make this SNOOPERSCOPE and see in total darkness (Aug, 1951)

At least they admit in the article that this is not the most practical use of this device, but still….
Wouldn’t the burglar notice her pulling out at powering up all her kit?

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make this SNOOPERSCOPE and see in total darkness

By Harold Pallatz

PICTURED above is only one of the possible applications of the modified wartime sniperscope. This unit, called a snooperscope, is an enlarged version of the instrument used by GI riflemen to enable accurate fire power in total darkness. When the infrared light source is turned on, the user, by employing the special eyepiece, can see in the area covered by the light, although to the naked eye total darkness still prevails.

A number of more practical applications have been developed with the snooperscope because of its ability to peer through any opaque material that passes infrared rays. Crime detection laboratories are now using similar equipment for reading through certain types of material. Since the infrared reflection of pigments in paints and inks is different from that of white light, it is possible to detect forged paintings and checks by the way the colors appear. You can demonstrate this by writing a message with India ink and then painting over it with a coat of ordinary fountain pen ink. Your eye will only see the blackened spot but the snooperscope will peer through the top layer of ink and reveal the writing just as clearly as if there were no top coating. This type of inspection can be made photographically if infrared film is used in the camera. The electronic method permits instantaneous examination which often is a great convenience.

As you might have thought, there are several photographic applications.. Using this device, you can take photographs with no visible light source. (For instructions on this type of work, see Shoot ‘Em In The Dark, January, 1951, MI, pgs. 148-149.) One of the handiest uses is using the snooperscope as a darkroom viewer. Difficult operations that have to be carried out in total darkness can now be viewed clearly throughout the process. If you run into trouble loading film tanks you will appreciate a viewer when the film becomes snarled. A test for fogging should be made before the viewer is used. Within the next few years every modern darkroom may be equipped with infrared viewers.

In scientific laboratories a modified unit such as this is used to study the behaviour of small nocturnal animals in total dark- ness. A converter tube has been used with a microscope to study bacteriological and botanical specimens under infrared rays. Certain large molecules may now be examined in a different way, since they become transparent under infrared light.

Military uses are obvious. The sniper-scope has already been mentioned. The Germans used infrared-equipped tanks and trucks for driving during blackouts. Under these conditions they could travel almost as fast as during the day. Cars equipped with a snooperscope would have the advantage during fog. Certain types of fog are transparent to infrared (depending on the particle sizes) and during such weather increased safety of the road could be obtained. The experimenter is cautioned about building a unit for this purpose, as very good lenses are required as well as powerful headlights. Such specialized construction is likely to prove difficult and driving with makeshift equipment would be dangerous.

In the actual construction of your snooperscope, your best tube would be one of several British models, which are available on the surplus market. Two of these are type CRI 143 and CV 147. For operation at the highest voltages, the tubes should be carefully selected. Other electronic parts required are a 4,000 to 6,000-volt low current power supply (less than one milliampere), a light source and two filters.

For indoor operation a 4,000 to 5,000 volt neon sign transformer operates the tube satisfactorily. Two 1-megohm resistors are used, one in series with each lead, to limit the current. Rectification is not necessary unless the objects are in motion (objects in motion cause a stroboscopic effect when AC is employed.

For portable use either indoors or outdoors a handy-sized power supply may be constructed that operates off three standard flashlight cells. For continuous operation leave the power supply on as long as required. Very long battery life can be obtained by switching on the power supply only momentarily to charge the condenser. The condenser will then store this energy and continue to operate the tube for some time after the unit is turned off. Place a small piece of rubber tubing over toggle switch handle to help eliminate charge pickup.

The high voltage is supplied by a model airplane ignition transformer with a vibrator to interrupt the primary current. These transformers are available on the market with the vibrator already built in. Only two wires need be attached for operation. You can make up your own vibrator coil arrangement by using the parts of an old buzzer or bell. Some types of buzzers can simply be connected in series with the primary of the transformer. Try yours to see if this is possible {1-1/2 volt buzzers). Caution: Avoid contact; these voltages are high and while not dangerous, can give you a rather uncomfortable shock.

Construction of the snooperscope: The image converter tube is mounted in a plastic drinking cup 3-1/2 in. high by 2-1/2 in. in diameter. The optical system required depends upon your intended use. We used a small tripod type magnifier lens of 10 power (1 in. focal length) for the front lens and objects from three inches to one and a half feet can be focused. There is no reason why a greater range cannot be had with this lens by moving it closer or farther away from the tube.

After selecting the lens system mount it in a hole cut into the bottom of the cup. A jeweler’s saw or coping saw is ideal for cutting the hole. Paint the inside of the cup with black paint. Black airplane dope works fine. No light other than that from the lens must be permitted to hit the tube. Place an infrared filter between tube and lens to reduce effects of stray white light.

