How to Build a Tesla Coil

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

This Instructable will walk you through building a medium sized Tesla coil.

Step 1: DANGER

Unlike some other high voltage experiments, a Tesla coil's streamers can be very harmful. If you are shocked by the streamers, you will not feel pain, but your circulatory and nervous system can sustain severe damage. DO NOT TOUCH IT WHILE ON UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

Also, I don't take any responsibility for you hurting yourself.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't get into high voltage though, its just that if you are planning for this to be your first HV project, its a little to involved. Instead, try out a nice microwave oven transformer, and be safe!

Step 2: Gather the Materials

The total cost came to around $25, being that I already had the wood, Snapple bottles, PVC, and glue.

Secondary Coil:
  • A length of 1.5" PVC (the longer the better)
  • About 300 feet of 24 AWG copper enameled wire
  • 1.5" PVC screw-thing (see picture)
  • 1.5" metal floor flange with threads
  • Spray on enamel
  • Circular, smooth metallic object for the discharge terminal
Base and Supra-base
  • Various pieces of wood
  • Long bolts, nuts, and washers
Primary Coil:
  • About 10 feet of thin copper tubing
Capacitors:
  • 6 Glass bottles (Snapple bottles work really well)
  • Table Salt
  • Oil (I used canola. Mineral oil (horse laxative) it preferable as it doesn't mold, but I didn't have any.)
  • Lots of aluminum foil
And a HV power source such as a NST, OBIT, or other transformer that gives off at least 9 kV at around 30 mA.

Step 3: Wind the Secondary

Put a small slot into the top of the pipe to wrap one end of the wire around. Slowly and carefully begin to wrap the coil, making sure that you don't overlap wires or have spaces. This step is the hardest and most tedious part, but taking a lot of time will yield a very nice coil. Every 20 or so turns, put a ring of masking tape around the coil to act as a barrier if the coil starts to unravel. Once finished, wrap a tight piece of tape around the top and bottom of the coil and spray it with 2 or 3 coats of enamel.

Tips:
  • I built a rig for winding my coil that consisted of a microwave turntable motor (3 RPM) and a ball bearing.
  • Use a small block of wood with a notch in it to straighten the wire and tighten the coil.

Step 4: Prepare the Bases and Wind the Primary

Align the metal stand in the center of the bottom board and drill holes for bolts to go through. attach the bolts tightly upside down. This will allow you to put a base for the primary on top of it. Then bolt the primary's base in. Take your pipe and wind it into a pretty upside down cone (not the flat spiral in the pictures). Then mount it on the supra-base.

Optional was the addition of 2 supports that I zip-tied the primary to.

Forgot to add how to make the spark gap! It is just two bolts in a open-air wooden box, and they are adjustable for tuning, etc. See the last image...

Step 5: Build the Capacitors

I decided to go the cheaper route and build a capacitor. The simplest way is to make a salt water capacitor, using salt water, oil and aluminum foil. Wrap the bottle in foil, and fill it with water. Try to get equal amounts of water in each bottle, as it helps to keep the power output stable. The maximum amount of salt you can put in the water is .359 g/mL, but this ends up being a lot of salt, so you can tone down the amount a lot (I used 5 grams). Just make sure that you use he same amounts on salt and water. Now put a few mL of oil slowly into the bottle. Punch a hole in the top of the cap and put a length of wire in it. You now have one fully functioning capacitor, go make 5 more.

Optional: to keep the bottles in order, make or find a metal crate for them

As Glenn781 pointed out below, 6 Snapple bottles with a 15kV 30mA NST can be deadly! If you are using a NST like his, use 8-12 bottles, not 6!

Step 6: Connect Everything

Wire up everything according to the schematic below. The secondary's ground CANNOT be put to mains ground, it will fry everything in your house.

My Coil's Specs
  • 599 Wraps on secondary
  • 6.5 Wraps on primary

Step 7: Start It Up!

