Introduction: Laser Vortex

Picture of Laser Vortex

I have been making the laser vortex for several years as a Halloween affect on my front porch, everyone loves the affect. Finally, this year I created a Halloween site showing others how to make one of these. The video of this can be found on Its made with a laser pointer, small motor, and a mirror creating an effect similar to what you might see at Halloween Horror Nights but on a smaller scale and much cheaper.

I have uploaded the how to videos and added them the the end of this instructable along with some example videos of the vortex in action. I have said this a hundred times but once again, it is even more spectacular to see it in person. There is so much depth that the video dose not bring out.

Step 1: Laser Pointer Mount

Picture of Laser Pointer Mount

We will be mounting the laser on a scrap piece of wood. The one used here is about 1 ½ by 1 inch and cut to about 6 or 7 inches. A 2 by 4 would also work well and can be found in your local hardware store. It will probably cost you less than a dollar if you need to purchase this piece.

A beam clamp was used to secure the laser pointer to the wood base and hold down the “on” button continuously. Three were used, two for securing the laser pointer in place and one to hold down the button. The one holding down the button should only be tight enough to hold the button down, if it is too tight it may damage the button. These beam clamps would be easy to find in the electrical section of your local hardware store near the electrical conduit for less than a dollar a piece. Just make sure there is a screw hole on the clamp to mount it to the wood base.

Step 2: Beam Clamp Alignment

Picture of Beam Clamp Alignment

Align up your beam clamps on the wood base making sure all points rest evenly on the laser pointer. You will not need to tighten the bolts down very hard to secure the laser pointer but properly aligned clamps will hold it more securely while placing less stress on the pointer. The placement of the clamp used to hold the button down may differ from this image. Different laser pointers sometimes have the button in different locations.

Step 3: Clamp Attachment & Laser Pointer Protection

Picture of Clamp Attachment & Laser Pointer Protection

Screw the clamps to the wood base. Make sure the clamps stay properly aligned. Most beam clamps have only one screw hole and will twist slightly when secured so you may need to hold them in place prior to tightening them down all the way.

Self adhesive felt pads were used on any point where the clamp came in contact with the laser pointer. In this case there were two for the clamp side, one for the bolt tip, and two for the lower portion of the clamp.

Step 4: Cut to Desired Length

Picture of Cut to Desired Length

The wood was then cut to the desired length.

Step 5: Tripod Mount

Picture of Tripod Mount

The wood base could be hung or propped up to point in any direction you need but mounting it to a tripod was desirable in this case. Tripod attachments for cameras are portable, inexpensive and can be found in many styles and sizes.

To screw the wood base to the tripod, a 5/16 inch Tee Nut was used. Once again this was found in a local hardware store for less than a dollar but you will usually find these in the nuts and bolts department.

To install the tee nut to the wood base, a hole about ¼ inch deep was drilled on the bottom just big enough for the shaft of the nut. It is best to center the hole to ensure a well balanced mount but be careful not to drill directly over the screw securing the clamp unless there is space for it. The tee nut is then hammered into place and ready to be mounted.

The final product mounted to a small tripod. Remember when attaching the laser pointer to tighten the bolts enough to hold the laser in place but not break it. The bolt for the button should only be tightened enough to hold it down.

Step 6: The Reflector Module

Picture of The Reflector Module

The reflector module is really a simple concept but it can be a bit difficult to construct. Its job is to reflect the laser beam at an angle that constantly changes to make a circular pattern. This is accomplished by placing a mirror at an angle on the shaft of a small electric motor. As the motor turns, the angle is changed making a circular pattern.

In a foggy room, we can see the pattern as a cone from the striking point of the laser on the rotating mirror outward. With a dense wispy fog created by a small fog machine, the vortex affect we desire is created by reflecting more of the concentrated laser light off of the denser areas of fog.

Step 7: Motor Mounting

Picture of Motor Mounting

We will start out with a small electric motor extracted from a battery operated personal fan. You can find these fans in dollar stores and places like Wal-Mart that sell them for as little as 50 cents.

The motor was mounted to a gutter bracket purchased for about one dollar at a local hardware store. The gutter bracket is strong with pre-drilled holes for mounting both the motor to it and it to whatever we want.

