Vertical Axis Wind Turbine v1.0

Contents of this tutorial:
Step by step instructions
Mounting and applications


This is a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine which uses wind energy to drive things like an alternator/generator for producing electricity, or air and water pumps for cooling, irrigation and similar.
The turbine uses the 35-40% mechanically efficient Lenz2 lift+drag design. It is made entirely from scrap materials except for the bolts and rivets, and should cost about $15-$30 for the six vane version, which can be made by two people in four hours without much effort.
The three vane version has been successfully survival tested to 80 km/h sustained winds and the six vane version to 105 km. Both will do more, but exactly how much has not yet been ascertained.

Full power curves have yet to be calculated for this particular build, but according to Mr Ed Lenz's calculations a six vane at 0.93 meters diameter and 1.1 meters high with a 90% efficient alternator should produce at least 135 watts of electricity in a 30 km/h wind, and 1.05 kilowatts at 60 km/h.

The materials listed in this tutorial are to make the three vane version. Double everything except the bike wheel for six vanes.

You can download the construction animation here (right click, 'save link as'):
High quality (21.2 Mb)
Low quality (8.8 Mb)
And the whole tutorial can be downloaded for offline viewing by selecting File > Save Page As... in your browser.

This tutorial text is up to date as of November 23rd 2015, but the animation is currently in need of updating to fully match it. The differences are relatively minor though and shouldn't make things any harder to follow. New animation coming soon.


Power drill
4mm metal drill bit
Craft knife / Stanley knife
20mm x 20mm angle aluminium
About 1 meter long, an extra 30cm length is also handy. To be used for ruling and bending.
Tape Measure
Pop Riveter

Marker Pen

Sticky Tape

4 Clothes Pegs
Springy or the other kind.
Computer and printer
Low quality black and white is fine.
And 2 pieces of A4 paper.


11 Aluminium lithographic offset printing plates

These are pure aluminium sheets used in a printing process fairly common with newspapers and magazines. A medium sized printing company may recycle hundreds of plates every week, so it's usually easy to pick them up cheap. Ring around any local companies offering offset printing.
Any size, thickness, or type is fine as long as they're larger than 67cm on the long axis. They'll probably be quite inky when you get them, it washes off your hands easily enough with soap and should be non toxic.

135 4mm diameter pop rivets

About 6-8mm long.

15 M4 bolts and nuts

About 12-20mm long

15 M4 nylocks

These are nuts with a ring of nylon to stop them rattling loose. If you can't find these a normal M4 nut with a spring washer will do the same job.

48 washers

4mm inner diameter to fit the pop rivets and bolts, outer diameter not important.

27" / 28" / 700 bike wheel

Exactly how bike wheels are measured is slightly complicated, basically you want one which is about 63-64cm total diameter. You can use other sizes for smaller turbines, adjust the other dimensions accordingly. The wheel should:
Be a rear wheel with sprockets/gears if that's how you're going to attach it to your application (more on that later)
Not be quick release
Have a normal thick axle
Have 36 spokes
Have exposed spoke nipples (if you're going to run a chain around the rim for high-rpm applications, more on that later)
Run reasonably smoothly
Have enough axle showing to attach to your pole mount.

It may be helpful to take the wheel hub apart using spanners and a bike cone spanner and give the bearings a bit of a clean and re-grease, and to extend the axle as much as possible on the side of the wheel with the sprockets. If you've not done this before take it along to your local bike servicing place and they'll be happy to show you how. Shouldn't be necessary tho if the wheel runs nicely enough and has 3-5cm of axle showing.

6 bike wheel spokes

Any length or condition is fine.

Step by step build instructions

These relate to the animation to the left.

Step 1:
Download (right click, 'save as') and print the two template files onto A4 paper:
Make sure they're printed at 100% (200 dpi). When printed measure the distance between the dimension arrows, it should be 10cm on both pages. If it's slightly off that's probably ok.

Tape the pages together so that the 10cm dimension marks overlap as closely as possible. Best way to do this is on a window pane during the day, so you can see both pages showing through.
With a craft knife and the angle aluminium as a straight edge, cut out the outer border of the template.
Any time you're cutting, always make sure your other hand is never in front of the knife, so if you slip you're not going to slice yourself. The angle aluminium is good for this, as the vertical bit effectively shields the hand holding it.

Take an aluminium sheet and measure a box 43cm by 48cm. Score the lines with the craftknife and straight edge. You're not trying to cut through the metal, just create a line that can then be popped out later. A good method is to score once lightly, then a second time a bit deeper.
Draw a line dividing the 48cm length into two 24cm boxes.

Flex the metal so that it bends at a score line, then flex back the other way. Do this a couple times and it should split. Do the same for the other score and remove the outer metal. Keep it for later. Try not to bend the offcut metal too much as it will weaken it.

