The Laser Vortex was extremely popular last year and many made one this year as well. The wormhole like effect is great for many different themes. Last year I used Deep space; this year is was a portal into another realm. Made with spar parts and maybe a trip to the hardware store, you can have one in just a few hours.

This new instructable will show you haw to build a Laser Vortex with extended range, sharper display, less noise and the ability to create a starburst vortex. You can use this instructable to fine tune your old one or create a better one from scratch but this time you may need to salvage some junk parts or order some materials. You can take it as far as you want.

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Step 1: Gather Your Tools & Materials

Picture of Gather Your Tools & Materials
These are the materials I have used for best performance of the Laser Vortex. The Make Controller Kit was used for creating the Starburst Vortex and as a power supply. I'll offer some alternative power options when we get to these steps.

Six inches quarter round trim
Small piece of laminate flooring (aprox. 5.5 inch by 2 inch)
1/4 inch by 5/16 inch Tee Nut
Insulated alligator clips
3/4 inch first surface/front surface mirror
Mini camera tripod
Precision drive motor and head salvaged from a CD or DVD player
5 mW Green Laser Pointer
One wire tie
Small electrical wire (a 6 foot network cable with the ends cut off works great for this)
Heat shrink to cover the wire connectons
MAKE Controller kit (for the Starburst Vortex effect and power supply.)


Hack saw (for cutting the quarter round trim)
Wire cutters/Side cuts
Drill and 1/4 inch drill bit
Hot glue gun and glue sticks (low temp glue works fine)
Multi-meter (to check connections)
Fire (for the heat shrink)
Beergnome3 years ago
So my presumption here is that the starburst effect is coming from the mirror type used and not anything you are telling the laser to do?

I run a laser vortex for Haunted brewery tour every year and all that is using a old ATX computer power supply Jump the green to any black to activate. a Case fan wired to yellow and black to spin a regular mirror mounted offset to the middle of that fan.. green laser pointer aimed at that fan. It's a constant "cone" and with the smoke machine gives a good "walking towards the light " effect.

on a regular computer power supply, the orange leads give you 3.3v and should be safe for a standard laser pointer using 2 AA, or AAA's you might want to throw a 330 resistor just to be even safer though ;)

the Mirror in question here looks to be the same mirror used by the CD-rom drives laser reader. that can just be pried off and used, but it is a very small target to hit. 2mm square usually.
most high speed CD rom motors are of a brush-less motor type and require three conductors to be energized via a special driver board to work. With a standard two pole motor, you can simply put a 10K potentiometer between in line with it to manually control the speed of the motor

A great little instructable! its giving me bigger and badder ideas for next years display!
tinker2343 years ago
wow reminds me of stargates
I pulled a motor out of a computer cd drive, but it is not a straight DC motor with two leads. It has 15 leads, and the motor jiggles back and forth when i power some, but i never get it to just spin.

I am guessing this is because it takes signals to adjust the Constant Linear Velocity used. ( )

I suppose i'll just get a cheap DC motor from the local electronics store.
mever (author)  bearsinthesea6 years ago
Good find. Sounds like you won't know what you have on the inside until you get on the inside. When this image was taken, that DVD player was about 2 years old. I cannot recall salvaging a motor from a cdrom drive faster than 24X and have not seen a motor with more than 2 leads in these so far. Do you have any idea what speed that drive was? It may help some find what they need.
It is a Samsung 'High Speed' drive, but doesn't say much more than that. The circuit board has a date, 2001.08.15, on it. Shame, because of the nice mounting area it would be easy, as you say, to put the mirror onto.
Hmm, lots of leads on the "motor" you say? ... Could be a stepper motor if it only makes a little jiggle when you apply current. Just a passing thought.... Maybe you could try sending pulses and see if it rotates.

