Remember looking through a kaleidoscope as a kid? It was like being a pirate on a treasure hunt, but instead of discovering unexplored land we were glancing into a world of brilliant beauty.
Most of the supplies needed for this great project can be found in your home — some of them are even recycled. If you don’t have a stash of gems on hand, you can find a great selection of jeweled beads right here on Etsy. By the end of this tutorial, you and your inner explorer will be dazzled by the endless and unique patterns created by your handmade kaleidoscope.
You will need:
Thin acrylic mirror (I used a magnetic locker mirror)
Cardboard paper towel roll tube*
Empty plastic vegetable or fruit container
Fine permanent marker
Transparent colorful beads or “gems”
Faux wood pattern contact paper
*All the steps in this tutorial are based on the measurements of a standard cardboard paper towel roll tube (11 inches with a diameter of approximately 1 ¾ inches).
Mark the width of the mirror on both sides at 1 ½ inches, 3 inches and 4 ½ inches. Cut the mirror into 3 strips that are 1 ½ wide. My mirror was slightly too small and rounded to cut three strips, so I used 2 mirrors and cut off the curved corners for this step.
Lay the 3 strips side by side upside down, leaving a small gap between them. Tape the mirrors together using masking tape and set the prism aside.
Measure out the length of your mirror strip and add ? of an inch to the measurement. Take this measurement and mark it along the circumference your cardboard tube. Connect the the markings all around the tube and carefully cut the cardboard roll with your box cutter.
Lay the end of the cardboard tube flat on the back of the contact paper and trace a circle around it (if your tube is not perfectly round, you may have to make some freehand adjustments). Cut approximately 1 inch around the traced circle, then cut little notches or “rays” around the circle so that you end up with a “starburst.” Cut a triangle or circle in the center of the paper. Peel away the backing and lay the starburst on your work surface, sticky side up, and center your cardboard tube on top of it. Working your way around the tube, stick the notches of your sunburst against its edge, adding tape to secure them.
Cut out the bottom of your empty plastic container. Using your cardboard tube or another circular object as a template, trace two circles on the plastic with your permanent marker. Find another circular object that is approximately a ½ inch larger than your traced circles and draw around the previous ones using the same technique. Cut around the each of the larger circles using scissors. With one of the circles, cut notches all the way to the inside of the inner circle so that is resembles a “gear” — we’ll call this Lens A. With the other circle, cut notches to the outside tracing of the inner circle — we’ll call this Lens B. Lay your lenses flat against the table and bend the notches upwards.
Slide your triangular prism inside your tube. Take Lens A and place it inside your tube against the edges of your prism, notches facing up. Place your selected beads on top of the plastic lens. Cap your gems using Lens B, notches facing down, and secure it to the tube with masking tape. Give it a spin!
If you aren’t satisfied with the quantity or the selection of beads that you made, you can go ahead and make changes by untaping the lens and replacing the beads.
Roll the sticky faux wood paper around your tube until it is fully covered. Make a note of where the paper meets, leaving a little extra wiggle room. Measure and mark out the length of your tube on the back of your paper. Take into account the length of the notches on your top lens and remove this length from your tube length (or your faux wood won’t have a “flat” surface to adhere to on your tube). Cut a rectangle to size with your ruler and box cutter, and peel off the backing. Line up your paper to the bottom of your tube and slowly work your way around it, making sure you don’t trap any air bubbles.
You can leave the masking tape you used to secure your lens visible or you can take it a step further. Fold a piece of ordinary paper in half and pour some glitter into the fold line. Take your glue and coat the outer perimeter of your lens, covering the entirety of the masking tape you used to secure it. Gently roll your glue-coated tube tip in the glitter until it is fully coated and let it dry.
Now you have your very own kaleidoscope filled with infinite gem pattern possibilities!
All photographs by Romain Laurent.