Introduction: Jacobs Ladder

Nothing says Halloween like cool Halloween props. One of the neatest and easiest to make is the Jacob's Ladder.

I'm starting to prep for this years display and was cleaning up mine and thought I would share. No photo instructions but it pretty easy.

OBLIGATORY WARNING - DANGER, HIGH VOLTAGE. This project has the potential for serious injury or death.

Items Needed:

  • Transformer. There are many transformers that are acceptable. The one I am using came from a sign store. It was from an old neon sign. Cost - $10 (they wanted $20, was an easy haggle).
  • Wood for base. My dimensions are 9 x 16 x 8 but build yours around your transformer.
  • Rods - wire coat hangers - and you said "no wire coat hangers!"
  • 2 grounding blocks, available at any hardware store. Cost - $ ?? Don't remember, couple of bucks?
  • Back drop. I used an old scrap of particle board.
  • Miscellaneous wire, screws, clear tape, old extension cord.
  • Printable stickers if you want to make warning signs.
  • Thin piece of plastic to enclose 3 sides for safety. Cost - $10 if memory serves.

Step 1: Construction

The first step is to build a box large enough to hold the transformer. This is built using standard construction techniques. My box is 4 sided because I wanted to the transformer to be visible.

The transformer is bolted in the box. Wire is run from the outputs of the transformer, through the box, and connected to the grounding terminals (spaced about 1.5" apart). The rods are about 18" (16" high) with the beginning gap about 1/2 inch with the gap slowing getting wider towards the top.

I used an old extension cord to power the transformer.

Another warning. These transformers output between 10,000 and 15,000 volts (@ 20 to 30 milliamps). So you may or may not become dead, it will certainly hurt if you come into contact with this thing running.

As a safety precaution, I wrapped the front 3 sides with Plexiglas. I simply screwed the plastic onto the base then used packing tape for the corners and to attached to the back drop. Thin Plexiglas is easy to cut. Use a straightedge and score the plastic with a utility knife. Snap the pieces apart.

Step 2: Enjoy

I have used this just plugged in running full time, controlled via a lamp timer, controlled via X-10, and with an LOR controller. It's typically inside behind a window for safety. Not sure why the youtube link did not work but this link will bring up a video of the Jacob's Ladder in action.

Here is a shameless link to my Halloween display from 2012. You can hear the Ladder but it's not in the video. I have plenty of raw footage from the past 3 years that I cannot find time to edit. I will be posting instructibles on my flying crank ghost and rockin' granny (both which can be seen in the video) shortly.