Turn a used compact flourescent bulb into a static electricity discharge toy that will encourage your kids to zap it before they fry your computer equipment.
This is simply a used CFL bulb with the circuitry removed and the bulb wired directly to the socket. One lead from the socket is attached to a small metal bead that you touch, the other is grounded. Takes about 15 minutes to make, longer if you salvage some of the electronics from the bulb (and who here wouldn't?).
Parts: used compact flourescent lamp (CFL), lightbulb socket, bead, tie wrap, crimp connectors, wood base.
The only important part here is the CFL bulb, the rest can be whatever you'd like. This version is crude because I made it very quickly just to test the concept. A neon or other discharge bulb of any kind will also work.
Procedure: open the base of the CFL carefully without breaking the bulb. In my "stylish" version I just drilled shallow 3/4 inch holes with a Forstner bit (NOT a spade bit ...) in each side and it popped apart. If you don't want to drill near a glass bulb, the base will pry apart. In this IKEA bulb the leads from the glass tube itself are just press-fit into the circuit board so the circuitry comes apart very easily. Remove all the electronics, leaving whatever wires there are coming up from the base. The bulb will have four wires, a pair at each end. Crimp each pair together with one of the base wires (see photo). In this bulb the center base wire had a component on it that made the lead too short, so I had to solder a new wire in its place. The wire just runs right up through the center of the base. Make sure the two wires inside the socket do not run near each other so the static discharge won't bypass the bulb.
Mount the socket to the wood base, run one wire out and put a bead on the end, run the other wire to ground. I held up the touch-bead wire with a tie-wrap around the socket but its position is not critical. Screw in the modified CFL and you're done.
In this example I taped the ground wire to my existing brass discharge disk but that was just for convenience. The bead allows for a good strong discharge; but if someone, say your wife, does not like a good strong zap you can just leave the stranded end of the wire which will spread the zap and make it less noticeable. This will also decrease the brightness of the bulb.
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