The image converter tube is inserted with the graphite side toward the front lens and the metal ring toward the mouth of the cup. A thin flexible lead from the metal ring connects to the positive side of the power supply. Some tubes were manufactured without this lead, in which case a piece of spring metal pressed against the metal ring will work just as well. The front end of the tube has a graphite ring around it. This is the end where the infrared image is to be focused. The graphite coating is the cathode or negative lead. Connect this lead to the B minus side of the power supply. A piece of spring brass or even the flat sheet metal carefully removed from a tin can should be formed with the fingers so it fits snugly around the cathode terminal.

The rear viewing lens is optional as it is only required if you wish to view the images closely with the eye. It should have about three power and a focal length between 2-1/2 and 4 in. This lens is mounted and cemented to a piece of plastic or wood. The material should be opaque and have good insulating qualities. The handle is a plastic bicycle handlebar grip which is cemented over a hole drilled into the side of the drinking cup for the high voltage leads. The lead wire can be the plastic type of zip cord, over which is placed plastic insulating tubing.

Light source: The main limit to the viewing distance is the power and type of light source. Greater intensity means greater distance. For the direct viewing of glowing \objects this imposes little difficulty. Such objects as the moon and extra bright stars may be viewed directly. A small flashlight with a plastic filter may be detected at quite a distance. Reflected light from objects requires the use of heat lamps, photofloods or standard 100 to 300-watt lamps to illuminate them. Of course these lights are filtered so that no visible light is seen. The light source shown on page 100 consists of a 300 watt sealed beam outdoor type floodlight (115 volt), a glass type infrared filter and a 10×10 in. recessed lighting box.

Outdoor applications involving greater distances require a bulb with a sharply focused reflector. Gold-plated reflectors give very good results. The sniperscope used a 30 watt, 6 volt bulb similar to the type used in auto headlights. This was operated on a small rechargeable storage battery. Good substitutes are auto spotlights of the sealed beam type such as Westinghouse type 4535 or the General Electric 4524. Standard type flashlights with small dry cells will not provide ample infrared for viewing by reflection. Never point your snooperscope at extremely bright light sources like the sun. Damage to the tube may result.

Infrared filters: Experimental filters can be made by sandwiching several layers of dark red and blue cellophane between two sheets of clear plastic. Both plastic and glass types are available from photographic and scientific supply houses. The latter type is to be used whenever heat is involved. Infrared filters cut out all or most of the visible radiation and allow the heat rays to pass through unobstructed. Since a tungsten lamp produces much more infrared than it does visible light, the action of a filter reduces its strength only slightly, while to our eyes it now becomes total black. Don’t forget that it is possible to overheat even glass filters, so light sources should not be left on longer than necessary. •


Light Source:
Sealed beam light or standard 100 to 300-watt lamp and reflector.
Metal housing for above items.
Infrared filter.

Snooperscope (Eyepiece unit):
Image converter tube.
Plastic drinking cup.
Plastic handlebar grip.
Jeweler’s eye loupe (approximately 2 to 4-in. focal length).
Tripod magnifier, approximately 10x, 1-in. focal length.
Five ft. plastic-insulated cord (do not use cord with rubber or cloth insulation).
Near infrared filter Black paint or airplane dope.

Power Supply, AC:
Neon sign transformer, 4 to 5 kilovolts at under 10 mills current rating.
Two 1/2-megohm resistors (may be as high as 5 meg.).

Power Supply, Portable:
Three flashlight cells.
Model airplane ignition coil.
Small buzzer.
.005 mfd. condenser, 6,000 volts.
.1 mfd. condenser, 600 volts (if not built into vibrator coil).
Two 1/2-megohm resistors.
1 x2A or IB3GT/80I6 tube.
Socket for above tube.
Wooden baseboard.
D.P.S.T. switch.
Grid cap.
Two fahnestock clips.

Note: These parts may be obtained from the Precise Measurements Co., 942 Kings Highway, Brooklyn 23, N. Y.

  1. Andrew L Ayers says: February 21, 20122:18 pm

    @Charlie: Well – if he didn’t notice her pulling it out and setting it up, I’m sure the buzzing of the ignition coil contacts would get his attention!

  2. Kosher Ham says: February 21, 201211:17 pm

    So all that image converter tube requires is HV?


    All video camera tubes require a heater cathode to make them work.

  3. Jari says: February 22, 201211:07 am

    Kosher Ham: Yep, because you don’t need an electron beam to scan the image for the video circuitry. Camera tubes front end works roughly the same way as these converter tubes. Here’s something about these tubes: http://www.tubecollecto…

  4. Kosher Ham says: February 22, 201212:42 pm


    Thanks for the info. I went on Wikipedia and what makes those tubes work is a photocathode.

  5. […] little Google search brought me to an article from a 1951 edition of Mechanix Illustrated on a DIY […]

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