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Re: [TCML] Sparks and neighborly fun
Joe i know a think or two about building Van Der Graaffs, drop me a line if you need some advice,
I am only going to post this link up for everyone enjoyment, so please keep list chatter to a minimum. You can email me off list if you have any questions/comments.
We built our Van De Graaff here at college (we being the House of General Science at RIT, but to be honest it was mostly me, lol) for the "Imagine RIT" innovation festival that the college puts on yearly on may 1st.
I have been trying to do a Tesla Coil... but... well the physics department here is scared of anything over 50 volts... the only reason we got away with this project is because by the time they got around passing judgment, my organization have already sunk a thousand bucks into it...
they couldnt have done that just a little sooner...i mean its not like they did not already know about it...for a couple months...
well anyway we had to build a giant Faraday cage and we were backed by the Rochester museum of Science
where it now resides as an exhibit that appears with their show on electricity. (they were really excited to have it when we were done)
but alas still a nogo on the Tesla coil... >.<
John "Jay" Howson IV
----- Original Message -----
From: "Joe Mastroianni" <joe@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "Tesla Coil Mailing List" <tesla@xxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Monday, August 16, 2010 9:34:36 PM
Subject: Re: [TCML] Sparks and neighborly fun
Funny you should say that - I'm building the Van De Graaff as we speak...for mostly that reason. The wife is a science teacher and the coil is far too unsafe for her to operate around (little) kids. She was hoping I'd have built a smaller one, which I suppose I will have to get to somewhere between upgrading this one and the even bigger one with the 6" secondary I have already wound and coated with 5 coats of dolphs. (It gleams beautifully...beaconing.)
We have a "plan B", which is to move coiling operations to the back yard. I live on a hillside, so the back yard is about 25 feet lower in elevation and faces a major highway (California Rt 17). The noise from the highway is easily coil level, and everyone who lives on my street has triple-paned windows in the back. So my coil experimentation should not be much of a disturbance. And we can bring visitors down in a controlled manner, and it's also far from household electronics. Only thing back there is the A/C. (I'll peel a couple amps off the 220V feeding the A/C compressor.)
So far we've "indoctrinated" a couple neighbors. Of course, there's nothing more rewarding than having someone ask to explain it, and then to see them react to the sparks. To me it's like riding in my first Corvette. You can see all the pictures and hear all the stories, but 0-60 in under 5 seconds is an experience no matter how many you-tube videos you've seen.
Similarly, seeing the sparks in real life is a rush, and not a single person has left disappointed.
Now if I could only convince people the law of conservation of energy is not being violated just because the coil looks like something from a science fiction movie....
On Aug 16, 2010, at 4:56 PM, DC Cox wrote:
> That's one reason we have an open house / Tesla Fest / every year. It gives
> the neighbors a chance to learn what we do and is very good public
> relations. A simple neighborhood BBQ with some free food for the neighbors
> is worth its weight in gold when it comes to preventing complaints.
> A friend of mine is a senior EE for the FCC in a large SW city, and he says
> it is a very gray area with the FCC. No complaints, no problems, and they
> leave you alone. Pixx everyone in the neighborhood off and they will be
> down your throat!
> The friendly BBQ is a much nicer alternative. Be sure the parents see you
> explaining it to the kids (educational value they think), and we usually let
> a small 7-8 yr. old girl "push the button" to turn something on. Parents
> notice things like this and will not think of you as a mad, evil, scientist
> in the hood. A small Van de Graaff to do some hair-standing is also a great
> tool when working with parents and kids.
> Dr. Resonance
> On Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 2:44 PM, David Rieben <drieben@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> Hi Joe, all,
>> I have found that running my big coil in the driveway has
>> not drawn complaints from neighbors, but mere curiosity.
>> Of course, I do fire it infrequently and always at decent
>> twilight hours. I usually will only fire it on weekend eve-
>> nings, probably only 4 or 5 times a year, and even then, I'm
>> always rolling her back into the garage lair by 10 PM.
>> As far as the police go, the one and only exprience that I
>> had with them was also a good one. It was July 4th, last
>> year, and someone had complained about the actual fire-
>> works (believe it or not and I have a pretty good idea which
>> neighbor that was) and the police officer was driving
>> around trying to see who was shooting off the bottle rockets
>> and such. Well, he came up in his car before I could shut
>> down the lightning bolt display and he stopped his car and
>> walked up into my driveway. At first, I thought I was going
>> to get "a scolding" but instead he was asking me to please
>> "turn that thing on again". :^)Well of course, I oblidged him
>> and about an hour later, he comes back with one of his
>> law enforcement comrads and wants me to show it to him
>> as well. By now, it was getting close to 10 PM and I even
>> asked if they thought anyone would complain if I did. They
>> said that they would take care of it if anyone did and to please
>> fire it up again ;^)) Of course, I was once again happy to oblidge.
>> My only neighbor who's a real prick lives diagonally behind me
>> and the height of my house would completely block a view of
>> my coil or its sparks from his backyard vantage point. I'm sure
>> he (or his wife) was the one who called the police about all of
>> the fireworks in the first place and they very well might complain
>> about my coil, if they could figure out where that dreadful noise
>> was coming from ;^)) They've complained much about my dogs
>> even though I keep them in my house and only let them in my
>> fenced back yard for their bathroom activities. Wish they would
>> just move and make the rest of my neighborhood happy ;^)
>> I think the bottom line for firing a coil outdoors in a suburban
>> environment is to use some common sense. I have often thought
>> that it would be fun to scare the trick 'r treaters on Halloween
>> evening with my big coil, but then the thought of the liability of
>> multiple children (and some adults) coming in from both directions
>> and possibly being able to get too close to it for firing without my
>> noticing has pretty much made me keep the beast inside of his
>> cage on that particular night!
