Picture of DIY Lightning Wand -- A Handheld Van de Graaff Generator
Most instructions for building a Van de Graaff generator (VDG) are for tabletop models; however VDGs grounded through a person work well enough to make a handheld version possible. The Fun Fly Stick, a popular toy, is an example of a handheld VDG. This instructable will show you how to make your own handheld VDG capable of producing sparks up to an inch long with a few common items.

WARNING: Keep the VDG away from all electronics, including pacemakers, hearing aids, and the cell phone you forgot was in your pocket. A VDG is an ESD monster!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
[1] 3/4" Schedule 40 PVC pipe
[1] 3/4" PVC Tee
[1] 3/4" PVC Cap
[3] 3 1/2" x 1/4" Rubber bands (No. 64)
[1] Super Glue
[1] Hot Glue
[1] 3 ft 16 AWG Stranded Wire (can be taken from old extension cord)
[1] Motor (like Radio Shack #273-223)
[1] 4xAA Battery Holder (like Radio Shack #270-391)
[1] Wooden Dowel
[1] Aluminum Foil
[1] Aluminum Can
[1] Wide-mouth Plastic Bottle like a 32 oz Gatorade bottle
[1] Paper clip
[1] polyvinyl chloride electrical tape (Scotch 3M 33+ and 35 both work)
[1] Teflon tape
[1] glass bead [url:http://www.artbeads.com/czech-glass-rondelle-9mm.html]

Pocket Knife
Can Opener
Wire stripper
Drill or Lighter, Nail, and Screw
Hot Glue Gun
Alligator Lead or Stiff Wire hooked at the end
Paper clip

Before starting, wash your hands and prepare a clean work area. The three enemies of a VDG are oil, water, and dirt. Therefore you should clean and thoroughly dry every part before construction. Use nonsoapy water only since soap can leave a conductive film. Before touching the rollers or belt wipe your hands to remove any excess oil.

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CarterB27 months ago

What is the estimated price and construction time of this project?

okaderi1 year ago
Can someome help me with part 5 and 6 I need this done soon , 1st I dont gey how the aluminum can comes to play with the coke can and gatorade bottle, then I domt understand the part wwiththe bead and the final assembly please help!!!!
bkatz12 years ago
so just to be clear, This can't make anything fly?
yardleydobon (author)  bkatz12 years ago
It will make a flier float but if you move the DIY wand around too quickly it will probably stop working and lose it's charge.
Hey I was having troubke understanding the part where you have to use the gatorade bottle and aluminum can and also thw steps after to out it together please email me I need this done soon @ omidkaderi@gmail.com thank you
can i use something else instead of a pvc pipe? is an aluminium foil roll or a simple plastic roll fine? Also, can i use ptfe tape instead of teflon tape? its agreat thing you've made there
nerd122 years ago
Nice, i was looking to build something like this. Thanks!
Btw, i saw the fly toy video, and was intrigued by the fliers. Do you know how i can make them?
yardleydobon (author)  nerd122 years ago
You are probably better off buying replacement fliers. I think they are made out of mylar. I tried cutting up a "mylar" (not really mylar) balloon to make my own fliers. It didn't work well. The real fliers don't work well with the DIY version because it's unwieldy and if you disturb it to much it will stop generating charge and you'll have to fiddle with it to make it work again.
Van de Graaf Generators at www.physicsplayground.com
jajajanice3 years ago
im having trouble understanding steps 5-6 could anyone help?
yardleydobon (author) 3 years ago
Here's a new instructable I'd like you to check out.

Super Mario Bros. Warp Pipe Sound Effect Toilet Touch Sensor

It's shows how you can make your toilet play the Super Mario Bros. Warp Pipe sound effect when you flush. It also shows how to make a little warp pipe to hold the circuit. It's in a contest until December 5th so please vote for it!
The design is great, and i mostly followed it but ended up using 1" pipe to fit my bigger motor and 5/8" rubber bands. I used teflon tape on the bottom roller (to see if it worked) and a glass fuse on top, and positioned the combs about 2/8" away. I tried it on several occasions and it does not work at all. (one tiny zap first time then nothing)
Have I done anything wrong?
(also, it is not fully assembled just the column and collector)
yardleydobon (author)  Professor Evil3 years ago
These can be insanely frustrating to get working. Sometimes it will work beautifully and sometimes not at all. The position of the combs can make a huge difference. I didn't secure the bottom comb so that I could experiment with different distances while it was running. I tried teflon tape. I don't recall it working very well. You might want to try making a mounting base for it and grounding the bottom comb wire to ground so that you have both hands free to fiddle with it and can move around it as it's running to inspect it. Using a hair dryer to blow out any moisture may also be helpful.
I think I might just change over the roller material, the bottom roller to PVC tape and the top to a glass bead, to stop the belt from rubbing on the side of the column.
Also, i tried adjusting it while running and hooked up to a microamp meter, but still absolutely no charge. At least then i could determine if it was the rollers or the combs.
You were definitely right when you said that these things could be difficult to get working. :P
peacefoots4 years ago
i have a metal orb that would be perfect for this but it has a 1/8 inch hole. Does that matter and if so how could i make the hole bigger?
you could use a dremel tool with a good cutting disk to widen the hole, just make sure not to leave any sharp edges.
Electorials3 years ago
Awesome! It's like a magic stick :D
bulls eye4 years ago
Will this have enough power to get someones hair to stand on end?
If not how would I make it so?
yardleydobon (author)  bulls eye4 years ago
No, it's not powerful enough.
can i still put my hand on this and shock people?
Tomcat944 years ago
I had this idea so many years ago, but never actually did anything...

This is awesome. :D
About how much does it cost to make?
it cost me considering i had the rubber bands and soda can 12.00
yardleydobon (author)  peacefoots4 years ago
sounds like you got it completed. great!
yeah it works great and i won 3 in a science fair with
Congrats on 3rd place..

yardleydobon (author)  whiteboyninja4 years ago
$15 or less depending on how much stuff you already have. $15 if you have absolutely none of the materials.
heavyfire884 years ago
And btw, mine 9v fits GREAT.
heavyfire884 years ago
9V motor ? :D
heavyfire884 years ago
Can I use the black electrical tape ? And have the same results ? Better or worse ?
fundash4 years ago
Can I simply modify a fun fly stick to be more powerful???
dombeef fundash4 years ago
maybe put in a faster motor?
Adum244 years ago
What would happen if I had my phone in my pocket while using this. What exactly does it do to cell phones?
yardleydobon (author)  Adum244 years ago
high voltage is bad for electronics. it will destroy a MOSFETs oxide layer ruining the chip. of course people generate high voltage static electricity all the time and cell phones are designed to cope with this, but why risk it?
It will also ruin the touch-sensitivity of touch screen electronics. this is virtually impossible to repair.
i was using it with my phone for 3 hours and didnt do anything to it
do you think small ID vinyl tubing for the bottom roller (maybe some cellophane tape to thicken the motor shaft up a bit) and a small ID nylon spacer on top will work as well? i took a look at the triboelectric scale and these are opposites. Plus, it's all I have around. I can't find the electrical tape.
Dreistein4 years ago
i have the exact same bead just green
next time i make it own
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