How to Make an Electrical 'Jacob's Ladder'

••• MegaV0lt/iStock/GettyImages

A Jacob's Ladder passes a high voltage electrical current into two metal rods. To complete the electrical circuit, the current must jump from one rod to the other. When the current arcs between the rods, it heats the air around it. The hot air rises, carrying the current up the rod with it. When the arc reaches the top of the rod, it dissipates and a new arc forms at the bottom of the rod. The entire project is an excellent experiment in how electricity works.

    Cut the No. 4 American wire gauge (AWG) wire into two even 3-foot long lengths.

    Drill two holes in the center of the wood block about 1/2-inch apart and 1/2-inch deep.

    Insert one end of one of the lengths of No. 4 AWG wire into one hole. Insert the other end of the other length into the other hole.

    Pull the tops of the two wires away from each other so that they are at least 1-inch apart at the top.

    Wrap one of the high-voltage output wires from the power inverter around the base of each of the No. 4 AWG wires. Keep the two high-voltage wires as far from each other as possible when you run them to the No. 4 AWG wires to prevent premature arcing.

    Position the entire assembly in the middle of a room with hard floors and no nearby objects. Plug the power inverter into a switched electrical outlet currently switched off.

    Switch the electrical outlet on and watch the electrical arc climb Jacob's Ladder.

    Things You'll Need

    • 6 feet of No. 4 AWG bare solid copper wire
    • Wire cutters
    • 1-by-6-by-6-inch wood block
    • Power drill
    • 1/4-inch drill bit
    • Power inverter with at least 12 kVAC output

    Tips

    • Use a neon sign power inverter or an oil burner's ignition transformer for the power source.

    Warnings

    • Jacob's Ladder's use extremely high voltage levels, which are inherently dangerous. Electrical currents can jump several inches from the air, delivering a dangerous shock. Keep your Jacob's ladder several feet away from all objects, people or animals whenever it is plugged in.

Related Articles

Science Project on an Electric Bell
How to Build a Buzzer for a Science Project
How to Make an Electric Motor Using a 9V Battery
How to Make Electricity Flow Like Lightning Between...
How to Make a Bedini Motor
How to Make a 12 Volt Heater
How to Convert a John Deere 4020 From Two Batteries...
How to Get From 120 Volt to 240 Volt
How to Make a Capacitor
How to Make Steamboat Science Projects
How do I Make Electricity Using Small Candles?
How to Use a Resistor for 12 Volt to 5 Volt
How a Three-Phase Motor Works
How to Build a Model Electricity Generator
How to Build an Electric Motor From Scratch
Easy Electric Science Projects on Circuits
How to Make a Homemade Potato-Powered Clock
How to Calculate Diameter With Length & Width Only
How to Build a DC Generator
How to Calculate Ramp Length