Mini Jacob's Ladder or High Voltage Climbing Arc

I saw another climbing arc project here and thought: Hey, why not make a tiny one!

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Step 1: The Transformer

First you want to find yourself a good neon sign transformer. It can be anything from 6kv to 20kv. Anything under 6kv and the spark will not spark, anything over, and you could damage the small electrodes. For this project, I used a 9kv @ 30mA made my Allenson. It will run about $10 to $20 on eBay. Or, get one from a dumpster behind a bar.

Step 2: The Base

I used an old plactic container with holes drilled in it, and the electrodes hot glued into the holes. As you can see, asthetics were not crucial.

Step 3: The Electrodes

You can use pretty much anything here. No more than 16 inches though, remember, we are trying to keep it small. I used a metal coat hanger cun in half. The point at which the electrodes join the base can be any small distance, BUT the electrodes will need to be bentcloser, or else the spark will not start. The basic rule of thumb is about 20kv equals 1 cm of initial gap. As the electrodes go higher, they can be flared out, up to sometimes more than 3 inches.

Step 4: Wiring

If you are unsure of how to wire up a transformer, I'm not really sure this project is for you. But, for those determined enough, I will teach you.
1) Connect the wires to the electrodes (I went up underneath, but you can got to the top of the base) 2) Connect 1 electrode to one output, and the outher electrode to the other output. 3) Connect the 120v mains, making sure that the case is grounded properly.



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    55 Discussions


    3 years ago

    "First" should be a discussion about electrical safety. Great tutorial, terrible start and terrible show of concern for those ignorant of the potential for injury or death by making and using this.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I successfully made a Jacobs Ladder using a neon transformer. But when I ran two #12 AWG conductors about 40’ to two terminals so I could reproduce the effect on my outdoor deck, it didn't work.

    Was that too far or were the conductors too small?


    12 years ago

    Now all we need is a instructable to do a Ven De Graf Generator and a Tesla Coil to complete the set of high voltage toys :) Good work Resurrecting, I might build one myself

    10 replies

    Reply 12 years ago

    Iv'e got state of the arc info on Van De Graaf Generators & Tesla Coils, plus slightly more modern solid stuff for the Tesla Coils - Both are great (especially the Tesla Coils) for ruining nearby radio & T.V. (I don't know about satellite gear, but nowadays I'm not so much surprised by things as somewhat bemused - no it's not old age - you get like this working with clients that ask you to make daft or just downright weird things for them). So, If you are interested I'll try & dig em out! T.T.F.N. THE LEEWIT. 'It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it! And that's what gets results!

    since you're making a quaternary coil, i assume that you've already made a trinary coil. if so, please, make an instructable of it. I'd really like to see how that works, and see the specs on it. pics of it in operation would be great, too. not to mention pics of the inner workings of it.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    r u can any hobbyist not know what a tesla coil is.........change you name to noobrain

    if you go to the instructable labled "2nd coil" when you look up tesla coil, in the comments someone posted a site with a cheap tesla coil. also this instrucatble is really lame because you don't explain anything. i read it in 5 mins and if i wasn't as smart as i am i'd not know what i'm doin.

    hehe good old high voltage :D not so good if you get on its bad side as my dad found out when hes was "fixing" out exstracter fan :D shot him across the kitchine cus he touched a bare wire the fool i was in the living room pissing my self laphing cus im evil like that >:D


    Reply 12 years ago

    i myslef am working on a tesla coil im gonna make it in the summer but its only gonna be 12inches tall - the base and the torid cuz the 30 inch would cost 1000 bucks this ones gonna cost arond 300 nun the less u will be amazed


    9 years ago on Step 1

    dang, i only have a 2kv microwave transformer. can i do anything with that?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 1

    Same here, but those run at an insane 500mA! So a jacob-ladder like ark might be possible...

    waldo pollywog

    9 years ago on Step 4

    Coat hangars and hot glue will not work for very long as the temp will be way too high. Brass rods purchased at Home Depot will work.Also, these things are potentially deadly even though it's only 30 milliamps.


    10 years ago on Step 4

    That is cool what you did. You can basically take any big device and shrink it down. Please post more.