
is there a program like WinTesla for Mac users
I use a program called wine and it can run pc programs in a mac interface buy pressing run now.

it is free and available here

it does not save your progress though and so you will need to start again every time you open it :(
jcaresheets2 years ago
I think this is the first instructable I have comment on but i may be wrong. But I had to comment at least to say thank you. I have been daydreaming about a Tesla coil for quite some time now. But my ultimate goal would be one that can play music. Thanks to this I think this might be within reach. However, because of the high voltage involved I am still a long ways away from doing this and want to learn as much as I can before I begin. Thank you again.
T_T_3 years ago
is there any way to modify this set-up to accept a MIDI interface, from something like a computer or electronic keyboard?
indodude T_T_2 years ago
Well yes but the problem with the MIDI interface is that it becomes a lot more difficult to get everything running for no reason. Best you use a mono signal coming from you piano or pc for one Solid State Tesla coil (or have two Tesla coils on the left and right for stereo haha). As all the signal coming from the micro controller is an audio signal that you would see coming from a standard pc audio jack.
sciencetor22 years ago
Is using an MMC capacitor array plausible for this project? they are much more customizeable, and usually cheaper and easier to get resonant
Mudbud3 years ago
ahhhhhhhh why u no add video of dis badass telsa coil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hey Man, that list if IGBT's is a tad dated.

The HGT1N40N60A4D and HGT1N40N60A4 are obsolete and havent been able for 5 years or so. Same goes for the FGH30N6S2. However IXGH60N60C2, HGTG40N60A4 and HGTG20N60A4 are current parts and work fantastic. I highly reccmend any of theose 3.

TheHomebrewGuru (author)  TeslaFreakshow3 years ago
Yes, but I know someone who had access to these parts even though they are no longer sold (had them around or had access to them at work)
Yes but this is an instructable so if you're giving in instructions people building this might not have access to those parts like you do. Just a thought.

So this weekend I build a coil using the mini bricks from IXYS. They were 60n60c2d1 and although they do work they aren't as powerful as the fairchild parts and even though they are in the sot-227 package they are still quite a bit weaker. Hands down the HGTG40N60A4 are the best parts you can buy as reasonable prices and they beat the IXYS parts easily without even considering price.

You still using the boards I sold you? I think if you're going to do midi you should program the controller to decode midi directly from a PC. This is kinda the standard now. Not really into MIDI myself but I have an FM modulated SSTC in the works now. Uses a USB powered audio preamp and equalizer. Sound quality is better than what you get from regular tweeters. Super crisp and loud.
TheHomebrewGuru (author)  TeslaFreakshow3 years ago
I have been experimenting with many different coils and boards, however, I am moving towards a UAV project now and taking a break from coiling with the culmination of the audio circuit. In the future I will probably code a direct PC decoder, but that will probably be on the backburner for a while
Hmm as for the IGBTs, that is a good idea, I'll add those to the list
dunnos3 years ago
Did you ever try making a miniature one?
hey this is a great project and i plan to make my own could you let me know where you got your magnet wire from? thankx
You can get it off Ebay. That secondary is coated with Furniture Epoxy not Varnish. There is a big difference between the two.
dude im sorry you busted your big capacitor you have sorry had one do buy it from that place
EEduino3 years ago
Since I already have an arduino, could I use that as the microcontroller for this tesla coil? If so, would I just need to change the coding? Would that work at all?
The type of micro is irrelevant. All that matters is that you supply the correct signal. An Arduino could definitely do that. A bare AVR micro could do that. A Picaxe could do that. Just about any micro currently in production should be able to handle the task.
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