Introduction: Van De Graaff Generator Made From Junk

Picture of Van De Graaff Generator Made From Junk

This is instructions on how I built a Van de Graaff generator from junk lying about my house.(And I do mean junk.)

Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts

Okay, the first thing you will want to do is gather all of the necessary parts. They include 1 pencil with ereaser, two dried out old click pen parts, a piece of 8in. long PVC pipe, 1 dead light bulb, 1ft long piece of 2 by 4, a elastic band, one metal paper clip, aluminum foil, see through tape, one small toy motor, 9 volt battery, and some junk wire. A good sense of humor and a few band-aids would come in handy too.

Step 2: Part 1

Picture of Part 1

The first step is to take your 1ft piece 2 by 4 and drill 1in. deep with a drill that is wide enough to snugly fit your PVC pipe. The position where you drill the hole should not really matter just as long as there is enough room to work with.

Step 3: Step 2

Picture of Step 2

The next thing you do is stick the PVC pipe into the drilled out hole, and mark the point where the axel of your motor touches PVC pipe and drill a (STRAIGHT) hole through both sides of the PVC.Then drill another (STRAIGHT) hole through both sides of the pipe at the point were your elastic band is lightly out stretched. Make sure that elastic band is not too tight or it will stop the motor.

Step 4: Step3

Picture of Step3

Next you drill two more holes into the PVC.The first hole should be drilled directly perpendicular too the bottom holes, and should only go through one side of the PVC.The second hole should go just above the top hole and should also be drilled through only one side of the PVC.

Step 5: Step 4

Picture of Step 4

Now you need to clean out any ink that is left in the dried out pen parts. I used a ribbon tie like the ones that come with trash bags to clean out the pen.

Step 6: Step 5

Picture of Step 5

Next you cut a piece of the pen you just cleaned out to the length of the inside diameter of the PVC pipe. Then take your paper clip and cut a piece of it long enough so that there should be at least a quarter inch of excess metal on booth sides of the tube. This should all go into the top hole with the rubber band already attached. Then you fold over the excess metal from the paper clip, and see if it turns freely.

Step 7: Step 6

Picture of Step 6

Next you take the left over metal from the paper clip and bend over about a quarter inch of metal depending on how big of a hole you drilled.Then using your plyer or a hook stretch the elastic band far enough so that you can place the piece of metal through the bottom hole.Then you take the ereaser from the pencil and drill or poke two small holes into booth sides one for the motor and one for the paper clip.To hold the ereaser firmly on the two pecies of metal place super glue into both holes on the eraser.

Step 8: Step 7

Picture of Step 7

The next step is to add the brushes that collect the charge. The bottom brush as shown in the picture on the left goes through the hole at the bottom the wire needs to be frayed. You have to make sure that the bottom brush is close to the elastic band, but cannot touch it. The top brush as shown in the picture on the right goes thought the top hole and needs be touching the elastic band at all times.

Step 9: Step 8

Picture of Step 8

The next and finale step is to wrap the dead light bulb in a piece of aluminum foil. The key to making the aluminum hold more of a charge is to smoothen it out as much as possible. Then you cut off any aluminum that might be touching the metal part of the bulb, and place it into the PVC pipe. Then attach the top brush wire to the light bulb. Well, that's it you now know how to build a Van de Graff Generator from junk which can give a door knob like spark or do neat tricks. Now the only thing left for you to do is super size it and send your neighbors annoying cat into the next century.


maxhirez (author)2016-09-02

Could you expand on how the brushes are made and attached and what to use as a rubber band?

JamesM480 (author)2016-05-14

This is good guide on how to select the best one.I really loved your comparison chart and look of the site. You seem to be expert in this.

nitinr2 (author)2015-01-13

whre should be the another end of bottom wire attach?????? please reply

jerenmie (author)nitinr22015-11-25


DzanZ (author)jerenmie2015-12-10

Does the light bulb have to be dead?

ErikC1 (author)2015-01-18

where do you attach the other end of the bottom brush wire to

jerenmie (author)ErikC12015-11-25

to the ground

FREEZZZINGICE (author)2013-01-11

Does it actully work?

HaileyK2 (author)FREEZZZINGICE2015-11-18


AstridS1 (author)2015-09-17

What's the battery used for? any idea?