To hold the motor to the bracket, a piece of insulated 14 gauge solid core electrical wire is bent over the motor housing with the ends placed through two of the pre-drilled holes in the bracket. The ends of the wire are then bent around the bracket to secure the motor on the bracket. This is the same type of wire used in the walls of your home and is very useful for many different things. It's strong, pliable, and cheep. Find it by the foot or in pre cut lengths in your local hardware stores electrical department.

Step 8: Mounting the Mirror to the Motor

Picture of Mounting the Mirror to the Motor

Mounting the mirror to the shaft of the motor can be a perplexing problem. I was told to try a hobby shop for the simple pre-made piece so it would be easy to build but this may not be easy for everyone to find. Here is a design that should be easy for most everyone to find parts to make and do. (The attached fan blade could be used but the blades would need to be cut away. These blades would create wind causing the fog to dissipate along with the vortex affect.)

Find a metal bottle cap in good shape, the twist offs from beer bottles are perfect because most twist off caps are removed without damage to the cap. Use a nail no larger than the shaft of the motor to punch a hole in the center of the cap. Using a nail as a punch rather than a small drill bit will give us some added grip on the motor shaft that we could not get with a clean drilled hole.

Step 9: Angle & Hold Mirror in Cap

Picture of Angle & Hold Mirror in Cap

We will be mounting a one inch round mirror at an angle in the cap. This is a small angle but sufficient for creating the vortex. The mirrors can be found in the craft department of most stores such as Mal-Mart or at a craft store. They usually come in packages of 10 or 20 for less than two dollars.

Three notches will be bent on the cap to hold the mirror securely in the cap and at an angle. Two of the notches need to be bent as close to the edge of the cap rim as possible so the mirror can extrude as far as the cap will allow. A small piece of foam is used to prop the mirror up from this point where the 2 shallow notches are. The one used here was part of a foam packing peanut.

Once the notches are made and the foam is in place to prop the mirror, the mirror is placed in the cap and the final bend is made to secure it at its angle. Be cautious not break the mirror while doing this.

Step 10: Mounting the Cap to the Motor

Picture of Mounting the Cap to the Motor

Mount the cap on the motor using the hole punched earlier. This should be a tight fit holding it securely but the metal bent out from punching the hole can be used to make a tighter fit if needed. Using an adhesive such as super glue could also help secure the cap on the shaft if needed.

Step 11: Power for the Motor

Picture of Power for the Motor

These small motors are usually powered by two AA batteries, 1.5 volts each for a total of 3 volts. No where near the full speed of this motor is needed so we will be using one AA giving it 1.5 volts. If you know how to reduce the voltage down further it is recommended so vibration of the unbalanced cap in the motor is reduced along with noise but this how-to will not be going into that much detail.

The terminals on the motor for supplying power can be soldered to electrical wire or simple alligator clamps could be attached to make the connection if soldering is not an option. A battery holder from Radio Shack or an electrical shop is best for holding the wire on either end of the battery but I have gone as far as using an old remote control to hold the wires in place if there wasn't one at hand. Polarity (the + and - side of the battery) is not important, the motor just need to spin in either direction. If you have not mounted the bracket with attached motor to something like a scrap piece of wood, now is a good time to hold the device in place before applying power.

Once the electrical connections are made you will likely see why we don't want it to spin so fast. These cheap motors are fast and loud especially when they have not been loaded down with a larger object to move.

Step 12: The Fun Part

Picture of The Fun Part
Break out your laser and point it at the spinning mirror. The reflected beam should create a circle rather than a point. In low light, point a small fog machine so the dense fog passes across the path of the reflected laser beam and you should have your vortex

Green Vortex:

Red/Green Vortex:

Video of Halloween 2006

I recommend watching the video if you can. It contains some ideas for other more suitable motors that could be used like computer case fans. A higher voltage DC motor could also be purchased at your local Radio Shack, electrical store or hobby shop. Using a higher voltage motor and placing a lower voltage on it is a good way to reduce the speed for smoother operation.

Project Video Part One

Project Video Part Two


AshishP40 (author)2016-04-23

I'm wirking to make this project..
whene I made I've upload pictures..
thanks for insurance. ..

AshishP40 (author)AshishP402016-04-23

please tall me how to creat smoke ?

