prof_folderol, steampunk

Professor Folderol's Journal

Steampunk, Questionable Science & Obscure Observations

For your perusal: The Folderol Mark IV Ocular Protection Device.
prof_folderol, steampunk

(Originally posted on Steamfashion on May. 25th, 2009 at 11:52 AM.  I really should have posted this here also, but...)

I've just completed a functional version of the protective goggles needed for the further testing of my Entropy Enhancer Death Ray. (Calculations demonstrate a high probability of 'backflash' when enhancing someone's entropy toward room temperature.)

Constructing the goggles of non-magnetic materials was a necessity (owing to the potential for awkwardly large magnetic pulses.)   The brass and copper construction provides excellent protection from Faraday fields as well as ionizing alpha and beta rays. (Not much help for high-energy gamma or Röntgen radiation, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, eh?)

Green glass was chosen as lens material with the object of blocking both the actinic and infra-red photonic wavicles while still providing an adequate visible spectra.

The fittings are a bit crude as yet with hand-bent brass wire for the strap components, but with the concept proven higher-quality manufactured parts may be purchased.


J.J. Folderol

Science Notes (Mad)
prof_folderol, steampunk

04Mar09 -- Dimmer/Motor Drive Schematics  (Schematics updated 05Mar09)

Here is the schematic of the Cooper Wiring Devices Model #600 lamp dimmer I used in my prototypes and which unfortunately failed after 15-30 minutes of cumulative operation.  Some checking showed that the potentiometer failed and the excessive resistance reading of 12K ohms with the pot at minimum indicated that the wiper was probably burned by inductive spikes from the coil.

The failure of the potentiometer also partially explains the erratic firing of the large coil -- each zap of current damaged the potentiometer internals further.

Simply, this unit was not designed for inductive loads and there's no filtering (snubber) to handle the inductive kickback of the coil or the phase reversals that sort of load applies to the circuit.

The following schematic is a motor drive found on the internet.  The original source is unknown.

The big difference here is the addition of a snubber (1uF and 100 ohm resistor) to handle the tansients produced when the coil fires.

I'll be adding the snubber to the Cooper circuit (and replacing the pot( in the near future.  Then I'll give the big coil another try.

15Feb09 -- Safety Note re: High Voltage Arcs and Chemistry

An arc in free air produces ozone and oxides of nitrogen.  The ozone is an irritant but the nitrogen oxides when combined with moisture in the lungs and sinuses produces nitric acid -- much more than a mere irritant!

Assure adequate ventilation when operating Jacob's Ladders and similar devices.

15Feb09 -- Jacob's Ladder:  Development Continues, Prototype #2

The acquisition of a larger automotive ignition coil has allowed me to begin experimentation with a second prototype.  

The larger coil creates a larger (but very unstable!) spark but capable of jumping about twice the gap of the original motorcycle coil. 

The spark from the new coil also appears much hotter than the other -- Thicker, blue-white and considerably louder -- all superb attributes!



 Obviously, some fine tuning will be necessary.

14Feb09 -- Jacob's Ladder:  Some Notes on the Use of Ignition Coils and Lamp Dimmers

In researching the use of ignition coils to provide high voltages in Jacob's Ladders it became quite apparent that the vast majority of experimenters don't comprehend the operational differences between transformers and ignition coils: thus the preponderance of transformer-based devices.

It is also apparent that there is little understanding of the role of the lamp dimmer used to adjust the input to the primary of the ignition coil.

A transformer is essentially a linear device providing a smooth transfer of power from the primary winding to the secondary winding.  Thus, an audio (or other) signal may be reproduced from one side of the transformer to the other.  Variations in turn ratios between primary and secondary will then produce either a step up or step down in either voltage or current.

An ignition coil is inherently non-linear and is designed to temporarily store energy and then release it in a burst of electricity.  This is accomplished by applying a DC current through the primary winding which builds a large magnetic field in in the core of the coil.  When the DC is switched off, the magnetic field collapses and induces a large voltage in the secondary winding of the ignition coil.

The characteristics of the DC pulse applied to the primary of the ignition coil are critical.  It must be of sufficient power and duration to saturate the core with a magnetic field, of fairly short duration to minimize the resistive heating of the coil primary winding and have sufficient off-time to allow the complete discharge of the core's magnetic field.

