Introduction: Looty

About: I live in the UK. Half my time is spent running events for people who make videogames, the rest is spent prototyping… things ¬¬ I used to take my toys apart and put them back together when I was a kid. One of…

A Looty is a device that allows each of your eyes to gaze into the other. They were originally made by Jim Woodring, who stopped making them because he thought the effect was probably bad:

"I made machines and gadgets, devices to explore with. Stupid things. Like the Looty, which enables your eyes to stare directly into each other. It's a bad invention... I made a few to sell and then stopped because the effect is unnatural and probably harmful."

Oho! My sense of danger was piqued. I made quick stop to look at the original advert for it in the back of the <s>The Frank Book</s> (<-- don't know where I saw this ad, but I did. And now it's disappeared...), grabbed some likely materials and began.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Alas, there are no pictures of the original online, but Jim's drawing makes it appear to be a beautiful affair in wood, with proper eye pieces. I went for a less refined version in cardboard. I'll try to be scant on the specifics of hacking up my particular box, and focus on the technical issues instead.

A box, roughly as wide as a human head, preferably a bit narrower.
Thin cardboard (Mine was sourced from a cereal box)
Greaseproof paper (To diffuse light)
Small, thin mirror
General purpose glue

Steel rule
Craft knife
Glass cutter
Side cutters (Not shown)
CD marker pen (Not shown)

Step 2: Prep Box

Here's the box. I loved the graphics as soon as I saw it, and had been wanting to make it into something for a long time. It was well constructed enough that only one seam was glued, and I decided to leave it that way rather than break it down further.

Whatever you use, I suggest recording all the internal measurements to save time as you build.

Step 3: Assemble Mirrors

Each mirror was aligned 45 degrees relative to the sides of the box.

Using the internal measurements of the box and a bit of trig, I marked out suitably sized sections of mirror with the CD marker then cut them with a straight edge and glass cutter.

This was the first time I cut glass, so I ended up with slightly rough edges. As long as the glass is scored by the cutter, you can carefully nibble any extra glass off with some pincers or side cutters.

I backed each mirror with a triangular column. These were made from strips of cereal box with a tab at one end for gluing, scored and folded on the correct lines.

The columns alone were a bit flimsy, so I made some reinforcements to keep the right angles steady. I cut small squares of card then marked and scored the diagonals. A line from the centre to one corner was cut on each, then folded and glued to form a three sided pyramid.

The pyramids were fixed into the ends of the mirror columns, glued sides facing out into the open to ensure maximum squareness.

Finally, I glued the mirror columns to an old bit of tile to keep them correctly aligned relative to each other.

Step 4: Cut and Fill Box

Using a shot glass, I marked eyeholes and cut them. Between, I also cut a trapezoid shape with concave sides to accomodate noses.

An initial test with the mirrors showed they needed to be much closer to the eyeholes than I expected, so I cut a strip of card with tabs on the sides, which filled nearly 1/2 the box when folded and glued in place.

I also decided I didn't like the hole in the top, so covered it from beneath with a conveniently fitting picture of a bug glued to a panel of cereal box card. That's shown here in a dry run, but was later glued in place.

Step 5: Lighting

My initial thoughts on lighting the inside of the box had been to use the hole in the top, but it bothered me because the light was uneven. My second idea was to cut panels in the sides, but I thought it would be a shame to destroy the kitschy O'Band graphics, and with the mirrors moved forward the panels would be tiny anyway.

So, I settled on cutting a window into the bottom of the box. Inserting the mirror section, I carefully marked and punctured the bottom of the box. Using the marks, I drew a curving outline on the underside and cut it out.

I rounded any squarish bits on the cuts between the eye holes and nose piece, and reinforced the nose piece with a strip of card.

I then cut a panel of card to correspond to the window with the plain face up, and a piece of grease proof paper to sandwich between the panel and the box. Once they were stuck in place, I glued the bottom of the nose piece on top of them. A window this shape on the bottom face of the box makes the innards more aesthetically interesting by creating a clover shape when the mirrors are installed.

Also, the tabs on the side panels of the box projected over the eye holes, so they were trimmed to fit.

Step 6: Tweaking

An initial dry assembly showed that the Looty just made a reversed stereoscopic image, which was dull.

Two quickly made and installed baffles, detailed in the images, cut the eyelines up and made a much more interesting effect. It now causes the user to appear as a crazed imp by reducing the distance between their reflected eyes. Much better :)

Step 7: Replenisher of Souls? or Their Undoing?

So here you have a completed Looty. No, actually I do. Mine.

The first time I got my eyes to move independently, it made me recoil.

Close one eye and you get to watch it open again with the other. Tilting or turning your head causes the mirror image to move the opposite way; it reflects you as other people actually see you, apart from the missing chunk of face between your eyes. Tilt the Looty 45 degrees and your reflection turns through 90. It also emphasizes differences in color perception.

It seems to be a source of brief amusement for anyone who picks it up. Yesterday, a guest turned it on its side and used it to inspect his nose hair.

After a short while though, looking into this thing begins to seem like some weird form of bi-polar narcissism.

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