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Fixing a Boo-boo
thin diffuser sheet turned out to be much more than I expected. When I accidentally
touched it with the tip of a Sharpie (permanent felt-tip marker), I thought to
myself, "no big deal. I'll clean it off in the morning with a Q-tip
and alcohol." I've done this many times before on other plastics and
had high confidence in success. The alcohol certainly removed the marker,
and the alcohol didn't attack the plastic, but the coarse fibers of the Q-tip
scratched the surface of the plastic. They showed through my slides and
were close enough to the film plane to be in focus. Without a replacement
diffuser sheet, I was sunk.
I reached in my drawer of paper and pulled out a piece of onion-skin.
It made the light diffuse, but it also had pronounced grain and fiber patterns
that were very obvious through the viewer. I then returned to study the
original diffuser more closely and appreciated that it was the most featureless,
smoothest bit of plastic I had ever witnessed. It was time for a trip to the
store to see if I could find a suitable replacement.
I devoted a large part of a Sunday afternoon to my quest. At our
quilting and fabric store, I finally found a large piece of translucent plastic
designed to making durable patterns and stencils. It is thicker than the
original diffuser sheet (so costs me about .5 stop in output) but it is suitably
featureless to work so near the film plane. The plastic cost me only $2,
but the time, stress and gasoline expended in the search came to many times
With the diffuser back in working order, I assembled my illuninator and fit
it into the viewer for a smoke-test.
I made a light sandwich, placed the fluorescent tube in its place and hung
the rest of the electronics outside the case. When I applied power to the
inverter, the light came to life and I was able to slip in a slide and check it
out. The slide looked great and the glow of light through the white viewer
panel give the viewer a slight Star-Trekian look. Next
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