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Looking to brainstorm about a Jacob's Ladder-style prop weapon - Grendel's Fork Answered

I have a friend who is a big fan of Matt Wagner's Grendel comics, and I thought it would be fun to make him a prop version of Grendel's signature "fork" weapon. I can handle the construction of the staff and the blades, but I'd like to get some thoughts about the special effect - a Jacob's Ladder-style electrical arc between the blades. Obviously, I'll need to modify the pictured design a bit so that the blades are electrically isolated from each other - no "tuning fork" configuration.
My first thought was to just get a commercial "stun gun" and attach one contact to each blade, but I'm hoping the 'ibles community can help me come up with a better idea.

Desired Specs:
Hollow, black anodized metal staff. 6' length, 7/8" ID. Separates in the middle via a screw-threaded coupler. Has a threaded socket in one end and a black plastic plug in the other end. (It's an extra upright from a utility shelf unit)
Blades - not purchased yet, most likely 440 stainless tanto blades (dulled)  7" to 10" plus a 3" - 4" tang.
Unit must be self-contained - no power cord visible i.e. to an external battery pack or wall wart. A removable recharging cable would be OK.
Arcing must be triggerable via a switch on the staff.
I don't need to actually shock anyone, I just want a flashy visual effect. Simulated arcing would be perfectly fine as long as it looks good.
Needs to be sturdy and fairly impact-resistant. It won't really be used as a weapon, but it will undoubtedly get played with a lot.

Anybody have any suggestions?



Best Answer 8 years ago

Making it self-contained is gonna be tough.  For a spark of about 1" you need about 10 K volts.  You can get that with a flyback transformer from a color tv but hiding it in the handle is going to be the challenge.  You might modify it some with a bulge of some sort at the opposite end to hold the batteries, driver circuit and the transformer.

Yeah, that's my biggest concern. One of the reasons I was considering the stun gun idea is that they come in some pretty compact styles. Should be pretty easy to find one that would fit once gutted.

You know, I'd forgotten that a stun gun will make a continuous spark.  That might work.

I believe building an ACTUAL high voltage device would not LOOK impressive... nor would it SOUND impressive.  I think you should look into building an LED circuit that would flash led's sequentially or back and forth.  Then a speaker could be added to play the sound effect you want.  Or if you are working with cameras, then the effect could be added in post production using editing effects.  The circuit to build is called a RING COUNTER.    The circuit often uses an IC called a 74154 (four to sixteen line decoder) and also uses a 74193 (four bit up-down counter).  I have schematic if you cant find it on google email me if you want it.  The LED's would be much brighter and colorfull and safer than actual voltagesparks.

You are undoubtedly right about the safety factor, but my friend is 45 years old and has no kids, so that's not as big a concern as it might be. (Yeah, I know, we're in our 40's and still playing with toys and reading comics. I'm OK with that.)
I'm going to have to disagree with you about the impressiveness factor of real high voltage. I think real HV has the potential to be way more impressive than even a very good simulation, IF I can pull it off. That's a very big if, though, so thanks for the alternative suggestions.
Unfortunately, this is just a prop for its own sake, not for film. Wouldn't it be great if we could fix real life in post, though?

I've been looking to do this same project for a long, long time. I'm the same age as your friend (45) and a Grendel/Matt Wagner fanatic. The way I figured to do it was use a faux tuning for configuration with a separator of either silver painted wood or metal separated by rubber dividers.

Because of the small, compact shapes of many stun guns, you could easily fit the components length-wise into a hollow metal shaft.

(Wouldn't this make a better forum topic?)

A FunFlyStick has a small VdG generator in the handle.  Would something like that, with each end connected to a tine of the fork, produce enough of a spark?

Or maybe a beefed-up camera tazer?

You're right, it would probably be better as a forum topic. I dunno about the FunFlyStick, but it bears looking into, I think.
I wonder how many camera capacitors would fit inside a 6' x 7/8" cylinder....

2 years ago, I'd have said "come get the big box of used disposable cameras and LET'S FIND OUT! YEAH!"

But I made the mistake of storing them inside and the wife found them.

I must remember to have a word with your wife. I find her lack of faith... disturbing.