How to Build Your Own Jacobs Ladder: A Step-by-Step Guide


If you are someone who loves to build and create, then making a Jacobs Ladder is a perfect project for you. Jacobs Ladders are fascinating electrical devices that create a visual spectacle. They consist of two long electrodes, usually made of thin strips of wood or metal, that travel upward in a ladder-like motion. The high voltage used in this project can be dangerous, so it is important to follow clear instructions and take proper safety precautions.

To make your own Jacobs Ladder, you will need a few basic materials and tools. The most important component is the transformer, which is what makes the ladder work. You will also need wires, electrodes, and a power source, typically a high voltage power supply. It is important to work in a well-ventilated area and wear protective gear, such as gloves and safety goggles.

The assembly of the Jacobs Ladder is fairly simple. Start by creating a backing for the electrodes, either using ribbons or thin strips of wood. Attach the electrodes to the backing and make sure they are positioned close enough together to create a spark. Connect the electrodes to the transformer and plug it in. As the voltage increases, you will start to see the plasma form between the electrodes, creating the ladder effect.

One important detail to note is that the Jacobs Ladder should never be touched while it is operating. The high voltages involved can cause serious injury or even be fatal. It is best to observe from a safe distance and enjoy the visual display. Take photos or record videos to capture the experience!

Creating a Jacobs Ladder can be an exciting project that combines science and creativity. It is an opportunity to learn about electricity and how transformers work. Just remember to always prioritize safety and follow instructions carefully. With the right materials, tools, and patience, you can build your own Jacobs Ladder and have a fascinating electrical display to enjoy.

How To Build A Jacob’s Ladder

Building a Jacob’s Ladder can be a fun and exciting craft project, but it is important to take proper precautions to avoid injury. A Jacob’s Ladder is a device that uses high voltage to create a visual display of plasma arcs that appear to climb upwards. In this how-to guide, we will show you step-by-step details on building your own Jacob’s Ladder.


  • A transformer
  • Two pieces of wire
  • Thin ribbons


  • Wire cutters

Step 1: Start by creating the sides of the ladder. Cut two pieces of wire, each measuring about half a foot long.

Step 2: Bend each wire over at a right angle, leaving about 4 inches of wire extending from the bend. These will be the ends that will hold the plasma arcs.

Step 3: Connect the wires to the transformer. Strip the insulation from the ends of the wires, and connect one wire to each of the transformer’s output terminals. Make sure to follow the proper safety precautions, as working with high voltage can be dangerous.

Step 4: Peel back the thin ribbons from their spool and fold them in half. These ribbons will act as the plasma arcs.

Step 5: Place the folded ribbons in between the two wires. Make sure they are centered and secure.

Step 6: Plug in the transformer and turn it on. The high voltage should cause the plasma arcs to form between the wire ends, creating the Jacob’s Ladder effect.

It is important to note that building and operating a Jacob’s Ladder can be dangerous if not done correctly. Always take the necessary precautions and follow all safety guidelines. Make sure the area is clear and free from any debris or flammable materials that could cause a fire. Never touch the live wire or plasma arcs when the transformer is plugged in–it can result in injury or even death.

Now that you know how to build a Jacob’s Ladder, you can bring the magic of science into your own hands. Whether you want to create a mesmerizing light show or simply experience the excitement of high voltage electricity, this toy will surely impress. Remember to always be safe and have fun!

WARNING Use in a well-ventilated area Never touch or go within a foot of the electrodes when the transformer is plugged in–it could cause injury or death

When working on the project to make a Jacob’s Ladder, it is important to follow safety precautions. The first and foremost warning is to always use the device in a well-ventilated area. This is because the process of creating a Jacob’s Ladder involves electricity and can potentially produce fumes or smoke.

Another crucial aspect to note is to never touch or go within a foot of the electrodes when the transformer is plugged in. The electrodes are the bare wires that extend across and flip over, creating an action similar to a ladder. These electrodes are connected to a transformer, which is responsible for the transformation of voltage levels. It is important to keep a safe distance from them as coming into contact can cause severe injury or even death.

When working on the project, it is necessary to use certain tools and materials. Some of the tools required include wire cutters and pliers to work with the thin wire that forms the ladder-like structure. Additionally, a bolt or similar object can be used to hold the two ribbons of wire in place. As for materials, you will need a transformer, which can usually be obtained from electronic devices like doorbells or neon signs.

It is important to mention that creating a Jacob’s Ladder involves many steps. To start, the two ribbons of wire need to be cut to a length of about 14 inches each. Next, these ribbons are folded in half, creating a loop at the top. The folded end is then secured using a bolt or similar object. One of the ribbons should have the ends stripped about half an inch, while the other remains as is.

The next step is to bring the bare ends of the ribbons close to each other without touching. It is vital to ensure that the ribbons are not stuck together or crossed over each other. The ribbons should be angled in a way that resembles the shape of a ladder. Once this is done, the transformer can be plugged in.

When the transformer is switched on, the action begins. A high voltage is applied to the two ribbons of wire, causing an electric current to flow. The current jumps between the ribbons, creating a constant upward movement. This action is what gives a Jacob’s Ladder its distinctive appearance.

Throughout the process, it is necessary to exercise caution and be aware of the potential dangers. Following the warning sign, never touch or go within a foot of the electrodes when the transformer is plugged in. Additionally, it is advisable to have proper ventilation to prevent the accumulation of fumes. By taking these precautions, you can safely make and enjoy a Jacob’s Ladder DIY project.


When it comes to building a Jacob’s ladder, there are a few key details that you need to keep in mind. The main purpose of this project is to show the travel of electrons in a series of jumps between two electrodes. The finished product will produce a continuous high voltage arc of plasma. Here are some important technical stats:

  • The height of the ladder can range from 2-3 feet.
  • The insulating blocks used should be at least 14in x 12in.
  • The electrodes need to be placed about a foot apart.
  • The wire used for the electrodes should be bare and have no sticky edges.
  • High voltages (around 7,000 volts) are required for the ladder to work.
  • Make sure to keep the ladder away from flammable materials and always work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never touch the ladder while it is plugged in.

These are some basic stats to give you an idea of what it takes to build a Jacob’s ladder. For more detailed instructions and a step-by-step guide, check out the video or book recommendations in the “How-To” section.

Warning: Building a Jacob’s ladder involves working with high voltages and can be dangerous if not done properly. Follow all safety instructions and use caution when building and operating this project.


Before you start making a Jacobs ladder, you will need the following tools:

  • Electrodes
  • Wire strippers
  • Electrical tape
  • Bolt cutters
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers

These tools will help you assemble the Jacobs ladder and ensure that you can work safely and efficiently.


  • Wood blocks (14in long) – You will need two blocks for each step of the ladder to create a nice, well-ventilated area.
  • Bolts – Use bolts to secure the blocks together.
  • Ribbons or wire – Use ribbons or wire to create the Jacob’s ladder effect.
  • Jacob’s ladder transformer – This transformer will be used to generate the high voltage needed for the ladder to work.
  • Backing – Use a thin backing material for each step of the ladder.
  • Electrons – Get some electrons ready to jump around to create the dazzling effect.
  • Video – Watch a how-to video to get a better understanding of the steps involved.
  • Experience – Prior experience working with electronics will be helpful in completing this project.
  • Photos – Take photos throughout the process to document your progress and ensure you’re following the instructions correctly.
  • Clear space – Find a clear area to work on the project without any distractions.
  • Wire – Use wire to connect the various components together and for creating the ladder effect.

✿ Read More: Gardening Tips and Advice.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.