From crowbar to glowbar

Glowing crowbar

A reader alerted me to this video (which has embedding turned off - click through to YouTube to watch it). His subject line was "Progress in the field of vaporizing crowbars".

(He found it via Hack A Day, where I would eventually have seen it myself, but I've got 234 unread articles in the Hack A Day feed, so it could be a while before I get to it.)

In this video, there is a man.

The man has made a transformer.

Monstrous transformer winding

The transformer's secondary winding looks like a suspension component from a large four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Light-duty hookup wire

You could moor a ship with this stuff.

There is, I must warn you, a certain amount of profanity in the video.

Crowbar sparks

I think it is entirely justified, given that in this gentleman's estimation thirty thousand amps does not qualify as "serious amps".

Screwdriver abuse

Bendy hot screwdriver

"I've got a screwdriver what goes round corners, now!"

Giant variac

I note that the transformer also seems to be running from a variac that makes my 500VA one look very, very inadequate.


The immense current capacity of the transformer causes anything shorting the outputs via small contact points to instantly lose those contact points in a most impressive explosion of sparks. But since the transformer in its present configuration tops out at only about four volts open-circuit, the hazard it (as opposed to its mains-voltage power supply) poses to its operator is only one of burning yourself on hot conductive objects, not electrocution.

"Don't touch anything electrified" is one of those general rules of thumb like "don't put metal in a microwave oven" that are easy to explain to people, but which do not actually apply in every situation.

I still wouldn't want to walk around this guy's house blindfolded, though.

9 Responses to “From crowbar to glowbar”

  1. TwoHedWlf Says:

    Woah....If I had that thing I'm reasonably confident that everything metal in my house would be melty and bent within a few days. Maybe not my guns...But I'd have to find HARD to resist making a glowing hot mosin.

  2. Buckermann Says:

    Every time I see such videos I'm asking myself, WHY?
    But then I realise, if I have to ask the question why, I probably wouldn't understand the answer.
    So I happily enjoy whatever special effects I'm seeing. Probably a Zen thing.

  3. RichVR Says:

    As someone who worked with electricians as an apprentice, I've seen the very same thing. Although of an accidental nature.

  4. Plasmadog Says:

    OK, this is starting to bug me. I've been reading this blog for ages, which I love, and I always used to be impressed by the incredible number of links in all the posts. But for quite a while now, all the links I've seen here are only to the home page of youtube, or wikipedia, or whatever, rather than links to actual content on any of those sites. I had just assumed that you simply couldn't be bothered anymore, but in this post you've put in links that really look like they are supposed to go to the video in question. I'm still not seeing them, so now I'm thinking it's some sort of bizarre technical problem. Is this just me?

    For reference, I'm using Firefox under Mint Linux.

  5. diliff Says:

    This guy seems to be to electricians what Mark "Chopper" Read was to criminals. Even has very similar mannerisms and a goatee. :)

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