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Mounts for optics


New member
Oct 18, 2009
Some folks have asked about the optics mounts I made. So, here is some detail. You can see some nice beam experiments using these in this LPF thread and more at my lasers page here. Larger (800x600) images are linked to the thumbnails shown below.

Of course, if you need scientific precision, you'll need to spend quite a bit more on professional mounts, gimbals and such, which you can find on several websites such as thorlabs.com. They have beautiful stuff, but at prices in the range of $50 to hundreds per mount.

If you want to mount optics for beam splitting, mirrors, gratings and the like for experiments and beam shots, and you want to be able to move your stuff around on the kitchen counter (or around the house), you just need an inexpensive yet still effective set of simple, self-standing mounts. You'll need to make your own. Besides, it's a fun project all by itself!

Each mount needs to be sturdy and adjustable, so that (1) it will hold various shapes and sizes of objects, (2) the mount can be easily moved around, and (3) the mounted item can be moved up and down.

Given those needs, the following is what I came up with after visiting a couple of hobby shops and utilizing some office supplies I already have at home. You can fashion anything you want from any material you have. So, my approach may also serve as a basis for your own ideas. I found the balsa wood and clamps at a small shop specializing in RC airplanes. I found other clamps and goodies at a large chain hobby store, Hobby Lobby. Michaels may also have what you need.

Each mount is 6" tall. The mount stand is made from balsa wood. Balsa wood is great for modeling, it's soft and it cuts easily with an art knife (X-acto). Each mount has an adjustable clamp held in place by a binder clip.

To make 6 of these mounts, I used:
1 - 3 feet of 1/2" x 1/2" balsa wood (the "posts")
1 - 3 feet of 4" wide x 1/4" thick balsa wood (the "bases" - note 1)
6 - adjustable clamps (note 2)
6 - medium binder clips (note 3)
X-acto knife
Elmer's Glue (any wood glue)
Tiny clothespins are nifty for holding sheet stuff like difraction gratings. You just put the sheet in the clothespin, and put the clothespin in the clamp. Get these by the small bagfuls in the crafts section of the hobby shop. Just follow the little girls (now, now, be nice).

Note 1: You'll have leftovers, but it's also easy to cut the hole too large (step 3 below), so this will allow you some "oops" forgiveness.

Note 2: The clamp is a generic brand from the RC airplane building section of the hobby shop (commonly used to hold things together while glue dries). It is held closed by a rubber band. Its "foot" happens to be 1/2" wide, and this is how the binder clips hold it on the stand so that it will "slide" up and down. If the clamp you find doesn't have this 1/2" foot, you'll need to find another way to affix it, or go with a different size wood and binder clip. You can affix the clamp to the post with a rubber band, but it makes it difficult to adjust the height.

Note 3: These are common office supply, they're also stamped "Binder Clip No. 50".

For each mount:
1. Cut a 3" or 4" wide piece from the sheet of wood. It will be 3" x 4" x 1/4". This is the base.
2. Cut a 6" length from the 1/2" x 1/2" wood. This is the post.
3. In the base center, cut a hole slightly smaller than 1/2" x 1/2" so that the post fits tightly.
4. Use the wood glue to mount the post to the base. Let it dry overnight. Be certain it's good and solid before use.
Now you can affix the clamp to the post, using the binder clip as shown. The binder clip may be hard to squeeze open, it will wrap around the post. Align the clamp foot on one side, push the clip from the other side. By loosing the clip slightly, you can slide the clamp up and down to the desired height. You can achieve enough precision with these to align tiny mirrors and prisms with your laser beam. Be careful while setting up and getting your optics aligned right!

Have fun!