Good luck with that motor!
lovephileo24 years ago
Thanks for the instructions. I love this laser so much. I just got mine a month ago for my Vortex Optics.
Where is a common place to get a mirror of that type and size? The hardware store?
mever (author)  bearsinthesea6 years ago
You will not likley find a first surface mirror in a hardware store. These are used in precision optics, so you could try a camera shop that repairs high quality cameras or a gun shop or army surplus store that sells gun sights. The two best ways got your hands on a first surface mirror is to salvage one from a flatbed scanner or order one from someplace like American Science and Surplus. You can pull off this affect with a standard craft mirror but the final affect will not be as sharp.
danielemur6 years ago
awesome Instructable. I was thinking of using the circuit from an old bike light that flashes to get the starburst vortex.
mever (author)  danielemur6 years ago
Thats a great idea. The only thing you will probably need to modify on the circuit will be the flash rate. A lot of these simple flasher circuits can be modified for a faster or slower flash by simply changing the resistance of one resistor on the board. I would replace that with a variable resistor so you can see what affect it has on the vortex. Please post your results on this, I'm sure this would be helpful to others and I would love to know how it turns out. Good luck and happy haunting!
rimar20007 years ago
Good job! My cheap laser pointers they overheats after some seconds of continued use, and they spents. ¿Is this normal?
Try adding a cooling fan, as found on a RAM cooler or a video card.
Thanks for the idea, but the cooler is more expensive than the laser.
Well, not much is cheaper than a £2 laser that burns out after an hour, but a heatsink or small cooling fan will only set you back £5 or so.
mever (author)  rimar20007 years ago
Some sheep laser pointers do not handle continued use well. I have had good luck with the ones that take 2 AAA cells but the ones talking button cells don't seem to last. I think its because the laser diode on the cheep ones are surrounded by plastic, you need metal to dissipate the heat. The kind i have is just a laser pointer, no light or pen combo, and has worked well through hours of continued use for only $20. What kind to you have?
That's the same laser I have!
mever (author)  heavy.metal.nguyen7 years ago
I love this laser, its been good to me for over a year.
I just got mine last week of amazon. How much mas yours?
mever (author)  heavy.metal.nguyen7 years ago
i got it for $20 on ebay over a year ago. Not a bad price at the time.
Mine was like $17 from amazon.
rimar2000 mever7 years ago
Mever, thank for the explanation.

My ex laser pointers (both went to the waste) they were REALLY cheaps: 1.56 U$S each. I can't buy a U$S 50 laser pointer. I live in Argentina.
mever (author)  rimar20007 years ago
Try Last i checked they shipped world wide for free. Prices on lasers are very reasonable and they have customer feedback on many things they sell. I have never made a purchase from them before but but plan to give them a try in the near future.
chicoson1237 years ago
Very nice. I experimented with your first laser vortex and had similar results as this one by simply using a marker and blocking out certain parts of the mirror to keep the laser from reflecting. Of course it won't give you as much control as this one, but it's a bit cheaper and easier. I also wanted to see if it was possible to find something the would reflect the laser in a different color and also add it to the mirror, but no luck finding anything. Also, cutting up a CD or DVD and using that as the mirror will split the beams.
mever (author)  chicoson1237 years ago
Blocking out some parts of the mirror is a good idea. I have considered running a CD on a motor with a speed control that would block out the laser from reaching the mirror except in areas that were cut or drilled out. This would allow the pulsed affect to be mechanically controlled. I would have done it this way if I didn’t already have the make controller and I still think this could work quite well. I don’t think you will find a way to change the color of the laser without using multiple lasers. They are designed emit a specific wavelength of light; the wavelength is the color of the laser. For green it’s around 532nm. I do not know of a way to change the wavelength of light after the laser diode has emitted it. Filtering all but the wavelength you want is the closest thing I can think of.
_soapy_ mever6 years ago
Adding a colour filter to a green light will simply mean that either you get less green light or none at all. You can only selective filter a mix of light to get another colour, without serious optics.
Yes, the only information I found about changing the color of a laser was by using pressurized gas, which would change it's frequency depending on the gas and pressure.

They say "simple", but I don't think the average person would have the equipment they use lying around the house.

Thanks again for the great instructable.
mever (author)  chicoson1237 years ago
Excellent find. Looks like it would be simple if we had the equipment. Like you said, not something most people have easy access to. Thanks for the info and complement!
Great instructable!! Good use of the make controller kit.
mever (author)  joejoerowley7 years ago
Thank you, this controller is awesome and I cant wait to learn some more advanced functions.