Tape the template to the metal (from now on to be referred to as a 'former') so that the long edge of the paper sits on the middle line and the left edges of both line up. Don't worry if the other edges don't align perfectly.

With blade and straight edge, score out the template curve, including the triangles at each end. It's not essential that this be 100% perfect, but try to get the first one reasonably nice as you can then use it as a template for the rest.

Score, flex, and remove the two triangles of metal outside the template.

Mark the centers of the little circles with a marker pen so that they're visible from the other side and flip the paper template over so that the printed side is down on the other half of the former, keeping the long edge on the middle line. Retape so it doesn't shift.
Give the curved score a couple of flexes and tear it out. Remove the two small triangles. Be careful not to bend the unscored metal too much as you're doing this. A little is fine, but keep it to a minimum.

You now have your first former. Repeat steps 3 through 7 so that you have a total of 6 formers. You can use the first former as a cutting template rather than the paper. On two more of the formers redraw the 24cm line on the same side of the metal as the first former, on the other three draw it on the back.

Take all six formers and peg them together so that they are as nicely aligned as possible.
Use tape to attach them if you don't have clothes pegs.

Drill each of the 14 holes through all six formers with a 4mm bit. Drill the center hole first, as this is the only one that needs to be reasonably accurate. It can help to put a bolt through that first hole to keep the formers from shifting around as you drill.

Remove the template and unpeg the formers.
Place a former with the middle line slightly overhanging the edge of the table. Place the straight edge on the middle line and bend up to 90 degrees. Repeat with all six, with three formers bent shiny side up and three bent shiny side down.
Put the formers aside.

Take a aluminium sheet and flatten out any bends in the metal. Cut the long edge down to 67cm.

Draw a line 2cm from one of the long edges, flip the sheet over and draw another line 2cm from the other long ledge on the other side of the metal.

repeat with 2 more sheets and peg all 3 together so that each drawn line is aligned to the edge of the sheet above it.

Mark the edge at 4cm, 6, 8, 10, 18, 26, 34, and then every 2cm up to and including 64cm.
Score at each mark, starting from the drawn line on the top sheet and across all 3 sheets. Keep in mind that one side has a score at 4cm from the edge, the other at 3cm.

Flip the sheets over, making sure they don't lose their alignment. Mark and score the same as the first edge. Make sure you start from the 4cm edge.

Tap the sheets on the table so that they are aligned on top of each other.
From the 4cm edge draw a vertical line at 19cm in, and one at 33cm.
Mark each line at 3cm and 20cm from both ends.

Drill all 3 sheets with 4mm holes at all 8 marks.
Unpeg the sheets.

Place a sheet so that the second 3cm edge is overhanging the table. Put the straight edge on the 3cm mark (if you can't make out the score marks then mark them with pen) and triangulate the edge as shown in the animation.

Triangulate the 4cm edge.

Pre-bend the sheet so that it'll be easier to place in the formers. Don't bend it so tightly that you crease the metal.

Flip the sheet upright and insert into the curve cut into a top former (the uncut half of the former should be pointing upwards).
The best way to do this is to first place the 4cm edge triangle into its slot, then the 3cm edge, push in the inner flap, then work the rest of the sheet through the cut.

Fold down the tabs so that the first three at each end fold out, then alternate. You will probably need to give the score marks a couple of flexes before tearing them, or use pliers if they're being particularly stubborn.

Push up the former so that it's level with the bent flaps.

Place 2 bike spokes in the fold of the former and bend it closed. If you squish the edge of the metal around the spoke with pliers or similar it'll stop it from falling out.

Flip the vane, place the other former, and fold down the tabs.

Slice and remove the former's two outer corners. Cut the smaller triangle level with the edge of the other former half, but give the larger triangle a 2cm offset, so that it overlaps.
Repeat for the other former.

Take one of the offcuts left over from cutting a former. Cut out a strip which is 7cm wide and then cut 4cm off the long length.

Triangulate the strip as shown.

Mark the rough middle of each end of the 3cm wide face with a line a couple of centimeters long.

Place the triangulated strut inside the vane so that the 3cm face sits on the row of drilled holes closer to the back edge. Sight the drawn lines through the top drilled hole to check that it's centered.

Drill the strut through the hole in the vane and attach with a rivet. Repeat for the bottom hole, then the two in the middle.

Take a fresh sheet, smooth out any bends, and cut the long length down to 67cm, then cut in half so you have two pieces 33.5cm wide.

Cut off 4cm from one of the short edges of both pieces.

Repeat so that you have four 33.5cm sheets (tho you'll only need three of them). Align and peg all three together.

From one of the long edges, draw three vertical lines at 1cm, 9cm, and 19cm.
Mark these lines in from both ends at 1cm and 20cm.

Drill a 4mm hole at each of the twelve marks.

Mark the sheet at 3cm and 5cm in from the opposite edge.
Triangulate the edge as shown.

