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Brass Ball static spark gap not doing so well

Original poster: "Pete Komen by way of Terry Fritz <twftesla-at-qwest-dot-net>" <pkomen-at-zianet-dot-com>

Second light on my coil.

Arcs not as long as they should be.  I think that the toroid is too rough;
20 inches across with 4" minor diameter.  Made of dryer duct not fully
covered with aluminum tape.  Gives a number of streamers from the same 8 or
10 points.

I have a new spark gap made of 15 - 1 1/8" brass balls spaced 0.022" apart.
Air is blown around them but not specifically at the gaps.  Things started
out OK, but the arcs kept getting shorted over a period of 10-15 minutes.  I
am running a 12kv, 60ma NST with protection circuit and 4 strings of 11 of
the Panasonic caps for about 20nf.  The NST alone will jump 11 of these
gaps.  When running in the TC, only 7 or 8 could be used without the safety
gap firing.  Safety gap needs cleaning and a reset.

When I quit tonight and dismantled the spark gap, the brass balls had a
circle of black crust with a larger circle of tan around each sparking
point.  There are pits in the brass itself (it looks like tiny balls pressed
together with the areas between eaten away).  It seemed that the break rate
had gone way up, almost to the point of power arcing.

Question for Terry referring to your Terry gap at:

It states that you use about 600v per 0.004 inch gap (60 pipe sections for a
maximum of 58 gaps).  I am using a multiple section gap now.  My 12kv NST
jumps 7 gaps of 0.022 inch (as close to that as I can set them).  If I built
a similar spark gap to yours, should I expect to use 28 gaps (12kv * 1.4 /
600v per gap) or 38 gaps ( 7 * 0.022 / 0.004)?  If it will only jump 28, why
use 60 sections of pipe or would a smaller gap be better? 0.002 inch maybe?

More general questions:
Does the optimum setting for a static spark gap, whether number of gaps or
size of the gap(s), depend on the atmospheric conditions (humidity,
pressure, etc.)?  My location, Las Cruces, is about 4000' altitude and very
dry (desert).  Humidity of 50% is very high and very rare so I suspect that
I could set a spark gap and forget it.  Would a Florida coiler (I lived in
Palm Bay for a few years where the summertime humidity got as low as 78%,
elev. about 20 feet) have to set the gap wider?

As the number of gaps goes up, does the total gap go down?

I looked at the Tesla Mailing List archives for spark gaps and somebody did
an experiment that indicated that the single spark gap has a more consistent
firing voltage.  Someone else reports longer arcs with multiple unequal
gaps.  Someone else reports longer arcs with aluminum electrodes between the
copper ones.  I am beginning to wonder what we really know about spark gaps.
I know very little.

Is a multiple small gaps spark gap better than a single gap?  Which has
greater losses?  Which has the most consistent firing voltage?  Is there a
spark gap that lasts longer between cleanings?  Is there an optimum static
spark gap?

I hope that I am not bringing up something covered already.