Electronic lamp dimmers function by varying the conduction angle of the applied AC line voltage with a variable resistor-capacitor timing circuit firing a triac.  The delay between the zero crossing of the of the line voltage and the firing point of the triac determines the conduction angle, so a zero-degree delay will allow full power and a 180-degree delay will allow no power to flow.

The function of the lamp dimmer in these circuits, then, is to provide short conduction angle voltage pulses to the coil primary rather than to vary the AC line voltage applied to the coil as it would seem at first glance.

13Feb09 -- Jacob's Ladder:   Prototype Diagram

A full-size diagram of the prototype Jacob's Ladder I constructed can be copied from my PhotoBucket account:

NOTE: This is a prototype device and no safety provisions were included for builders, operators or innocent bystanders. 

Lethal voltages are present at every point in the circuit and I'm not responsible for any accidents or injuries due to your stupiditity or ignorance.

Everyday Steam & Mad Science
prof_folderol, steampunk

Mad Science -- 11Feb09 -- Cleaning the Stove:   
Toxic Chemicals!  Discovering new lifeforms and destroying emergent species before they can mutate and devour the human race!  Trying to guess what "The Brown Thing" used to be!  Scraping away the residue of countless perilously failed culinary experiments performed by my Mother-In-Law (The Dingbat) prior to her next attempt at genocide!  Thinking of alternate names for a stove: ABI (Animal Bits Immolator), Smoke Alarm Tester, etc.

Who but a Mad Scientist would name their bike MUTATO -- 'the changed one'


Steampunk Style Exhaust -- rivets, rough welds, steel strap....  Constructed from electrical conduit, 4" pancake boxes and  galvanized HVAC ductwork.


Excellent performance, good sound suppression and hasn't melted, exploded or caused a personal injury in over a year!

An Announcement!
prof_folderol, steampunk
I've had a few motorcycle ignition coils sitting around for a couple of years and the need to perform load testing on them resulted in the construction of a Jacob's Ladder.  Four of six of these coils appeared acceptable in testing with normal bench instruments (VOM, L/C tester) but there was no way to verify their behavior under load except on the motorcycle and that was impossible owing to previous modifications.

With this setup I quickly found that one of allegedly 'good' coils had low output and another shut down after about 30 seconds of operation!

The video can't do justice to the lovely  braaaaaaaaaaak, braaaaaaaaaak, braaaaaaaaak as the arc climbs the electrodes and a wonderful popping crackle when it reaches the top (since my camera lacks sound capability)  but the sound of the arc is most impressive in person!

Whilst the current device is a mere a prototype, the larger scheme includes a more appropriate coil with greatly enhanced power output, a cabinet to house the electrical bits and an enclosure for the electrodes for some later high-voltage gaseous chemistry experiments.  (Quite convenient as the more toxic and highly reactive by-products can be contained for later usages.)

For the more sensitive folks, please note that no animals were killed, injured or otherwise horribly mutated in this project but I have great hopes for the device as a bug zapper this summer!

The construction of this Jacob's Ladder from stray parts (although only a prototype) completes my qualification in Mad Science so I now feel both confident and vindicated in adding the 'M.S' qualifier to my name.</div>

Also, be sure to read my upcoming e-book "Party Fun With Lethal Voltages" by Prof. J.J. Folderol, B.S, M.S.

A Steampunk Survey
prof_folderol, steampunk

I ripped this survey off from the Steampunk Fashion blog since it seems a good intro for a first post here.

Name:  Jim J.  (I've stopped publishing my last name due to the pleas for bail money from 'old friends'.)

Home:  Leander, Texas (a bit north of Austin)

Why do you like Steampunk?:   Where else may one find the convergence of Victorian elegance & opulence, a 'what if' appreciation of the permutations of history, a strongly developed DIY ethic with a genuine appreciation for the hand made, a love of the absurd and incongruous combined with a non-malignant dystopianism, an appreciation of the concept that all things are possible no matter how improbable, the intellectual curiosity to experiment and innovate, the courage to publicly present oneself in divergent mode of dress despite a society that's growing increasingly intolerant... and all done with panache, elan and genuine good humor.

What's not to love about Steampunk?

Favorite bit of clothing:   Electrically heated vest for cold weather motorcycling.

Favorite accessory:  Electric gloves. (see above.)

Cake or Pie?:   Yes, please!  And thank you kindly, ma'am!  (Have you ever noticed that the most dangerous sociopaths have the nicest manners? Do donuts qualify as cake?  What if they're filled?)

