How to Make a Wind Turbine from a Hand-Crank Flashlight

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Using parts from a hand-crank flashlight and a few household items, you can make a small wind turbine that generates electricity. You can even rig it up to recharge your batteries. Plans for larger systems can be found here. This is an easy to make demonstration device of self-sustaining non-polluting renewable electricity..

You will need:

One hand-crank flashlight
a very small phillips screwdriver
three nails
a wooden ruler
one rubber band
one pencil top eraser
one sheet of cardstock
a one-inch piece of dowel
some really good glue
A piece of cardboard for the rudder
A pole to mount it on

1. Get yourself a hand-crank flashlight.

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2. Remove the tiny screws and open it up. one side has the crank and a nifty set of gears. The other side has a circuit board with the generator on one end, battery, on/off button, and LED lights on the other end. Lift out the circuit board.

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3. The generator has a little gear on its back. I found it too short to attach a propeller to, so I glued a short one-inch piece of dowel to it (I used Gorilla Glue). Let it dry overnight.

4. Cut the generator off the circuit board, being careful not to break the wires going from it. (I used wire cutters to snip through the plastic.) Turn it vertical and attach it to the end of the wooden ruler with two small nails through the holes the screws were in. Attach the rest of the circuit board flat to the ruler with a rubber band.

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5. Stick the rubber eraser over the dowel.

6. Now the propeller. I made a simple pinwheel out of a page of cardstock that I cut into a 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 square. Instead of a pin in the middle, I stapled the flaps in at about a inch from the center. Then I cut a small square in the exact center, slightly smaller than the eraser. Then I gently pushed the pinwheel over the eraser and it locked in place.

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7. Blow at the pinwheel. It should spin freely. You are in business.

8. Make a rudder for the other end of the ruler. I used a scrap piece of foamcore about ten inches by seven inches and just cut a slot in it and slipped it over the ruler, which had a useful groove down the middle. The rudder fitted nicely without any glue.

9. Find the center of balance by balancing it on your finger. Drill a small hole at the balance point. Get a pole and attach your wind turbine to the post with a flat head nail smaller than the hole. Be careful to only hammer the nail in so far. Wind turbine should rotate freely.

10. Take your wind turbine outside. A gentle breeze is all it takes to get it spinning. The battery was as dead as a doornail when I started. After 30 minutes of spinning, I pushed the on/off button. Viola! The LED lights lit up!

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How to Recharge Your Batteries: recharge your batteries by taping them to the ruler and then running wires from their poles to the leads going to the 3.6 volt battery. Connect positive to positive; negative to negative. Line your batteries up positive to negative. Two AA or AAA batteries (1.5 volts each) can be recharged at a time. Unlike a charger plugged into the wall, recharging this way doesn't use electricity generated by coal, other fossil fuels, or nuclear power.

Strong, gusty winds will tear this apart. So will rain. So try making the pinwheel and rudder out of tin or plastic. And cover up the exposed circuits with a styrofoam cup cut in two or a plastic bag.
Putting washers above and below the ruler on the nail will help it rotate around the pole.
You can glue the propeller and rudder on. Make a better propeller.
Attach it to your bike and recharge your batteries as you pedal.


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