The slow, tedious construction of the secondary coil has begun. I have to make approximately 1200 turns with a quarter mile of wire. Below is a picture of me taken just after I started. I've been listening to TED talks as I work, getting up to stretch every 20min. and to start the next talk.Now, on to the strange phenomena. Whenever I activate the primary coil, my smoke detector (on the wall roughly 12 or so feet from the coil) goes off. With no smoke being generated, it seems strange that the alarm would be tripped. Also, the alarm shuts off immediately after I turn off the coil. I have reasoned that the alarm must be detecting something generated from the coil during operation. When activated the coil produces light and sound from the spark gap, and electromagnetic waves from the coil. Without having tested anything yet, my guess is that the EM waves produced from the coil are causing the sensitive electronics in the fire alarm to detect a small current. See here for how this part of a smoke detector operates.
UPDATE: after 15 hours of coiling, I have finished the secondary coil and am beginning to coat it in polyurethane!