Introduction: Steampunk Jacob's Ladder

YuKonstruct and the Yukon Comic Culture Society were invited to make the decorations for the 2016 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Steampunk Ball this past February.

As the title of the event was "Steampunk Ball 2: Tesla Boogaloo" we thought it would be appropriate to build a large jaccob's ladder to show off some of the high voltage electricity Tesla is so well known for.


YuKonstruct is the first makerspace in Canada's north. Our mission is to provide access to shared space, quality tools, available expertise, and a collaborative environment to help makers build anything!

The materials for this project were generously provided by the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society.


Step 1: Electronics

To build a similar jacob's ladder, you would need the following electronic components:

  • A furnace transformer, which can be purchased online, from a furnace repair company, or can be found in an old furnace.
  • A switch able to carry the amperage.
  • Wiring of sufficient gauge to carry the energy safely.

The output of the transformer will be on the order of 10,000 volts, depending on the design of the transformer.

The output of the transformer goes to two electrodes, housed in a plastic base. Plastic should be used for spacers rather than wood as wood can arc at high voltages.

The electrodes are shaped so the gap between them is narrower at the base, flaring out larger at the top.

*Safety Warning* : High voltage electricity can be very dangerous. Do not attempt to build or operate high voltage electronics without proper safety procedures and training.

Step 2: Casing

To contain the electronics we built a wooden box and cap which worked with the Steampunk theme. The wood pieces were cut with YuKonstruct's CNC router.

The protective plastic tube was purchased online and the box and cap were designed to match its measurements.

After it was assembled, the casing was painted with acrylic paints in metallic colours.

Step 3: Operations

With the suitable connections, once turned on, the air between the electrodes will charge, inducing an arc of electricity to jump between them.

The air surrounding the electrodes, and the spark will heat, inducing it to rise.

Once the limits of the resistance of the gap are reached, the spark will begin forming at the point where the electrodes are closest.

This action will repeat as long as there is current flowing through the transformer.

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