Picture of This High Voltage Click-Clack Toy Rocks!
fig 1.JPG
   Here are two electrostatic versions of a retro Click-Clack toy that were popular in high schools back in '70s. Version 1.0 is the super-budget model. Parts (excluding the power supply) amount to almost nothing. A description of the more expensive and upgraded 2.0 version pictured on the Intro page appears at the end of this i'ble.

   I used conductive spheres to shuttle electric charges between the poles of a high voltage (HV) DC source. This shuttle assembly was made from two, foil-covered spheres joined by a non-conducting, plastic tube. The assembly was sandwiched between two stationary, dumbbell shaped electrodes. When the upper dumbbell was grounded with respect to the negatively charged lower dumbbell, the shuttle began to bounce between the HV poles with a clacking noise as charges were transferred from the lower to the upper electrode. This rocking motion completed the HV circuit.

   I powered the project with an electronic air ionizer purchased at a rummage sale; but other sources of HVDC, such as a Van de Graaff generator could be used to rock this clacker. For a video clip about the project, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQrXRCu066c .

 If you choose a commercial air ionizer as the power source, use a model powered by a low voltage AC adapter. A line powered ionizer can be a serious shock hazard!!

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PadmaA2 months ago

Hi wanted to make this for science project but have no idea of air ionisers, checked on net and they look without an output lead, so how do we make that a power source and connect to the click clack.

brazilero2008 (author)  PadmaA2 months ago

Once you have a suitable ionizer, attach an insulated wire to the HV output terminal (the point where ions are generated). A return wire connected to the ground of the ionizer is optional; or you could attach the return to an earth point such as a metal cold water pipe.


Thanks a ton :)


brazilero2008 (author)  PadmaA2 months ago

Good places to find negative ion generators are yard sales or Good Will outlets. Small units that operate on 12 volts DC are safer. When the click-clack is balanced properly, you won't need a high wattage power supply; even a tabletop Van de Graaff will work.

Good luck w/your science project.

WearJDV3 years ago
This is going to be a great help for my next science fair. This is cool!
brazilero2008 (author)  WearJDV3 years ago
Good luck w/your project!
atonix4 years ago
Why can't we use AC current there? Can you explain me?
brazilero2008 (author)  atonix4 years ago
   If you switch the input polarities manually to simulate very low frequency AC, the project still works. Higher frequency AC would change too quickly for a simple mechanical shuttle to operate properly.
atonix4 years ago
How much voltage and current is needed for the whole project? Does normal supply of 220V works?
brazilero2008 (author)  atonix4 years ago
The input for the air ionizer is 12V at 125 mA, supplied by an AC adapter. Ionizer output is around 7,000 VDC in the microAmp range. An ionizer that runs directly from 220V mains would work, but there is a shock risk.
Edgar4 years ago
An intro to your Instructable is now on my Blog:
brazilero2008 (author)  Edgar4 years ago
Thanks for featuring my project!
Anytime, keep those projects coming...
Could you use the plastic mirror style christmas tree ball instead of tin foil?
brazilero2008 (author)  Green Silver4 years ago
Be sure these ornaments are conductive; some are just silver or gold colored plastic.
ilpug4 years ago
couldnt you just use tennis balls instead of paper wads?
brazilero2008 (author)  ilpug4 years ago
Try ping-pong balls; tennis balls would be too heavy.
pansartax4 years ago
You could possibly use a CRT TV as a HVDC source.. Just put a sheet of aluminium foil on the screen (it'll stick) and that will be your +, a wire to a water pipe or something and you're done
Don't recommend that, I did that and touched it with an aluminum rod in hand. Really bad idea, but didn't hurt, it did when I touched the tinfoil though. The tv shut off and restarted once and then I noticed that the screen would go goofy behind the tinfoil when I drew an arc, it would produce a good spark too especially for me as the negative thing, whatever it is called, can't think of it right now.
SHIFT!4 years ago
Very good, well written instructable. Love the science behind it!
brazilero2008 (author)  SHIFT!4 years ago
Thanks for the + feedback!
Phil B4 years ago
Thank you for publishing this. Our high school had a Van de Graaf static generator and a Wimshurst static machine back in the 1960s, but I had never seen one of these. It would have been a good addition to the science demonstrations.
brazilero2008 (author)  Phil B4 years ago
The project has generated alot of interest at jr & high school science fairs. Thanks for viewing this i'ble.