Access to moderately good vacuum apparatus can open up a whole new dimension to the amateur. However, practical information has not been easy to come by. In the 1950s and 1960s there was some level of discourse on simple simple vacuum apparatus. For those who remember, two good examples were C.L. Stong's "The Amateur Scientist" column in Scientific American magazine and the amateur oriented pumps, kits and plans once offered by the firm of Morris & Lee of Buffalo, NY. Between the two, an impressive array of apparatus emerged from the efforts of ambitious basement experimenters. There was a variety of gas lasers, x-ray tubes, potential drop accelerators, mass spectrometers, simple & compound electron microscopes and high altitude chambers, to name a few. All of these were cobbled together with converted refrigeration compressors, single stage diffusion pumps, copper & glass tubing, wax and a lot of ingenuity. The staying power of these endeavors is evidenced by the continued recycling of plans (often in the form of poor imitations) for a number of the vacuum related projects in Stong's columns.

After Stong's tenure there was a significant lapse in the availability of up-to-date information on vacuum technique and apparatus specifically targeted toward the amateur, educator, or professional who likes to tinker. the Bell Jar was created at the start of 1992 to bring together those experimenters who had an established interest in vacuum as well as to promote vacuum technique as an interesting and challenging hobby. The publication schedule was set at quarterly with each issue containing 14 well packed pages of content with no commercial advertising.

Over the years, the readership grew to several hundred and contributors have ranged from true amateurs to professionals with established credentials in the field. This diversity made for a lively publication and has resulted in favorable comments from the professional community (as an example, There's Life in this Bell Jar in the Newsletter of the American Vacuum Society, May/June 1994).

A web presence was established in the mid 1990s and was intended to be an adjunct to the printed publication. The website offered subscription information and a small selection of articles from the printed journal. By 2000 I found that it was increasingly difficult to keep up with a quarterly publication schedule as well as increased costs of printing and mailing. As a result, the printed version of the journal temporarily retired at the midpoint of the 2001 volume (Volume 10).

At the close of 2007 I revived the journal for the last two issues of Volume 10 as an on line offering. That, at least, rounded out the decade. With that, all future content has moved to the web. Meanwhile, virtually all of the content of the print issues is and will remain available in two compilations as pdf format documents.

For a while, I made available some specialized components. The demand was very light and such offerings have been discontinued. On the other hand, there are a number of suppliers who will accept amall orders. Additionally, standard vacuum components can now be found on line. Ebay also has a wide variety of new, like new and good condition used components at very reasonable prices. Beginning in early 2009 I took on the writing of a monthly column for Vacuum Technology and Coating magazine. These are of a tutorial nature and cover many aspects of vacuum technology and equipment. All of the articles are available free, on line.

More information and links for the various publications is available on the Articles and Publications page.

With regard to the "man-in-vacuum" logo: One of the first pieces of vacuum literature that I obtained (sometime in the mid 1960s) was a little booklet from Ultek (then a supplier of ion pumps and UHV systems). The title was A Little Bit About Almost Nothing. (I still have it.) In the vacuum fundamentals section was a cartoon of a person trapped in a vacuum bell jar. Needless to say his cries for help could not be heard since he was in a vacuum. Since then I've seen a number of variations on this theme and I always liked it (some people really hate it though). Thus it seemed appropriate to adapt this idea (my sister in law did this version) for my publication and add the tag line: Get into vacuum with "the Bell Jar."

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