I’ve been on a bit of a laser kick lately. I was searching through YouTube and came across Dr. Altman’s “Amazing Laser Music Can” which I thought was a very impressive effect for very little money. I had a spare Sunday afternoon, and decided to make one for myself. If you’re the impatient type, here’s what the final product produces, not too shabby:
I started off at the local dollar store, which amazingly enough had everything I needed for about five dollars.
- Three laser pointers, $3. This personally boggles my mind – an electronic device, relying on the most advanced theories of physics humans have developed, the absolute cutting edge of research less than 60 years ago, now sells for 99 cents. You don’t need to use precisely three, but you’ll probably want at least one. Or else bitter disappointment awaits, because you need a laser for a laser light show.
- A package of ballons, $1.
- A small mirror, $1.
I also had a few things around the house.
- A can.
- Duct tape.
- Zip ties.
- Clothes pins.
- Popsicle sticks.
If you need to buy them don’t worry, you won’t blow your budget. Plus, once you have an excess amount of duct tape and zip ties you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
What we’re trying to do is mount a laser so that the beam bounces off a mirror attached to a membrane (aka balloon) stretched across the mouth of the tube. When the membrane vibrates, the path of the laser will be changed in a semi-periodic manner, leading to (hopefully) beautiful patterns that sync up to sound.
Mounting the Lasers
You can do this with one laser, but since the lasers were so cheap I picked up a few. The first thing we need to do is zip tie (or glue, or whatever) one side of the clothes pin to the popsicle stick. This will create a nice little angled place for the laser to mount to.
Then, we need to attach the laser. Another zip tie does well for this, really crank it down to make sure that it isn’t going anywhere. Finally, we need to create some sort of method to ensure the laser remains on for an extended period of time without us having to hold down the little button by hand. Zip ties to the rescue again! Just position it on top of the button, and slowly tighten it until the laser turns on. The zip tie should then be loose enough that you can move it back and forth to turn the laser on and off for as long as you like.
The final product can be seen above. Note that the middle zip tie is loose enough to be moved around as necessary. Make as many of these as you want.
Now we need to create the membrane that will vibrate, and that we’ll attach our mirrors to. Remove both ends of the can, by whatever means possible. I suggest finding a can where you can use a can opener (oddly enough) on both ends.
Once you’ve removed both ends of the can, cut the end off a balloon and stretch it over one end of the can. Make sure it’s nice and tight, and then use duct tape around the side of the can to keep it all in place.