Monday, March 9, 2009

Make your own Lightning Globe

This instructable will show you how to make one of those cool lightning globes with about $5.00 worth of parts.

WARNING Just like my Monitor Hack instructable, this makes use of some very high voltage. It could be potentially lethal, especially if you are standing in a puddle of water.

Watch the video for the overview:

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step 1Supplies

Here's a list of supplies I used:

1. Large, clear light bulb
Not just any light bulb will work. It must be one that has been gas filled.

Typically, anything 60 watts or higher should work. Lower wattage bulbs typically have a vaccuum. 60 watt and higher usually have an argon nitrogen mix, which lights up nicely!

I found a 5 inch 60 watt bulb for about $2.49 at the hardware store.

2. Aluminum screen, painted black
The aluminum screen will be our ground to attract the high voltage.

Instead of shelling out a bunch of money for an entire roll of aluminum screening, just look for an HVAC vent with some right on the back.

I found the one below at the hardware store for about $1.50, and the screen was already painted black!

3. A cheap black plastic pot
This is going to be the holder for the globe. Since it will be used at night, it doesn't need to look pretty.

I found a black plastic pot for about $0.79, you guessed it, at the hardware store.

4. A high voltage power source
This is what makes the magic happen.

I used the same monitor as the one in my Electric Fence Monitor Hack Video

With people upgrading to LCDs like crazy these days, you can easily get a 15" monitor from someone for free. You might even talk them into paying you for removing the hideous eyesore from their humble abode.

WARNING: Color monitors put out close to 30,000 volts. This voltage can harm you and quite possibly kill you, depending on the depth of the water you are standing in or how old your pacemaker batteries are. Seriously, though, be careful.
out:{ top: 0.08579088471849866, left: 0.3125, width: 0.4125, height: 0.09919571045576407, text:"Large clear light bulb. 60 watts or higher. This one is 5 inches in diameter, the biggest I could find at the hardware store." }

step 2Prep the screen

The screen is our grounding plane for the high voltage. It will be wrapped around as much of the light bulb as possible, without causing unintended arcs.

Trim the screen as needed. You should be able to fold the screen in half and still be able to fit the bulb inside tightly.

The screen I used was painted black, so I scraped off some paint with an Exacto knife. Since we need to attach a wire to it, pick a good spot on the edge of the screen - right in the center.

You'll need to scrape paint off of both sides of the screen and on both edges.

Then fold the screen in half, poke the stripped ground wire through both pieces, wrap it around the edge as tightly as you can get it, and then solder the ground wire to itself.

Since the screen is aluminum, you won't be able to solder the wire directly to it. That's why it's very important to tighten the ground wire around the screen. Use pliers if you have to.
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step 3Fit the screen over the bulb

Next, I trimmed the screen on the top and bottom to be sure the high voltage wouldn't arc unintentionally.

Then I made several cuts evenly spaced around the screen so I could fold it to the shape of the globe.

To make it easier, you can make one cut the proper length, remove the bulb, then make the rest of the cuts. At that point, simply bend the screen flaps down and then slide the bulb inside. That will make it nice and tight.

Do the same for the top, and then use your hands to gently squeeze the screen around the globe so it's form-fitted.
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step 4Prep the stand

To prep the stand (cheap plastic pot), cut out a hole in the top the size of the light bulb stem. You'll also need to cut a slot on one side to allow the high voltage wire to pass through.

Cut a small hole in the side of the pot about four inches off the ground. The high voltage wire will pass through here, so it must be high enough that it won't try to arc to ground.

Feed the wire through the side hole, then through the top and attach it to the bulb.

Now slide the bulb into the pot and it's done.

It's not pretty to look at, and it's not supposed to be. It's for use at night.
out:{ top: 0.36193029490616624, left: 0.3482142857142857, width: 0.3767857142857143, height: 0.32439678284182305, text:"Cut a hole for the bulb stem. This pot was the perfect size." }

step 5Test it out!

Now it's time to hook it up and test it out!

Refer to the Monitor Hack Instructable for instructions on how to connect the aluminum wire to the anode. Be sure to pay attention to the part where you carefully discharge the high voltage!

The ground wire needs to go to ground, of course. The easiest place to attach the ground wire to is the inside of the monitor at the same place the high voltage was discharged to.

Turn it on and test it out!

If everything is nice and tight, there should be a great lightning show around all sides of the globe.

If it's arcing to the stem, you'll need to turn it off and trim the screen on the bottom some more.

Watch the video to see it in action:

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