Bring it outside for it's first run, as it really isn't safe to run anything this potentially powerful indoors, there is a high risk of fire. Flip the switch and enjoy the light show. My NST, at 9Kv at 30mA, makes the coil give off 6 inch sparks. See it below:



Step 8: For the Future...

There are a few things that I realize I should change in my next Tesla Coil, one of the main ones being the design of the primary coil. It needs to be both more tightly coiled and it needs more windings. Also, i want to make a better discharge terminal. But, I have a new Tesla Coil planned for when i find the time and money, and it will probably be 6-7ft tall!

But for now, I'd like to admire other coilers hard work!
(embedding seems broken, but links work)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVmX2Ik4ylg

2 People Made This Project!

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985 Discussions

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shigginswi

14 days ago

Just scanned through the comments didn't see if anyone already mentioned this but the pvc screwy thingy is a PVC male adapter.

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Neyo65

Question 5 weeks ago

Also if I were to have a 6-8 inch diameter how many Snapple bottles would I need to build my capacitor? Is there anything else that would be more efficient?

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Neyo65

Question 5 weeks ago

Do you just stick the wire straight into the bottle? Or do you strip it to just the inside then stick it in the bottle?

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YogeshT12

2 years ago

In my home, power supplied is 230 V, how can I make tesla coil.

3 replies
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NoelA11YogeshT12

Reply 2 months ago

then buy a NST locally and use that, im in NZ and have 230v supply, and all my coils run on it fine. i reckon it's even better.

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BaudshahSYogeshT12

Reply 2 years ago

Do not play with 230VAC power... you will die lol. Not funny but, try this it's a bit safer and easier.

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TylerH99BaudshahS

Reply 2 years ago

Thats not a Tesla coil it's a slayer exciter. good video though.

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NoelA11MarcoD119

Reply 2 months ago

the spark gap is what charges and discharges the capacitor bank into the primary coil. the width of the spark gap is dependent on the size of the power source and the capacitance of the cap bank, and this width can change the output of the coil as the wider the gap the higher the discharge but the slower the pulse rate. its something you have to tune to your coil.

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MarcoD119

1 year ago

the wire getting the spark from the secondary coil , where does it go ? where does conect ?

1 reply
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NoelA11MarcoD119

Reply 2 months ago

Earth, and thats what the bottom end of the secondary should be wired to.

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davidr913

Question 1 year ago on Step 2

is it possible to connect a 400kv highvoltage generator to the coil?

1 answer
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NoelA11davidr913

Answer 2 months ago

the taser type high voltage sources are DC and not suitable. they use a voltage multiplier to get the high voltage and this make the output DC and this will not work. A tesla coil runs on AC and needs to be HV

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YogeshT12

2 years ago

In my home, power supplied is 230 V, how can I make tesla coil.

3 replies
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Edwards70YogeshT12

Reply 2 years ago

two things:

1. buy a step-down transformer that steps the voltage down to 115 v but this would be alittle counter-intuitive

2. just get a transformer with the same output specs that has an input of 230 v

The good thing about this project is that it can be inprovised, really, any transformer would work in this project if the output is high enough.

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davidr913Edwards70

Reply 1 year ago

how much voltage would be the highest you can input??

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NoelA11davidr913

Reply 2 months ago

15 kv is the normal best from NST, you wont find one bigger.other transformers will go higher but not smart to use unless you know what your doing.

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Sucato

Question 11 months ago on Introduction

could not find one and 1/2 inch PVC, is it possible to use one and 1/4" PVC and if so what is the wraps of the secondary copper wire need to go around it and what size copper tubing? We are trying to make this for a science school project got the ok from the teacher, just need a little help.

1 answer
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NoelA11Sucato

Answer 2 months ago

bigger is better, 3/4 to 2" is suitable

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MaybeARobot

Question 9 months ago

Is it possible to run the coil with a 6.5kV 30mA NST? I'm considering purchasing one, and wanted to know if I could run the coil off of it. If not, do you have any suggestions for a better transformer? Thanks.