Make your own jacobs ladder and other HV fun


We’ve covered a few tesla coils, but somehow we never hit this classic – making your own jacobs ladder. The spark climbing the increasing gap between a pair of electrodes is easy enough to create – just get a high voltage transformer (like a neon sign transformer), make a set of insulated electrodes and wire things up.

Now that I’ve mentioned a couple of HV sources, I can point to this set of awesome high voltage photos from the same guy that put together the portable tesla coil.

16 thoughts on “Make your own jacobs ladder and other HV fun

  1. very nice, this would be a good starter project for HV work. Adding solder/salt on the top electrodes seems to give some cool effects too.

  2. Fun! Yeah, i have one of these in my room i threw together. Sometimes i use it to light smokes when i wanna show off, but man… That thing can burn you!
    I actually have 3 extra small neon sign transformers if anyone in the Silicon Valley area wants one/some.
    um.. my gmail is tlalexander aaaaaat geeeeemaaail ddot commm (only, you know, yeah.) I got them for free, so i can keep the love flowing. :)
    -Taylor

  3. I used to make these using the ignition coil from a car. They were common before electronic ignitions took over the auto industry. They were a lot of fun.

  4. lol! I made one of these using an oil burner ignition transformer (OBIT) as well as another with two ignition coils driven from a pair of 2N3055′s.

    Amusing hack *2:- obtain dead TFT monitor (17″ preferably), remove the cold cathode drive transformers and hook the two primaries up out of phase with electrodes connected to the secondaries. (centre ground) :) Battery powered ‘ladder.

    variants include using a PCB from a smashed 12″ plasma globe.

  5. Years ago my dad had one to show off to us kids. Later, in my college years, I took it one step further and mounted 2 beer cans to a nicely finished piece of wood and connected them via wiring to the HV transformer. The arc that was created climbed up the cans and took the paint off of the aluminum.

  6. I used to build these when I was a kid 35 yrs ago. In fact it *is* a very memorable experience when you touch it.

    A half wave rectifier on the xfmr input can add a nice touch. Additionally, one of the electrodes can be split into two, one on top and one on the bottom and the unit can be used a high voltage timing switch. The arc’s heat is what makes the arc climb. Pure Fire!

    The 18kv xfmrs are really nice. 4 kv xmrs work ok.

  7. Awsome movie loved it! it got leaked.. I watched it a couple days ago online b4 it got out. for those of you who are interested in the site I watched it at here it is: “nowonhd.com” the quality is pretty good..

  8. This movie got leaked.. watched it a couple days ago.. for those of you that are interested on were i saw it at here’s the link: “nowonhd.com” the movie was pretty good i liked it alot.. quality was also great..

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