|Who's the nut running this web site??
Your host, Bert Hickman (picture taken a LONG time ago...)
Hi! I'm Bert Hickman.
live in Woodridge, a far western suburb of Chicago, Illinois in the USA.
I've always been interested in science and engineering. I built
first Tesla coil while in the 6th grade, using plate glass capacitors
a model-T spark coil. I progressed to an 811A vacuum tube system with a
coil (from an article by Harold P. Strand in Popular Electronics
magazine), and then to a Neon Sign Transformer (NST) powered Tesla coil
the 7th grade.
I built a 2 kW vacuum tube CW coil with three paralleled 211A/VT4-C
surplus triodes while in high school... and survived! Those were in the
ole days" when you could get all manner of really great transmitting
tubes and HV equipment
very cheaply on the military surplus market. After graduating with a
University of Illinois in Urbana, I abstained from high-voltage and
coiling for another 25
years. I suddenly got bitten by the "coiling bug" in 1995 after
a Bulletin Board System (BBS) that had an area dedicated to Tesla
Coiling (back in pre-Internet
Although trained as an electrical engineer, I had been in management
25 years, completely obsoleting me for over 3 dog lifetimes. In 2002, I
retired, and the only "hard"
engineering I do at present is for Tesla Coils, Quarter Shrinking,
Lichtenberg Figures, or engineering consulting. I'm presently a member
Electrostatics Society of America (ESA), American Institute of Physics
(AIP), American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
My last Tesla Coil was had a 10"
diameter secondary. and stood about 4 feet high. It that was housed in a screened-in, unheated patio, which made for
chilly "coiling" in the Winter! The tank capacitor was converted
a pair of home-brew Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) trash can caps to
better performing, and physically much smaller set of Maxwell pulse
My wife, Sandy, helped cut much of the LDPE and foil sheets originally
used in the
can caps! Powered by two 15 kV/60 mA NST's and a 0.02 uF 80 kV tank
the system used AC resonant charging and a combination of static and
spark gaps to generate 65" streamers. While the system was designed to
longer sparks, the size of the room limited any further power
in a residential area, and unfortunately not all of my neighbors share
passion about loud noises and long sparks, so running the system
was not an option.
The Quarter Shrinker also
occupies the same room, and is positioned out of reach of the streamers.
I eventually sold the Tesla Coil to a friend in Maryland, but I still
have the Quarter Shrinker. Today, most of my energies are focused on
making and understanding the underlying physics of Captured Lightning
(Lichtenberg figures created inside clear acrylic plastic). I still
enjoy giving demonstrations to local groups, budding young scientists,
and local HV enthusiasts. I also do some research into high voltage,
gaseous breakdown, and electromagnetic theory. My personal
technical library now exceeds 7,000 volumes, most of which are out of
and many of which are now very rare. I am very fortunate in having an
patient, and loving spouse, Sandy, two great kids, Lesley and
David, and four beautiful grandchildren, Rowan, Ethan, Carter, and Logan. Some
of my other hobbies include rock, mineral and fossil collecting,
and mushroom hunting (yes, to eat!).
Some local wild mushrooms from Fall 2001
"Bears Head" (Hericium coralloides) and "Chicken of the Woods" (Laetiporus sulphureus)
And yes, they taste like chicken!
Yellow and black morels found locally in Spring 2003
Morels are just about the best-tasting mushrooms you can find. Spring came late and was cool and
wet - ideal conditions for getting large morels.
Some Other Places to Visit:
|Tesla Info Center
|More Arcs & Sparks
|Get Shrunken Coins
|Get Lichtenberg Figures|
Stoneridge Engineering LLC Home