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Electricity and Life

The Construction of High-Frequency Apparatus for Medical and Lecture Use

By Frederick Finch Strong, M. D.

Lecturer on Electro-therapeutics, Tufts Medical School, Boston



In the March number of The Electrical Experimenter the author pointed out that high-frequency currents, when properly tuned, acted as "Vital Boosters," increasing all the functions of the body and helping it to resist and throw off disease. This vitalizing effect is not due to the mere liberation of heat in the tissues, for it is produced by the very high-voltage ("Tesla") currents as well as by the heavy amperage ("D'Arsonval") currents from which the thermic effects are usually obtained.


When the writer demonstrated the first therapeutic Tesla Coil and the first Vacuum Electrode - (in 1896 before a Boston Medical Society) - and suggested that this method was destined to come into general use as a vitalizing agent, he was laughed at by his colleagues; yet today there is scarcely a well equipt physician's office in this country or in Europe that does not contain some form of therapeutic high-frequency apparatus. Even the barber-shops of the present time have their small "Violet Ray" outfits: and these are not by any means "fakes" for they produce real results, such as the relief of headache, neuralgia, skin diseases, et cetera.

Unlike other forms of electricity, these currents may be administered to patients with perfect safety. In twenty years' experience in electro-therapeutics the author has never known of harmful results from the use of Tesla Currents applied thru a vacuum electrode. The heavy amperage ("D'Arsonval") currents, owing to their deep thermic effects, should be used only under the direction of a physician. The writer is a firm believer in the use of Tesla currents in the home, if each member of the family could receive ten-minute daily treatments from a small high-frequency apparatus, the general standard of health would he greatly increased. This has been demonstrated in hundreds of cases.


The author has interviewed a number of the more prominent authorities on medical electricity and they agree as to the vitalizing effects resulting from daily high frequency treatment.

Anyone who possesses a 1/4 or 1/2 K.W. wireless transformer, operating on 110 volt, 60 cycle A.C., can easily construct an efficient high-frequency outfit for medical or lecture use. The complete equipment includes a .01 microfarad glass plate condenser, Tesla coil, inductance, spark gap and electrodes.

The Tesla coil is made as follows: (Fig. 3) On a paper mailing tube 2 1/2" diam. and 14" long wind 480 turns of No. 34 D.C.C. copper magnet wire. Set up the tube in the lathe, apply a coat of orange shellac, spin on the wire, apply a second coat of shellac and allow to dry thoroly. The winding occupies twelve inches, leaving a margin of one inch on each end of the tube.

Leads of light auto (ignition) cable are soldered to the ends of the winding. A strip of waxed, corrugated paper M, 5" wide is wrapt around the center of the secondary tube and on this is wound the primary, consisting of four turns of heavy high tension auto cable, and thoroly secured by tape; at least a foot of cable should project from each end of the winding to form the primary leads. Place the coil in a wax tight box made without nails and embed it in a mixture of four parts rosin and one part beeswax. It is safer to boil the coil for an hour in the insulating mixture before placing it in the box. Coils made in this way by the writer are still giving good service after fifteen years of use.

The greatest source of trouble in a medical high-frequency outfit is the spark gap; the one described below is the outcome of many years experiment. If properly made it will run daily for months without deterioration. The spark takes place between two pieces of brass rod 1 1/4" diam. and 3 3/4" long, turned and tapt as shown.

The sparking surfaces are turned in annular grooves with a 60 degree tool. If your lathe has an automatic cross-feed you may set it to twenty turns to the inch, and turn a spiral groove instead of the annular rings. After finishing, the brass pieces are heavily silver plated and mounted in the usual manner as shown. (Fig. 4.) For currents over 1/4 K.W., a plate of silver should be soldered to the brass before turning the grooves. This gap will also give greater efficiency in wireless work as compared with the usual stationary gap.

The connections for the various parts of the apparatus are shown in Fig. 5. An important feature is the use of an external inductance or tuning coil "d" in series with the Tesla coil. It consists of 32 turns of No. 8 bare copper wire, wound on a frame 8" diam., with 1/4" between turns. Edgewise wound flat copper strip is better but more expensive.

