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Several years ago I used to go to several Doll and Toy shows each year in this area and at one show there was a fellow selling Russian hand-crafts; nesting dolls, carved wood animals, etc. He also had some leaded-crystal 'blocks' that had a 3-D dot-matrix image embedded in them. I had never seen such a thing before and I enjoyed looking at all the images. One was a very delicate Ballerina, another was an automobile and another a child's wagon... some had little in the way of detail, just a set of dotted lines to outline a recognizable object. The best was a 1-1/4 diameter multi-faceted sphere with an image of St. Basil's Cathedral in it (which I bought!)

He said he was importing them from Russia where he traveled a few times a year as a missionary. We discussed how they are made and he explained that they took an actual object and digitized it in 3-D and that data is used to aim two lasers at the crystal from different angles and where they cross there is enough heat generated to boil the glass and leave a small blemish at that location. I asked if he had any with a steam locomotive in it and he said no, but he would ask about it on his next trip.

I then asked; if I supply a model of a steam locomotive, could he have a crystal made with a 3-D dot-matrix image of it. He said he could try, so I went home straight away and got one of my (HO size, non-operable) plastic models of a Hudson (4-6-4). Some of you may know what model I mean, it is made by several different Plastic Model companies; Revell, Con-Cor, Snap-Tite, etc. (they may all be the same company for all I know, but the names on the boxes have differed over the many years that I have purchased these things, yet they are all pretty much the same model). I have about 20 parked side-by-side across the top of my china cabinet and since I have so many it didn't matter that I gave one away. I packed the model in a 3-inch diameter mailing tube with my "return address" stickers plastered all over the model, the packing paper, and the inside and outside of the cardboard tube and end-caps, and took it back to the show.

He said that he had no idea if he would be able to get it into Russia, get it to the people doing the crystal images, if they would do anything with it, or what it would cost, and that I probably would not get the model back no matter what. I said I didn't care, and gave him the model and a paper with my name, address and phone number on it.

I managed to promptly lose his business card and I could not even remember what he looked like! At a few toy shows over the next couple of years I saw Russian crafts for sale, but when I asked about the crystal the vendor never knew what I was talking about. I kind of gave up on it, and my interests changed and I seldom went to the toy and doll shows anymore.

A couple of years later around Christmas I noticed many 3-D dot-matrix images in crystals at several mall stores. The prices were much less than what this fellow had been charging. I now have a couple of 3-D image crystals of trains, a 2-4-0, and a 4-4-0 in 2x2x4 beveled-corner crystals that I got at after Christmas clearance for $5.00 each from a mall store.

Then one day I heard of another Toy and Doll show and decided to go to see what had happened to the doll industry in the few intervening years. I went up and down the aisles and the last booth before I was going to leave was selling Russian nesting dolls and crafts but a woman was handling sales. I just gave the items for sale a quick glance and was about to go home, when I noticed a crystal block on a box under the table. I stooped down to look at it, but it was not something I was interested in... but... on the shelf just above it... now right at my eye level... was a crytal block about 1.5 inches square and 4 inches long with a most beautifully detailed Hudson steam locomotive image embedded in it.

I think my arm broke the sound barrier grabbing it!

When the lady running the booth was done with the present customer, she came over and said, "You're the man that gave my husband the model!" She had seen me grab the thing and even though we had never met she "just knew" I was the one that had ordered it.

She said they had lost my contact information and had been carrying the crystal around to different shows for a couple of years and were worried that I might not ever come to collect it. They were considering just selling it to anyone.

She then had to call her husband to find out what the price was and he was hard to find for some reason... took about 15 minutes of cell phone calls to reach him. I paid for the crystal (Hoo boy! did I PAY for it!) and then I asked if they knew if any more had been made. She said as far as they knew it was the only one, but they could not guarantee it as the Russian company had the data and could easily make as many as they wanted.

She didn't know what happened to the model I had given them.

Well, it has been several years since that all transpired and now I am wondering if anyone else has seen one like this one: (Very difficut to photograph... lots of reflections and refractions.)


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My daughter gave me one as a gift several years ago. A 4-4-0 engine, with tender. It sits on a small rotating light platform. The lights are leds of several colors. It is very neat looking when it is on, It changes color as it rotates. I can try and get a picture later.

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A couple of years back, while we were coming back from visiting with our good friends Richard and Helen Smith down in Port Orford, OR, we stopped off in Depoe Bay to have a bite to eat in the Old Sea Hag ottery - best chowder in the universe, BTW. Almost next door was a teeny shopping mall of about six stores, and in there was a similar glass block containing the 'image' of a Russian 'Nanuchka' missile patrol boat, for $10. I took the vendor's arm off, well, almost.

They also sold fudge.

These images are made as Mr Vaporo states, and I saw how it was done on a science programme about five years ago. The technology was originally develpod to use in medical applications, but I don't know if that ever happened - what I do know is that they are a remarkable application of science that almost beggars belief.

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