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You are here: > News > April 29, 2011

Tesla Coils for Dummies

Are you interested in building a Tesla Coil to produce stunning effects that violate the "established" laws of physics, but are somewhat less than technically savvy than a rocket scientist? Then you are in luck, because this article is for you!

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Tesla Coil construction can be dangerous. This is especially true when building, testing, or operating higher powered systems. Life threatening electric shocks and burns can take place if proper safety precautions are not taken. Possible damage to the eyes is possible if someone stares into a powerful spark gap for a long period of time. Some setups (especially those that use spark gaps) can be very loud and could potentially cause hearing loss after extended exposure. Ozone can also be created by these systems. Tesla coils can also create other health and safety hazards. In addition, improper use of Tesla Coils can damage home wiring and electrical equipment, presenting a fire hazard. 

If this document inspires you to build a Tesla Coil please realize your life and safety is your responsibility. PESN and myself do not accept any responsibility or liability. Also, please realize this document is not all-inclusive, so before attempting to build a Tesla Coil, please perform your own due diligence when it comes to researching all safety measures that need to be taken and implementing them.


More and more people are becoming interested in Tesla Coils these days. This makes sense, because there are many reasons to be fascinated with them. These systems can produce "longitudinal" impulses that can transmit power and information through solid metal containers (Faraday cages), travel long distances without any drop of intensity, and produce "overunity" gains of energy. With a simple set of Tesla Coils, you can perform experiments that will perplex even the most skeptical folks you may run into! 

To be clear, these exotic properties of Tesla Coils are not myth, but established facts that have been replicated countless times by researchers, engineers, and scientists around the world. One such scientist is Prof. Konstantin Meyl from the University of Applied Sciences in Furtwangen, Germany. He has experimentally confirmed the above mentioned properties of Tesla Coils, and has demonstrated his setups many times. Additionally, he has published a number of books and papers detailing how they work. Another researcher in the field of Tesla Coils is Eric Dollard, an absolute expert in the fields of electronics, antenna design, and radio. He built many systems utilizing Tesla's technology, and has verified Tesla's claims. 

You do not have to be a genius to build a Tesla Coil. They are fairly simple devices. What is required is the willingness to do research, the ability to learn, and the common sense to take all proper safety measures. Safety must always be a priority! 

The purpose of this document is to give an overview of Tesla Coils, their components, their construction, and their special properties. A special emphasis will be placed on Steve Jackson's Tesla Coil plans that have been open sourced at PESWiki. By the time you have finished reading this document, it is hoped you will have a very good idea about what is involved in building a Tesla Coil

What is a Tesla Coil?

Over a hundred years ago, Nikola Tesla discovered that when a high voltage circuit is opened or closed, a brief pulse of high voltage is created. In his age, these pulses of high voltage were killing linemen and technicians who were working on early electrical transmission systems. He also noticed that these pulses of high voltage created discharges of "something" that could be felt on the skin. At first he thought these discharges could be tiny particles of physical matter, because in some of his experiments he vaporized thin wires with these high voltage pulses. However, if these discharges were composed of matter, a physical barrier should stop them; but no such barrier could stop them. Next, he thought that these discharges were of an electrical nature. However, even a shield composed of a conductive metal would not stop them. He concluded these discharges or impulses were truly unique. 

Before long, Tesla went from simply opening and closing a high voltage circuit to allowing a high voltage to cross a gap between two electrodes. Eventually, he produced a system where these impulses flowed across the surface of two stout bars of copper. By placing light bulbs between these bars he could make them illuminate without any wires. He noted many other interesting effects in his lectures and notes. 

Tesla concluded that these impulses attracted by and flowing over the surface of the copper bars, were a pure type of voltage decoupled from electron flow or "current." In his opinion, voltage in an electrical circuit was a form of compressed "aether." The aether is considered to be an atmosphere of very tiny (smaller than an electron), very energetic (traveling faster than light), and penetrating (capable of moving through matter) fundamental particles. These particles of aether not only fill the vacuum, but also compose the elementary particles found in atoms. 

