A little Christmas Wimshurst Machine

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Project by Mork posted 12-25-2016 02:30 PM 3494 views 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s a little Wimshurst I made for my brother in law. In case you are not familiar with these machines they are a static electricity generator. Turning the crank makes the acrylic disks spin in opposite directions. The charge is picked up by the collectors and stored in the two capacitors. When the capacitors are fully charged a spark jumps across the terminals. The second picture shows a little ball against the side of one of the capacitors. This is a switch to add or remove the capacitors from the circuit. The bolt holding the switch is a conductor connected to wire under the machine which goes to the outer conductor of the other capacitor. I should also mention the neutralizer bars. They are equipped with a soft conductor material which wipes the sectors on the disk as it spins. This is to short out opposing sectors on each disk.

If you want to know more… google it. This is my 5th machine but I still don’t have a good understanding of what makes them work!

This machine produces a 3/4” spark which was disappointing. Most the machines I have made are larger and all produce a 3.5” to 4” inch spark. This machine has 9-inch disks and my others are 12 and 15 inch.

If this sparks an interest (pun intended) check out the 2 other machines in my projects. If you want to build one I recommend going with a 12 inch or larger disk. Also feel free to contact me if you want more specific information. I’ve learned a few things along the way and I can help you avoid a few problems.

These things are a lot of work to build but also great fun!

15 comments so far

View abie's profile


914 posts in 4547 days

#1 posted 12-25-2016 04:23 PM


-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4353 days

#2 posted 12-25-2016 04:38 PM

Crazy cool great build . I never heard of Wimshurst machines before, looks like a super fun project.


View Mork's profile


299 posts in 3551 days

#3 posted 12-25-2016 04:59 PM

Thanks, this one is a better example. They are very cool and a 4-inch spark really get attention.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10923 posts in 4828 days

#4 posted 12-25-2016 05:15 PM



Merry Christmas!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Mean_Dean's profile


7043 posts in 3923 days

#5 posted 12-25-2016 07:10 PM

Man that is a great machine—will definitely spark a lot of interest!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3580 days

#6 posted 12-25-2016 07:22 PM

Wow! Dr. Frankenstein.. lol Very awesome

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7525 posts in 4129 days

#7 posted 12-25-2016 08:53 PM

Great project! Electrifying to say the least!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Redoak49's profile


4745 posts in 2765 days

#8 posted 12-25-2016 09:09 PM

Excellent work !

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2783 days

#9 posted 12-25-2016 11:26 PM

Pretty cool. So if you can convince someone to hold the 2 handles while you crank it, do they get ZAPPPPED?

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

View Mork's profile


299 posts in 3551 days

#10 posted 12-26-2016 12:38 AM

Ha… the handles are insulated but touching anything metal on the machine will shock you even when it is not in motion. The capacitors will hold a charge for many hours. Of course you can avoid this by touching the two electrode balls together when you get finished. Of course if you mess with these things long enough you will forget. It’s a bit more than a door knob shock but not deadly.

View BobWemm's profile


2867 posts in 2702 days

#11 posted 12-26-2016 10:52 AM

Thanks for the post.
You’ve sparked another interest in me. LOL
Always been fascinated by these machines.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View splintergroup's profile


3798 posts in 1998 days

#12 posted 12-26-2016 03:17 PM

That build looks museum quality, excellent detail!

More fun than playing “chicken” as a kid with a bunch of friends in a circle and an old lawnmower.

View ekpuz's profile


7 posts in 1284 days

#13 posted 01-04-2017 05:39 AM

Very nice! I love these sorts of science gadgets. I’m going to put one of these on my list of things to make.

While it is not necessarily much of a woodworking project, I came across the “Kelvin water dropper” which is another interesting generator of static electricity:

This one works just generates the high voltages that can produce a spark simply from falling water droplets. Here is a video someone posted showing it work:

View Mork's profile


299 posts in 3551 days

#14 posted 01-05-2017 12:27 AM


That’s an interesting static generator. I’ll have to look into this!

If you want to build one of these things (a Wimshurst Machine) contact me and I’ll give you some pointers. I’ve learned from a few failures. I’ve built 6 of these things and at least to a degree I’ve figured out a few things. What amazes me is how little information there is on Wimshurst machines.

Here’s a machine I made with a 4 inch spark:

I’m working on Machine number seven – I’m hooked!

View ekpuz's profile


7 posts in 1284 days

#15 posted 01-05-2017 12:42 AM

The 4 inch spark is very impressive! And your machines look like they belong in a museum.

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