EmilianoC (author)2015-09-14

what's the 1ft long piece of 2 by 4?

AstridS1 (author)EmilianoC2015-09-17

i guess it's the wood?

333pancake333 (author)2015-08-28

will it make any sparks?

ErikC1 (author)2015-01-18

i spent literally 5 hours making it and it didnt work

ErikC1 (author)2015-01-18

it doesnt work

SgBriggs (author)2013-01-05

dose the grounding wire need to touch the ground or the - terminal on the battery or a wand so you can do the lightning stick thing?

CaptainCogwheel (author)SgBriggs2014-09-27

The bottom wire needs to touch the belt, with the other end grounded, either with your hand or actually into the ground

Where the bottom brush has to be attached?

Bro just drill a small hole below the motor..and attach the bottom brush near the bottom roller(where the motor is).....i mean the bottom brush should be very near the bottom roller......just like u did in the upper roller :D

Georgewister (author)2014-06-14

You are brilliant!

I hope you will make more instructables.

Jonathon Haberkorn (author)2008-12-19

I discovered the perfect matiaral. take one of the big capacitors in microwave open it up in side there is pieces of thin foil covered in a plastic in between is is them is the perfect martial.

get your english corrected

Sumantkr123 (author)2013-08-24

good job

dng8 (author)2013-06-18

here's another website from MAKE

marvel_x23 (author)2013-04-20

what can be used instead of the pvc tube

scristian (author)2013-03-02

i made a shake machine :(

scristian (author)2013-03-02

Does it still work if i use 1 engine on the top roller and one on the bottom one?
also i covered the top roler with somme duct tape so that the ruber band stays centered.

PS:for somme reason mine doesn't do anything other that shake

Velin9 (author)2013-02-01

also can you use a plastic straw instead of the pen tube?

Velin9 (author)2013-02-01

Can you use a piece of foam for the base instead of the wood or not?

btw this looks like a very cool project. good job.
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Thumbs Up

frederickgraff (author)2012-12-11

Check out for extreme Van de Graaff generators!! Its a must see!!

teslapulsa94 (author)2012-11-13

how thick pvc?

CoolDon (author)2012-09-27

and if we attach a 9 volt battery to a toy motor wont it burn?

CoolDon (author)2012-09-27

Hey can we run something on this one because i need to do it for ma science fair project

swaghmare (author)2011-11-15

where does the another end of the bottom wire go????
plz reply fast.

CoolDon (author)swaghmare2012-09-27

Its a ground wire i think so!

Aron313 (author)2012-08-19

Do you have a video on it?

Isaac Laserman (author)2012-08-19

video please

onlymadhur007 (author)2012-08-07

can anybody plz send me the pdf file for it?
i need it urgently as m havin an exhibition in school.

Thanx :)

KronoNaut (author)2007-03-22

Am I assuming correctly that you attach the top lead to the aluminum foil, and not the metal part of the bulb?

Daxuto (author)KronoNaut2012-06-15

Yeah, connecting to the metal of the bulb would just attach to the filaments, however, what we want is charge to build up in the foil sphere outside.

maryamyam (author)2012-05-21

is the top wire attached to BOTH the light bulb and the upper rubber band?

Tobor 2.0 (author)2011-10-23

Can you leave out the bottom wire? I want to know the point of the bottom wire.

joshuaw97 (author)Tobor 2.02011-12-09

the bottom wire is to keep the generator grounded.

builder23 (author)2011-11-03

I REALLY need to know if this generator works. i am doing a science fair project on electrostatic electricity, and have already tried to build one of these from another website. Somebody please respond!

rocketbat (author)2007-03-20

LOL!" super size it and send your neighbors annoying cat into the next century" that is just what i intend to do!

cheezy monkey (author)rocketbat2011-10-26

Been there.
Done that.


yetibunny (author)rocketbat2010-06-03

You could also send your neigbor with them!   >: )

eric m (author)2011-06-29

photography here is awful.

how bout some closeups of the comb and pulley.

Daniel Deacon (author)2011-06-21

does it have to be PVC? or could the tube be Cardboard or something else thank you :D

Crazy-Inventor (author)2011-04-30

Can u plz tell me how much volts will this generator produce?
and one more question if it produces high voltage then why can't we use it for electicity supply for home.
waiting 4 reply.

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