How to Make a Table-Top Van De Graaff Generator




Introduction: How to Make a Table-Top Van De Graaff Generator

About: Devin is a cool guy, eh doesnt kill himself while doing stupid things, and doesnt afraid of anything.

Michael, Elizabeth, and I made a table-top sized Van de Graaff generator.

Step 1: Materials

This is what you need:
     • 1' long 4" diameter PVC tube
     • 5" long section of 1/2" CPVC pipe
     • 1 airplane blanket (or other static material like rubber of fleece)
     • Metal Bowls
     • Scraps of 2x4
     • Motor
     • Dowel (lots of dowel)
     • JB Weld (I now love this stuff)
     • Hot Glue
     • *Optional* a ball bearing for shoving in a hole
Also, 2 friends insane enough to do this with you!

Step 2: Cut and Drill

Sorry for the bullets, but there are some pretty simple steps to be done:
     • Cut a hole in the bottom of one of the bowls to make room for the wire brushes
     • Drill a hole in the PVC tube large enough to fit the CPVC through
     • Route of drill a hole in the 2x4 to make room for the dowel to spin
     • Drill the straightest possible hole in the dowel to put the motor stator in
     • Cut a hole in the supra-base (is there a better word?) for the PVC tube to sit on
     • Cut some pieces of dowel to support the supra-base
That's it for drilling and cutting, now on to the NAILGUN!!!

Step 3: NAILGUN!!!!

Use the NAILGUN! to nail everything together (you can use a hammer and brads if you want...). Nail the motor to the board, the other pieces of dowel in place, and put the 2x4 in place so that it allows the dowel to spin freely, but in a controlled manner. If you have some molding handy, it can be helpful to keep the 2x4 in place. You can also nail the supra-base in place now.

Step 4: Attach the Pipe

Plug your hot glue gun in and glue the PVC tube to the supra-base. If you planned it right, you won't need to add pieces of wood to keep the tube on the board (I routed the hole for the belt wrong). While you're at it, glue the CPVC tube in place.

Step 5: Make the Belt

Take your airplane blanket and cut a strip that will wrap around the CPVC and the stator twice. Fold it in half and finagle the strip in place around the stator and the piece of CPVC . Sew the two ends together. For better durability, I recommend that you sew down the sides of the blanket to keep it from ripping.

Step 6: Prepare the Discharge Ball

If you haven't already JB Welded the two bowls together, do it now. Make sure that you push the bowls together so that they are touching, as JB Weld is not conductive. You could also weld the bowls together, but I lack a mask and rods for my DIY welder. Once the bowls are secure, attach the wire brush (it can be made of a piece of stranded wire splayed out) using a mixture of sand paper, solder, and whatever else you have to attach the brushes to the bowls and have zero resistance. An epoxy that conducts electricity would help here (does anyone know of one).

Step 7: Attach Everything

Place the discharge ball on top of the PVC tube and position the wire brush so that it is almost touching the blanket. Turn the motor on to make sure that the brush doesn't touch the blanket (because you don't have x-ray vision, listen for the sound of the fabric rubbing on the brush). If all is well, hot glue the discharge ball in place.

Step 8: Shocking! (It Works!)

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    23 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Would you give more info about the motor which you used, such as Torque value, Power, Brand name (if possible) etc. ?


    you are very intelligent and smart boy, I love you..................!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    (or other static material like rubber "of" fleece)
    don't you mean or ?

    Daniel Deacon


    Would some old grey plastic guttering do as the pole that holds it up i think it is PVC or possibly U-PVC


    8 years ago on Introduction

    NIce little VDG, in the spring the garden centers will all have small stainless garden gazing balls, these make great collectors, and under 12" diameter they are pretty cheap!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, that's actually an excellent idea! I always thought those were only made of glass, but Google is your friend I guess :D

    I have lots of questions.

                *Do you have to wrap the rollers with conductive or non conductive material
                *How many RPM is the motor
                *Do you attach 2 metal combs to the top and bottom of the airplane blanket
                *Do the metal comps touch the airplane blanket
                *Does it matter which side of the airplane blanket is attached to the combs
                *If you make it 3 1/2 ft tall, will it be safe to touch it still
                *Do the combs attach directly to the discharge in the inside
                *I think I saw the motor attached to an outlet, do you keep the current at AC, or do attach a regulator to it
                * and, does the top roller move, or stay still

              I am sorry for all the questions. The Instructable is great though!  


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    And I have a lot of answers:
         • Non-Conductive
         • Mine is 3450, the faster the better, but keep in mind that it needs to have some tourque
         • They don't attach, they just almost touch it
         • See previous answer...
         • ?
         • It'll just hurt like all hell (really? i want pics!!!)
         • Attaching them to the outside is easier, but inside is better looking, and yes
         • The motor is really a small part, many would work. I chose an AC motor because it was the easiest
         • It can move if you want (or put a tube around a tube and make less friction), we just chose to keep it static

    I don't mind at all, I'm more than happy to answer any question if you are nice.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Does it make sparks?

    Can you do the dancing monks trick?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Stand a line of people on insulators (plastic stools, in buckets etc), all holding hands and with one person touching the dome as it runs.

    They all get charged, until the person at the other end of the line touches "ground", at which time they all get a shock.

    It was first done to a line of monks that was connected to ground, and then the first monk touched the ground of a charged Leyden jar.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    We did this in a Phyics lesson at school just last week... other fun things to do include:
    - lighting a bunsen burner (or similar)
    - making someones hair stand on end
    - dropping feathers, then having them stick to the charged dome, then becoming attracted to the nearest neutral object (similar to how a balloon sticks to a wall after being rubbed on something)
    - shocking someone just for fun
    - producing mini lightning