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Re: [TCML] Comments please: Book review

I was also contacted by McGraw-Hill about the book THE ULTIMATE TESLA COIL DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION GUIDE, and have added it to the 21st Century Books list of offerings.

The TC Builder's List might be interested to learn that Harry Goldman has written the book's Foreword and that the book's author, Mitch Tilbury, considers himself a protégé of Ed Wingate. See http://www.tfcbooks.com/mall/more/409utcd.htm for the Foreword and also the book's Preface.

The book's retail price is $32.95 USA. The price now appears on Amazon as $24.04. I've listed it at an even $24.

Chip, in regards to your fine review I have a very minor tweek, which is, "Quoted words and phrases falling at the end of a sentence can, in the vast majority of cases, take the terminating period within the closing quotation mark without confusion or misunderstanding" [Chicago Manual of Style].


I just ordered the book from amazon.com. ($28.04, shipping included). The table of contents is at amazon. The word ULTIMATE should be omitted from the title. I don't expect any revelations, but the book should be on my shelf.

Godfrey Loudner

-----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of Chip Atkinson
Subject: [TCML] Comments please: Book review

Ok, English majors and others...

Here is my review of "The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction Guide". I got the book as a review copy, read as much as I could and wrote a review of the book. Here is the review below.

I'd appreciate any comments ranging from typographical errors to major questions raised and left unanswered.

Thanks in advance.

Review of Mitch Tilbury's "The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and
Construction Guide"

In 2007, on my birthday, I recieved an email from Bettina Faltermeier of McGraw-Hill asking me if I would be interested in reviewing this book and posting the information about it on my website. With the prospect of a minor amount of notoriety and a free book, I naturally said yes.

I promptely received the book and began reading it.

Safety should be always be the first topic when talking tesla coils. Therefore I will start the review with this subject as well. Understanding potential sources of danger in tesla coils is the first step toward safety. After a few pages of introductory material, the author spends six pages on safety issues, discussing various ways that one may hurt themselves or others and how to avoid such injuries. I felt that the topic was covered to a suitable degree.

Over all, I am quite happy with the book. I did not arrive at this feeling immediately but rather after thinking about the many aspects of tesla coils that the author had to cover in order to make his book complete.

To fully appreciate this book, one must understand the audience to which this book is directed. It is my opinion that this book is directed towards intermediate to advanced coilers or those with a background in electrical engineering or physics.

Like a college physics book, this book is rather dense. It's not light reading that you can pick up after a long hard day and lose yourself. Rather, it's a very complete, well researched book that covers every aspect of making a tesla coil. If one steps back and looks at the book as a whole, they can easily see the huge amount of effort expended by Mr. Tilbury in making his creation as complete and in-depth as possible.

Beginning coilers should purchase this book as well but with the understanding that much of it will not yet be accessible. Once they have progressed beyond their first coil and have the desire to improve their coil and their understanding of how they work and how to design better coils in the future, they will find this book a great reference.

One of the things that I appreciate most about this book is that it is cross-referenced and well organized. It is easy to find the section, equation, or graph that will answer your question.

I must confess too that as I started reading the book I had hoped to read it from cover to cover. However, I only got as far as page 156. By this time I relized that I'd better get this review done before McGraw-Hill started thinking I wasn't going to uphold my end of the deal. However, I feel that I can still evaluate it based on what I did read.

While I highly recommend this book, my one beef is that the author seems to have conceded defeat when it comes to making one's own capacitors. As the author states, "The cost of new commercial high-voltage capacitors ... can present a design challenge for even the experienced coiler". Much discussion has taken place on the tesla coil mailing list as well as research by many amateurs into the most economical way to manufacture home-made capacitors. The current favorite, the MMC or multi-mini capacitor, seems to be nearly as good as any commercial capacitor. It's robustness is scalable and my experience is that it's superior to commercial capacitors.

Many years ago there was a group purchase of purpose-built tesla coil capacitors from Plastic Capacitors Inc. The voltage rating was higher than the 14,400 volt distribution transformer that I was using at the time. I was using a rotary gap and running around 300-500 breaks per second. The capacitor was a sealed unit without any venting or safety pressure relief. It was halloween and I had the coil running on the top of my garage. As it ran, it went silent. In the time it took for me to wonder what was going on, a tremendous explosion followed. The capacitor case had blown up. Thinking it was just that one capacitor that was defective, I swapped in another capacitor of the same model. Within less than a minute it too blew up. That was over $300 worth of capacitors gone in an evening.

Later I built an MMC for $240 and it's been much more robust, taking all that the earlier capacitors took without any problem. I've run the 4 electrode rotary gap at 5000 rpm without incident and the capacitor is still in good shape.

The author goes into depth about derating capacitors and calculating their expected life spans and voltage ratings. However, given the cost and success or failure rate, I feel safe in saying that one can build their own capacitors that are comparable to or better than commercial capacitors on the market for slightly lower cost.

I feel that the author could have spent a bit more of his energy on making one's own capacitors.

That said, I still feel that this book is well worth the price and should be on the bookshelf of any coiler who wants such a wealth of information in one volume -------------------- END --------------------

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