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DIY Stereoscope


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DIY Stereoscope

Publishing Notes
Updated 4 February 2014

DIY (kit) Victorian stereoscope

Notes on assembling and hand-finishing a DIY kit Victorian stereoscope

By Frank DeFreitas

I recently had an opportunity to capture a wedding and reception in 3D, and I thought that it would make an excellent candidate for view cards and a Victorian-era Holmes stereoscope. Instead of buying an old stereoscope on Ebay (and taking a chance on quality), I thought it would be even more personal to make one myself. I found a supplier of DIY kits, and began the project. For this page, I am showing my stereograph of the moon, which combines a left-eye view from the 1860's, with a right-eye view from 2011 (into a round, 3D floating moon).

stereoscope lens assembly

The above photo shows the sterescope lens assembly, or head. It is the lenses that help to combine both a left and right view into a single image. The same could be achieved with holographic optical elements, and it might be a worthwhile (and fun) project to duplicate these lenses holographically. In our case here, however, no such advance optics are needed. These lenses are available in either plastic or glass.

staining the wood

The wood arrives in the kit unfinished, so one must choose which type of stain to use (if one wishes to hand-finish). I had this can of cherry in my shop for well over 20 years! I didn't know what to expect after opening it, but as you can see, it still worked fine.

the assembled stereoscope

Here is a photo (above) of the assembled stereoscope. It was all rather simple. One notable assembly step that might prove problematic for some folks would be the view card holder. This is in two sections, and a spring and ball bearing must be used in order for it to slide back and forth (for focusing). It might prove a bit tricky for some. Use a towel so that the ball bearing will not bounce or roll off the table, just in case. I found that it went together easily, but I may have been having one of those lucky days.

making the stereo view cards

Many will find it hard to believe, but I still use a computer (in 2011) that is from 1998 (or thereabouts). My operating system does not support any of the new 3D stereo software, therefore I still make all of my stereoview cards (or stereographs) by hand. This means registration of images by eye and hand, photographic output, and t-square, x-acto knife and rubber cement! It doesn't bother me in the least, however, as I do enjoy making 3D the 'old school' way. The photo above shows me cutting Fuji photo paper containing the left and right-hand images. These will be placed onto the view card and mounted with old-fashioned (and authentic!) rubber cement.

sterescope with 3D view card

The above photo shows my stereoscope with the moon view card in place. This is just before the leather hood was attached to the lens assembly. Up until this point of completion, several days had passed. This was due mostly to a pre-conditioning step, and two staining sessions, all of which require curing time, which I allowed overnight for each.

stereoscope with leather hood

Here is a photo (above) of the stereoscope lens assembly with the beautiful black leather hood in place. It is a wonderful finishing touch, and really brings out the cheery-wood finish. The brass hardware is a nice addition, too. Overall, it manages to still have that antique look to it, even though it is really only several hours old.

stereoscope with moon stereograph

And, finally, a photo showing the finished stereoscope with the moon as seen through the lenses. As mentioned earlier, the left-eye view is from Professor Henry Draper, and is of one of the earliest photographs of the moon (1860's). The right-eye view is from my own telescopic observations of the full moon in March of 2011. When combined in the stereoscope, the two images provide a 3D round sphere floating in space --- even though over 150 years of time are between them. Hence, my stereoscope is also a time machine!

-- Frank DeFreitas

"Science is the study of the physical manifestations of God in action."
-- Frank DeFreitas

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Frank DeFreitas 2015 Frank DeFreitas ...
viewed his first laser hologram in 1968 and started his own holography studio in 1983. He has spent 30+ years working with lasers and holograms in various capacities. Presently retired to his Victorian-era study, he spends his time overseeing his 20,000+ pieces of holography memorabilia; welcomes visitors from around the world; works on his own projects; and provides historical and technical knowledge through speaking engagements. For more info on him, please visit his bio page.

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Frank DeFreitas Holography

The Rocks Will Cry Out Hologram Exhibit, 2015, Allentown, Pennsylvania