By Timothy Raneyâ€¦Bald Engineer Guy with Glasses
This meeting was another annual High Energy Amateur Science (HEAS) Conference hosted by our groupâ€™s founder, Mr. Richard Hull. When our group was known as the â€œTesla Coil Builders of Richmond (TCBOR) over 10 years ago, we called these gatherings â€œTeslathons.â€ Even today, someone will demonstrate a Tesla coil high frequency oscillator and amaze attendees with its lightning-like sparks.
I attended this all-day event â€“ it was very enjoyable as usual. We call it a conference, but itâ€™s a lot of fun â€“ not at all like going to a formal conference at work. Many attend a Friday night dinner and informal gathering afterwards, but everything really kicks-off Saturday morning with breakfast at a great local restaurant, â€œGeorge & Anthonyâ€™s Steak Houseâ€. Afterwards, we drive over to Richard Hullâ€™s house and start the â€œmini-Science Festâ€ and attendees start selling and feverishly buying all manner of scientific equipment and related materials. Thereâ€™s always a mix of old, new and unusual items. A lot of â€œcool stuffâ€ changes hands.
We had many interesting talks and demonstrations too. Some of the more interesting demonstrations were Richard Hullâ€™s deuterium â€“ deuterium Farnsworth type Fusor, a large Van de Graaff electrostatic generator and a Marx type high voltage DC generator with its large (8â€ long) spark. With a 30kV input, the Marx steps-up the potential much higher by charging HV capacitors in parallel and discharging them in series via spark gap switches. Another demonstration, done by Tom V, was a circa 1890 open-frame DC motor â€“ very cool. A real museum specimen. He found it on eBay. Unfortunately, I wasnâ€™t there to see Tesla coil and other demonstrations later in the day. Though the big event for a good part of the day is the Science Fest.
This is one of those events where you can find a circa 1960 â€œAtomic Energy Labâ€ in its original box, Edison era incandescent lamps and vacuum pumps. Uranium ore? Sure. Geiger counters, power supplies, oscilloscopes and old laboratory equipment? Of course. You can find mineral specimens, metals like titanium and tungsten too. Tools, hardware and vacuum tubes? You bet. One guy bought a high school type Van de Graaff generator for $30.
In comparison, my purchases were very mundane â€“ some would say â€œpainfully boringâ€. For example, I spent a whopping $59 for various items. For starters, I bought a large spool of #22 AWG magnet wire from Wayne; a linear slide from Lou and tin bars (0.8 lbs.) from Larry H. I also bought a pocket level ($1) from Steve R. Bill F gave me some 0.005â€ thick nickel sheet and a black plastic foam block. Larry H gave me a good quantity of plastic plate stock (Delrin and acrylic).
Incidentally, the Atomic Energy Lab was in good condition too. It was exactly what my parents gave me one Christmas many years ago. They bought it from Edmund Scientific. I still have the radium pinhead from that lab â€“ a tiny spec of radium compound on the head of a pin pressed into a cork coated with zinc sulfide for making a spinthariscope. What were the most interesting items from my perspective? Thatâ€™s a very difficult question to answer. Maybe the petrified dinosaur vertebra. How about the Atomic Energy Lab? â€“ My favorite. Interestingly, the spool of magnet wire was exactly what I was wanted â€“ I needed #22 gauge to fill the gap between the #14 and #30 wire I had in stock.
I didnâ€™t do a demonstration or â€œshow and tellâ€ this time. I just talked with folks and looked at all the cool stuff for sale. I had good conversations with John F at breakfast and Tidewater Bob. I talked to Bill K at length. He asked me to explain how to machine a flat steel disc to replace the equivalent disc missing from a recently acquired Central Scientific thermoelectric magnet. I told him the technique of lapping the steel disc, i.e., by using flat granite plate with successively finer abrasive paper with light oil as a lubricant. I then mentioned an important detail – moving the steel plate in a â€œfigure eightâ€ pattern on the abrasive paper â€“ this technique compensates for the dominant hand exerting more force on one side of the work-piece. I also talked to Dave R and Warren. The conversation with Warren revolved around magnetizers and re-magnetizing magnets. He has a magnetizer that can produce a 65kgauss flux (6.5-tesla). This flux density is enough to magnetize the rare earth alloy magnets or any other magnet alloy for that matter.
I think we had at least 60 attendees this year â€“ maybe more. People came from New York, California and places in between. Many stay all day Saturday and well into Sunday morning. We always have a good time, with great conversations covering many scientific disciplines, along with exciting demonstrations. We hold this event the first Saturday in October each year. And with advent of truly amazing electronic calendars embedded in our very own computers, I can say without hesitation or doubt weâ€™ll have the next HEAS conference on 05 October 2013. As Nikola Tesla or Philo T. Farnsworth might say, â€œHoly cow, thatâ€™s truly amazingâ€.