Steampunked Plasma-beam Generator




About: I love to invent and create new things in a "steampunk styled way" working with brass, copper, vulcanized-fibre, brass gears and (ply)- wood. On one side I am fascinated in neon lights and small electronic ...

Hi everybody 

I just returned from my steam-powered-laboratory (Dampfkraftlabor, in german) to present you my latest invention:

The Steampunked plasma-beam generator:

To get an first impression please watch this short movie

Notice: Don´t wreck your health and please obay the following advices:

***Disclaimers***This instructable works with voltages in excess of 250V. This is more than enough to give you a potentially fatal electric shock if handled incorrectly. If you are unfamiliar with how to work with high voltage, please refrain from performing this instructable. Exercise caution throughout the following steps to avoid electrical dangers and also use insulated tools like pliers and screwdrivers and so on.

If you choose to undertake this instructable, you do so at your own risk.

And here ist the instructable 

Step 1: Construction of the Chassis

As you know I love to work a lot with red vulcanized fiber material,  brass screws  and copper parts.
So I chose an old antique handlamp chassis and modified it  as you can see in the following pictures

Step 2: The Electronic Inside

Here you see all the components :

a switch
an green LED
an mini flickering bulb with E10 socket
an E10 socket holder
an AA battery holder (and the AA-battery of course)
an banana-plug ant its counterpart
a small piece of copper wire  ø1,5 mm
the well known former flash electronic of an disposal camera
The steampunked modified chassis

Step 3: Step by Step Explanation for the Electronic Works

In this instructable of mine you will find all the answers to your detailed questions about the electronic works;-)))

The mini flickering bulb with an E10 socket  can be ordered by the manifacturer Konstsmiede

Step 4: Combine the Components

And now you can build the three parts together

Step 5: Start the Generator

To start the generator switch it on  
Maybe a small light spot occurs at the top of the metal flame-cathodes.
If not,  just come near to the glass bulb with your hand.
When  you move slowly you can see that the spot comes in even if you don´t touch the glass.
Then touch the top of the glass and the plasma-beam rises up.

Step 6: Explanation How It Works

This trick is easily explained: To ignite the neon-gas filled bulb you need about 140 Volts minimum. Because of the high resistance of the whole construction the ignition is impossible. When you touch the glass top you lower the inner resistance and the tension rises up to ignition level. Afterwards the bulb needs only  about 90 Volts for running and that is why the plasma beam stays on without touching. 

And that´s it

Take care of yourself and enjoy this little gadget

Cheers Aeon Junophor



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    53 Discussions


    Question 5 months ago

    Dude... I built a couple of these a year ago and they worked great. They even had that “plasma ball” effect when you touched the bulb.

    now, o got my hands a a few AAA and AA cameras, using the exact same type of bulb I used before, and they light up, but no “plasma” effect when you touch the bulb.

    what am I doing wrong?

    3 answers

    Answer 5 months ago

    Hi jhaneyzz !
    Your discovery sounds very interesting. Can you show me/us some photos of this changed circuit and of course one or two close up from the used high voltages transfer modules? This would be very helpful for all who want to use the same electronic parts form the AAA- or AA- battery driven cameras you used.
    By the way, I experienced that the high voltage modules (from the Fujii disposal cameras) drivven with AAA-batteries are too „weak“ for such projects. They often don´t reach the necessary high voltage amount to ignite the neon bulbs. So I only take the AA-battery driven ones from Fujii because they work best and stable-

    Looking forward to your answer
    Yours Aeon Junophor


    Reply 5 months ago


    The attached images show what I have made of your little monster...

    I made one of these boxes already, and am making a couple more right now.

    I composed the text and built a simple trip switch which turns the bulb on when the lid is opened. I stripped some cheapo speaker wire to get the nice fine strands for the grounding wires.

    I covered the bulb tip in epoxy to avoid zaps.

    I've stung myself a few times with these beasties and it will definitely wake you up!.

    professor jimboto, esq.