Place the half sheet inside the vane so that its un-triangulated edge is aligned with the vane's back edge. It's ok to have a small gap or bowl at either end if it doesn't fit perfectly in the vane.

Drill and rivet the row of holes in the half sheet closest to the back edge.

Stand the vane upright. Push the half sheet's triangulated edge in and forward so that it's against the other sheet and somewhat tight over the strut.
Drill through the row of holes on which the half sheet's triangulated edge is sitting and rivet in place.

Drill through one of the middle holes in the half sheet's back most row, making sure to keep the drill reasonably straight, and attach with a rivet and washer, so that the washer is on the inside of the vane. This is much easier with a second pair of hands. Try to keep the washer fairly flat on the metal.
Repeat for the other three holes.

Drill, rivet and washer the remaining row. The half sheet should be tight across the strut.

Fold up the overlap on both formers to 90 degrees.

Drill through all the holes on the bottom former (the one which will be attached to the bike wheel). Drill into a small block of wood or rolled up tube of aluminium offcut so that the metal doesn't get pushed in and so that you don't risk drilling your hand.

Rivet each of the holes except for the ones marked:

as these will be bolted to the wheel rim. Make sure that every hole has been drilled and riveted properly, it's very easy with some of the holes to just push the bottom layer out of the way. Drill out and replace any rivets that haven't gone through every layer.

Drill the holes in the top former and rivet all except the center one.

Take your bike wheel. Drill three 4mm holes evenly spaced around the the rim, as close to the edge as possible. Your wheel should have 36 spokes, so drill a hole every 12 spokes. The hole can be fairly close to the rim edge.

Poke an M4 bolt up through one of the holes and through the back most unriveted hole in the bottom former of the vane. You may need to poke the former's bike spoke out of the way, make sure it's on the outside of the bolt.
Place a washer and a nylock on the bolt. Don't fully tighten yet.

Align the vane so that the other unriveted hole sits near the edge of the wheel rim and mark with a pen through the hole. The animation shows three bolts in total, this needs to be updated as only two are necessary. The template .pdf you downloaded at the top of the tutorial is up to date.

Rotate the vane away so that you can drill the mark.

Move the vane back and lock down with a bolt, washer, and nylock. Fully tighten both nylocks.

Repeat twice from step 12 to assemble two more vanes from your remaining formers and sheets and attach them to the wheel.

Take another sheet offcut and slice out a strip 9.5cm wide and 67cm long.

Draw lines long ways at 3.5cm and 5cm from one long edge, and at 1cm from the other long edge on the other side of the metal.
Bend the 1cm width to 45 degrees. Flip back and triangulate as shown.

Drill a 4mm hole 1cm in from each end of the strut in the middle of the 1cm flat area. Drill and rivet a hole at the midpoint.
Repeat twice more so you have three struts.

Place an M4 bolt with a washer up through the unriveted center hole in the top of one of the vanes, and through the end holes in two of the struts. Add a washer and nylock.
Repeat with the other two vanes and the last strut. Don't fully tighten yet.

The top of the vanes need to not be twisted relative to their base. Place the turbine on the ground so you can look down on it, stand over one of the vanes so that you can see the long edge of both formers. Twist the top former so that it lines up with the bottom one.
Drill a hole through one of the struts and the former 1-2cm from the edge. Add washered bolt, washer, and nylock. Recheck the alignment, drill the other strut and nylock bolt etc. Tighten all three.
Repeat for for the other two vanes.

You're done!
There will be a tutorial added shortly as to how to connect the turbine to potential applications.

Optionally, you can add an extra three vanes to the underside of the wheel.

Mounting and applications:

This section will be added to as I do some more pre-vis animations and videos on potential uses for the turbine, but there are essentially two main ways to attach a pump/alternator/whatever else you want.

For low to medium rpm applications:

Run a bike chain from the sprocket set of the turbine's wheel to a sprocket on the application. As in:

The good thing about this setup is you can set your gearing anywhere between about 2.5:1 up to the same down. The bad thing is that if you're using a six vane turbine your application will need to sit inside the whole thing as you won't be able to take a chain out through the spin radius.

For high rpm applications:

I'm in the process of doing up a quick animation to demonstrate this, but basically you put a bike chain (or rather two chains attached and trimmed for length) around the bike wheel rim itself, effectively using it as a large sprocket. It engages surprisingly well, and gives a ratio of about 12:1 with a 50mm sprocket on your application. This is necessary for things like car alternators, which require about 12,000 to 15,000 rpm to start. The good thing about them being that the voltage regulation and charge control is built in, so you can just attach directly to your 12v battery.

Bike chain works reasonably well for this, but is a bit heavy and takes more tension to engage the rim than I'd like. I'm in the process of developing a lightweight self makeable chain which will do a better job.

If you have any questions please email me at, or join the $30 Wind Turbine Makers Facebook group.

Email: Facebook Group: