Making an Electric Pickle

Making an Electric Pickle

My friends from Kaleidoscope Learning Center demonstrate the electric pickle often enough that they keep a modified AC extension cord in their car.

I’m sure you can find plans to make the electric pickle online. Briefly, you cut off the female end of a heavy duty extension cord, strip the hot and neutral wires, and solder a large nail to each. Insulate the connections with heat shrink or electrical tape, leaving the pointy ends and most of the length of the nails exposed.

Warning: Please don’t try this unless you know enough to do it safely. You risk personal and property damage.

Be sure the extension cable is not plugged into the outlet. Insert one nail into each end of the pickle, being careful not to let them touch or get too close. Place the pickle on a non-conductive surface. Being careful not to touch the pickle or any exposed metal, plug the cord into an outlet protected by a circuit breaker or fuse.

At the end of the video, you’ll notice there are some sparks. My buddy was holding the wires off the ground so everyone could see. When the pickle softened too much it collapsed and the two metal contacts touched, causing a short and the circuit breaker to trip. Be careful not to leave the pickle plugged in too long, or you may get sparks like I did. Repeated, short duration zaps might look better and be safer than one long continuous one as shown in the video.

This is a fun and simple activity that will amaze and impress your friends. Just be sure to do it safely.

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Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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