    Reply 5 months ago


    Ah! once again... upon close scrutiny I am proven the fool!

    The issue I was having was not one of polarity. The circuit works fine in either polarity when connecting to the bulb.

    The secret was not to connect the ground to the screw base of the bulb. but instead to put a wire in close proximity to the bulb.

    I was mistakenly grounding the bulb to the base, which will simply light the bulb. the resistance of the ground wire is far more efficient than the field effect I was trying to create. When I disconnect the ground to the bulb base and route it to the wires wrapping the bulb everything is awesome!.

    Note, that the circuit in the picture, which I built today, is made from a AAA circuit which I am powering with 3V, which seems to work fine so far.

    I too have found that the AA transformers are far better when running from 1.5 volts. However, it is becoming very difficult to find AA versions and Fuji's packaging has further complicated this. the AAA versions had a circular or oval lens frame and the AA version had a lens base that was squared on one side and round on the other.

    Look at the 4th picture I uploaded. The one with the box AND the camera. This is the box that I opened today, with the camera that was inside... Ooops!!! misleading... (at least for junior mad scientists)

    The 5th picture I uploaded is a "Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash 35mm One-Time Use Camera 800 ISO 27 exposure" which I purchased from eBay, and did, in fact turn out to be a AA unit.

    mr jimboto, esq.


    2 years ago

    my life is on the line of bow of this amazing monstrosity (: i like it ...


    7 years ago on Step 2

    high voltage? lol i've been shocked by one of those transformers before. it stings a bit but nothing fatal

    11 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Both you and the author are making the mistake of assuming that the dangerous quality of electricity is voltage. As far as I know (do your own research, obviously, before trusting someone's advice with your life) amperage is much more important, which is why capacitors are so dangerous and Van de Graaff generators are so safe. It's possible that energy is actually the which case high voltages would be safe at low amperages and high amperages might be safe with low voltages.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Mysss is correct in that current is what kills. 5mA is usually painful and only 10 to 15 mA (milliAmps) can kill you. High voltage is considered extremely dangerous though, this is for many reasons. Voltage is like electrical pressure, even if the voltage cant surge through your body and kill you, it can blow a good chunk of flesh off. I have accidently cut a live 120 V line which blew my wire cutters apart. The other main reason is that the human body has an average resistance of 50k Ohm, so say 250v / 50,000 ohms = 0.005 A ( 5 mA). that is enough for some serious pain. Watch out more for anything 600v or above, which is considered true high voltage. Anyways have fun and stay safe. :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi wkoepp

    Thanks for your detailed and very good explanation. I absolutely agree with you and Myss too!!
    Can you help me and all the others who want to present such projects in future and write the technical right formulated security advice new?

    If "Yes" then I will change it as soon as possible!!!

    Thank you very much

    Aeon Junophor


    Reply 5 years ago

    energy is indeed the issue, at high volts, low amps the body's resistance goes down allowing more of the current to pass through. at low volts, high amps the body's resistance goes up allowing less of the current to pass. I have seen people pass 100000+ volts at a few microamps through themselves, I have also seen people pass 800+ amps at <2 volts through themselves as well.

    tesla manlukichu

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

    Because normally in those cases, high amperage comes along with, even though using a transformer to increase voltage, decreases amperage. But high voltage does have heat, and still herts.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi mysss

    Let me repeat this important noteagain:

    Thanks for your detailed and very good explanation. I absolutely agree with you and wkoepp too!!
    Can you help me and all the others who want to present such projects in future and write the technical right formulated security advice new?

    If "Yes" then I will change it as soon as possible!!!

    Thank you very much

    Aeon Junophor


    Reply 3 years ago

    Voltage won't kill you, current will :)

    Knextremely stupid

    4 years ago

    I made it i wanna show u but my only camera broke its so neat nice job a great conversation starter


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I love this. Small and very nice. Is that switch final though? It's the only thing that looks a little out of place.Maybe a dial switch? I think this thing is cool as hell though! Nice Work!