Introduction: High Voltage Spark Gap Tiki Torch

About: Electromechanical Engineer, Product Designer, Maker. I love to make prototypes and teach others in the process. I graduated from UCF and spent two years working at NASA.

In this instructable I will show you how to make a high voltage spark gap tiki torch. The flame ignites when the voltage difference between the conductors exceeds the breakdown voltage of the surrounding air. The air in the gap becomes ionized and creates a pathway for the current to flow. Spark plugs in cars work in a similar manner to ignite the fuel in the combustion chamber.

I connected this to a wifi enabled WeMo switch so I can turn the torch on with my phone. You can use a schedule to automatically turn it on at a set time or you can use an IFTTT recipe to use a variety of other triggers for the torch such a location, email, text, social media based events. Imagine setting these up all over your backyard and turning them all on at once.

Warning: This instructable involves using a high voltage power supply. Please take extreme caution.

I am also giving away an arduino mega, arduino uno, and an arduino pro mini on my YouTube Channel. (Details at the end)

Step 1: Materials You Will Need.

You may have what you need at home for this project.

1. Neon Sign Transformer. I used a 10,000 volt NST from Amazon, but you can reuse an old NST. It is current limited and therefore much safer than older NSTs. This is still very dangerous and you should be careful and take all necessary precautions to ensure everyone nearby is safe. If you know an electrician, he/she may know where to get old NSTs as a lot of them are being replaced with newer units.

2. Thick copper wire or tubing. I used 6 gauge bare copper wire from the hardware store.

3. Aligator Clips for attaching the leads of the NST to the copper electrodes.

4. Tiki Torch or oil lamp. You can use a candle but it will only work for a short amount of time because the wick of a candle gets lower and lower.

5. Nylon bushings or rubber grommets to isolate the copper from the top of the torch.

6. Electrical tape. The can of torch fuel I have is metal so I need the tape for isolation. You may not need tape if your oil lamp or torch is glass.

7. Wemo switch if you want to wirelessly turn your torch on with your phone.

Step 2: Assembly

If your fuel container is metal, use electrical tape to insulate it. Drill two holes in the top lid and insert the nylon bushings or rubber grommets to insulate the electrodes. Cut two sections of copper wire to about 13 inches, tape them to the side of the fuel canister and insert them into the holes in the lid. Bend the electrodes to your desired shape with a small gap surrounding the wick of the tiki torch. Connect the leads of the neon sign transformer to your copper electrodes with alligator clips. My neon sign transformer has a pull chain switch so if yours does not, plug the neon sign transformer into a power strip with the power off.

Step 3: Fire It Up!

Once you are sure everything is completely insulated, turn it on. You should only need to turn it on for a few seconds to ignite the flame. I attached mine to a wifi switch so I can turn the spark on and off with my phone. For safety reasons, you should have a fire extinguisher nearby and do not attempt this project without adult supervision.

Step 4: My YouTube Channel Giveaway

I am giving away an Arduino Mega, Arduino Uno, and an Arduino Pro Mini!

When I was in high school and college, I remember not having enough money for some of the projects that I wanted to do. I have 100+ microcontrollers and a great job now so I just wanted to give back a little. I'll be doing more giveaways in the future too. Possibly free filament, stepper motors and other things that I have an abundance of so stay tuned!

Rules for the giveaway:

Subscribe to myYouTube Channel, likethis videoand leave a comment on the video saying what you would do with the microcontrollers. On June 1st (My Birthday) I will randomly select a subscriber's comment and ship them out for free!

Thank you guys for being such a welcoming community!

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