Making Electricity From Water - Macgyver Style




About: As a Sith in the galaxy, he plays Soccer and solves Rubik's Cubes :O

In this instructable, I will show you how to make a Kelvin's Water Dropper (also called Kelvin's Thunderstorm) in Macgyver style.

It puts out several thousand volts of electricity (Don't connect an LED because it will burn out!), but because of low amperage, it is not ideal for a power source and you will not get electrocuted.

Kelvin's Thunderstorm doesn't put out constant power, it has to charge up, then it will spark.

This is only a guide, since this is made from various objects (and the creation is pretty tricky to set up correctly) it may not give the results, especially if done in a "Macguver" style.

This is something Macgyver would have done if he had the chance to :)

It is a proven machine, and I will not explain how it works. But, here is the Wikipedia page that explains in further detail:

You may use other materials since this is tricky, but this is the Macgyver challenge.

Let get started!

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Step 1: What You Will Need - or Equivalent :)

1 Swiss knife ( " I'll want that back!"- Macgyver)

4 Soup cans

4 Paint cans ( for a stand, you may use something else)

1 Board

1-2 Metal Hangers (used in place of insulated wire)

6 Uncoated Paper clips

7 Duck Tape (of course)

8 A Ice cream or Coffee container

Step 2: Step 1. Set Up the Paint Cans and Make the Reservoir

Make two stacks of paint cans and put the board on top.

Next make two holes in the container furthest apart and set it on the board.

Step 3: Step 2. Make the Inductors

Now take 2 of the 4 soup cans and cut the bottom off. If needed, rubbing a can on concrete is a last resort, but effective.

Step 4: Step 3. Adding the Inductors.

Before adding the inductors (the cans you just worked on) you need to make sure the water tank is working properly.

Add water to the tank, and look closely, the water starts smooth then spreads out.

Actually what looks spread out are individual drops, see the second pic (this was taken at a high shutter speed)

When the can is in place (see third pic) the water going into the can needs to be a steady stream, and needs to be spreaded looking, coming out (see third pic).

Now tape your can to the paint can, keeping in mind what was just said above.

If the water isn't spreading at a low enough height, make the hole bigger in the tank.

Make sure the water is very close (but not touching) the edge of the can, or the machine won't work.

Step 5: Step 4. Add the Other Soup Cans.

Put the last 2 soup cans under the two inductors

If your can has a coating, scrape a little off the bottom, on the inside with a knife.

Make sure the cans are on a non conductive surface (not metal or water) and make sure they don't get wet.

Step 6: Step 5. Making the Wires.

Now take a metal hanger and stretch it out like in the photo. (this will be used to attach the cans to each other).

Two wires will go from each inductor, to the opposite can on the bottom.

Measure the distance, add 1 inch, and cut one. Make one more.

Alligator clips work best, but this is the Macguyver Challenge

Step 7: Step 6. Attaching the Wires

Take the two wires you made, and make a hook on each end but not too big.

We used a fork, you may use a rock to bend it as well.

Put one wire on a paper clip and attach it to the inductor and add duct tape (see photos). Now attach the wire with a paper clip to the opposite can on the bottom using the paper clip method.

Repeat for the remaining two cans.

Add duct tape to make sure the paper clips don't move.

Step 8: Step 7. Making the Spark Wires

Use the remaining wire, and make hooks on them. Then use paper clips to attach them to the top of the lower cans and make sure they are very close.

Make sure the wires are on a non conductive surface (not metal or water) and make sure they don't get wet.

Step 9: Step 8. Fixing

Make sure the wires are in place like the photo. Make sure the wires are bending away from each other (see photo).

Step 10: Step 9. Add Water - and Spark!

Add water to the tank and watch the two wires coming together for the spark. If it fails, look at steps 3,7, and 8.

It may take some adjusting to get it working. If all else fails, maybe youtube or google Kelvin's Thunderstorm, that may help.

Step 11: Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading and vote if you like :)

Thanks again

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    15 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Funny discussion about summer and winter. In winter this will not work because water is supposed to be ice in winter.

    But it is a nice instructable. Real good that you use the Mcgyver style.


    1 year ago

    nice one , make a video.


    1 year ago

    I built one 30 years ago and it worked fine as long as the air and all the equipment is dry. It produced a 1/4 inch spark every few seconds. If you get a film of water on everything, it shorts out. It won't work at all in the summer. But I didn't try it with a neon bulb instead of a spark gap.

    4 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    For clarification; when you said-
    "Won't work at all in the summer." ?
    Are your summers humid?
    We've got dry summers in other places with no appreciable dew point.
    I'm thinking humidity and dew points are factors, am I getting this right?

    Thanks for any help in clarifying this! :)


    Reply 1 year ago

    Yes, central NY in the summer can be humid. In Aridzona, probably no problem.

    In the winter, when the cat runs away when you shuffle towards her, she knows you're going to zap her nose. That's good conditions for running a high impedance high voltage generator.

    We can get all the pure water we need by melting some snow. Come get all you want, free. Shipping not included.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Well I live in northern Texas, lately it has been humid (Hurricane ect.)
    Normally it is dry here. Winter is supposedly dryer than summer in general.

    Indoors is the ideal place I would think.


    Reply 1 year ago

    That is the most difficult problem, needing water and not wanting water at the same time Lol :)


    1 year ago

    Awesome MacGyver version and great reference! Before I read the Wikipedia link I was thinking Van De Graaff generator in a different way. then went off on a tangent in regards to telluric current and earth batteries ( and, earth atmospheric current ( and Benjamin Franklin, Nikola Tesla, et. al. experiments with different charge potentials at different altitudes ( Then I read your Wikipedia link and was reminded of the Faraday Ice Bucket and something completely new... the 2013 micro-fluid version. Thanks for sharing and especially in such an improvised way.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Your very welcome, I enjoyed it :)


    1 year ago

    A neon bulb connected between the two cross wires works well.

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    I've heard that it should work, but I haven't tried.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Neons fire at only 70 volts, and give a nice light, so they're ideal for this application. It takes thousands of volts to get a spark.


    1 year ago

    Good idea for saving power!


    1 year ago

    I can make a more "stable" version instructable if you all want :)

    This version is for the Macgyver Challenge though.

    That is really cool. I had never heard of a Kelvin Water Dropper before.