MrEunderhill. (author)AshishP402016-07-09

Some hot water and dry ice will create a fog effect. Perhaps you could use that as the smoke.

AshishP40 (author)MrEunderhill.2016-07-09

my laser diode burnt-out project fail

MarkF107 (author)2016-01-23

Nice work but there is a reason that the buttons on those laser pointers are momentary. They cannot handle 100% duty cycle. Draining a whole battery charge in one shot is just about enough to cook the laser diode. Commercial versions of such a device would used a cooled laser.

mikuka (author)2015-12-11

If you would like more information about laser pointer, please click on the Business pinterest:

Dain Unicorn (author)2012-02-22

I may be showing my age.... But it is very reminiscent of the "time travel vortex" effect used in the 1981 movie, "The Final Countdown".

Very cool

hemorrhoidhunter (author)2011-04-30

it reminds me of the game "Portal"...

Charlie13 (author)2010-11-14

You could tape a prism to the top of an old whacked out CD player and then reflect the lasers through the prism.

brucejuice39 (author)2010-10-07

um yeah its a nail not a screw

project dude (author)2010-09-04

you used a screw not a nail

mikeerdas (author)2010-02-07

Nice work. I'm not very handy, so I modified a USD $50 green laser unit from Guitar Center to do the laser vortex. Plugs into the wall, so no batteries to worry about. Has a fan. Has a mount:

The how-to itself:

What it looks like:

buchd (author)2009-09-27

Is this a sort of 2-d "hole" that people could pass through, or if you aimed it down a hallway could you create a "tunnel" effect? I moved into an apartment with a long and awkwardly empty hallway that this would be perfect for... Going for a sort of "twilight zone" effect, if I can manage it.

DrCoolSanta (author)buchd2009-11-01

Imagine Light reflected from this to be in a conical shape, where the thinner part emerges from the mirror, the closer you are to it, the thinner it is. Hence it will either be visible on your clothes. If you make the angle wider, the farther you are from the mirror, the more likely light never reaches you. It will end up just forming circle on the walls closer to the mirror.

What I mean is that you need is a cylinder to mimic a tunnel, a cone would not work.

Anyway, you would need the smoke to be everywhere in that room for the tunnel effect, this also means that the more effective the tunnel is, the smaller it has to be.

DrCoolSanta (author)DrCoolSanta2009-11-01

Sorry the pic didn't upload, but this should help better understand

ht2o (author)2009-05-28

realy realy kool i might be able to try this when i get bat home

master key (author)2009-03-26

What is that all about.

Jake Morton (author)2009-02-09

i think this is how they do this in doctor who

Red_E_Made (author)2007-12-16

Shouldn't the wood get turned around so the side clamped to the table also has the laser clamps? Or are you planning on dropping the last 3 steps of work?

Kryptonite (author)Red_E_Made2008-12-06

That's a good point, well spotted.

Evil Bike (author)2008-11-24

THERE IS A MUCH EASIER WAY!! get a laser pointer, shine it thru the bottom of a nalegene bottle. the way the bottle is shaped it does that. you have to move it around a little

mever (author)Evil Bike2008-11-25

Sorry, that will not produce the same effect.

Evil Bike (author)mever2008-11-25

r u sure... jk, its really cool tho

mever (author)Evil Bike2008-11-26

It is cool… but it diffuses the beam and causes it to go out of focus. Looks neat on a wall or a flat surface but can’t produce a sharp image in mid air.

Evil Bike (author)mever2008-11-26

it is best up close.

JamesRPatrick (author)2007-10-28

This is my main setup. The laser pen is actually a cheap laser pointer that I modified to use AAA batteries. I used some heavy guage wire for the bipod and a ring of plastic(3rd picture) held together by duct tape that slides over the button, holding it down. For the mirror part, I used a free mirror from the Hair Cuttery, which is bigger than most used here. I attached the mirror to the motor with a folded section of a milk jug. I punched a hole and put the shaft through the hole. Then I pushed the plastc gear that came with the motor over the shaft and the plastic layer. I hot glued the gear to the plastic all around. I used a double D cell battery holder from i science kit and glued that to a random piece of wood for stability. Then I glued the motor to the top of the battery case. The last picture is on my bathroom floor and wall without smoke.

Kaiven (author)JamesRPatrick2007-12-03

wow! how many AAA batteries does it take?