The final step that resulted in the creation of what we call a "Tesla Coil" was the placement of a flat spiral coil of wire between the two bars of copper. The two bars of copper became a "primary" and the additional coil was considered the "secondary." The high voltage produced by the spark gap would flow up the primary, and then be increased to an even higher voltage by the secondary. He would connect one end of the secondary winding to a ground and the other end to a sphere elevated above the setup. The "Tesla Coil" was born! 

Over the years, Tesla would improve and add to this setup. He used it to transmit information and power over long distances. In addition, he could transmit through any barrier, including Faraday cages! Although additional Tesla Coils were frequently used to "receive" power and information, they were not always required. He devised systems in which the output of a Tesla coil could be channeled into a tube which would produce a laser like "ray" of aether. When this ray hit certain electrical conductors, electrical current could be generated. This electrical current could then be used to power lights, motors, heaters, etc. 

Not a Transformer

Despite the fact a Tesla coil utilizes a "primary" and a "secondary", a Tesla Coil is NOT a transformer. This is a fundamental and important distinction that must be made! If it was a transformer, none of the astounding effects it produces could be possible. 

First of all, a transformer utilizes a *tight* coupling of magnetic fields to manipulate voltage (volts) and current (amperes). A Tesla Coil is very different, in that the windings of the primary do not have to be extremely close to the secondary coil. In fact, Tesla incorporated a significant gap between the primary and secondary coils. This represents a very loose coupling.

Secondly, the secondary coil of a Tesla Coil is "open" and not "closed." In a conventional transformer the primary and secondary coils must both be "closed" for any effect to take place. If a winding in a transformer is open, then no current can flow through it, no magnetic field can be produced by it, and no coupling can exist between the primary and secondary! The transformer is completely non-functional with an open coil. Conversely, a Tesla Coil is designed to utilize an "open" secondary. One end of the secondary is connected to the ground and the other end is connected to an elevated sphere. The ends are not physically connected. No closed circuit for electron flow is present! 

Third, conventional current or amperes (electron flow) does not flow through a Tesla Coil. Tesla measured this, and determined it to be the case. The electron flow cannot keep up with the massive build up of voltage passing over the conductive material. Voltage is continually increased without any conventional transformer effect making it happen. The fact that no current flows can be proven beyond any doubt by building a Tesla Coil out of glass tubes which provide a wave guide effect, but are completely non-conductive. 

Basic Tesla Coil Components and Design

There are many plans for Tesla Coils on the internet. Many of them are high powered and utilize a spark gap like Tesla's system. A few of them (such as Steve Jackson's open source plans) do not utilize a spark gap, but use solid state components. Later in this article I will discuss Jackson's plans. For now, I will try to describe a more typical system. 

A Tesla Coil setup needs a power source. Tesla and many "coilers" today utilize high voltage transformers. Many folks track down older neon sign transformers or "ignition coil transformers" to produce the high voltage they need. These transformers convert the fairly low voltage of mains power (120 volts) into high voltage (many thousands of volts). Although these high voltages can allow for very high powered setups, they also present safety risks. They must be used with care. 

There are lots of high voltage transformers that can be used as the first stage in a Tesla Coil, but please research each possibility before making any purchase. For example, some types of transformers such as ignition coils may require a special method of limiting input current to be utilized. Otherwise, they could burn up quickly, start a fire, and destroy the wiring in your home. Additionally, older and newer transformers (even those built for the same purpose) can have important differences. Some older ignition coil transformers can be used for extended periods at a time, while some newer ones can only be used for limited periods. 


The next step is connecting one or more of the high voltage transformers to one or more capacitors. A capacitor is a device used to store and release electrical charge. In a very simple form, it can be composed of two plates of conductive material with a plate of insulating material (dielectric) in the middle. When a difference in voltage is placed across the two conductive plates a charge is built up between them. This charge can be released to power a load; or in our case, produce a spark between two electrodes.

There are all sorts of capacitors out there. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what you need. This is another example of when it makes sense to contact someone who has previously built Tesla coils and/or review the plans on the internet that have already been used to build successful systems. For example, is important to match the specifications of your capacitor to the specifications of your transformer. The transformer is being used to charge up the capacitors, and you do not want to damage them! 

