Influence machine restoration

After buying my influence machine, I contacted the seller again to inquire about its history. He told me that the machine once had belonged to his grandfather, who was the school principal at Ørskog Amtskole from 1911 to 1951 (school buildings pictured below). His grandfather owned both the school buildings and the equipment inside.


The original disks on the machine were too warped and worn to be successfully restored. All the sectors were also missing from the disks. I acquired a large 3 mm thick bakelite sheet from a local plastics supplier and used this as a base material for cutting out a pair of new disks. The disks were then painted with black acrylic paint and sectors of aluminoum tape were then added to the disks.

I also had to reproduce a piece of broken plastic (ebonite or bakelite ?). My plastics supplier recommended a material called “Sustarin C” that was very easy to machine. It feels “warmer” to the touch than the orginal, but the visual match is close enough. The reproduction part is pictured below alongside the original broken part.

The machine after restoration:

After continuity checking, cleaning and replacing broken parts I had to try it out. Of course, nothing happened when I turned the handle…

The reason was simply that the collector brushes were touching the sectors. After readjusting them, the machine fired before I had turned the handle one full revolution.

The way that these devices literally sucks charges out of thin air is quite impressive. In a darkened room, large parts of the disks glow intensely blue. The spark is also quite powerful.

3 Responses to “Influence machine restoration”

  1. Arnie Lerma says:

    wow, very nice work!
    what a joy to behold
    thanks for webbing it!

  2. Kelly Smith says:

    That is a beautiful machine. What is the maximum length spark you have been able to get on a very dry day?

  3. Hans Jørgen Grimstad says:

    > What is the maximum length spark you have been able to get on a very dry day?

    I’d say that the maximum spark length is probably not more then an inch or so (a bit disappointing, but then again I didn’t really expect to get it working in the first place). I suspect that there is some corona leakage somewhere.
    Since the machine is old and a bit fragile, I’ll probably use it as a template to build another one instead of trying to optimize the spark length.

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