Step 1: Acquire The Lens
They can be had online, but only for substantial piles of cash (from $80-$150 on Ebay), which is why few people ever enjoy these devices. Traditionally, the actual lens is by far the biggest cost in a project like this, with lumber and hardware being almost nothing if you already have the tools. And now, I will impart to you the ultimate source of FREE giant Fresnel lenses:
...Rear Projection TVs.
Every rear projection TV uses a Fresnel lens the exact size of the screen to focus the image. The screen has several layers:
- Outer cover (optional) - Some TVs have a clear layer on the very outside....keep it, it could be useful in another project.
- Lenticular lens - This is the hideous outer screen with 1000s of vertical lines. The purpose of the lines is to spread each pixel outward so you can see the screen from the side. It will probably rip apart as you separate the layers.
- Fresnel lens - this is the innermost layer - clear with millions of circular ridges on one side. The crown jewel of the TV.
1. Craigslist! Go to the free section on your local Craigslist community, and you'll probably find dozens of massive, usually broken projection TVs being given away. Say Billy has a TV from about 10 years ago, and when it breaks, Billy decide to upgrade to a newer technology. Big-screen TVs usually weigh 200-400 pounds, so all Billy wants is someone to make it disappear. If you have a truck and at least one strong friend, this is a great option especially if you don't like option 2.
2. The Dump. If your local dump recycles TVs, you may be fortunate enough to find a pile of TVs sitting around there. My dump doesn't allow scavenging, so we just made sure there was no one around, and helped ourselves to the front parts of TVs and scored 3 giant lenses.
Once you have your TV screen, peel the layers apart (you may need to cut some tape along the top) and extract the precious Fresnel. Admire your plunder, and dispose/recycle the TV carcass.