Helical Jacob's Ladder Project:

  • experience level: beginner
  • parts needed include: transformer, power cord, bare wire, wire nuts, wood block, wood screws, wooded dowel and a nail
  • tools needed: screwdriver, wire stripper, wire cutter, and drill
  • Safety notice: Always unplug or isolate a device from its power source when servicing!
  • Perform these tasks under the direct supervision of a parent or a trained adult!

    Step 1: Step 1: the transformer

    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder

    All transformers run on ac current. The transformer has three leads coming from the primary coil and two from the secondary. Of the primary: one is the hot lead, the others are neutral and ground. Strip the wire ends about three fourths back from the tip. Connect the hot and neutral wire to the power cord using wire nuts connect the ground to the base of the transformer. Strip the bare ends of the secondary wires and connect them to the bare wire (we used electric fence wire).

    Step 2: Step 2: wood block

    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder

    Mark and drill pilot holes into the wood block to mount the transformer to one side. Screw the transformer down to the wood block. Then drill two holes approximately one inch apart on smaller piece of wood and run the bare wires through the holes. Mount to the open side of the block. Connect the hot lead from the secondary to a bare wire and Mount the wire to the block with a screw. Take the other bare wire and connect one end to the common ground. From the ground post, run the wire to the second hole and mount with a screw.

    Step 3: Step 3: The "Jesus stick"

    Helical Jacob's Ladder

    Take a small to medium size nail and push or pound it into end of a dry wood dowel. The transformer used above is relatively small and wont be able to create the arch without a little encouragement. With a larger transformer, the arch will jump between the two bare wires without any assistance.

    Step 4: Step 4: Powering up

    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder

    Plug in the transformer to any standard 120 volt outlet. Use the nail end of the "Jesus stick" to cross the between and touch the bare wire leads at their base to create an initial arch. The arch creates heat and ionizes the air around it. The heat will rise pushing the arch up to the top of the wires.

    Step 5: Step 5: Experimentation with a helix design

    Helical Jacob's Ladder
    Helical Jacob's Ladder

    Unplug the transformer from the outlet. Take a piece of small diameter pvc and place it between the two bare wires. Twist the bare wires around the pvc maintaining an equal distance between them. Then remove the pvc. Plug in the transformer and use the "Jesus stick" to cross the leads again to create the arch. Notice the way the helix slows down the travel time up the wires. This is caused as a result of having less heat directly underneath the arch.

    Step 6: Step 6: Additional modification

    Helical Jacob's Ladder

    Unplug the transformer once again and remove the current leads. Take additional bare wire twice the length of the original wires. Fold the center of one length and place it into the chuck of an electric drill, place the two free ends into a vice. Twist the wires until they are tight. Repeat this again with a second length of wire. Mount the new twisted wires in place of the original helix wires. These heavier duty wires can be modified to a helix or left upright as shown above. Plug in the transformer again and enjoy.

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