Start here for information on the basics of vacuum technology,
hardware, projects, tutorials, my magazine articles,
selected articles from back issues of the Bell Jar
and materials from Frank Lee's collection of projects.
Tutorials

An Introduction to Vacuum Technology for the Amateur Scientist

This 40 page booklet is intended for the amateur scientist that is interested in making use of vacuum in his or her projects. It contains information on vacuum theory, apparatus and representative vacuum projects. This booklet was compiled at the request of the Citizen Scientists League which, unfortunately, no longer exists. Much of the content is available from sources on this page while some is new content.

A Primer on Using Ace-Threds™

Ace-Threds are a demountable feedthough system for glassware items. They represent a great way to add electrical and fluid feedthroughs to custom and standard glassware.

Ace-Thred is a trademark of Ace Glass, Inc.

Exploding Wires: Principles, Apparatus and Experiments

I produced this booklet in 1993 and sold a goodly number of them through Lindsay Publications. For me, exploding wires led to rail guns and other pulse plasma devices.

This section links to ongoing projects in my shop. These will be updated as work progresses so check back every now and then if something is of interest. The linked pages were last updated in 2012 and the projects, except for the pseudospark work, have been fairly dormant.

Mini-F Plasma Focus Device. This has some links to excellent resources.

Pseudospark Electron Beam Source. Basic pseudospark devices are quite simple to construct and present a fascinating area for study.

Vacuum Spark Soft X-Ray Source. Flash x-ray sources represent another interesting area of study.

The Last Print Format Issue, Volume 10, Number 3/4

tBJ existed through its first 9-1/2 volumes as a paid-subscription paper journal. The last issue of Volume 10 was completed in 2007 and is available only as an electronic document.

Contents: Buckyball Synthesis (G. Konesky), Microwave Oven Plasma Reactor (H. Page), High Voltage with Hardware Store DC/AC Inverters, Taking the Bubbles out of Gel Candles, Pressure Control from Cartesian Divers to PID.


Bell Jar Compilations

The articles contained in the first 10 years of the Bell Jar have been compiled into two publications. These are available as password protected downloads. After purchasing a download, instructions on how to retrieve and open the document will be emailed to you, generally within 24 hours. If you wish to remit by a method other than PayPal, please email me via the Contact Form.

The First Five Years: This is a compilation of the content of Volumes 1-5 (1992-1996). It contains over 200 pages of vacuum theory & practice, projects and useful tidbits. The table of contents is linked to chapters for ease of navigation. File size is approximately 11.5 MB. Price is $40 as a PDF download.</>

Click here to view some sample pages.

The Second Five Years: This compilation contains the content of Volumes 6-10 (1996 - 2000) less most of Volume 10 Numbers 3&4 which is already available for download elsewhere on this page. Bookmarks are provided for ease of navigation through the 200+ page document. File size is approximately 10 MB. The price is $40 as a PDF download.

Click here to view the table of contents.


My Articles in Vacuum Technology & Coating magazine

Guides to Vacuum Technology

This is a monthly column that I have written for "Vacuum Technology & Coating" magazine since early 2009. All of the back issues are available in electronic format. Click the image to go the magazine's home page. At the bottom of the page is a search utility where you can access all issues by month and year.

Other articles that I've written for the magazine include "A Primer on Vacuum Pressure Measurement" (May 2009) and "Vacuum Equipment for Education" (May 2010).

At some point I'll have a separate page with article titles and a brief summary.


Selected Regular Articles from Volumes 1-10

The following articles are a sampling from the pages of the Bell Jar. In most cases they are in their original form. Numerous updates, corrections and expansions have been made to these articles when merged into the two compilations.

Note: Articles published later than 1996 are in PDF format. Earlier articles are in HTML.

Vacuum Basics: Vacuum fundamentals, terminology, applications and a reading list

Refrigeration Service Vacuum Pumps: Medium vacuum at low cost

Vacuum on the Cheap: This is pretty much an update to Frank Lee's adaptations of refrigeration compressors. With the availability of relatively inexpensive refrigeration service pumps, this information is more of historical interest.

Building a Thermocouple Vacuum Gauge: Homemade controller used with commercial sensor tubes

A Simple Medium Vacuum System

Generating X-Rays with Receiving Tubes: Article by Bob Templeman

Plasma Experiments: Some resources and ideas

Vacuum and Scientific American’s " The Amateur Scientist": Listing of columns from the 1950s until the death of the column in the 1990s

Infrasound Monitoring with a Microbarograph: Not really vacuum related but of interest to those who want to monitor small atmospheric pressure changes


Material By Frank Lee

Frank Lee, through his writings in Scientific American, was my primary source of inspiration with regard to getting involved with vacuum technology. During the mid 1990s I corresponded regularly with him and had the pleasure of meeting him once. At that time he presented me with small collection of his drawings and writings, some of which have found their way into the Bell Jar. As of this writing (late 2007) I am in the process of scanning many of these documents and they will be available here in their original form.

Some Recollections: A brief autobiography by Frank Lee

Conversion of Refrigerator Compressors into Vacuum Pumps: Booklet on adapting 1950s vintage refrigeration compressors

Hickman Oil Diffusion Pump: This is one of the pumps sold by Morris & Lee in the 1960s. I purchased one of these for about $35.00 if memory serves me right. It required a low backing pressure and, at that time, was beyond the capabilities of any of my early forepumps. Recent studies by Hablanian, et al. have shown that the Hickman pump functions more more like a trap than a pump.

Kurth-Ruggles Mercury Diffusion Pump: This was the other pump sold by Morris & Lee. It will operate with forepressures to 2 mmHg but was much more expensive than the Hickman.

Production of Very Low Temperatures: This was in Frank Lee's pamphlet "Experiments in High Vacuum"

Estimating the Relative Mass of the Electron: This was another project in "Experiments in High Vacuum"

Homemade Metal Diffusion Pumps: This is a collection of notes and letters from Frank Lee concerning his thoughts on small (1 inch) DIY diffusion pumps


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