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Wimshurst Machine

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Project by Mork posted 143 days ago 2465 views 32 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Updated with more videos below…

This machine was invented between 1880 – 1883 by a guy named James Wimshurst. There is all kinds of information on the internet about these machines but not all of it agrees. When I started building my machine I had several question and ended up making several assumptions. As it turns out the machine works fantastic but I could have boosted the performance significantly. For instance, the foil sectors attached to the acrylic disks could have been smaller. This would have increased the voltage and spark length significantly. On the flip side, larger sectors make the machine perform more reliable. The machine has to be charged. To do this I rub a 2 foot piece of 3/4 PVC pipe with a cloth and hold it next to one of the disks while it is turning. After that it stays charged until somebody operates the machine in reverse. Apparently with smaller sectors the machine would be more difficult to charge or start.

My spark is 2 inches or slightly over. There is a wire that connects the two PVC pipe capacitors. With the capacitors connected the spark is a very health snap about every revolution of the crank. Disconnect the capacitors and the spark is almost constant (and the same length) but much weaker (same voltage but less amps).

To answer your question Soapmaker, yes i have touched the spark. With the capacitors engaged it is not pleasant but with them disconnected it is a hair raising experience. If you separate the electrodes and hang on to one of them while turning the machine a blue glow can be seen coming from your hands to the other electrode along with a hissing noise. Move your hand away then everything starts to glow blue (coronal discharge).

This machine has been incredibly amusing and a lot of fun. Its been sitting on my dining room table for about a month now and I can’t walk past it without turning the crank.

It would be a fantastic father son project or if you are like me, a kid at heart, I would highly recommend building one. All the wood used were scrap size and the components cost me about $70 bucks. The only really difficult part was the bosses that the disk mounts to. I had a machinist turn them out of UHMW (a type of plastic) and fit them with brass bushings.

If anyone decides to build one let me know and I’ll gladly pass on what I have learned.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eYilCXCeqw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g_0QLKCoK8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtqjrsIt8t4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWAnEMdTRvw





17 comments so far

View soapmaker's profile

soapmaker

27 posts in 277 days


#1 posted 143 days ago

I like mechanical devices that are just for fun. This has a steampunk feel to it and looks excellent.
Is the spark enough to just get your attention or is it stronger, surely you’ve touched it.

View MShort's profile

MShort

1722 posts in 2014 days


#2 posted 143 days ago

Cool project.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View Nindwood's profile

Nindwood

107 posts in 278 days


#3 posted 143 days ago

Oh what fun. May we never grow out of toys. Awesome work ( or play) should I say.
Cheers

-- Narinder, Calgary, Ab. http://www.trimandcraft.ca/

View exelectrician's profile

exelectrician

1459 posts in 1023 days


#4 posted 142 days ago

Shocking,,, Quite shocking,,, – What’s next? Something from Nickola Tesler perhaps?

Really nice attention to detail in your build, well done.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

3773 posts in 976 days


#5 posted 142 days ago

This is very cool and I’d love to build one someday. I’ve been watching Murdoch Mysteries which has turned me on to machines and electric devices of the period.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View JoeinGa's profile

JoeinGa

3088 posts in 602 days


#6 posted 142 days ago

COOL! I remember years ago getting someone to “Hold this sparkplug wire while pull the rope to see if it gets any spark”

What’s that old saying about you can fool some of the people all the time, but not all of the people every time )

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

3829 posts in 924 days


#7 posted 142 days ago

Looks like fun

Nice project

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Randy_ATX's profile

Randy_ATX

664 posts in 1037 days


#8 posted 142 days ago

I like it, nice job. The base matches your oak table.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15382 posts in 1462 days


#9 posted 142 days ago

A beautiful and wonderful conversation piece. What an eye catcher.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Mork's profile

Mork

143 posts in 1370 days


#10 posted 142 days ago

What Next?

A 22-inch machine (current machine is 15.5” disk size). Also much smaller sectors and I’ll update the neutralizer bars a bit. The bars short out apposing sectors across the disk. Most of what you read on the internet says the wire brushes on the ends of the neutralizers needs to touch the sectors but I have found about 1/16” away works fine. I’d like to make the bars a bit more adjustable so I can maintain close tolerance without contact. Of course this leads to another challenge, controlling disk run out. The current machine run out is about 1/32 which isn’t too bad but on a 22” disk this will be harder to achieve. I think I’ll make the bosses out of Delrin and mount the disks with 3 screw with o-rings between the disk and bosses. That way I have some adjust-ability. No mater how accurate the bosses are made there is always some warps in the acrylic disks.

View Mork's profile

Mork

143 posts in 1370 days


#11 posted 142 days ago

Yes… a conversation piece for sure! Whenever somebody walks in my home they say – “wow, what is that?” and then they are cranking on the machine for a good 20 minutes.

View Paul's profile

Paul

340 posts in 2185 days


#12 posted 142 days ago

Fun, Excellent workmanship, Super photography!

Thanks for sharing the project with us.

-- If you say 'It's good enough', it probably isn't.

View ex-member's profile

ex-member

154 posts in 370 days


#13 posted 138 days ago

Steampunk…can’t hide it…the lamps, the furniture, the Wimshurst machine. You are out now…you’re a steampunk. No sense denying it.

View Mork's profile

Mork

143 posts in 1370 days


#14 posted 138 days ago

Steampunk? Interesting…. I had to look that up. I’d say the Wimshurst fits for sure. I have always like trains, steam engines, cool looking old cameras (that kind of look like trains), love scfi that has time travel…. I love the Arts & Crafts/Mission furniture styles for sure. Dang! I’m a STEAMPUNK! Hahaha…

Oh.. and hit and miss gas engines, old machinery… metal lathes, hand crank drill presses. Old printing machines (I also work for a printer).

Hey, i was looking the word up and ran across this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B-lIVEm0As#t=27

View ex-member's profile

ex-member

154 posts in 370 days


#15 posted 135 days ago

That’s fun! Thanks, it made me laugh when he started playing. I pretty much laugh to the end.

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