Variable Dimmer for Laser Pointer





Introduction: Variable Dimmer for Laser Pointer

This simple design uses two polarized plastic lenses to control the brightness of a laser pointer.

If you've ever been in a briefing where someone uses a green laser pointer at close range you'll appreciate this project. Not only are the green lasers more powerful than the red ones, but your eye is more sensitive to green. So trying to follow as someone uses one of these is sure to leave afterimage spots in your vision. Your only alternative is to NOT look at their slide! You, as the speaker, want to use the cool green laser, but you also don't want to blind your audience. This dimmer will allow you to tailor the brightness of your laser to the setting you are in.

Total cost to me: $0. Parts: glue, plastic polarized lens from disposable 3-D theater glasses, strip of aluminum, metal cap that fits over the end of the laser pointer with a center hole as shown in the picture. OK, that last item was a lucky find in a junk drawer, but it's not a very unusual shape to find or make. The cap could be made of any material. An alternative to the aluminum strip is plain old scotch tape. All that part does is match the diameter of the laser to the cap and provide a friction fit so you can rotate the cap but it doesn't fall off.

Cut two circles from the plastic lens with a scissors. Be careful handling the lenses - scratches in them will distort the laser beam spot with streaks. The lens to be glued to the end of the laser should be slightly smaller in diameter than the laser pointer body, but needs to completely cover the hole where the laser light comes out. The lens to be glued to the cap just needs to cover the hole in the cap.

There is one small trick. The laser light from these pointers is slightly polarized, so you have rotate the first lens to get maximum brightness before you glue it to the end of the laser. The lens glued to the cap does not need to be aligned to anything. Then you wrap the end of the laser with the aluminum strip (or tape) until the cap fits snugly but can still be rotated. That's it.

To dim or brighten the laser, just rotate the cap. Depending on the relation of the polarized lenses they will let more or less light through. You do not need to know the exact angle of the polarized lenses, just rotate to get the brightness you want. Even these cheap lenses will nearly extinguish the light at the dimmest setting. The brightest setting will still be very bright, or you could just pull the cap off to "turn the volume up to 11".

Sorry this is a slide show instead of an instructable, but I just got into this site. This is a project I did two years ago that I thought others might find useful.

Overall the finish could be better, but this is a case where the test sample was good enough, so I've never improved on it. I have built some for others, but they all work the same way. Any arrangement of lenses, cap, spacers, etc. that allows the lenses to be rotated in relation to each other will work.

The laser I used has a nice flat end. You will have to adapt the shape of the cap and inner lens if yours if different. Most green laser pointers look like this, though.

I noticed in the pictures that I have a black plastic washer between the inner lens and the end of the laser, but this not required.

They should just sell this as an option with green lasers in my opinion; they're all too bright for typical pointing situations, yet we enginerds keep wanting to use them...



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    well I got one online for 26-30 dollars. I'm not sure where. Also, the green laser has a power output of <5mW and has a wavelenght of 532nm. i believe i just googled it for a while and came up with this website. i do have a question though, does anyone know how to modify a green laser to make the light extreamly hot so that it can melt things. I've seen it done but i forget where. so It's been bugging me. if any knows how, please let me know. it would be greatly appreciated. thanks, Jake p.s. please email me (

    3 replies

    I got a 5mw for a dollar at the dollar store. It is red tho, but includes batteries as well. w00t! DOLLAR STORES FTW

    I just popped over to eBay and they now have the same 5mW green laser pointers for $5.99 plus $6.99 shipping. Won't get much cheaper than that for a new one.

    Like everything else electronic, it sounds like the price is coming down on green lasers. The only LED lasers that I've seen anyone light a match or melt thin plastic with with are blue ones taken out of DVD writers. I believe those are much more than 5mW. There should be some projects like that on this Instructables site, I think that's where i saw it.


    i like the idea of the polarising filters! but does any1 know if it is possible to use pwm to control the brightness of a laser like with led's? i cant c y not? mayb if the freq is high enough? pwm would use less battery life too! any ideas?

    1 reply

    Sorry, I know almost nothing about how laser pointers are driven. I'm sure I could know 90% of what I need in about 15 minutes by poking around the internet, what a fun place. For this project I wanted a modification I could remove if it failed, because the pointer I used cost $80 at the time, they're about $14 (with shipping) now. Plus I had some cheap 3-D glasses sitting around from a movie that were still "good" so I couldn't just throw them out now, could I?


    why would you need a dimmer in the first place???

    1 reply

    Green laser pointers are way too bright for a darkened briefing room, especially a small room with a reflective screen. Yet some folks insist on using them. They can be painful to look at and then you don't look at the slides (sometimes this makes no difference to the briefing...). I bring my dimmable green pointer along just in case and have them switch if needed.

    When I first built this, red lasers were running about 2-3 mW and greens were about 5mW. You have to look at the label. but you're right, it's a double-whammy because the human eye is more sensitive to green than red, plus the commonly sold green laser pointers are (or can be) more powerful. I think the mW ratings on the pointers refer to output power, not the power drawn by the laser diode, because then the power drawn might be higher and the laser less efficient, leading to less output. I'm surprised there's not more blue pointers out there, but all you hear of in blue are the really powerful DVD writers.

    Nice job, I like it. Looks cool, what kind of laser is that, I must ask? And how much did it cost?

    1 reply

    I bought it online 2 or 3 years ago for $89.95; sorry, I don't recall from whom. It puts out 5mW I think. There is no label on it. Unfortunately I took it back to work, so I'll have to see if the box says who made it and get back to you guys.

    yes, what kind and how much? I actually have the same laser in my hand, but its not mine...its a friends, and i want one for myself.