1 Joule Ruby Laser

Acquisition Date: November, 2008
Date of Manufacture: 1986
Country of Origin: Rugby, UK
List Price (when new): $54,500
Purchase Price: Came with the 1st LFC acquisition

Provenance:“You don’t know who you’re talking to, lady!”  “You don’t know who you’re talking to, mister!”  That was how the speaker phone conversation ended, the mister being Max Epstein, in his role as President of Holicon, plus the other principals in the firm, Hans Bjelkhagen and Michel Marhic, with the Lady being none other than Anait Arutonof Stevens, holographic artist extraordinaire.

The shouting match was over the fee that they would charge her for daily rental of the lab.  I might have been an unwitting instigator with having quoted her $500/day, which I had to have run past the other knuckleheads before daring to open my mouth.  But when they all got on the phone, Max was steadfast at a kilobuck a day and would not budge.  Even at $500 per diem they would have come out ahead, and would have had a perennial customer.

So I called her up the following week to offer my apologies for getting her involved, but she was all right with it, as this was what tipped her over the edge to buy one of her own!  At $54,365! 

Holograph: sample of a person's handwriting.

And she could afford it! Anait’s Home + Studio’s property ended on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, California. Legend has it that her father invented the electric motor that could work underwater, and her husband invented underwater oil drilling bits. (I have not found patents to verify this.)  So although one could see drilling rigs in the Pacific from their backyard, they were also seeing dollar signs pumping out of them.  And she was an inventor in own right, patenting a device she called “Stir Crazy”, a battery powered spoon for mixing puddings in the pot on the stove. 


It was agreed that I would consult with her when the laser arrived to show her the tricks of pulsed laser holography.  Optics are hard enough to line up with a continuous laser beam that you can see, but a pulsed laser is even more difficult as the beam is there and gone in a matter of nanoseconds.  If we had known about dSLR’s in that era the work would have been much easier, and now they are part of the work flow at the Home + Studio.  Plus the holographic plates and films need a special High Intensity Reciprocity Failure Developer, which I had discovered, called SM-6.


If you are not familiar with the work of Anait, as she preferred the single name, you should check out Al Razutis’s Wavefront archives. Or this short YouTube excerpt from an extended video. She signed her correspondence with AWHOIH, (Artist Working Hands-On In Holography), and she really did the work herself.  She was definitely a pioneer in the field, and did create some impressive work. This is her "Water Lilies After Monet" mentioned in the YouTube as installed at the 4th International Symposium on Display Holography at Lake Forest College in 1991. Click here to buy a copy of the Catalog of the Holographic Art of that show.

Unfortuately she was diagnosed with cancer, and donated the laser to Lake Forest College, where I installed it in a lab in the basement, which was christened the Anait Laboratory for Pulsed Laser Holography.

Pure Brass!

TJ had to relinquish that space in the Fall of 2008, and gave the laser to me, along with a literal couple of tons of isolation tables and optics, just for the taking, in appreciation of all that I did for him.  Thank you once again, TJ and Anait!

This laser is of the second generation of JK rubies, the System 2000 being the previous. Much of the optics and many of the circuit boards are carryovers from that series. The major difference is that all the cabling and hosing are routed under the breadboard that the optics are mounted on. For more details, see Inside JK Lasers.

This laser had lain fallow in the Studio until it was revived in 2014, and has seen plenty of action, being the subject of a paper presented at the Ninth International Symposium on Display Holography in 2015 at St. Petersburg, Russia, and currently creating a Rogue's Gallery of Holography friends.

Operator's Manual

Service Manual

Insanely detailed tune up description

Manufacturer’s Current Web Page

The JK Club for more ruby laser porn!

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