JamesRPatrick (author)Kaiven2007-12-03

The pointer originally had 3 button batteries, and each button battery is 1.5 volts. Each AAA battery is 1.5 volts so it uses 3 AAA's. The mirror spinning component uses two D cell batteries, which are also 1.5 volts, but last longer.

how do u convert the laser from button batterys 2 AAA baterys

It's not a perfect mod, but if someone else wants me to post it, I might do it during Christmas. My camera is a little fidgety so I've been reluctant to make Instructables lately. I'm not sure if I'll be able to find one of my other laser pointers, but if I see one at the dollar store, I'll pick it up.

Kaiven (author)JamesRPatrick2007-12-04

post your mod :P it's great

Heres my first picture that didn't show up.

fade400 (author)JamesRPatrick2007-12-13

that's cool im going to try a mirror instead of a cd. the first time i used 6 volts in which case the cd shot off the motor and ricocheted off of my tv. i tried 1.5 volts next with another cd and even with the addition of fog, was not able to produce a non diffracted beam. so what im wondering is .. can you explain how you attached that mirror to the motor ?

JamesRPatrick (author)fade4002007-12-13

Wash out a plastic milk jug, if you're in America like me. Cut an 8x4inch strip of plastic, or fit it yourself. Bend it around itself like in the pictures to the desired angle(this setup has a fixed angle)and hot glue it in place. Poke a hole where you want the motor to go with a thumbtack or something. Push the motor shaft into the hole and attach the gear on the inside to the shaft. If you don't have a gear with it, use an eraser or part of a glue stick. Hot glue all around the gear ONLY ON THE INSIDE. Then hot glue on the mirror to the other side.

fade400 (author)JamesRPatrick2007-12-15

thank you very much !

mever (author)JamesRPatrick2007-10-28

I love your bipod, its a perfectly simple solution to pointing the laser in the proper direction. Do you have any vibration trouble with the large mirror mounted to the motor?

JamesRPatrick (author)mever2007-10-28

There's some vibration but I think it is because my hot glue doesn't completely cover the connection points. When I squeeze the top of the motor and the bottom of the wood, the vibration stops. If anyone uses a bigger mirror, I recommend putting rubber pads on the bottom of the mirror component or taping it down. Mine tries to run away when it's turned on, but for a five minute throw together, it works fine.

lizardfreedom (author)2008-11-24

can u giv me a list of all the materials? plz and thank u

Mattrox (author)2008-11-18

That is SOO cool great job

mever (author)Mattrox2008-11-18


Flashdude (author)2008-11-16

I love it! my uses might be for something other than Halloween, though. lol. imagine this as a hand-held version. mini vortex at rock concerts. :D

mever (author)Flashdude2008-11-17

There was a rock band in Las Vegas that built one for concerts last year. It should work out well.

freedomfighter (author)2008-10-23

hey awesome idea! what is the song that you used in the first video the green vortex?

mever (author)freedomfighter2008-10-23

That is Midnight Syndicate, Born Of The Night. I think Born Of The Night is the name of the album as well but you really can't go wrong with any of their work to set a Halloween mood.

thatguysbow (author)2008-10-04

nice instructable, but i have a quick question. my laser pointer is one of the ones that has the red beam will it still work?

mever (author)thatguysbow2008-10-05

Yes, red will work. I used a red laser for years until the price of the green lasers became more affordable. You can even use green and red at the same time, I have been wanting to try this with 3D Glasses. I imagine this would give an interesting affect.

thatguysbow (author)mever2008-10-05

ok thanks, cuz i just got down my fog machine and i have my laser ready to do a test..... now if night would hurry up and come XD. i already have all the parts to build it just got to put it together.

flybabytina (author)2008-09-23

Ok, so I salvaged a motor from an old walkman type personal CD player and I got thinking... is it possible to use the laser from it for the vortex? I absolutely love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing it!

mever (author)flybabytina2008-09-24

Sorry, the laser in an audio CD player will not produce a visible beam. some DVD burners do but they are normally red in color and I do not know how safe they would be or how focused the beam is at longer range. Good luck with your project... Haunting season is just around the corner!

Rye (author)2008-05-20

do you have to worry about the laser effecting your eyes?like in vortex form?

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