Capacitors can actually be made yourself. There are plans on the internet that explain how to build home made Leyden Jars (the earliest form of capacitor) that can be used in a Tesla Coil setup. Nikola Tesla built some of his capacitors in a similar manner! 

The Gap, Electrodes, and Quenching

After obtaining the proper transformers and capacitors (some circuits require only one of each, and others require a pair of each) the spark gap needs to be designed. This is where the action begins! The gap represents an insulative barrier for the high voltage released from the capacitors to cross. An increased length of gap represents a more insulated barrier that requires a higher voltage. A reduced length of gap between the two electrodes represents a decrease of insulation that allows less voltage to be applied. You will have to vary the length of your gap to find the distance that matches the amount of input voltage from your capacitors.

The material that composes your electrodes is also important. Copper electrodes seemed to produce qualities that polluted the "purity" of the aether radiated from the gap. Eventually, Tesla started using carbon and other materials for his electrodes instead of copper. 

When the spark crosses the gap between electrodes, energy from the capacitors is pushed into the primary. This energy can try to flow back and bounce back and fourth between the electrodes. Just like the giant sparks produced by some Tesla Coils, this is a waste of energy. To reduce this loss mechanism, Nikola Tesla would utilize methods to "quench" the spark between electrodes. These methods of quenching would allow the energy to pass between the electrodes, but would not allow it to flow in reverse. There are many ways of accomplishing this. One way is by allowing a stream of air to flow between the electrodes to removed the ionized gas molecules. Another method is by placing a magnetic field from a permanent or electromagnet between the two electrodes. Tesla also placed his electrodes in various types of oil or other liquids. 

Primary and Secondary Coils

The primary coil needs to be connected to the circuit that powers the spark gap. In some setups, the ends of the primary coil are connected to the capacitors of the circuit. How the primary coil is connected will be different depending upon the construction of your setup. 

The function of the primary coil is to guide the pure voltage (unbound from the current or electron flow), aether, or longitudinal waves along it's surface and then resonate with the secondary. Resonance is a phenomenon in which energy transfer is maximized if each impulse of energy is properly timed. For example, consider pushing a child on a swing. If you push at the proper moment it's easy to make the swing go very high. However, if you push at random times it can be very difficult. The same basic concept applies here.

Resonance between a primary and a secondary in a Tesla Coil is a function of many variables. Two of these variables include the physical length of the primary and secondary windings, and the frequency at which the primary is pulsed. There are mathematical equations that can allow you to calculate these factors ahead of time. With this information you could design a setup that will resonate at a specific frequency. Otherwise, you would have to experiment to determine at what frequency your primary and secondary resonate. You may or may not be able to achieve this frequency with your setup. At resonance, the voltage from the secondary will peak and when completely out of resonance it will drop tremendously.

As already mentioned, to transmit power, Tesla often utilized a second Tesla Coil as receiver to collect it. For power to be efficiently transmitted, the receiver needed to be in resonance with the receiver. One way of accomplishing this is by making the receiver an exact copy of the transmitter. This can simplify the process. However, receivers and transmitters of different sizes can resonate with each other. Modern day testing has proven this, similar to how certain notes resonate musically. This is an area that needs further research and testing! 

Another factor Nikola Tesla discovered was that the mass of the primary and secondary coils work best if identical. This would result in a thick and larger diameter wire being used for the primary, and a thinner or smaller diameter wire being used for the secondary. When matching the mass of the wire he would produce the best results. Today, many people think that the actual wire mass does not need to match, but the surface area of the primary and secondary windings need to be the same. [Editor's note: these relationships will probably be shown to work in harmonic patterns similar to music, and that exact matches are not the key, but harmonic pairing is.]

Bifilar Wound Secondary

An interesting issue to consider is whether to use a single wire wound or a bifilar (two wire) wound secondary coil. You can see a bifilar wound secondary in one of Tesla's patents here. He determined that a bifilar wound secondary would allow for a much more rapid increase in voltage. Modern experimenters have determined a bifilar wound secondary allow for an exponential increase in voltage while a single wire wound secondary only allows for a linear increase. Here is a quote from his patent:

"Let A, Figure 1, designate any given coil the spires or convolutions of which are wound upon and insulated from each other. Let it be assumed that the terminals of this coil show a potential difference of one hundred volts, and that there are one thousand convolutions; then considering any two contiguous points on adjacent convolutions let it be assumed that there will exist between them a potential difference of one-tenth of a volt. If now, as shown in Figure 2, a conductor B be wound parallel with the conductor A and insulated from it, and the end of A be connected with the starting point of B, the aggregate length of the two conductors being such that the assumed number of convolutions or turns is the same, viz., one thousand, then the potential difference between any two points in A and B will be fifty volts, and as the capacity effect is proportionate to the square of this difference, the energy stored in the coil as a whole will now be two hundred and fifty thousand as great. Following out this principle, I may wind any given coil either in whole or in part, not only in the specific manner herein illustrated, but in a great variety of ways, well-known in the art, so as to secure between adjacent convolutions such potential difference as will give the proper capacity to neutralize the self-induction for any given current that may be employed. Capacity secured in this particular way possesses an additional advantage in that it is evenly distributed, a consideration of the greatest importance in many cases, and the results, both as to efficiency and economy, are the more readily and easily obtained as the size of the coils, the potential difference, or frequency of the currents are increased."

The "Extra Coil"

In addition to the secondary winding, Tesla sometimes employed an additional coil. This coil would be positioned in series between the secondary and the elevated sphere. It is usually wound not as a flat pancake like the secondary, but often as a solenoid. There is a lot of speculation as to why exactly he utilized this extra coil, but the consensus is that it was important. Although a Tesla Coil can function and produce truly anomalous effects without one, such an extra coil allows for an even larger increase in voltage. 

If the primary and secondary have a loose coupling, the "extra coil" has almost zero coupling with the primary or secondary. As the longitudinal waves of aether of flow across the windings the voltage increases even more. By this stage, any tiny quantity of conventional current flow that may have existed in the circuit is removed. Only a pure longitudinal flow of aether remains that is focused or enhanced by this coil.

In at least a few of his tests, the "extra coil" was wound in the shape of a cone. This shape is claimed by many experts to be the most optimum. It can produce huge increases in voltage, which is of course what we want! The more aether from the environment we can tap into with this system the more power it can produce or transmit (or waste in the form of giant sparks or "streamers.") 

Spheres and Grounds

Tesla determined that many benefits could be produced by adding a sphere to the very top end of the secondary wire. One of these benefits was the prevention of sparks and streamers which waste energy. The sharp tip of the wire could easily produce such streamers, but by utilizing the smooth surface of a sphere such beautiful displays were prevented. Hence, losses were minimized and more power could be transmitted. 

Just adding any sphere was not enough. Tesla determined that even a metal sphere at extremely high voltages could produce streamers, sparks, and even "darts" of energy. He learned that by coating the sphere in an insulator such as wax, these losses could be reduced even more. Eventually, he found that by using a carbon shell as a sphere, the losses could be reduced dramatically. Glass globes filled with different inert gases (or vacuum) were also tested and found to help prevent the loss of energy. 

The sphere (regardless of the material it was constructed from) also served to evenly distribute the transmissions of the system. Instead of the emissions having some directional component, they were emitted in all directions. This was important, because he wanted to power the entire world with such a power broadcasting system!

In addition to the sphere, he connected the bottom portion of the secondary to a "ground." Quite often, he used the Earth itself as a ground. Since he considered the Earth to be a giant reserve of aetheric energy, it could have been attempting to tap into it to make his transmissions that much more powerful. This seems to be the case, because receiver units with a ground collected more energy than those without one. Tesla seemed to be broadcasting energy both through the air and through the Earth. By tuning into both broadcasts, a receiver could become more efficient! 

Shattering Physics

With a set of Tesla Coils (one transmitter and one or more receivers) you can produce many effects that are considered to be "impossible" by mainstream science. For example, you can put a transmitter in a metal box (Faraday cage) and a receiver in another metal box. Modern science would claim no transmission could be made between the two. However, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that the longitudinal (non-transverse) waves emitted by the transmitter can penetrate any material. In this case, power would be transmitted directly through the metal boxes! 

Another interesting feature of a Tesla Coil based power transmission system is that the signal does not weaken over distance. This is far different than transverse waves weaken rapidly over distance, due to the inverse square law. However, the power transmitted between two Tesla Coils can remain constant regardless of distance! This transfer of power without losses will continue, regardless of distance between the units, as long as the transmitter and receiver stay in resonance. 

Longitudinal waves can also travel at superluminal speeds. This has been tested by multiple scientists and researchers. The exact speeds measured vary. Some researchers claim the speed is almost infinite and others claim 1.5 times the speed of light. Probably, the speed of longitudinal waves of aether depends on the "pureness" of the impulse. If it contains any transverse components, it probably does not travel at a near infinite velocity.

Finally, flows of aether seem to have a sort of momentum. Once you get the aether moving it wants to continue. Tesla was able to cut off power to his systems and they would continue operating for a period of time. In addition, he once produced a ray of aether from a tube connected to the output of a Tesla Coil. He used this beam to power light bulbs and other loads. After he turned off his coil and removed the tube, light bulbs would still illuminate in the path the ray had been traveling. This effect continued for hours! 

This momentum effect was also demonstrated by a glow that would grow around his devices. The longer his giant transmitters were active, the larger this bubble of illumination would become. In one experiment, he connected the output of a large transmitter to a wire lifted into the sky by a balloon. A glow was produced along the wire which grew in volume over time. Eventually, the glow illuminated the entire area! 

Free Energy from the Aether

Tesla's system could also produce gains of energy. If a certain quantity of energy was used to power his transmitter, much more energy could be collected by receivers. From the moment his primary was pulsed it seemed a gain of energy was taking place. As the voltage increased along the secondary coil the total energy of the system was increasing. When the flow of aether collected and magnified along the windings of the "extra coil" there was another gain. The transmission of this flow of aether through space to the receiver also seemed to produce a gain. This gain was also magnified after it was collected by the receiver, and traveled across it's coils. 

These gains of energy have been verified by countless replicators. At times, it seems the energy collected by a receiver can be ten times more than the energy consumed by the transmitter. If you have more than one receiver this gain can be multiplied! Somehow, energy is being collected from the aether, which is everywhere, unlimited, and inexhaustible! The reason people should build and test Tesla Coils is not to produce beautiful light shows, but to develop methods of producing free energy to power our world!

Specific Plans 

There are many plans for Tesla Coils on the net. Most of these setups are used to waste energy and produce long streamers or sparks. However, they could work well for wirelessly transmitting energy if modified to prevent such losses. By doing some simple online searches you will find a wealth of information that can help you design your own setup. Also, you will find many words on safety guidelines you should follow! 

Hopefully, this guide has given you an outline of how a Tesla Coil is constructed, it's components, how it functions, and the physics busting feats it is capable of performing! Next, I will be providing a few comments on Steve Jackson's open source plans. 

Steve Jackson's Open Source Plans

Steve Jackson has developed a set of plans for a Tesla Coil setup. Instead of using extremely powerful high voltage transformers and capacitors, a solid state arbitrary function generator is used to pulse the primary. This provides a vast improvement in safety (using a few volts instead of thousands). Despite the fact this is a lower power system than many Tesla Coil setups, the anomalous effects of Tesla Coils can still be demonstrated. 

An additional benefit of his system is that by utilizing an arbitrary function generator, it is much easier to find the resonance frequencies of the primary and secondary coils. Downloadable software can allow you quickly search through the frequencies, and an oscilloscope can allow you to see the voltage peaks that occur at resonance. Tesla did not have these advanced electronics to aid his research. Thankfully, we do! 

A PDF containing details plans can be found at the following link

Please download and open the document, because I will be making a few comments about it and providing additional thoughts. I will be listing my comments according to page number. 

His plans allow for the construction of a low power (safer) system that can allow you to confirm the wondrous effects of Tesla Coils. I advise anyone interested in Tesla Coils to start by following these plans to build a small-scale and low-power unit. By doing so, a lot can be learned (in a safe way) before you experiment with higher powered setups. 


Commentary on Steve Jackson's Open Source Tesla Coil Plans 

Page 1 - 

Please note how it is stressed this system utilizes low power levels. This is a good thing when considering safety. However, it might limit the maximum power that can be transferred to a receiver. Interestingly, this issue might be overcome without any additional input power. It might be possible to just increase the number of turns in the secondary winding to increase the final voltage of the system. In addition, by adding one or more "extra coils" of various shapes, more aether might be collected by the system to increase the output. 

Remember, we are not dealing with a conventional transformer here. The output is not limited by the input. There is a clear decoupling between the two. The gain of voltage by the secondary and extra coils represents a gain of aetheric energy! 

Page 2

The document states that the wire sizes may change. One thing to notice is that the surface area and/or mass of the primary and secondary windings are not the same in this setup. It might be worth experimenting with primary and secondary windings of equal surface area and/or mass. By doing so, Tesla was able to maximize the efficiency of his systems.

Also, as the document states, proceed at your own risk! 

Page 3

Heathkits were electronic kits distributed by the "Heath Company."

Page 4

If you do not have access to a power tool, a cheap hack saw could be purchased to make the cuts to the boards. This would take more effort and time, but could save money.

Page 5

Not everyone has a power drill to make a hole in the baseboard. I know there are small manual powered tools out there that allow you to make a threaded hole. They look something like a screw driver. Such a tool may or may not work. 

Page 7 -

If you do not want to buy a pair of digital calipers to measure the thickness of your wire (which is best), there are online charts that give the thickness or diameter of various wire guages. Also, you might be able to source wire that comes with detailed specifications. 

Page 8 -

The three ring binder reinforcement ring idea is brilliant! 

Page 10

Soldering is a very useful skill to learn. However, some folks may not want to learn this skill or don't want to invest in a soldering iron. One potential solution might be heat-less soldering products. 

Wire Glue

To strip the wire, an alternative to buying a wire stripper might be burning the insulation off with a cigarette lighter, candle, or small torch. Please be cautious, because the fumes of burning insulation can be toxic and fire can burn. Also, if not careful you could melt the wire! 

Page 11

More drilling and cutting. If power tools are not available hand tools could probably get this done, but with a lot more work and time required. 

Page 16

The secondary coil in this document is a single wire coil. Tesla and others have discovered the bifilar coils allow for much larger gains of voltage. After you have tested a single wire coil, it might be interesting to test a bifilar wound one.

Page 27

The aluminum foil on the elevated sphere is very wrinkled. This could allow for more points where sparks/streamers could emerge. Even though this is a low powered setup and visible streamers would not be as obvious, these sharp points could allow energy to be wasted. One solution could be to coat the ball with some sort of liquid or powered conductive substance. Perhaps a type of paint or powder. Another possibility, is insulating the aluminum foil covered ball with wax to prevent losses. 

Of course, like the document stated, this might not matter much.

# # #


Feel free to view/post comments down below.  This one came in by email:

On April 30, 2011 4:38 PM Mountain; Patrick Flanagan (who has wirelessly transmitted 1MW through a mountain) wrote:

I am happy to provide answers to the question of the solenoid coil above the primary and secondary. The length of the total secondary should be 1/4 wavelength of the desired resonant frequency. The capacitance of the sphere and the length of the secondary are matched for resonance.

The difference between an ordinary transformer and a Tesla coil is that the Tesla coil is a resonant transformer. The Q of the system, i.e. multiplies the voltage. Sharply resonant system could have a Q of 10,000. Meaning that at resonance, the Q factor will multiply the voltage by 10,000. It is really very simple. In addition, only by loose coupling can the secondary resonate at high Q. Tight coupling at the primary will reduce the Q of the secondary.

The spark gap should be tight quenching as this gives a sharp Dirac pulse which allows maximum transfer from the capacitor to the coil. The faster the discharge, the more power transferred.

* * * *

What You Can Do

  1. Pass this on to your friends and favorite news sources.
  2. Replicate the wireless power transmission effect and explore new applications.
  3. Join the forum formed around this open source project.
  4. Start new industries based on this technology.
  5. Let professionals in the renewable energy sector know about the promise of this technology. 
  6. We at PES Network are in a pinch right now.  Donations would be greatly appreciated.
  7. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay abreast of the latest, greatest developments in the free energy sector.

Other Relevant Coverage

See also

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Page composed by Sterling D. Allan April 19, 2011
Last updated September 04, 2012




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