Risks of tesla Coil

Hello! I have been gathering parts to bould my own tesla coil for some time (years...!) and now I'm ready to afford it. I need to know the real risks. For example, I have read about the risk of touching the coil. The say it is not deadly but can cause severe surface burns in the skin. Is this real? I'm talking about the typical beginner tesla coil: 220V ->

10KV, 0.03A NST -> 10:1000 Tesla coil Anyhow we have all seen TV programs where someone throws sparks from his hands, and even lights a bulb in his mouth, stainding (I suppose) over a tesla coil. Are they using some Mohm resistors to reduce current?

Is the NST more dangerous the the TC itself? As I have read, NST runs at 50 Hz and TC at some KHz, and LF current can flow inside the body while some KHz do only flow over the skin. Is this right?

I don't want to run any risk...

Thanks. Edu

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To claim a guarantee that something like a Tesla Coil has zero risks would be difficult. I have built and purchased Tesla coils of various sizes.

The small science demo coils will not kill you. (... at least not quickly) Tesla coils produce high voltage electricity at high frequency, which, as you note, travel on the surface of your skin.

Long term risks such as cancer are unknown. Some people say that electrical workers who are exposed to similar fields every day have a higher risk of dying from cancer.

The current is self-limiting by the size of the coil, the degree of coupling with the primary coil, and the input power applied.

You will feel the shock and also a burning sensation if you touch the coil. The spark discharge through the air also produces Ozone which is anteseptic in low concentrations and poisonous in large concentrations.

The large coils that are sometimescustom built CAN kill you just by getting too close or touching the wrong part. They are often constructed with utility pole-type tranformers and heavy duty rotary spark gaps. Even the large capacitor banks used with these Tesla coils can hold a charge that can easily kill or injure you. Bottom line is that you better know what you are doing and have enough sense to take safety precautions when working around high-powered RF Fields.

Also, since they induce high voltages through the air in anything conductive, I would not want to use any kind of Tesla Coil near a computer or other expensive electronics.


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Hello and thanks for the reply!

Ok, but, can this current damage me? Or my skin?

Anyhow I will only use it as an educational experience for myself, so there will not be any long term exposure. I only wander whether it can burn my hands.

Ok, but, will it really burn my skin? (a small coil I mean). Would you / have you evefr touched it? Does it hurt/burn/itch???

I know, I have a garage with big gate.

I know the power within capacitors and they are completly isolated inside a PVC pipe, and I will raise the primary and secondary the right distance in order to avoid unwanted sparks.

Ok, I will attend whis recommenadtion.

Thanks! Eduardo

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------------- If you want to touch the terminal- hold a key in your hand and touch with the key- just as you would do to avoid a static shock. You will have a larger contact area with your skin and reduce current density at the contact point. The current is small so any shock effects that occur will be due to a small contact area. You will not experience dangerous currents through the body in any case (with the typical air coil Tesla coil) but you can avoid nuisance shocks.

Discharging a high voltage capacitor will be another matter-in that case, don't be the path as discharge currents can be high enough to be lethal.

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Don Kelly

I built a rather large (~.5MV) Tesla coil when I was in high school. The administration was afraid of the thing so wouldn't let me turn it on during the science fair though. :-(

Not a problem, at least with mine. It was energized by a 10kV 10mA oil ignition transformer and used capacitor plates made out of aluminum foil between any window glass I could find. A knife switch tuned the oscillator (maybe that's what scared off the "adults"). ;-) .

Nope. I did the same. Take the 10ma from the primary transformer, drop it by a couple of thousand to one, subtract inefficiencies, and there isn't much left. Yes, I could feel a bite through a glass light bulb, but that was about it. Fluroescents were far more fun though. They'd light from 10' away, if you stroked them right. ;-)

You bet your donkey! Keep away from that thing!

Sure, sorta. A decent TC should be in the very high kHz, but the biggest factor is that they have *very* low current. Don't get across that primary though!

Then don't play with *ANY* electricity.

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i can not speak of direct experience with Tesla coils, however i can promise you that RF burns are extremely painful and persist for a LONG time.

if you brush up aginst a wire or coil with 10 amps of RF running through it you will remember it forever.

if the currents are as low as a typical CB handheld or cell phone you may not notice a thing.

not to mention the smell of cooked skin an the small arcing sound as a small hole appears and begins to throb.

RF burns really really hurt... for weeks

i dont know is what you want to build is like the toys you can buy in a novelty shop. if its bigger i'd say look but dont touch.

if you really want to emulate this guy

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fun but put you affairs in order first.


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"this real? I'm talking about the typical beginner tesla coil: 220V ->

10KV, 0.03A NST -> 10:1000 Tesla coil"

lets see 10,000V times .03A = 300W (i know its oversimplified but lets consider worst case)

another factor to consider might be that this 300W arc gap transmitter is unlikely to meet the FCC part 95 requirements and might possibley wipe out all radio communications in a small town.

and I will raise the primary and secondary the

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Sounds like me. I started building a coil a couple years ago with nice clear acrylic base and all. I tossed the thing in the attic and think about finishing it off one day.

Anyhow, It is a big high voltage RF generator and can pose nasty burn risks. It is hard to tell the performance of your coil from here. There are big and small ones and some that throw short arcs that fade into the air (apparently high frequency) and some that throw long arcs that terminate on a nearby conductive object. John

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