[TCML] Comments please: Book review
chip at pupman.com
Tue Jan 15 20:47:37 MST 2008
Ok, English majors and others...
Here is my review of "The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction
Guide". I got the book as a review copy, read as much as I could and
wrote a review of the book. Here is the review below.
I'd appreciate any comments ranging from typographical errors to major
questions raised and left unanswered.
Thanks in advance.
Review of Mitch Tilbury's "The Ultimate Tesla Coil Design and Construction Guide"
In 2007, on my birthday, I recieved an email from Bettina Faltermeier of
McGraw-Hill asking me if I would be interested in reviewing this book and
posting the information about it on my website. With the prospect of a minor
amount of notoriety and a free book, I naturally said yes.
I promptely received the book and began reading it.
Safety should be always be the first topic when talking tesla coils. Therefore I
will start the review with this subject as well. Understanding potential
sources of danger in tesla coils is the first step toward safety.
After a few pages of introductory material, the author spends six pages
on safety issues, discussing various ways that one may hurt themselves
or others and how to avoid such injuries. I felt that the topic was covered
to a suitable degree.
Over all, I am quite happy with the book. I did not arrive at this feeling
immediately but rather after thinking about the many aspects of tesla coils that
the author had to cover in order to make his book complete.
To fully appreciate this book, one must understand the audience to which this
book is directed. It is my opinion that this book is directed towards
intermediate to advanced coilers or those with a background in electrical
engineering or physics.
Like a college physics book, this book is rather dense. It's not light
reading that you can pick up after a long hard day and lose yourself. Rather,
it's a very complete, well researched book that covers every aspect of making a
tesla coil. If one steps back and looks at the book as a whole, they can easily
see the huge amount of effort expended by Mr. Tilbury in making his creation as
complete and in-depth as possible.
Beginning coilers should purchase this book as well but with the understanding
that much of it will not yet be accessible. Once they have progressed beyond their
first coil and have the desire to improve their coil and their understanding of how
they work and how to design better coils in the future, they will find this book
a great reference.
One of the things that I appreciate most about this book is that it is
cross-referenced and well organized. It is easy to find the section,
equation, or graph that will answer your question.
I must confess too that as I started reading the book I had hoped to read it
from cover to cover. However, I only got as far as page 156. By
this time I relized that I'd better get this review done before
McGraw-Hill started thinking I wasn't going to uphold my end of the
deal. However, I feel that I can still evaluate it based on what I
While I highly recommend this book, my one beef is that the author seems
to have conceded defeat when it comes to making one's own capacitors.
As the author states, "The cost of new commercial high-voltage capacitors
... can present a design challenge for even the experienced coiler".
Much discussion has taken place on the tesla coil mailing list as well as
research by many amateurs into the most economical way to manufacture
home-made capacitors. The current favorite, the MMC or multi-mini
capacitor, seems to be nearly as good as any commercial capacitor.
It's robustness is scalable and my experience is that it's superior to
Many years ago there was a group purchase of purpose-built tesla coil
capacitors from Plastic Capacitors Inc. The voltage rating was higher
than the 14,400 volt distribution transformer that I was using at
the time. I was using a rotary gap and running around 300-500 breaks
per second. The capacitor was a sealed unit without any venting or
safety pressure relief. It was halloween and I had the coil running on
the top of my garage. As it ran, it went silent. In the time it took
for me to wonder what was going on, a tremendous explosion followed.
The capacitor case had blown up. Thinking it was just that one capacitor
that was defective, I swapped in another capacitor of the same model.
Within less than a minute it too blew up. That was over $300 worth of
capacitors gone in an evening.
Later I built an MMC for $240 and it's been much more robust, taking
all that the earlier capacitors took without any problem. I've run
the 4 electrode rotary gap at 5000 rpm without incident and the
capacitor is still in good shape.
The author goes into depth about derating capacitors and calculating
their expected life spans and voltage ratings. However, given the
cost and success or failure rate, I feel safe in saying that one can
build their own capacitors that are comparable to or better than
commercial capacitors on the market for slightly lower cost.
I feel that the author could have spent a bit more of his energy on
making one's own capacitors.
That said, I still feel that this book is well worth the price and
should be on the bookshelf of any coiler who wants such a wealth of
information in one volume
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