(d Fig. 8.) This coil when used in series with the Tesla primary enables us to tune the oscillating system in perfect resonance when the capacity of the patient's body is added to the Tesla terminal. Effects are produced which are impossible with any other method. The beautiful High-frequency Effluve or brush-discharge, so valuable in treating pulmonary diseases, and which so few modern high-frequency machines can produce, is obtainable by the use of this series inductance. It may also be used, by short-circuiting the Tesla primary, as an auto-trans former from which may be derived heavy "D'Arsonval" and "Diathermic" currents as described in the next article of this series.

For stage demonstration and public lecture work the writer employs a large high-frequency resonator which produces a tree-like discharge three feet in diameter (Fig. 1), and gives a heavy arc over two feet in length. (Fig. 2.) This shows remarkable efficiency when it is considered that the resonator is excited by a "Type E" transformer drawing only 1 K.W. and a condenser of but .01 m.f. capacity. A small rotary spark gap is used such as is supplied by the E. I. Co. This result is made possible by the use of the separate inductance in series with the resonator primary (exactly the same as that described in connection with the therapeutic apparatus) (d Fig, 8). The writer believes his resonator gives the most spectacular discharge ever obtained from 1 kilowatt of energy.

Ordinary plate condensers are used, made from 8 X 10 inch negative glass, coated on both sides with tin- foil 6 x 8 inches (a Fig. 7). Six pairs of plates assembled into a unit and boiled in wax give a capacity of .01 m.f. For safety it is better to employ four of these sections connected in pairs of .02 m.f. each (b Fig. 7). To run this resonator at full power for long periods of time it would be safer to use a series multiple condenser consisting of three sections of .03 m.f. each in series. Such a condenser would contain 108 - 8 x 10 inch plates, and would be expensive, bulky and very heavy. For this reason the writer has found it much more convenient to use a single 12 plat (.01 m.f.) condenser across the transformer secondary and to replace it when it punctures. The large resonator was operated for six months in lecture and experimental work before a condenser section broke down.

The cone for the secondary of the large resonator is of heavy paperboard and was built for the author by Bicknell and Fuller of Boston. Its dimensions (see Fig. 6) were suggested by Mr. Earle L. Ovington, the cone being similar in shape to those used by Mr. Ovington in the New York Electrical show several years ago. Any amateur can make a cone of this kind by superimposing strips of heavy paper, soaked in paste, over a wooden framework. The secondary winding consists of 400 turns of No. 27 D.C.C. copper magnet wire. Two parallel strands of wire are wound onto the cone, the adjacent turns in contact; after winding, one strand of wire is removed, leaving a space equal to the diameter of the wire between each of the 400 turns. The cone and winding is then treated with several coats of "Armalac" (ordinary shellac will not answer).

The primary consists of five turns of thin copper ribbon 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch paperboard strips being placed between the turns. The diameter of the coil is 24". When completed it is taped and rotated in a pan of melted wax until thoroly impregnated. The terminal shown in the photographs is made from a large brass oilcan, the stem being removed and replaced by a 3" brass "bed-ball." The terminal is not attached to the cone but simply rests on its upper surface in contact with the end of the secondary wire. The primary and secondary are separately supported by square wooden blocks; the coupling is rather loose, the bottom of the resonator being at least two inches above the primary. The lower end of the secondary coil is attached to the inner primary terminal and grounded.

Perfect resonance is obtained by varying the number of turns in the inductance coil in series with the primary. (Fig. 8.) This tuning system enables us to perform many brilliant experiments otherwise impossible, such as illuminating wires stretched across a lecture hall, lighting an inverted umbrella, etc. Some new and very spectacular experiments with this large resonator will be described and illustrated in an article in next month's "Electrical Experimenter," entitled "Methods of employing high-frequency currents in medical and lecture work."

The author is greatly indebted to Mr. O. K. Luscolm, for advice and assistance which made possible the successful construction of the large resonator.



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