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ground ring

Can anyone throw light on my problem please.
I've just completed my 3rd coil.... the largest yet, with a 4-turn
small-bore copper tube primary, 1733 turn secondary of 
around 29" length, wound on grey ABS drainpipe of 3.75 O.D.
4-gap spark, with blower, and 3 neon TX= 12000V/90mA.
The cap is a beer-bottle/salt water type, 2.3 nF. I'm a present
usingh an 18" foil-covered polystyrene sphere. Problem is,
I'm getting hardly any output, but with the sphere removed I'm
getting a thin blue spark of around 2" from the coil top to ground.
I fitted a protective grounded ring around the top of the primary,
distance from it around 6" (First time I've used a top ring).
By the way, the primary is almost cylindrical, just a slight outward
incline to the supports. The safety ring is not a complete loop, but
its ends are about 1/4" apart. When I've been running the coil,
a big white continuous spark runs between these ends ! 
I presume this ring should be grounded ? Is the power going into
this ring and to earth, instead of going where it's supposed to ?
Everything is well insulated, and there's no other arcing going on.
Is this grounded ring worth bothering with, or should I remove it ?

					Richard Barton.