Embellished Toy Spyglass

Introduction: Embellished Toy Spyglass

Here is a look at what I made, and some of the steps I used to do it. In the absence of a 3D printer or machine shop, I'm using a more easy-going approach. I slapped some paint on a cheap kid's toy, and made it look pretty good!

That is to say, I'm still slathering the paint on as I write this!

This technique can be used on many kids toys for variety of themes, so use your imagination!

Step 1: Already Underway, Me Hearties!

So my family and I went to the beach for spring break and did all the usual things one does there. One thing I was hoping to find was something pirate related that wasn't overpriced or garbage. On our way home I found a Schylling spyglass at a thrift store for about a third the cost of new, and immediately thought my little buccaneer (my daughter) would love this. It started off life as a red and black plastic toy. While a toy it would remain, it is now a priceless nautical treasure! Priceless, because it isn't to be sold. Treasure, because I really like it!

I didn't document all the steps I used to make it when I started, but I'll explain as much as I can as I go.

The items needed:

  • Toy spyglass.

This can be a plain one like I used so you can have more canvas to cover with doodles, or a much more complicated one, to save time (or if you are still building confidence, or think you don't have the talent to do it. Trust me, you do!)

  • Blue masking tape.

I painted some wood grain on mine, and masked off a section of the red for the nautical theme. You can skip the wood grain, and therefore the masking if you like.

  • Black paint pen
  • Gold paint pen
  • Various brown/tan/leather colored pens.

I painted faux wood grain, but I considered leather also. Not 100% happy with the way the wood grain turned out, but my daughter loves it as is, so I'm leaving it alone.

  • Sealer.

Test what is compatible with your paints you use, use that. When in doubt, Mod Podge.

  • Gold or Bronze spray paint.

Step 2: Heave Ho, Ye Scurvy Dogs! (or How to Start the Painting)

Ok, I am still working on it as I document it, so I hope this turns out!

What I did first was to mask off all the red parts and the lenses, and took off the rubber eye cup. I wanted the joints to look like gold or brass or bronze to look like something made in the 1700's. I painted the joints with the telescope closed because I thought the paint would get scratched from opening and closing the scope and look terrible after a while. After the paint was dry, I masked off the gold parts (I used gold because I already had a can of gold paint)and left the red parts exposed. I then masked off most of the red areas I wanted to leave designs on and used a light brown paint pen to put a base coat down. When that dried, I used darker browns to sketch in wood grain.The first picture is what it looked like this morning. I didn't really like it much, so I added some light gray over the top and blotted a lot of it back off just to leave a hint of the gray to blend the browns better.

After that dried, I used a little black to better define the borders between the red and the wood areas.

Step 3: Tend to Yer Brightworks! (or How to Add Some Nice Designs)

Whatever kind of design you like, keep in mind what you are comfortable with drawing. I drew the designs on the sides freehand, and continue to clean them up a little at a time.

I started with black paint to make some 'shadows'. The art on old timey things is often cast appliqué and has decades or centuries of dirt, debris or corrosion in the crevices. By painting black first, the metal colored paint will look like highlights on a textured surface.

The screws were done by a simple dot of black paint followed by gold when the black was dry. When the gold was dry, I used the black again to draw a 'slot' across the head of the screw.

I didn't take any pics of the seahorses before I started the gold paint. I started writing this after they were done and the wife suggested I write an 'Ible. They are done a little differently. For those, I painted the outlines of the seahorses with black and let it dry. Then, I painted the whole area gold, leaving a little black showing at the edge. After the gold had thoroughly dried, I went back with a fine black marker and drew in the delicate details.


Wait for the paint to dry before using any kind of marker pen over it! I killed a very nice (and expensive) pen by not waiting long enough!

Ok, so on to the fancy scrollwork!

These areas are just a matter of copying from the internet, or something around the house.

Again, use your own judgement. Go with whatever skill level you feel comfortable with. Get as complicated or simple as you like, your artistic skills WILL improve with practice and time and patience.

Practice on another surface first if you feel unsure how it will turn out on your object.

Step 4: Add As Much Detail As You Like, But Have FUN!

...And the scrollwork gets some gold paint. Do this in soft strokes, try to feather it in, so you don't have thick spots at the beginning and end of a stripe of paint. Let it dry thoroughly before filling in areas that are too light. The constant reminders of letting it dry are also meant to prevent fingerprint smudges.

After painting the gold, the little ship at the bottom needed something more, so I added a couple lines of waves below it. Seriously, easier than it looks for little details like that. Practice, patience, and perseverance!

Okay, here is the fun bit.

By fun, I mean to say soul crushing sadness! When you seal these, keep in mind that many metallic finishes take a long time to dry, and clear coats sometimes ruin them if they are not fully cured. I don't have surefire advice, but some things help:

  1. Use paints that are from the same brand, these are usually compatible with each other.
  2. Wait as long as you can stand it, and then a week after that before you spray on a clear coat.
  3. Test the paints in a safe place, on a similar surface to the one you will be working on.
  4. Did I mention patience?

So, have fun! If you mess up, take a deep breath and try it again!

Be the First to Share


    • Anything Goes Contest

      Anything Goes Contest