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Who's the nut running this web site??
Your host, Bert Hickman
Updated 02/24/15


Hi! I'm Bert Hickman. I live in Woodridge, a far western suburb of Chicago, Illinois in the USA. I've always been interested in science and engineering. I built my first Tesla coil while in the 6th grade, using plate glass capacitors and a model-T spark coil. I progressed to an 811A vacuum tube system with a "candlestick" coil (from an article by Harold P. Strand in Popular Electronics magazine), and then to a Neon Sign Transformer (NST) powered Tesla coil in the 7th grade. I built a 2 kW vacuum tube CW coil with three paralleled 211A/VT4-C Navy  surplus triodes while in high school... and survived! Those were in the "good 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 BSEE from the 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 accessing a Bulletin Board System (BBS) that had an area dedicated to Tesla Coiling (back in pre-Internet days!). Although trained as an electrical engineer, I had been in management for over 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 of the 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 some really chilly "coiling" in the Winter! The tank capacitor was converted from a pair of home-brew Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) trash can caps to better performing, and physically much smaller set of Maxwell pulse capacitors. My wife, Sandy, helped cut much of the LDPE and foil sheets originally used in the trash can caps! Powered by two 15 kV/60 mA NST's and a 0.02 uF 80 kV tank cap, the system used AC resonant charging and a combination of static and vacuum spark gaps to generate 65" streamers. While the system was designed to generate longer sparks, the size of the room limited any further power increases. I live in a residential area, and unfortunately not all of my neighbors share my passion about loud noises and long sparks, so running the system outside was not an option. 

The Quarter Shrinker also occupied 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 print, and many of which are now very rare. I am very fortunate in having an extremely understanding, patient, and loving spouse, Sandy, two great kids, Lesley and David, and three beautiful grandchildren, Rowan, Ethan, and Carter. Some of my other hobbies include rock, mineral and fossil collecting, and mushroom hunting (yes, to eat!).

  Wild Mushrooms
Some local wild mushrooms from Fall 2001
 "Bears Head" (Hericium coralloides) and "Chicken of the Woods" (Laetiporus sulphureus)
And yes, they taste like chicken!

Morels

Yellow and black morels found locally in Spring 2003
Morels may be 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 Information Center
Tesla Coil
Link to 345 kV Switch MPEG
Shrunken Coins for Sale Lichtenbergs for Sale
Tesla Info Center
"Quarter Shrinker"
More Arcs & Sparks
Get Shrunken Coins
Get Lichtenberg Figures

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