Best music in the world is?:   Everything I haven't tried on the harmonica.  When folks say "You're really BAD on that thing!" they don't mean it in a good way...  (Someone once said I put the 'harm' in harmonica... but only once.)

Do you have a Persona?:   Why, yes as a matter of fact: Professor Folderol

If so, who are they and what's their story:  Professor Folderol is a Summa Cum Lugnut graduate of Miskatonic University's prestigious DeBacle School of Engineering.  Following graduation, he became a teaching assistant and researcher while pursuing his Masters degree.  He was seated in the Atheric Energy Studies Department as a full professor after three years, immediately following the disappearance of two of the faculty members -- not a particularly notable event at a school with such a traditionally high mortality rate.  But I digress...

While the Professor was universally despised by the students for his exceedingly acerbic wit and a penchant for particularly vicious exam questions (the marks of an excellent educator!) he quit his post after several disappearances and a couple of rather ghastly deaths at the University, not wishing to remain at a school whose reputation had been so tainted by the horrible events which transpired there.

It should be noted here that most of the rumors of Professor Folderol's involvement in these events are patently untrue!  These base canards by the faculty and police resulted purely from the spiteful innuendo of jealous and inferior minds.  I would also point out that the good Professor was never formally charged with any of the disappearances or the later gruesome discoveries on campus.

Personally, I feel the Professor is not the amoral and sociopathic madman some suggest: merely a misunderstood explorer of the lesser-known byways of science.

I was thinking 'Doctor' Folderol would be too ostentatious but I thought something in the Mad Scientist vein would be a good fit as I do love a good experiment now and again, so I chose 'Professor.'

Actually, my most recent large-scale experiment was the extraction of Orbitally Rearranged Molecular Elements (ORME: q.v.) from the local limestone.  Unfortunately, large quantities of limestone in combination with lots of acid produce huge volumes of carbon dioxide gas.  Fortunately, the huge cloud of toxic gas killed off the spider infestation in the garage which resulted from my spider farm being shattered by a ricochet from a magnetic driver BB gun I was developing.

(The spider farm was a bust -- they kept eating each other rather than running around their little treadmills and producing spools of silk -- and the solenoid driver wouldn't accelerate a BB to hypersonic speeds as hoped.  Most disappointing!)

BUT... I'm currently gathering parts for a high-voltage plasma experiment that looks promising.  The last time I tried this I burned off my eyebrows (ergo: goggles = good!) and scorched my workbench a bit.  The shrapnel was surprisingly low-velocity so no serious damage there, ha ha! 

This time around I think I've got the containment system figured out (and I've also obtained an asbestos welding blanket) but I'm having some trouble with the mercury vaporizer and metering system. (Hot mercury vapor can be terribly reactive!)  When it's all working, I should be able to fire a small, high-velocity plasma torus with an effective range of 100 yards. (At least that's the preliminary design goal.)

If anything goes wrong, I should have sufficient undamaged parts left over to build quite a nice Jacob's ladder.  With minor modification it can be used for some really interesting gaseous chemistry experiments!  You'd be amazed what a 50,000 volt arc can accomplish in the correct mixture of gasses!

But, I digress...

What does the steampunk style test tell you and does it ring true to you?:   Oddly, it came out 'Mad Scientist.'  I'd really hoped for 'Handsome, Dashing, and Extremely Studly Gentleman Adventurer' but I think my swash unbuckled a few years back.

Are you on the Facebook group?:    Is that where they have the mug shots?

Now post photos so we know what you look like and can hug you when we see you on the street:
I'm regretfully unable to post a photo of myself at this time since my camera is somewhat indisposed owing to a minor mishap involving a bore sighting laser and a large fresnel lens.

Would it be acceptable to post an older photo of a DIY muffler and exhaust pipe I constructed from electrical parts and air conditioning ductwork?  I'm really quite proud of this as it hasn't exploded, melted or injured anyone in almost a year!

On a more somber note, I have to avoid excessive hugging due to a rather distressing back injury resulting from the admixture of hydrazine, nitromethane and a leaf blower (a most unfortunate combination!) but please feel free to show yourself and gesticulate wildly should we meet.

Does this help you out?:  Well, boisterous gesticulation is often amusing...

Are you a good egg?:  I'm really much better since the therapy. 

Pimp your stuff:   I believe that's illegal here in Texas and I need to remain 'below the radar', so to speak.  (It's a minor issue... nothing to be concerned about.)


Did I mention I enjoy a bit of leg-pulling from time to time?  ;^D


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