When I first started in the electrical trade, I had little regard for the power and danger of electricity.  (I was just a farm boy, remember.)  In fact when someone would come looking for me, one boss would tell people to go into a specific building and look for a shower of sparks.  “You’ll find Adrian in the middle of it.”  Somehow or another, people started calling me Sparky.

I like to find out why and how things work.  It is no different with electricity.  For instance, while working with my brother-in-law (here after known as B.I.L.) we discovered how 3-way and 4-way switches worked, …. by taking them apart and studying the mechanisms. When GFI outlets came out I did the same thing.  However, on my own I was unable to figure out what all the pieces did.

Soon after a GFI salesman came around pushing the use of GFI receptacles.  He offered to teach us how they worked.  Of course I went to the class to learn about GFI receptacles.  It actually turned out to be quite simple.  We already had the principle and the mechanism involved, but they were miniaturized so they could be fit into one receptacle.

I also experimented with interesting phenomena regarding resistance using live wires.  I had wired a home where they used metal lath and plaster and metal ductwork for heating.  And, of course, we used metal boxes at that time since plastic boxes had not yet come into use.  The home was one of the places where we were required to take off our shoes to work in the residence.

As we were trimming out the work I was standing atop a metal floor vent, near a window that had metal casing.  When I touched the window casing I felt a tingle.  I thought to myself: “How could there be current flowing here when there are no electrical outlets or lights nearby?”

I retrieved my voltage tester and discovered that there was current flowing between the metal casing and the heat vent below the window.  I knew the furnace ducting would be grounded so the window sill had to be “charged.”

I went across the room where I had installed a switch by the door.  I took the switch out and discovered that I had inadvertently left a hot wire touching the metal electrical box.  The metal electrical box was touching the metal lath.  The metal lath was touching the metal window frame.  When I touched the metal window frame and then touched the metal ductwork I completed the circuit through my body.

I noticed that the voltage dropped considerably because of all the resistance.  I thought now is the time to experiment with some questions I have wondered about.


Using the voltage tester and the charged metal window frame and the heating vent, I ran the circuit from a finger on one hand, through my arms to a finger on my other hand.  The voltage dropped to 70.  I than ran the circuit the length of one arm (finger to shoulder where I placed the voltage meter).  It still read 70 volts.  Then I ran the circuit the length of one finger.  Still 70 volts.  Then I ran it ¼ inch on one finger.  It still measured 70 volts.

My conclusion was; 1). That is why electricity kills you.  Your body contains so much resistance to the flow that electricity becomes dangerous.  2). There is a reason for all those safety rules.

Never experiment with electricity.

Sometimes they still call me Sparky.