Archive for the ‘Tesla Coils’ Category

ArcAttack and Percussibot Front and Center at LSC

Arcattack was part of the entertainment Friday May 9th,  at the Liberty Science Center Genius Gala 3.0.



“Liberty Science 

Center (LSC

.org) is a 300,000-square-foot learning center located in Liberty State Park on the Jersey City bank of the Hudson near the Statue of Liberty. Dedicated to bringing the excitement of science to people of all ages, Liberty Science Center houses 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater, the nation’s largest IMAX Dome Theater, live simulcast surgeries, tornado and hurricane-force wind simulators, K-12 classrooms and labs, and teacher-development programs. More than half a million students, teachers, and parents visit the Science Center each year, and tens of thousands more participate in the Center’s offsite and online programs. LSC is the most visited museum in New Jersey and the largest interactive science center in the NYC-NJ metropolitan area.”  from the LSC website

David Blaine donated two coils to LSC from his Electrified event in New York.  Those coils were a bit too big for the LSC theater so Arcattack was commissioned to build a more compact set of coils. I was commissioned separately to build a new Percussibot drum robot for the installation. This is the first permanent installation for a Percussibot!

Sam McFadden did a great job on the coil design. lsc_coil.Yes Sam, that is one sexy Tesla Coil!


I’ll post a video as soon as I get access to one.




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Six Pack Tesla Coil

Introducing the 6-Pack Tesla Coil

Image of a small Tesla coil

I was invited  (and encouraged) to write an article for Make Magazine for an introductory Tesla coil project. This one is a simple spark gap coil using beer bottles for a tank capacitor and a small Neon Sign Transformer (NST).  It doesn’t play music it just makes loud sparky noises.

The article is meant to teach the basic skills and practices to build and tune a Tesla coil using common materials that are readily available. I wanted to provide enough detail and instruction so that a beginner would be successful.  The coil is made to be modular so that the maker can experiment easily and change out bits as they learn how to get bigger sparks out of their coil.  I hope to post a few improvements after the article gets out so folks who wish to, can get a bit more spark length out of their coil.

The print article will be 18 pages and will be in issue 35 of Make Magazine. The web version of the article includes more detailed instructions and is available here.

I hope a few people actually try to build the coil.  The interns at Make built theirs and were thrilled when they got it debugged and tuned up. Here’s a picture of their coil:

Test coil built by Make Magazine staffPhoto by Sean Ragan

Note that they had to add a bottle to tune the coil so its even better than a Six-Pack!

Thanks to Sean, Keith and the rest of the Staff at Make for the opportunity to write an article.  I’m looking forward to the next, maybe simpler, article.  Thanks to Steve Ward for proof reading the article and making sure I got the technical stuff right.

A special thanks to Bart Anderson for his fantastic JavaTC program and his website. Its a great resource for coilers!



David Blaine – Electrified by ArcAttack!

David Blaine Electrified

David Blaine near the end of his 72 hour endurance event.

You may know that Austins own ArcAttack was responsible for the massive Tesla coil set-up for David Blaine’s latest endurance event at Pier 54 in New York. Here is Arcattack’s Facebook page.

Look here for some behind the scenes videos.

It was a privilege to work on this project, and although a lot had to be done in a short time, it was very rewarding to see it through a successful conclusion.  The coil electronics proved to be solid.  Kudos to Joe DiPrima and Steve Ward for an excellent design and Christian Miller for the show controller.  Great work by Sam Mcfadden in the design and the build.

Heres a shot of the crew after David left in an ambulance. (Pat Sullivan didn’t make it in the picture though he was there.)

From Left to right, Tyler Hanson, Stephen Chao (David’s Producer), Adron Lucas, Joe DiPrima, Steve Ward,  Craig Newswanger (me).  Other team members: John DiPrima, Pat Sullivan, Sam Mcfadden and Christian Miller

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ArcAttack Now Touring Netherlands

Here is a photo from Tony Smith of the drum set on the stage in Abu Dhabi.

I hear the guys are happy to be touring after the long gig in the desert.


Check  Here for show dates.

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One more video from Abu Dhabi

YouTube Link

This one is from an English language newspaper from Abu Dhabi, The National.

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New Arcattack! Video from Abu Dhabi

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ArcAttack! Opens in Abu Dhabi

ArcAttack arrives in Abu Dhabi

ArcAttack arrives in Abu Dhabi

Looks like a bunch of happy guys.  The band is assisted by a great local audio team and an AWESOME sign.

July 6 – Got a message that all is going well in Abu Dhabi.

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Wardenclyffe Site Up for Sale!


Here’s an article form the NY Times:

NYT Tesla article

Here’s a link to the site on Google Maps.

You can see an octagonal foundation of the original tower.

Anyone have a few million to spare?

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Dorbot 20 at SXSW Interactive

teslacoilI joined Arcattack! at the SXSW Interactive, Dorkbot event last night. The event was well attended, considering the cool weather.

The venue wasn’t large enough for Arcattack’s big coils so Joe and Oliver dusted off two older coils. A few glitches came up which the guys tried to remedy. One coil would not cooperate so they had to run with one coil.  Fortunately they have some new software that allows them to run multiple notes on one coil.  The crowd love it, as usual, big cheers and lots of cel phone cameras were “clicking”.

Arcattack! has been using my robotic drum kit at most shows now.  The controller has been fairly reliable since installing a new power transformer and a good set of fuses.  Next task for the kit is solenoid mounts that can be attached to any drum set.  I’d love to make two new kits, one that’s really road worthy and one that is way over the top with dual kick drums and a nice set of toms and cymbals. (I am looking for sponsors for the next round of development)

If you want to experience the full effect of Arcattack’s giant solid state coils, don’t miss the Texas Rock Fest this coming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7th and Trinity in Austin.  (Mar 18-20 8:45 pm to 2:00 am) Check out the Arcattack site for consise details.

The photo is from gserafini on flickr. My iphone pics wern’t worth posting.

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Why Build a Tesla Coil?

I suppose if you have to ask, you may never understand why so many people build these things. Mastering an elemental force like lightening is not considered, by most, to be a typical hobby. There is obviously a thrill when people see the sparks leap out of the coil and take a few steps back. There is the obvious aspect of danger and the loud sound. It’s probably similar to the  attraction of fireworks.

One key motivation for me, is education. I enjoy demonstrating my Tesla coil and sharing my understanding of it. It is a joy when a teenager asks if they could build one of these. I have assisted a number of young people (with parental supervision) in building their own coils. In the process of building the coil they learn practical aspects of math, physics, materials and the general nature of craft that is required to build just about anything.

On one occasion, working with two teens on their Tesla coil. We calculated the resonance of a secondary coil then after winding it, we tested it with a signal generator and a pair of LED’s. When we found the resonance frequency and the LED’s lit brightly, one of the guys was thrilled at the notion of predicting the frequency! He was hooked and his enthusiasm increased as he worked on the coil. They also realized they had an understanding of the math involved. Wow a practical application of mathematics! Hopefully building a coil might start someone on the track to pursue an education in engineering or science.

Lots of kids are motivated to build things yet they have no sense of crafting an object. For years, we have tried to protect our young people by keeping sharp objects away from them. In our interest of keeping them safe we have reduced their ability to build things to Lego blocks. Lego are sure safe unless you have had the misfortune of stepping on one, bare foot in the dark. Let’s consider that if we let our kids ride a bike or a skateboard, we might consider that we might let them use a few hand tools.

I remember using hand saws, drills, hammers and nails when I was in grammer school. I doubt they allow children to do this any more. I have talked to engineers that did not have occasion to build or construct much of anything before they entered university!

The act of figuring out how to build a kite, a telescope, a toy boat, a model airplane, or a simple electromagnet, or just about anything, can teach a child a huge amount about the way the world works. I believe that knowledge gained this way sticks and comes in handy in what ever field a child might want to follow.

Yes I burned, cut, scraped and bashed a thumb here and there along the way. I can show you some of the scars. Would any of these injuries be a reason to stop a child from following his or her curiosity, their passion? My parents encouraged me in my interests and when it looked like I was getting into something dangerous, dad just payed a bit more attention and dad increased his supervision a bit.

Along this line I can highly recommend the book, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks. My childhood was not nearly as interesting as his but it rings true. I only wish I had an Uncle Tungsten. I’m sure glad I had my Father who taught me so much, I miss him. My mom was very understanding. That reminds me, I should call her.


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