How To Build A Spark Gap Tesla Coil (SGTC)

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Shoot foot-long bolts of lighting through the air, light fluorescent tubes without wires, and power your other high voltage experiments with the aid of this tabletop-sized Tesla coil! Once the parts have arrived, it comes together in about a weekend, and for less than $200 even for those without a big bin of spare parts. I built this coil for fun over a few weekends during 10th grade, juggling eigenvalue problems and European history for drilling and soldering high voltage components.

The key to this coil's performance on such a tight budget is that all of its components are designed to work well together. Using some basic concepts from AC circuit design, the components are matched to perform well without requiring massive amounts of power. Some "coilers" use microwave oven transformers to pump kilowatts of energy through poorly matched circuits, resulting in large losses and mediocre performance. This instructable will show you how to avoid making such mistakes and how to properly design a spark gap Tesla coil.

UPDATE: This Tesla coil is now on sale on eBay for a starting bid of $99.99, less than the cost of the materials!

For contest entry details on this instructable, see step 10.

UPDATE: New diagrams for primary capacitor, primary coil, and spark gap construction have been added. Click the top left information icon to view them in full size.

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(I named it the "Valentine's Day Tesla Coil" in this video because I finished it over Valentine's Day weekend 2011)

To read more about this project, visit my website:
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seraine1 year ago
I need 17 0.15 uf capacitors, and these appear to be perfect for my Tesla Coil

Can a MMC use polypropylene metallized film capacitors?
Xellers (author)  seraine1 year ago
Yes - those are precisely the kind of cap you'd want to use (unless you can afford CDEs).

Good luck!
-max- Xellers8 months ago
All these capacitors are DC rated, but I see them in a configure which the voltage across them will be AC, due to ringing between the caps and the primary coil. a 2000VDC capacitor will have a rating like 400VAC, so I would think the AC rating is what I avoid exceeding, however it appears everywhere I look where they build an capacitor back, this is overlooked. What rating should I be concerned with?
Thanks for the speedy reply!
where would you recommend getting the transformer
sciencetor22 years ago
found these capacitors on ebay, they're from a supplier so they should be around for a while.

all the info you would need isn't there, but with a bit of research done after i recieved my order, they appear to be the crimped version of these

which should(probably) be suited for coil use, though the specs are slightly different from the instructable, so you would need to change your MMC configuration. i will probably go with a 12x8 setup(12 per string, 8 strings in paralell) which yields a capacitance of 0.01uF and a voltage rating of 19200v(19.2kV). i will let you know how it goes when i finish my coil.
Hi. I am just wondering whether these capacitors would also work?

could you give a link for the resistors you used. Thanks.
yep :) here you go! happy coiling!
ok, just finished my tesla coil and ran it, these capacitors work great! highly reccomend them for their price, amount, and continuous availability.
(removed by author or community request)
Xellers (author)  intellectualbean1 year ago
Did your spark gap ever fire correctly with the capacitor bank and NST connected? If the NST is just arcing over the gap and nothing else is happening, then a connection to the capacitor bank is broken.
james346021 year ago
How can I build a quiet spark gap
Always it was loud
Xellers (author)  james346021 year ago
Build a solid state or vacuum tube coil :P
agod1 year ago
Would a circuit board like a pcb or breadboard work to hold the capacitor bank?
i doubt it, as a breadboard would not provide enough insulation to contain such high voltages unless you modified it by removing un-needed rows, and then it may heat up, a pcb could work if it was custom for your bank, a pre punched prototyping board might arc, but i dont know
agod1 year ago
Ä° will be running my tesla coil in a science competition indoors ( in a basketball court) where there is no access to a place to put a large metal spike in the ground so i was wondering if it would be ok to ground it to the ground in an outlet. Ä°t is exactly the same as yours execpt my secondary is 4 inchs wide and i am using 30awg wire. Thanks.
well, provided the electrical system is properly grounded, you CAN, i did... but be sure to filter everything well with a specialized RF filter, as by grounding it to the outlet you can create potentially damaging RF interference that can damage sensitive things like flat screen tvs and computers and such if left unfiltered.
agod2 years ago
my transformer is the same as yours but 60ma. what will i need to change in the cappacitor bank? THanks
Xellers (author)  agod2 years ago
See the step on building the capacitor - I discuss how a value is selected there. You'll need to run the calculations yourself. Good luck!
sciencetor22 years ago
built a working Tesla Coil from this instructable :D made a few modifications due to necessity/improvement/budget/availability, but it works great! (still a bit out of tune though since I have been crazy busy) here is a video of it running


and pictures below.
IMAG0114.jpgtesla pic.pngtesla pic4.pngtesla pic1.pngIMAG0115.jpgIMAG0113.jpgIMAG0117.jpgIMAG0124.jpgIMAG0123.jpgIMAG0121.jpgIMAG0122.jpg
Other quick note: in the video I used a PVC pipe with GTO high voltage insulated wire taped to the end, and the other end of the wire connected to the main ground, as a grounding rod to attract the arcs. while this is all well and good in this particular spark gap coil, i have read several places that other varieties of coils such as vaccum tube tesla coils can be damaged or destroyed by ground strikes such as this.

Also, while this grounding rod worked safely, as a general rule you shouldn't really be attracting the sparks to you, as this can be dangerous or deadly. an improperly constructed, or improperly used grounding rod could cause electrocution, so DO NOT ATTEMPT! I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR INJURY OR DEATH RELATED TO THIS METHOD!
also a quick note on the capacitor bank, due to the unavailability of the exact capacitors in the instructable, the ones I used had a capacitance of .015uF, and a voltage rating of 1.6kV, i posted an ebay link to these earlier, but due to the slightly different capacitance, they must be arranged in 8 rows of 12 capacitors, rather than the 10 rows of 10 directed in order to achieve the 0.01uF necessary for this coil. This configuration also has a max voltage rating of 19.2kV.
kdbacho2 years ago
just to ask two questions. why were there insicions in the speaker wire and is the secondary coil connected to the primary. because i dont know were to put the loose ends
also, the "incisions" in the speaker wire are where the insulation was stripped to connect the test clip, in order to experimentally tune the coil i believe.
Bottom of secondary is connected to a ground, top wire is taped to the top load, or bolted to the toroid if you went fancy
sciencetor22 years ago
sorry to be bothering you so much, but i also cant find any capacitors rated for 1.5kV 0.01uF... where did you get yours?
sciencetor22 years ago
i take it the resistors need to have a max voltage rating of around the same as the capacitors? what was the rating on yours and where did you get them?
sciencetor22 years ago
ok, im back, Found what appears to be a REALLY great deal on a pair of 9kv 30 mA very-used-but-still-working-guarunteed neon transformers, the only problem is they have GFI, but seller claims they have a switch to bypass it, would they be suitable? (id show you the auction but I'm afraid someone will grab them first looking at the comment, email?)
Xellers (author)  sciencetor22 years ago
daniel (dot) kramnik (at) gmail (dot) com

I can't guarantee that I'll be right, but I can try to tell!
sciencetor22 years ago
Ok so I'm going to try and build one of these coils, should be pretty impressive, but I noticed you listed the price of the neon transformer as $35, I have not found one for anything under $90, and that is a substantial price jump as I'm trying to stay under or around $150. can you suggest a supplier of a $35 transformer? or better yet, a link? also, i have not found capacitors of the appropriate exact type anywhere on ebay, so a link would be nice for that too if possible. Thanks!
Xellers (author)  sciencetor22 years ago
I had to wait several months to find that deal on eBay - it was the whole reason I decided to make an SGTC in the first place!

Given that you could make the difference between $35 and $90 in a couple days' work, that's probably the best idea if you want your coil project to happen in the near future - I'm sorry if this is the not response you wanted to hear! =/
OzoneLab2 years ago
To any one not willing to build there own tesla coil or wants to support Xellers, (if I wasn't so poor after building my own four inch TC, I would) he has posted a listing on ebay for this coil running up to feb 28, 2012.
Go to:

Xellers- great coil sad to see it go, though.


.015uF .015 uF 1600V 5% Radial Film Capacitors (100)


Will these work?
Yes these are Metallized PP Film Capacitor's from the manufactures website (panasonic). PP = polypropelene
Electrodude2 years ago
would an electrolytic capacitor work?
Xellers (author)  Electrodude2 years ago
Bumba Lodh2 years ago
i live in India so ebay not possible.Should i use same type of capacitor that you used in this project???
Xellers (author)  Bumba Lodh2 years ago
Does nobody on eBay ship to India?

If you can find an Indian supplier of the capacitor you need, that should work just as well, however. I'm afraid I won't be able to help you find a part distributor in India, though. If you find a capacitor you're not sure about, you can post a link and I'll help you determine whether it is suitable.

Have you registered on If not, that's the place to start when it comes to Tesla coils - you might even be able to find someone else in India who knows where to get the parts you need.
Bumba Lodh2 years ago
Hi,I built a TESLA COIL with 5kv 30ma nst.Primary coil made with 4mm
copper tube with 10 turns secondary made with 2inch PVC pipe.Winding
height 10.2inch(0.315mm enameled copper wire used) also made Capacitor
bank with 2kv 0.15uF polyester film capacitor.But the problem is my
Capacitor burnt several times but the coil works with LEYDEN JAR
capacitor.Why the capacitor burning??????

Please Help Me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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