SPARKS IN YOUR PARLOR
When assembling a proper laboratory,
the gentleman or lady experimenter
should be sure to include a Wimshurst
electrostatic generating machine. This
device will serve tirelessly in investigations into the field of natural philosophy,
and provide interesting parlor games
such as the “electric kiss.” Herein we will
demonstrate the construction of such a
spectacular device, with materials easily
acquired from your local home center
and hardware store.
Electrostatic machines create high-voltage charges without
the familiar coils of copper wire, permanent magnets, and
commutators found in conventional generators. They’re
made of brass, glass, and wood, and they look more
mechanical than electrical.
The coolest thing about them is that you can feel them
working. As you begin to crank a Wimshurst machine, you
can hear it crackle and hiss with energy, you can smell the
sharp tang of ozone, and you can feel the hair on your arms
stand up as the Leyden jars begin to charge.
Photography by Jake von Slatt
Set up: p. 97
Make it: p. 98
Use it: p. 107
Jake von Slatt is a lifelong tinkerer and maker currently residing outside Boston. He works as a Linux sysadmin
for a small aerospace research firm, but his true passion is the construction of anachronistic contraptions in his
Steampunk Workshop ( steampunkworkshop.com).