I finally got around to making a couple of much needed upgrades to the Tesla gun. First: a trigger! I had previously been using a switch with a molly guard as the on/off mechanism. Now the switch “arms” the gun and turns on the turbine fan (both as an audible warning and to keep the HV switch cool). When it’s armed, just pull the trigger for lightning-at-your-fingertips convenience.
Point and shoot.
The second upgrade was a better, cooler hockey puck of doom. This one uses silicone compound impregnated with hexagonal boron nitride. It conducts heat much better than straight silicone, and should theoretically extend the life of the hockey puck driver.
I couldn’t find a heat sink of appropriate size, so I cut one out of an old discarded 12″ Mac Powerbook. It was covered in stickers, which I think greatly add to the aesthetic appeal of the resulting heat sink.
Finally, I added a new grounding ring with better strain relief to the back of the gun. This makes a much stronger mechanical connection to the gun. The wire is soldered on for the best possible electrical connection. The wire doesn’t carry much current, and needs to flex well, so I used some stranded 18 AWG.
This grounding ring provides strain relief and a strong electrical and mechanical connection.
With these upgrades, I think the Tesla gun is ready for the busy summer zapping season!
Staci Elaan is an electrical engineer who has been making Tesla guns since 2006. Her sixth generation MK6-18V is a battery powered, solid state piece of badass kit:
In the course of building my Tesla gun I had trolled YouTube and had found a few odd videos, like RMCybernetic’s infamous plasma gun:
…and this sketchy fellow:
But I wanted to build something different. Yet somehow I had missed Staci’s incredible designs. Back in May she published a history of Tesla gun designs in an effort to set the record straight. I had no idea that hand-held Tesla gun designs have been around since at least 2004!
My project got a surprising amount of attention for an idea that has been around for the better part of a decade. The Tesla gun I built this year is by no means the first (or even the first battery powered device). My simple static spark gap design is a kid’s toy compared to some of the solid state designs that came before mine.
My hat goes off to Staci and all the pioneers of hand-held lightning devices!
Do you know of other Tesla gun builds that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve? Post them below!
The year was 1889. The War of the Currents was well underway. At stake: the future of electrical power distribution on planet Earth. With the financial backing of George Westinghouse, Tesla’s AC polyphase system competed for market dominance with Edison’s established (but less efficient) DC system, in one of the ugliest and most epic tales of technological competition of the modern age.
More than a hundred years after the dust settled, Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders published The Five Fists of Science: a rollicking graphical retelling of what really happened at the turn of the last century. (Get yourself a copy and read it immediately, unless you’re allergic to AWESOME). On the right is the cover to this fantastic tale of electrical fury.
See that dapper fellow in front? That’s a young Mr. Tesla. See what he’s packin’?
I gave another talk at Ada’s Technical Books: this time about the (nearly completed) Tesla gun. The audio isn’t perfect, and it very tragically ends just before the spectacular spark demonstration, but here it is: