Wimshurst Generator - 1972

Wimshurst Generator

The Plans

In the summer of 1972, we saw a Frankenstein movie containing a fascinating device: a giant electrostatic generator made from spinning glass disks. It was obviously a non-working prop, but I designed and drew plans for a Wimshurst machine of similar size.

Sunday, June 11th

Jeff Hohman, Joel Trygstad and I built, sanded and stained the rugged wooden frame from 2x4 and 2x12 lumber. Jeff bought a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/4-inch acrylic and a 3/4-inch steel axel, using our entire budget of $40.

Tuesday, June 13th

A pair of 4-foot disks were cut out, and a pair of octagonal wooden bearings were built, bored and greased. The bottoms of aluminum loaf pans were cut out and epoxied to the disks.

Thursday, June 15th

Jerry Danielson helped us obtain motors and large pulleys from broken washing machines at his father's laudramat. Bearings and pulleys were attached to the disks. The collectors and adjustable neutralizer brushes were built.

Friday, June 16th

Scott Hefner and Kevin Anderson joined us. We assembled the machine and balanced the disks to turn without shaking. It didn't work, and I realized there were not enough plates to create electrostatic-influence effect. At that point, Kevin's father showed up, rather upset. It was 1AM, and he was expected to get up and milk cows at 6!

Saturday, June 17th

Jerry and Jeff verified my theory by taping extra temporary aluminum-foil plates to the disks. After purchasing the entire remaining supply of loaf pans from the local grocery, we attached 16 more plates shaped to fit between the original set. Then it worked, generating 100,000 volts and rapidly firing 2-inch sparks.


Copyright 2003 Don P. Mitchell. All rights reserved.