DIY Tesla Coils

Nicola Tesla has to be one of my favorite of the historical scientists that influences Steampunk as we know it at present. Tesla, for a number of reasons, (both deservedly and not) embodies the quintessential mad scientist. Many of his proposed ideas and inventions were so far ahead of his time that people were unable to comprehend them, and its quite likely that some of his inventions still remain out of our collective awareness because we either can’t understand his plans or he decided his inventions were simply too destructive for us to be privy to his discoveries.

One piece of technology we do know how to create and operate, however, is the Tesla Coil, which he created in 1891. The coil is a high voltage transformer for alternating current.

Against my better judgment, I’d like to point you to two tutorials for DIY Tesla coils. As a preliminary warning, don’t come crying to me if you destroy your nervous system putting one of these together. These things are not toys so be careful. Please. I’m not responsible for you zapping yourself or your friends if that’s what happens.

So without further ado or reservation, you can find two great resources for DIY Tesla Coils as Instructables and at Deep Fried Neon. Hopefully you can find one to be helpful as you construct your own coil.

So have fun, be safe, and let me know if you construct one and what you decide to use it for!

Lost Lightning: The Missing Secrets of Nikola Tesla

Today, I have for your viewing pleasure, an interesting documentary on one of Steampunk’s most beloved scientists, Nikola Tesla. This documentary is a basic introduction to Tesla’s life and legacy, and if you can get past the attempts to slant the information as some kind of conspiracy for his modern day obscurity, it’s actually relatively informative.

I think it’s safe to assume, given the incredible breadth of Tesla’s genius, that we do not at present know about all of his inventions and the power they contained.  Fortunately, Tesla had a deep personal belief in his duty to protect humanity from the destructive capacities of his inventions and technologies, and worked to ensure that humanity wouldn’t manipulate his discoveries into weapons. He’s an inventor with a true conscience.

Tesla: Master of Lightning

To continue my little celebration of all things Tesla, I’d like to present to you all this evening something a bit more pertaining to the life of the influential scientist than cocktails, music and movies (though all of those things are very fun indeed).

This documentary, Tesla: Master of Lightning, is an excellent PBS documentary about Tesla and his inventions. I’ve embedded the first section of the film below, but you can view the entire thing in segments by clicking on the embedded film twice, which will take you to YouTube proper.

You can check out more information on the film by visiting PBS’s website. It’s apparently outdated by the fact that it announces that the documentary will next be aired in 2004… darn, missed it. Still, it does have some interesting information including resources for teachers to support the documentary.

Happy Birthday, Nikola Tesla

Today marks the 154th birthday of one of the most Steampunk of history’s inventors, Nikola Tesla. To celebrate the birthday of the man who became the quintessential mad scientist and whose life has such an incredible influence on Steampunk (and Dieselpunk), I’ve a number of Tesla themed goodies for your personal enjoyment.

First, to get this party started, we need some drinks! To help us concoct some crazy, Teslas inspired beverages, I’ve turned to Tesla Lives!, to help us make some “Teslatinis”:

Tesla Lives! Cocktail
Submitted by Claudia Egan (Nikola Tesla Enthusiast), Milwaukee
2 oz part Slivovitz
2 oz black cherry soda
Pop rocks
Lime wedge
Glow in the Dark Ice Cube

The Death Ray
Submitted by The Palms Bar and Bistro, Milwaukee
1 part Jagermeister
1 part Goldschlager
1 part Dark Rum
1 Part Sambuca

Electric Blue
Submitted by MOCT Bar, Milwaukee
1 part Island Ble Pucker
1 Part Kettle One Citron
Lemon Juice
Simple Syrum

Click here to check out more information about their current contest to discover the latest Teslatini recipe and to submit your own creation!

For tonight’s musical entertainment, I’d like to suggest Clockwork Cabaret’s podcast celebrating Tesla’s birthday from 2008, which you can download here.  Clockwork Cabaret’s weekly show “Music O’ Gears for Steampunk Ears” occurs every Monday at 11pm EST on WCOM 103.5 Carrboro/Chapel Hill. You can listen live online at, or pick up their podcasts here if you are an old lady like me that has to wake up very early for work.

After we’ve had drinks and music, how about a film that includes Tesla in its casting? For such entertainment, might I be so bold as to suggest The Prestige, a film starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, and features a Nikola Tesla played by David Bowie (win!)? This is an incredible Steampunk movie with lots of dark and mystifying elements as two magicians attempt to outdo each other to create the ultimate illusion.

Sounds like an excellent night! Here’s to a night of revelry to honor the scientist history should have never forgotten, Tesla!