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A Simple Whimshurst Influence Machine

By Melville Fisk

The static machine described herein is made of simple materials, is easy to construct and the work does not require the use of special tools. A similar machine built by the writer produces a violent and steady spark discharge about an inch or more in length, without the use of Leyden jars.

The plates are two twelve-inch phonograph records of the disk type. Select two which have one side blank. The tinfoil sectors are cemented to the smooth side. It is not necessary to varnish the plates. The bosses that keep the plates parallel on the shaft are small cotton spools, that have a hole in them the size of the one in the record. Fit the spools up with brass tube bearing and fasten to the plates with glue.

A thin cloth or paper washer inserted between the boss and plate will help the glueto hold. Rubber tire cement will hold better if at hand. The shaft on which the plates revolve extends out 3/4 of an inch on either side of the wooden standards; it is held stationary by a cotter pin inserted in a hole bored down thru the top of the standard. Glue a cardboard washer 1 1/2 inches in diameter to the inside of one of the plates. The base and standard are made of wood in the manner illustrated.

Make the double driving pulley from a large spool such as wire is sold on. Fasten it to the shaft by drilling thru the shank and shaft and inserting a cotter pin or screw. Be sure and make the grooves in the pulleys deep enough to hold the belts securely. Rubber bands tied together make very good driving belts. Tie them with strong linen thread and leave a half inch of slack between each band. As the plates are to revolve in opposite directions, cross one belt.

The neutralizing rods are made from 1/8 inch copper wire bent to shape. They are pivoted on the protruding ends of the shaft by a short piece of tubing soldered to the center. Press the tubing slightly together at the open end to make it grip firmly. The brushes are made from very fine copper strands secured from wire such as is used in receiver cords (gilt tinsel). Cut about twelve strands two inches long; tie a knot in the center, and fold over so that all ends are together. The brushes are then slipt into the small tubes soldered onto the ends of the rods and are fastened by squeezing the end of the tube together.

Make the collectors as per sketch, using heavy copper wire. The points are long phonograph needles, fastened to the arms by drilling and then soldering. The needles should be slanted slightly in the direction in which the plate rotates. The supports are brass tubing, soldered on.

The discharging arms are of brass rod of a size that will fit in the collector supporting tubes. Make a small dent in each tube so that the rods do not slip all of the way thru. Fit balls to the ends of the rods by boring, then pegging and soldering. The jars are used as supports only. Varnish them inside and out and fit with stoppers, bored to hold the collector tubes. A simple stopper is made by cutting a large wire spool in half and then winding paper around the shank to make a fit with the jar. Before using soak the stopper in melted paraffin. Further insulation can be obtained by placing pieces of a broken record under the jars, glue the jars to the base.

In operation the neutralizing rods should be at right angles to each other, the best angle, however, can easily be found by trial. The brushes should touch the plates lightly - no pressure is necessary. The collector points should be about 1/4 inch away from plates. Be sure that they are all the same distance away or else some will not contribute to the collecting. The distance between the plates should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

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