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The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction Guide 
Mitch Tilbury
409-UTCD ... $24.00

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The only book available to cover the Tesla coil in so much detail.  The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction Guide is a one-stop reference covering the theory, design tools, and techniques necessary to create the Tesla coil using modern materials.  This unique resource utilizes Excel spreadsheets to perform calculations and SPICE simulation models on the companion website to enhance understanding of coil performance and operating theory.

Mitch Tilbury's The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction Guide covers just about every and any facet of electrical engineering data ever put together in one package.  If there is anything of importance to this topic that isn't covered, I certainly can't name it.

The guide is written in chapters divided up into various segments pertaining to the design and construction of Tesla coils and resonant high frequency circuits.  Each chapter is provided with a list of references where applicable.  The chapters include superb drawings, sketches, and graphs to illustrate the points being discussed.  Other features offered are a table of contents, list of tables, and a complete index, something which many authors of such publications often fail to provide.  Tilbury even includes a brief, but interesting, history of the life and career of Nikola Tesla.

Want to know something about the theory and construction of spark gaps, mutual inductance, coupling, resonant RLC series circuits, effects of terminal capacitances, current limiting and controls, leakage in inductors and transformers, determining parameters of unmarked transformers, damped oscillations, safety, etc., etc.?  It's all there, and then some.  The book has a companion Web site, which allows the experimenter to follow a course of planning or to resolve difficult equations using the computer files. (You can find this Web site at .)  Although I did not run any of the programs, the author provides instructions for those who wish to take advantage of the information contained at this Web site.

I characterize this publication as an encyclopedia for coilers at all levels of expertise.  Incidentally, there is so much data covered in this book that it defies a review in one reading session.

One thing for sure, this publication is not a set of plans for "How to Build a Tesla Coil" with which experimenters are so familiar.  It is, however, a valuable source of information to which experimenters can repeatedly refer for information on just about any facet of planning and building high-frequency apparatus at high potential.

Harry Goldman
President, Tesla Coil Builders Association


This effort has not been completely my own.  I first became interested in Nikola Tesla in 1987 when I read Margaret Cheney's book Man Out of Time.  Until then I had no idea who he was or how he impacted the last two centuries.  I also had no idea how to generate high voltage.  My experience with high voltage was limited to 240 V.  It would be another six years before I attempted to build my first Tesla coil.  My first attempts were miserable failures.  I was having great difficulty obtaining affordable commercial high-voltage parts through mail order sources and area surplus stores.  My homemade parts were quickly overcome by the electrical stresses found in an operating coil.  I also discovered there was little published information on the subject which was difficult to obtain.  Reproducing the coil designs in these published works met with limited success.

It was during these failures that I committed myself to write my own book on Tesla coils someday.  I would never have gotten on the right track had I not ran into veteran coiler Ed Wingate of the Rochester Area Tesla Coil Builders (RATCB).  I was given Ed's phone number while searching through the surplus stores in Rochester, NY, where he is known for his interest in high-voltage surplus parts.  While in town I apprehensively called Ed and he graciously invited me to his laboratory the following day, as I believe he actually perceived my excitement over the phone lines.  Ed spent most of the next day showing me how real Tesla coils are built and told me about the ARRL's Hamfests and Harry Goldman's "Tesla Coil Builders Association" (TCBA).  I also gratefully received an invitation to Ed's annual Teslathon and have been attending ever since.  After Ed's mentoring I was able to obtain quality surplus commercial equipment for a good" price.  A wealth of coil building information was also becoming available every quarter through the TCBA's newsletter.  The coil plans in the newsletter were reproducible and I was soon generating high voltage.

Nikola Tesla designed the first resonant transformer of high frequency and high potential to become known as the Tesla coil.  Over the next 100 years this coil found many commercial applications but industry and its engineers never credited Tesla.  Although clearly influenced by Tesla these applications were never published, hidden under the guise "proprietary."  It fell to the amateur coiler to advance the technique of generating high voltage using a resonant transformer.  These techniques have been passed to many generations of coilers and have become accepted practice.  Although most of the material in this design guide is my effort to provide conventional formulae and methodology that is referenced to published sources, I would have long ago succumbed to frustration without help from all of the knowledgeable coilers I have met over the years.  The ideas, assistance, and parts they have provided are reflected in this guide.  I consider myself merely the recorder of these ideas.  I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the following veteran coilers for their invaluable contributions to my high voltage experience: Ed Wingate of the Rochester Area Tesla Coil Builders (RATCB), Tom Vales, Richard Hull of the Tesla Coil Builders of Richmond (TCBOR), Harry Goldman of the Tesla Coil Builders Association (TCBA), John Freau, Tony DeAngelis, Steve Roys, Chris Walton and the many coilers I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years.

Coil building is an amateur endeavor, which places emphasis on the quality and aesthetic appeal of the coil, not just on the spark length being produced.  This will always leave challenging opportunities for improvement.  I have even seen coilers reproduce antique looking coils of high quality and visual appeal.  Without a doubt machinists have built the best coils I have seen.  Most of the Tesla coil still requires fabrication of parts and interconnections from stock materials, which makes the machinist a natural coil builder.  Coil building has attracted the attention of many tradesman of vocations too numerous to mention.

I am deeply indebted to the late Richard Little Ed.D., being the first to nurture my ability to think on my own.

Last but not least I am indebted to my wife, Jodi, who provides me with as much spare time as I can possibly get away with.  This requires an extra effort on her part to maintain our lifestyle.  As the high voltage generated increases, so does the noise produced by the spark and she has often bit her tongue while I blasted away in the lab.  She is also very generous with my part allowance, as left to my own device I would have long ago propelled us into insolvency.  Her efforts are in the spirit of Michael Faraday's wife who contributed portions of her wardrobe so he could insulate the conductors in his solenoids and discover electromagnetism.

Mitch Tilbury

Chapter 1. Introduction to Coiling
Chapter 2: Designing a Spark Gap Tesla Coil
Chapter 3: Resonance
Chapter 4. Inductors and Air Core Transformers
Chapter 5. Capacitors
Chapter 6. Spark Gaps
Chapter 7. Control, Monitoring, and Interconnectors
Chapter 8. Using Computer Simulation to Verify Coil Design
Chapter 9. Coil Construction
Chapter 10. Engineering Aids
Appendix A: Bio of Nikola Tesla
Appendix B: Index of Worksheets
Appendix C: Metric Prefixes, Measurement Standards & Symbols

Biographical note

Mitch grew up on a farm in a small town in Minnesota.  A move to Colorado as a teenager found him graduating high school in 1975 and leaving for boot camp in the U.S. Marine Corps.  A twenty year military career as an electronics technician and CH-46 helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Navy brought him to retirement in 1998.  He graduated Summa cum Laude from Southern Illinois University in 1991.  Mitch transitioned to the space industry as a Reliability Engineer and Engineering Analyst where he currently conducts worst case performance, electrical stress, and failure modes and effects analyses, reliability predictions and a host of engineering tasks which assist in spacecraft design.

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