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How Kaleidoscopes Work

Make Your Own Kaleidoscope

Although kaleidoscopes can be elaborate, collectible pieces of art costing thousands of dollars, you can make your own. Depending what you have on hand, you may not even have to spend a dime to do it. Here's what you need:

  • Two or three reflective surfaces. These might be small mirrors, glass slides (the type you would use under a microscope) with one side of each painted flat black, or reflective matter such as shiny plastic or foil.
  • A container large enough to hold your reflective surfaces. You might try things like a PVC pipe, a paper towel tube, or a plastic bottle. Or experiment with whatever strikes your fancy.
  • An object holder. A small, clear box or pouch -- possibly made out of a bag or plastic wrap -- should do the trick as long as light can shine through it.
  • Items that fit in the holder. There are no rules here, although things like confetti, beads and ribbon are a good place to start.
  • Something to cover the open end of the kaleidoscope body. A scrap piece of cardboard or dark plastic would work. You will need to be able to make a viewing hole in it.
  • Craft materials like scissors, glue, tape, rubber bands or whatever else is appropriate to hold your specific pieces together.

To put it all together, follow these steps:

  1. Form the reflective material into a vee (two sides) or a triangle (three sides). You may need to glue or tape the pieces together. This may require folding a single piece of reflective material into a triangle and cutting off the excess.
  2. Fit the vee or triangle into the container. Use extra cardboard, foam, glue or tape as needed to make it fit snugly.
  3. Fill the object holder and attach it to one end of the container. The items should be able to move in the object holder. You may need rubber bands, tape or glue to secure it.
  4. On the other end, attach the cover with a viewing hole. Again, you may need glue or tape to secure it.
  5. Decorate the outside as desired. You could add color to the far side of the object holder. (Not too much or you'll block the light.) Paint, markers, colored paper or stickers would make great decorations for the body.
  6. Hold your creation up to a window or lamp, look through the eye hole, and enjoy the fascinating world that unfolds within.

Don't be afraid to experiment. You may discover the next amazing innovation in kaleidoscope design. Like all great artisans, you're only limited by your imagination!

Visit the links on the next page to learn more about kaleidoscopes and other related topics.