Violet wands are lots of fun, but all electrical play is edge play, because in edge play the hazards are not always obvious.
Using improvised violet wand electrodes can be as dangerous as sticking a knife into an electrical outlet. Paradoxically, it is not the high voltage output of the violet wand which is dangerous. The high voltage output is very limited in total energy, and the high frequency of the energy (300-500kHz) means that your muscles can’t really react to the energy.
The hidden danger in the violet wand is the relatively low voltage and low frequency (50 or 60 Hz) passed into the wand through the power plug.
The metal collet where the electrode plugs in is deeply recessed into the wand so that it can’t be directly touched by a finger for this very reason.
IF a mechanical (BD-10 or similar) wand, outlet, and extension cord are all properly wired, and IF no wiring fault exists in the wand, and IF the scene bottom is not touching anything electrically grounded, then the collet of the wand is connected to the “neutral” wire of the building electrical system, and it is PROBABLY not dangerous to touch.
If any of those conditions are not true, then the wand collet is probably dangerous to touch. A solid metal electrode inserted in that collet would be as dangerous as touching the collet directly.
Solid state wands also are generally manufactured to poor or non-existent safety standards. The basic design of the solid state wand also allows more current to reach the collet if a fault occurs. Despite their lower power levels, they are actually more dangerous if an electrical fault occurs.
What’s safe, and what’s not:
Glass electrodes are safe. Glass simply won’t conduct the low voltage, low frequency current that could be lethal. Spark gapped metal electrodes provided by ElectroTechnic Products have passed professional electrical safety testing by UL, and can be trusted to be safe because of their built in spark gap.
Improvised spark gap electrodes, body contacts, and reverse cables can be safe, as long as the spark gap is properly designed and as long as the insulation used has not failed due to carbon tracking. It is possible to test these devices but not without somewhat specialized equipment.
These devices should be tested with a device called a “Megger”, which uses high voltage to test for electrical breakdown of insulation. A simple ohm meter is not able to find the faults that cause these devices to become dangerous. A device which has a visible and inspectable spark gap can be inspected and determined to be safe or failed.
Let me repeat that: AN OPEN CIRCUIT READING ON A CONVENTIONAL METER DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE SPARK GAP IS ACTUALLY PRESENT OR OK.
Metal electrodes without spark gaps, directly inserted into the wand are not safe and should never be used.
An example of this would be a knitting needle which has been cut off and inserted, or a radio antenna, “gag fork” or other object.
NEVER EVER put a solid metal object into a wand with the idea of using it as an electrode. This would allow a path that will conduct dangerous low voltage current into the victim.
Incidents of people being dangerously shocked by violet wands or neon wands are rare. Lets keep it that way!