>> David Rieben
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Joe Mastroianni" <joe@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>> To: "Tesla Coil Mailing List" <tesla@xxxxxxxxxx>
>> Sent: Sunday, August 15, 2010 10:36 PM
>> Subject: [TCML] Sparks and neighborly fun
>> Can't run the coil in the garage anymore, so I have to roll it out to the
>> On a quantitative note, we measured some spark hits at 5+ feet. Nothing
>> like the 81 theoretical inches I could get if everything was perfect,
>> according to all the programs. My tuning lead wire is getting warm, which
>> leads me to believe running a pretty high VSWR in my primary, and I saw one
>> racing arc at full power. I could tune the thing a bit better and maybe
>> even adjust the coupling a bit more. Though now that I have to run in the
>> driveway, I'm not going to be able to do a lot of trial-and-error
>> experiments as the noise at full power is now pretty loud (I will take
>> measurements next time) and the neighbors are taking notice.
>> Which brings me to anecdote #1: concerning the police.
>> Just as I was running up the power on my first test of the day two cop cars
>> went tooling past my house at what could be described as a reasonably
>> hurried pace. They were not heading to my place, but rather some
>> disturbance in the wooded mountain side area at the dead end. I ran my
>> coil, but was unable to see the arcs in the bright sunlight except for the
>> occasions when the streamers hit the strike rail. Otherwise, they were
>> nearly invisible.
>> My neighbors across the street are an elderly couple, and I have on
>> occasion helped them get out of their car when they return from errands. I
>> wave to them, they wave back. Since the coil has been in the driveway, they
>> have stopped waving and stare at me suspiciously.
>> They appeared in their garage, getting into their car. I waved, they
>> stared, I set about making a clamp to attach my tuning lead to the copper
>> tubing. I had been using an alligator clip, which on occasion of poor
>> tuning got so hot it burned the insulation off the wire upon which it was
>> soldered. So I switched to clamping the lead to the tubing with a piece of
>> sheet copper to make the connection less resistive. Though the clamping
>> slowed me down.
>> After about 30 minutes the two police cars pulled up in front of my house.
>> They were side by side, and the cops inside were talking to each other,
>> fairly well ignoring me in the driveway while I worked with a screwdriver
>> and wrench, tinkering about.
>> At this point my wife came and asked me for help mounting some shelving, so
>> I abandoned the coil in the middle of the driveway (which is only about 30
>> feet to the street), we put up the shelf. By the time the shelving was up
>> the cops were gone, though they had lingered for a while, and I even tried
>> to make eye contact to see if they wanted to ask about the coil. I figure
>> in our smallish town, its good for me to advertise what I am doing so nobody
>> confuses coiling for terrorism.
>> I live on a street that dead ends at a trailhead many people use on
>> weekends to take day hikes in the Santa Cruz mountains. So on weekends
>> there is a lot of foot traffic past the my house. I may have mentioned that
>> last week I had several passers by and even the UPS man approach me in my
>> driveway and challenge me about the coil - insisting they had uncovered my
>> secret - that I was going to make "free energy" with my machine. To get
>> these strangers to leave, I agreed with them wholeheartedly. The power and
>> oil companies ruled society as we knew it. And that it was only us makers
>> of "free energy" who were going to become the new rebellion that sweeps the
>> That satisfied them. Though I think some of the hikers told other hikers,
>> and that's why I had more than one group come and insist I was making "free
>> energy", to which I absolutely agreed, figuring that with the persona of a
>> typical SC Mountains nutcase, I could be left alone in my tie dye shirts and
>> pony tail. Don't have the pony tail yet. Working on it.
>> Anecdote #2: the neighbors and police (again)
>> The wife and I decided to roll the coil out into the driveway to test my
>> new tuning, and to see the arcs better in the twilight. We rolled it out,
>> cranked it up to max power, let it hum for about 10 seconds, and then shut
>> it down. I took my measurements and was putting the coil back in the garage
>> when a neighbor called. He came over with his daughter-in-law asking to see
>> the coil.
>> Of course. This is why we coil (partly). We want to show off our work.
>> I have everyone stand behind me, put their fingers in their ears (it really
>> echoes in the garage), and I crank up the coil. Nicer arcs because it's
>> darker out.
>> Cool. The neighbor's son comes by, looking for his wife. Have to demo to
>> him. Oh joy. I get to run my coil again! And I do.
>> Then my wife suggests the classic fluorescent bulb experiment. My neighbor
>> and family are enthusiastic. Yes, we must see this.
>> We duct tape a fluorescent tube to a 5' ladder, put a breakout on the
>> toroid, and we make sparks. They hit the tube, it lights up, arcs come out
>> the far side of the tube and dance up and down the rungs of the ladder.
>> Everyone is thrilled.
>> Let's try more, they insist.
>> But no. It's 8PM and I know that very same neighbor has an infant daughter
>> (yes, a 30-year old son and an infant daughter - welcome to california) and
>> it's her bedtime. If his wife gets pissed at us, we're toast.
>> So we shut down for the evening.
>> Meanwhile, my neighbor across the street has come out and seen the crowd.
>> I wave and invite her over. She turns away. Some 15 minutes later the
>> police roll by. We wave. They wave and head on past.
>> Three cop cars in one day. I have lived here nearly 4 years and haven't
>> ever seen even one cop car. I'm too old for this disturbing the neighbors
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