Introduction: Recycled Parlor Kaleidoscope

About: I currently am working as a software quality assurance tester. I have enjoyed woodworking since I was a kid and have started to build up my tool collection. I love to make all kinds of things and enjoy all of …

Warning: This is not a child’s toy and should not be used by them without supervision as it contains lots of glass.

Caution should be used when handling and cutting glass.


1 Metal tube. - I used an old copier photo drum. These are often changed by your work's copier repairman when they say they are doing a Preventive Maintenance. This is often signaled by a “wrench” icon and/or a message of PM Required. The faster the copier, the bigger the drum. Look for copiers with speeds of at least 35 or 40 copies per minute. These will be big enough most likely for use.
Brass tubing can be substituted and would look very classic.

2 Brass arm adjustable lamps. I bought mine at Goodwill for $5 a piece. Check your thrift store. This is where you may have to get creative. I lucked out and got two awesome lamps at one trip. I lucked out even more that they all used the same thread pitch on their parts.

1 Brass wall candle holder. - Another Goodwill find. It also used the same thread pitch so it is likely a very common occurrence to find compatible parts.

Several Brass vases,candle holders, goblets. - Goodwill. Look for pieces that match the size of your metal tube/copier drum

2 or 3 First surface mirrors. - A first surface mirror has its mirror on the top of the glass. They are used where optical quality is paramount. These also came from old copiers. The older copiers (mid 90's or before) had many more mirrors then newer digital copiers. These may be hard to find and expensive to buy. Regular mirrors will work but you won't end up with a first class kaleidoscope.

Glass – The glass I used came guessed it, a copier. Any clear glass sheet will do. The thinner it is the easier it breaks in ways you don't want it to when cutting a shape.

Threaded rod or Metal rod with Tap & Die set. - The lamp arms were originally much closer together so I needed rod that matched the thread pitch of the current lamp pieces. It is easiest to take the parts with you to the store, and thread the part onto the rod to ensure compatible thread.

Packing Material. - This will be stuffed around your mirror section to protect the mirror and keep them from sliding out. I used old bags from several Lego sets.


Electrical tape

Brass Polishing compound. - I used the green stick of aluminum oxide from Harbor Freight

Isopropyl Alcohol – Used for cleaning the mirrors.


Pipe cutter. - I used this constantly to adjust the brass tubing sizes.
Hack saw. - This is to cut the threaded rod and brass parts to size.
Fine sandpaper – This is used to remove rough areas from any cut brass or glass.
Scissors – to cut the tape.
Glass cutter – cutter of glass.
Vise grips – hold items.
Drill – drill holes in the copier drum/metal tube.

Step 1: Kaledoscopes

A kaleidoscope consists of four main components. The body, the mirror system, the object chamber and the objects.

The Body main function is to protect the mirrors. This is also where almost all of the aesthetics are seen. My scope's body is incorporated into a stand for adjustment for viewing of the object chamber.

The mirror system. This is where the magic happens. Depending on the number of mirrors and the relative position of them you will get different types of patterns.

The objects can be almost anything. They are the bright colorful items that make up the patterns of color from a scope.

The object chamber is the viewing area where the objects are stored.

Step 2: Body Construction

Before construction come destruction. Take those lamps and candle holders apart. They almost always unscrew from each other. Take out any screws or bolts. Most lamps will have to have the bottom removed from the base to access the electrical wiring.

I cut the cords at reasonable lengths. I don't really trust to run lamps from secondhand stores. You don't know the item's history and electrical fires could occur with use so I cut and toss out the cords.

Take the base of the lamp. It will usually have some kind of weight in it with a threaded rod extending out of them. Use the weight for the very same function. It will counter act the weight of the scope.

Polish all brass parts. The brass from thrift shops will all be in different stages of tarnish. I like the look of polished brass much better then the common tarnished dull gold you usually see. A properly polished brass item will be able to clearly reflect yourself in it. I used small cotton buffing wheels on a Dremel flex shaft. Hold on to those pieces tightly when using power tools to polish. The larger the wheel the easier the large pieces will be to polish but the more the wheel can grab so be careful. Polishing on a wheel can be dangerous so wear proper eye and face shield. Polishing metal also exposes you to metal, you may want to wear gloves or preventative cream to keep body adsorption to a minimum.

Start adding the pieces to the base weight until you get your desired effect. My goal was to support the drum from the two arms. I was going to have enclosed object areas to switch out but decided on an open object chamber instead. I lucked out and was able to create a cool rotating chamber with the left over pieces from the drum supports.

Drill connection holes in the drum to allow the arms to connect to it. Always drill round items with the aid of a V block and make sure it is secured. I used the threaded rod to span the larger distance of the arms.

I had one brass piece that fit my drum end perfectly so that became the eye-hole. I had to cut the top of a vase with a hacksaw to make the front object viewing area. Do not attach the ends yet.

Remove the support arm fasteners and remove the drum.

Step 3: More Assembly Pics

Step 4: Mirror System

Three mirror systems like I used this time make a infinite hexagon pattern that fills the view of the scope. A 2 mirror system make a Mandela or snowflake pattern. If a 2 pattern is wanted cut a strip of glass the same size as your 2 mirrors and paint it black. Use it in place of the third mirror. I actually prefer 2 mirror systems. Many of the old toy paper tube kaleidoscopes used 2 polished metal surfaces which is why they were safe for kids.

I use an equilateral configuration where all the mirrors are 60 degrees from another. Different angles will produce different effects. Since you would need different width mirrors, I chose to go the same angle between all 3 mirrors.

The mirrors should cut to where they mostly fill the drum tube and should be almost the full length of the body.

Place a strip of electrical tape sticky side up the the (width of a mirror * 3) + (thickness of mirror * 3 )

Place a mirror perpendicular to that centered over the middle. The first surface mirror should be up. Clean all the mirrors with the alcohol. From now on olny touch the backside of the mirror. Place the other two mirrors a slight distance of separation between them. This is to compensate for the thickness of the mirrors.
Fold up into a triangle prism and secure it with the other tape. Now run tape down the length of each seam.

Cut several wooden discs out of ¼ inch wood the inner diameter of your tube. Find the center of the discs and cut out a triangle shape out of each one trace from the mirror assembly. Slide the discs over the mirror assembly and evenly space them. These will keep the mirrors in the center of the tube. You could skip this step and just pack around the mirrors with the plastic bags. I used both wood discs and plastic bags.

Reattach the copier drum to the stand. Slide the mirror assembly into the drum.

Step 5: Finishing Steps

Cut a glass circle the inner diameter of the drum. Cut a smaller glass circle the inner diameter of the eyepiece end. SAVE those broken glass pieces for later. We will use them as objects Epoxy the glass ends into the end of the drum. DO NOT USE SUPER GLUE! Superglue fumes will coat your mirrors with a glue haze. Epoxy the object viewing end over the glass plate. Epoxy the smaller glass end into the eyepiece. Epoxy the eyepiece to the open end of the drum.


Take the pieces left over from cutting the glass circles and put them in a small zip lock bag. Gently tap with a hammer to break them into smaller pieces. Use caution and eye protection.

Take those broken bits and color them with Sharpies! That’s right they will look like stained glass pieces. For more intense color color all sides. Be careful of the sharp edges. Add the colored bits to the object chamber.

Now enjoy your awesome parlor scope, and remember that it was made from junk and produces things of beauty.

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