5A50.10-Wimshursts Machine

5a5010 wimshurst_machine_1

5a5010 wimshurst_machine_2

Watch this demo     Explanation Video   MIT video

Description: This machine is used to create electric charge and store it in capacitors (Leyden jars).
When the voltage is high enough for the charge to overcome the air gap at the electrodes, electrostatic breakdown occurs and a spark is seen and heard.


  • Wimshursts Machine
  • Metal “Y” Wand

Setup Procedure:

  1. Attach both belts (the one near the electrodes should be twisted to make a figure 8).
  2. Set the electrodes to have a spark gap between 1-2 inches (any larger and sparks may not occur at all). The smaller the air gap, the higher the frequency of discharges.
  3. Test to make sure spark gap is not too large.
  4. Discharge across the electrodes, and then across both capacitors using the metal “Y” wand.
  5. When the professor is done with the Wimshurts machine, make sure to take the belts off.

Demonstration Procedure:

  1. Use a very slow acceleration when starting to turn the crank. If you go to fast, the gear system may warp and stop working.
  2. Once the voltage of the capacitors is enough to overcome electrostatic breakdown at the electrodes, discharges will start to occur.
  3. After you are done, discharge across the electrodes, and then across both capacitors using the metal “Y” wand.

High Voltage
Use caution when using this machine. High voltages are produced.
Always discharge the capacitors after use by touching the metal “Y” wand to both electrodes and both capacitors.
When discharging, do not touch any part of the metal on the “Y” wand (common mistake). If you do, you risk getting a large shock.