How to use lightning rods on a beach to make glass

Written by larry parr
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How to use lightning rods on a beach to make glass
Lightning can create unique glass sculptures when conditions are right. (hot rod image by sumos from

In the film "Sweet Home Alabama" one of the characters uses lightning rods jammed into the sand on the beach to attract lightning, which then discharges into the sand, creating beautiful and unique glass sculptures. Such creations are real and are known as fulgurites. While it is possible for almost anyone to make a fulgurite if conditions are right and a bit of luck is on his side, the process can be dangerous, so be careful when poking lightning rods into your closest beach while awaiting the arrival of a thunder storm.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Lightning rods -- 1.8 to 2.4 m (6 to 8 feet) tall
  • Lightning storm
  • Heavy gloves

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  1. 1

    Locate a remote beach. You will have to leave your lightning rods unattended and you don't want the general public touching them when they are dangerous.

  2. 2

    Shove one or more metal lightning rods 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches) into the sand at a beach prior to the arrival of a lightning storm. Don't attempt to place lighting rods in the sand once the storm has begun as you could attract lightning before you are prepared for it, causing severe injury.

  3. 3

    Vacate the area or take refuge in a low area far enough away from your lightning rods to be safe should one of them be struck by lightning. Keep in mind that a lightning bolt can create temperatures of more than 1649 degrees Celsius (3,000 degrees Fahrenheit) for brief periods of time.

  4. 4

    Check your rods for fulgurite formations when all possibility of lighting has passed. Do not touch the rods or any glass with your bare hands for at least 24 hours, as they could be extremely hot. Only touch fulgurites with gloves after they are completely cool.

  5. 5

    Dig any fulgurites out of the sand with great care as they can be extremely fragile. Most fulgurites are hollow. Do not use metal instruments to dig out a fulgurite--use hands or plastic instruments.

  6. 6

    Clean the sand from the outside of the fulgurite with running water. Do not be surprised if much of the sand remains embedded in the uniquely-shaped glass.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep animals and others away from any beach on which you have planted lightning rods for their safety.
  • Never stand on a beach during a lightning storm. If caught on the beach, lie flat on the sand.

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