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How to Build a Tesla Coi1

How to Build a Tesla Coi1

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Published by John Smith

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Published by: John Smith on Dec 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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How to build a tesla coil!
Most of us suffer from a very poor education when it comes to basic electronics. Thethought of building a device with such high voltage output was very intimidating tosay the least! To my rescue came the Summer 1992 catalog from InformationUnlimited. Add to this that I had quit my job (i.e. I had some time on my hands) andthat $240 didn't seem to be an unreasonable amount of money to spend for a timekiller (when not searching for a new job) and dream fulfillment.It occurred to me that there may be other Tesla novices out there who might beinterested in trying to "feel the power" of a real Tesla coil fashioned with their ownhands. This brief write-up will let a novice Tesla coil builder, whom chooses to starttheir Tesla building career with a BTC-3 kit from Information Unlimited, to have abetter idea of what to expect if using the BTC-3 kit.
The BTC-3 kit, when finally put together, delivered the 12" sparks as promised fromthe 250 KV output. However, a few screws necessary for the construction of the coilwere missing from the kit and necessitated a trip to the local hardware store. Thedirections were cryptic and the drawings didn't match the eventual configuration asbuilt. Some parts appear to have been substituted for those that were described in thedirections requiring some improvisation in order to get things to work. The kitrequired very little in the way of tools, or knowledge of electronics, to put together and required a total of about 10 hours over two weekends to construct. In spite of some of the changes required during construction, I found the kit satisfactory andworth the price.I also went on to buy the optional Toroid Terminal after completing the coil and Iwould highly recommend it to anyone considering building the BTC-3 kit. While thebare wire coming off the top of the coil produced considerable sparks, it was onlywhen I attached the Toroid to the secondary coil that the coil seemed to "come alive"and produce an incredible discharge field and a constant output of 10" to 14" sparks.Well worth the extra $69.Now, I am ready to move on to building a 1 million volt coil that I hope to build from
scratch! (with plans yet to be determined....)
PARTSAn initial quick inventory of the parts in the kit as compared to the parts list includedwith the kit showed that several screws were missing. These are the kinds of missingparts that are very frustrating. I figured the long distance phone call requestingInformation Unlimited to send me the screws would be more expensive than justgoing out and buying the screws. Other than that, everything appeared to have beenincluded. I feel that potential purchasers of the kit should also be aware of thefollowing:- The secondary coil included in the kit was wound sloppily and required about twohours of my time to get it wound tight and without any overlapping wires. I beganwondering if I couldn't have wound a coil from scratch in the same amount of timeand saved the money of having to buy a pre-wound coil.- There were no screws included with the kit that could be used to attach the top (thepart that the secondary and primary coils rest on) to the tank enclosure containing thetransformer, capacitor, etc.- There were no screws included that could be used to attach the transformer to thebottom of the tank enclosure.- The ON/OFF toggle switch included with kit did not match the switch in the plansand because of a protruding tab could not be attached to the side of the tank enclosure. I was forced to cut off and file down the tab.
The plans include a nice brief introduction on Tesla coils - what they are and aresupposed to do. The plans also include a nice conclusion that describe options thatthe builder can add to the coil (that will produce additional effects and features for the builder).The drawings and diagrams in the plans appear to be taken from several differentsources, or at least drawn at different times by different people. The formats of thedrawings change frequently; in a couple of places two drawings of the sameassembly on separate pages didn't even match. The drawings at times do not reflectthe associated instructions. This led to occasional head scratching moments of pondering on how to resolve the problem, "Do I go by the instructions or do I go bythe drawings?!" Generally speaking, the drawings were accurate and I used them
frequently to make sure I was on the right track.
The instructions were actually pretty good. Descriptions were clear and followed alogical stepwise path through the construction of the kit. Thoughtful comments aresprinkled throughout the instructions indicating pitfalls to avoid and/or variations thatare possible as the kit is put together. One gets the feeling that someone had writtenthe instructions and then had actually gone through them and tested them for accuracy. The only exception to my praise of the instructions, though, is that theinstructions had not been modified to reflect obvious last minute parts changes thatwere shipped with the kit. There were also a couple of instances where theinstructions were verbally correct, but the drawing referenced by the instructionsappeared inaccurate and did not reflect the associated instructions. I'm not sure thatthis is a fault of the instructions or of the drawings?!
- An interesting conclusion drawn after the construction of the coil was complete,was that the kit required no soldering at all. For peace of mind (and for habits sake) Istill soldered all the obvious connections, but in fact didn't really need too.- A finer treaded screw should be used for the spark gap adjuster. It takes quite a bitof fiddling to get the gap to the width that provides for continuous operation atmaximum output.- Generally speaking, the initial output of the coil was much less than advertised;perhaps 8" sparks at best. I added a second capacitor (identical to the one includedwith the kit) and wired it in parallel with the first and then got the spark output Idesired. While it is possible that I didn't get the coil tuned properly initially, or that Ihadn't assembled something properly, the addition of the second capacitor did thetrick for output.- The secondary coil comes with a plastic cap covering the top of the PVC tube usedfor the coil. This appears to be unnecessary and in the end I had to remove it so that Icould patch some arcing that was occurring inside the tube.- The plexiglass plate used in conjunction with the spark gap adjuster should havehad an adhesive included in the kit for attaching to the side of the enclosure. I had torun out and buy some epoxy glue. It would have been a nice touch to have had thisincluded.- The power cord is supposed to be securely attached to the tank enclosure by using aplastic grommet. Unfortunately, the hole cut for power cord grommet was much too

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