Wimshurst Restoration

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Project by Mork posted 09-21-2017 02:24 AM 1755 views 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve built 5 of these machines over the years but this one is a restoration of a Wimshurst Machine built somewhere between 1890 and 1920. This was a bit of a challenge because there was some guess work as to how it should look when complete (it was missing parts) and a lot of research. This included an analysis of the materials used in the original machine. The original disks looked to be a thin plastic but turned out to be Ebonite or Vulcanite. The Machine was not constructed the best and was also light weight. So I built the matching base with drawer out of Cherry and secured the machine to the base. I finished it to match the color of the mahogany machine. This cherry was a learning experience. Normally I avoid cherry because it stains poorly and I don’t like dark finishes that hide the wood. Obviously in this case I had to either find some mahogany or learn about finishing cherry. I ended up dying the wood with mahogany Transtints and staining with a Restolium stain. The final finish was about 10 coats of Amber Shellac… 10 because i had no idea how to spray the stuff and I sanded down some bad orange peel. In case anyone is wondering… thin it down to spray… I thinned it more than 50/50. Overall I was actually surprised it turned out so well. Oh… and the top is leather, a writing pad for a desk.

These machines are a lot of fun! Sadly this is not my machine. It’s going to be hard to part with.

For a size reference the base is 24×16… a very large machine.

11 comments so far

View DMiller's profile


537 posts in 1280 days

#1 posted 09-21-2017 02:46 AM

Very Cool…I like the look of it, but what is a Wimshurst? Great restoration job!

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10923 posts in 4859 days

#2 posted 09-21-2017 03:43 AM

I just have to say it…

What a “shocking” project!

Nicely done… Very cool…

Thank you!

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

View Andybb's profile


2785 posts in 1410 days

#3 posted 09-21-2017 04:41 AM

Very nice job, especially what I can see of the finish. Never heard of a Wimshurst Machine until today.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Mork's profile


299 posts in 3582 days

#4 posted 09-21-2017 11:11 AM

FYI – The Wimshurst machine was invented between 1880-1883 by James Wimshurst. To my knowledge it serves no useful purpose other than to demonstrate generation of static electricity. Most machines are capable of generating a spark up to about 30% or more of the disk diameter . This machine has 15-inch discs and creates a 5-inch spark.

View Mork's profile


299 posts in 3582 days

#5 posted 09-21-2017 11:20 AM

These machines are not super difficult to build. The hardest part in my opinion is working with the plastic disks. If anyone would like more information on these machines let me know. Also, the foil sectors are a pain to cut out. I bought a die for cutting sectors. If anyone want to build a machine I’ll provide sectors at a very reasonable price.

Here’s the last machine I built. It has 17 inch disks and creates a 7-inch sparks.

View Bertha's profile


13588 posts in 3500 days

#6 posted 09-21-2017 12:46 PM

It’s fantastic. Certainly a ton of work and it all seems believable to me. Absolutely NO idea how those work.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 4904 days

#7 posted 09-21-2017 12:59 PM

Cool. I’ve never seen one.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3674 days

#8 posted 09-21-2017 03:53 PM

You have done a beautiful job in the restoration of this wonderful instrument. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Woodknack's profile


13441 posts in 3187 days

#9 posted 09-21-2017 08:08 PM

Nice restoration. Coincidentally I saw one of these last night on a tv show and was thinking they would make a nice woodworking project.

-- Rick M,

View Mork's profile


299 posts in 3582 days

#10 posted 09-21-2017 09:05 PM

They are really fairly easy to make after you know a few guidelines. They only have a few components; neutralizer brushes, collectors capacitors disks and segments as well as a method for driving the disks in opposite directions. Most people simply cross or twist the back disk belt. This works great but I like to avoid this because the belt wears where they rub each other. The machine has the crossed belts and I added a little roller to keep them from rubbing.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2814 days

#11 posted 09-21-2017 10:31 PM

Looks like something Jules Verne thought up. Very cool indeed!

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

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