Microwave Parts Become Quick and Nasty Jacob’s Ladder

The Jacob’s Ladder is an electrical device named after a biblical “ladder to Heaven”, consisting of a pair of vertically oriented conductors that spread apart vertically. These conductors are charged with high voltage, which creates the repeatedly climbing arc we’ve all come to know and love from science fiction movies of yesteryear.

[LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER] was on a scavenger hunt for electronic junk, and came across a microwave in a skip that was begging to be hacked. After kicking around a few ideas, it was decided that the microwave would donate its high voltage transformer to create a Jacob’s ladder. The transformer is first bolted down to a piece of wood, and creates some sparks on the bench when shorted. The output is then wired to a pair of copper pipes to create the classic effect.

Unfortunately, the device isn’t self starting, requiring the electrodes to be temporarily short circuited to generate the initial arc. We suspect that increasing the voltage may help things somewhat, either with another transformer in series or with a voltage multiplier.

It goes without saying that high voltage projects do bring certain risks to life and limb that should not be overlooked. If you’ve still got a thirst for danger, check out this home built X-ray machine. Video after the break.

20 thoughts on “Microwave Parts Become Quick and Nasty Jacob’s Ladder

  1. Put a resistor on the lower area where the gap is the closest. this will allow the thing to self strike. Set your start gap at about 2mm as on average 1000v will jump 1mm depending on the humidity of the air. put the resistor in so it is half way between the two rods making the distance only 1mm. the 2000v will jump over to the floating lead of the resistor and ionize the air then jump the rest of the way. and start travelling up the rails.

    1. The straight tapering isn’t enough, tubing is straight. Even the tiniest chip resistor seems too big. Needs a little bump narrowing at the bottom. The bigger diameter tubing may load it with capacitance and diminish the effect. This is usually done with two wires like coat hanger gage.

    2. Interesting idea, like the starting system of some high pressure mercury lamps.

      Speaking with some experience of MOT arcs (and one or two of the nastiest electrical shocks in my life) one of the biggest problems would be getting a 2mm arc to rise even without a bit of metal in between anchoring it. The first time it stalls tends to be the point it ruins your electrodes.

    1. Cripes, he’s even mixed his own music, with his own voice in it! He really really just…

      I bet you anything that those clever electronic parts on his walls are analogue bloody synthesizer parts he paid an absolute fortune for. Put it another way, 2 thousand quid for a PIC, 2 opamps, and a 555. Per board.

      Actually I’m pretty sure his “shed” only has 2 walls, Some mad idiot has built him a set, and spent a ton of money on daft shit to fool the public. Where Jamie Oliver here spent a fortune of the backer’s money on the set, sneakily knowing that if it failed he’d be able to nick off with the boards, and carry on his tedious music “career”.

      It’s not fair, I don’t try to be a hateful person. I don’t go looking for things to despise. I actively avoid it quite a lot, and I barely watch television. But little cockfarts like this keep turning up their stupid faces, as if a culture dying of cancer wasn’t bad enough already, with their agenda of making things worse then jumping off the bus after 2 years with enough money for… I dunno, drugs and a new haircut. To get daft women who have blogs to shag them.

  2. What a load of rubbish. Why does he keep jumping and shaking about? As he shit himself or something? And why do white people try to at like black people?. It’s a crap jaboc’s ladder have to keep restarting it. So could of done a better job there. Also that’s all you see now is microwave transformer for this and for that. It’s a bit old hat now. To many videos of this. Can we see some real hacks now.

    1. Way to miss all the salient points, and spell terribly. Also: he’s really clearly not trying to “act black”, he’s doing a homage to the punk movement of the 70s and 80s, google Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.

      1. Nothing like the sex pistols he is acting. He acting a dick and not got a clue what he is doing. Can’t even make the thing work properly. Please don’t insult punk with this wannabe. Must just please people who know simple electronics. Next he will show us how to put a bulb on a battery and make it light up.

    2. Zero constructive feedback
      Slight racist/apartheid mentality
      “I can do it better” but doesn’t show it
      Saying something is old hat while directly following it with the equivalent of “not a hack” x’D

      Are you having a bad day?

      1. Do better there nothing to do. One microwave transformer and two copper rods and that’s it. What there to show?. No not having a bad day. Not being racists at all it’s a insult to black people when you get white people acting black wannabes.

  3. Really, I made a much nicer device when I was about 10 years old. I got the plans out of a book I got out of the library and I had to call a few sign companies up before one of them gifted me a 15kv 20 ma sign transformer. That and a couple of coat hangers got me started. That also got me started in my interest in Neon, and through that, I met many of my best friends in the world.

    BTW, to get it to start, you need a small sharp purr at the bottom. You can wind a piece of thin wire around one side of the ladder and rotate it to the point that it will just strike. It is not rocket science.

    What I have wanted to do for a while now is make a Jacobs ladder in a box that I can purge with different gasses and see what that does.

      1. …one of those “live” video things they have now, where you don’t have to be, erm, “live” enough to press the upload button.

        That said I would like to see that. Even see what happens as the gas expands out to fill the glass, displacing what was there. Particularly between two “sign” gasses, neon and argon, or whatever. Maybe nitrogen could be the “base”, neutral, non-glowing gas, although I’ve heard it actually does cause glowing, as does air. The pink and purple of oxygen and nitrogen are what causes the glowing lightning in those “plasma ball” things you can touch, far as I know. Though they’re much higher voltage than neon signs, whole different way of thinking.

        I wonder if chlorine glows an interesting way? Obviously don’t breathe any in, but it’s safe to vent outside if you dilute it enough, just vent it slowly with some air blowing. What about metal vapours like sodium, how is that done? Though actually they operate around 100V so again, different principle. Does it make a difference? Probably it does! Certainly there’s a difference between voltages used in practical applications, the 100V streetlights vs 15KV neon signs being the obvious one. Power would be good to experiment with, with at least a couple of different power supplies.

        But yeah, a sealed container, I think glass is best, with electrodes and the right plumbing, would be interesting to see. I’d love to see one gas invade another, while the main gas is still conducting and glowing. Will one short the other out completely? How will they mix? How long does it take for the heat-powered Jacob’s Ladder effect to start working? Custom-blown glass is very expensive, maybe an old mercury rectifier would be good, if you look at the shape of one. A balloon middle with lots of “legs” spouting off, a lot like an octopus sitting down. Assuming they’re safe to get within 10 feet of, no traces left of mercury.

        Not sure how much science there could be learned from this, but I don’t care, I’d just love to see someone messing about with it, and a big set of gas bottles of every type.

    1. Did something similar as a teenager, with a salvaged neon sign transformer and a couple coat hangers. If I remember correctly, the hangers were bent in an “L” shape, back-to-back with the uprights bent outward a bit in a “V”. The bottoms of the bend were fairly long radius, maybe an inch or so. The gap at the bottom was narrow enough to initiate the spark, and it nicely flowed up the wires until the spark gap got too wide. I think that’s a common setup. I don’t remember having to manually start it.

      I need to try it again, but I have vague memories that the arc started better and lasted longer once the the wood base between the coat hangers started smoking. I expect a cloud of smoke and soot particulates is more conductive than empty air, although I expect there might be some downsides to that method…

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