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Holography Handbook:

Making Holograms the Easy Way, Fred Unterseher, Jeannene Hansen, Bob Schlesinger

July, 2003



The holy grail of hobbyist holography books.  Yes, this book is that good.  It's presented with an easy to understand style and saves the theory for later (when you've been captured by the magic of making holograms).

Starting out

First, it comes with a hologram.  The hologram that's included helps to keep the magic alive while you read the book and put into practice what it will teach you.  It's a bit of a shame that in recent editions, the hologram has been changed from the cube that appears on the cover to a simple eye.  To me, it was much more impressive that the hologram included with the book was made based on the hologram featured in the book.  In either case, the hologram is a minor detail as the meat is the book itself.

The Handbook starts out by giving the reader a description of what a hologram is and is not as well as a short history of holography.  The authors quickly move on to the where's and how's of putting a lab together, starting with the table.  Bear in mind that the authors think like people planning on making holograms for a number of years and as such, the recommendations lead to very heavy sand-based tables with plenty of space and stability.  Someone just wanting to get their feet wet or do a science fair project can take simpler routes that I'll mention at the end of the review.

The instructions for making a sand table are clear and easy to follow (my first table was an exact duplicate of the 4'x4' table described in the book).  The authors lay out the materials needed and take the reader step by step through construction.  There are plenty of illustrations and photographs showing all stages and building your own table can literally be a matter of following each step to completion.

After showing how to create a basic tension sand table, the authors show how to go about creating a sand/slab table.  This table is functionally the same as the basic table except that a 4" concrete slab is added to provide even more stability than the basic table.

Finally, the authors show a table that replaces the sandbox with a steel top that can be used with magnetic bases (my preference).

The authors then move to the darkroom.  There are a number of ways to set up and keep a darkroom running and this section of the book again takes the reader through all the steps they'll need to follow to get a basic holography darkroom set up.  These instructions include what equipment to buy and the popular chemistries to use.  If you won't have access to running water in your lab, don't worry,  the requirement for running water can be relaxed during the early stages of processing in favor of using wash buckets.

The next section describes the remaining equipment that is needed such as lenses and mirrors (and the laser!) and where to obtain them.  This section is a bit dated and includes suppliers from which you can buy very expensive equipment, something that isn't a requirement.  If you're like me (looking for ways to save at every turn), take a look at my links page for less expensive ways to fill out your lab.  One area where you won't want to skimp is on the spatial filter.  If you have access to or own your own machine shop you may want to attempt to build this but otherwise I recommend that you buy one.  The increase in quality you get from using a spatial filter cannot be overstated.  Note that for your early attempts at holography, you don't need a spatial filter although once you get past the Denisyuk stage, I highly recommend one.

The authors then take the reader through the beginning stages of making a hologram, starting with a transmission setup.  This first section is one of the most important since this is where you learn about the basics of setting up for, exposing and processing a hologram.  The descriptions and illustrations are clear and easy to follow.  These descriptions include the layout of all the components, lighting the subject, checking the scene by viewing the subject through the plate holder, taking light readings, exposing the film and finally processing the film.

The remaining sections take the reader through the processes for making single and split beam reflections, image plane, rainbow, open aperture, 360 degree and stereogram holograms.

The book closes with sections on the technical theory of holograms, art in holography and a bit of philosophy.  The appendices include an annotated bibliography, relevant magazines and magazine articles, places to see holograms, classes you can take and various societies that will benefit you when delving into holography.

What's wrong with this book

  1. Chemistries are a bit dated.  I say only a bit because there are newer chemistries to match the latest films but the basic processes have remained the same.
  2. Kodak and Agfa film are no longer available, photopolymers are only available to the well connected.  Fortunately there are film available from a few new manufacturers.  Unfortunately they're still relatively expensive.
  3. Many of the places to see holograms have closed since the book was written.
  4. Most of the non-university holography classes are no longer available.  So far, there have been no replacements with the exception of the pulse class offered by Forth Dimension Holographics.

Fortunately all of these (minor) shortcomings are easily worked around by using the sources listed here and here.

What can be done with little money?

You don't need to break the bank to get into holography.  I highly recommend taking a look at Holoworld for tips and a book on laser pointer holography.  With a film and developer kit purchased from Holokits along with a small laser pointer, you can start making holograms almost immediately and with no more than about $150 in materials.

For your table, you can get away with either a shoebox of sand or a heavy metal plate (you can purchase small 1/4" steel plate from both Home Depot or Lowes) set on top of a few layers of bubble-wrap.  For the more serious among you, take a look at my table or Colin Kaminski's.

For the rest of the equipment you should either make friends with a local copier repair shop (they're a good source of mirrors and lenses) or you can also get friendly with eBay.  eBay is a great way to save money on optics and mounts as well as new, higher powered lasers.


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Last modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010