Home-made Laser

This carbon-dioxide gas laser was assembled and operated in 1979 by teenager Ebe Helm in the basement of his parent's New Jersey home. As Helm told museum staff, "The laser operated at 9000 volts, 120 milliamps, on alternating current. Because my gas supply was very limited, it functioned as a static, non-flowing gas laser. It did not function at the expected pressure of 4-10 torr, but only above 60 torr, well off the range of the vacuum gage I was using. The target is a building block donated from the nursery school that my mother operated from our home."
Mr. Helm donated this and other lasers to the Smithsonian in 2005.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Helm, Ebe
Physical Description
wood (base material)
wood (target material)
glass (overall material)
brass (part material)
steel (part material)
plastic (part material)
overall: 18 cm x 13 cm x 61.5 cm; 7 1/16 in x 5 1/8 in x 24 3/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Energy & Power
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Ebe Helm
Additional Media

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