I've been seeing a lot of "time out" glitter bottles lately and wanted to take those fun visuals to the next level by making them multi-faceted. The self-forming designs are not only soothing to gaze at, but can also be pretty inspiring if you're a designer.
While there are commercially available kaleidoscope kits available, I wanted to figure out how to build my own from craft materials and up cycled items. It was also a goal of mine to find a way to make interchangeable cartridges so that I could always plug in new color combinations to look at.
In this Ible, I'll show you how to create your own tool for infinite rainbow making in one afternoon! Bonus: it's entirely glass-free, making it lightweight and portable, plus super safe for young makers.
Step 1: You Will Need...
Card stock with foil/ mirror finish on one side.
Thick mat board or foam core
1 piece transparent acetate
Thin black mat board or black construction paper (for optional view port piece)
Duct Tape (pick a fun color/ pattern)
1 mini Size Binder Clip
Tools: Hot Glue Gun,E-6000 adhesive, Spray Mount, Craft Blade and Cutting Mat, Hole Punch (standard circle), Scissors, Pliers, Sharpie or other marking pen
Small, empty plastic bottles (travel size shampoo, pill bottles, etc.). Do not use glass containers as they will be too heavy to support.
Various loose glitters, glitter glues, metallic and plastic confetti
Use as needed: Liquid dish soap and school glue
Step 2: "Mirrors"
I had originally intended to use real mirrored glass, but found it difficult to procure long rectangle panels. Most craft depots offer 1x1inch tiles or round discs. In digging through my paper craft supplies, I discovered a stash of mirror foil card stock and decided to use that instead.
Mark out 3 identical rectangles. If you don't want to smudge your mirror finish with a writing tool, you can make your marks by denting the foil with a toothpick tip instead. My rectangles measure 2 inches x 7 inches --enough height to accommodate my eye and enough length to give the visuals room to roam.
Cut out with a craft blade, using a ruler as a guide. You want nice straight endues so your triangle comes together flush during assembly.
Step 3: Backing
More than likely a foil card stock like this will be on the thinner side. To add some strength and durability, I decided to back each piece with thick mat board.
Repeat measurements or trace your mirror panels onto your mat board.
Cut out with a craft blade. Since your mat is thick it may take several passes to cut all the way through. Hold your ruler steady and always be mindful of your hand placement so you don't cut yourself.
To bond the pieces together without excess moisture or buckling, I decided spray mount would be best. *Always use spray products in a well ventilated area, with scrap newspaper or other surface protector underneath.
Apply a light dusting of spray mount to the mat board pieces.
Quickly position your mirror panels, one on top of each mat piece. Press flat with the clean palm of your hand. Be mindful of excess spray mount on the surrounding newspaper so you don't smear it on to your mirrored surfaces.
When this step is finished, give the mirrored sides a good rub with a cotton dish towel. You want to clear any fingerprint grease or debris from these surfaces before we assemble the kaleidoscope body, as that would be much trickier to clean.
Step 4: Triangle Assembly
Rest your pieces together on a flat surface, forming a (more or less) equilateral triangle.
Hot glue seemed like the most logical way to bond the seams tightly. To ensure there were no gaps, I worked inch by inch.
Holding your triangle sides steady, apply an inch or so of hot glue to the top seam. Press the sides together gently until dry.
Repeat all the way down seam, pressing as you go. You want the seams completely sealed and all external light blocked out of the triangle.
When the first seam is dry, flip your triangle over once clockwise. Adjust the sides as needed to keep that equilateral triangle in check. Repeat the hot gluing process; glue a segment, then press.
Flip one last time and repeat for the third seam. When you're finished you should have a nice, sturdy triangle tube.
Step 5: Lens
Standing your triangle tube on end, trace the equilateral triangle on to your thick acetate. Sharpie works well on acetate and will often wipe away with your fingertips when you don't need the guides anymore.
Cut out the shape.
Using your cotton dish towel again, give both sides of the acetate triangle a good rub. If there is stubborn grease, you could use a few drops of glass cleaner. Do Not use paper towels as they may scratch the acetate's surface. This piece should be fingerprint free before installation.
Apply a thin, controlled line of E-6000 to the rim of one end.
Press your acetate into place and let dry. Pay special attention to the corners where two sides meet and be sure the acetate is making contact.
This end of the kaleidoscope is where your glitter cartridges will sit. Our "lens" doesn't affect what we see, but it does create a flat, transparent dock for the cartridges to rest on.
Step 6: Anchor Points
Our cartridges will need strong anchor points to secure to and the wire parts of a mini binder clip (3/5 size) turned out to be perfect.
Remove the two wire parts from your binder clip. To do this, simply pull laterally to either side and ease the end tabs out of the black clamp.
Use pliers to bend the legs of the wire piece away from the head. Anywhere between a 45 and 90 degree angle will do. This wire is tough, so you may find you need to hold the head with one set of pliers and then bend with an opposing pair.
Decide on your anchor placement. I figured that just slightly below center on opposite sides would support a variety of cartridge shapes well.
Apply E-6000 to the legs of the wire piece and press into place. The head of the wire should stick up and away from the triangle tube.
Repeat for the other side and double check for symmetry.
Step 7: Optional View Port
I say this is optional because it depends what you want to do with your kaleidoscope.
Making a limited viewport blocks out excess light, which may intensify your visual results. If you just want to look inside and enjoy, it may be the way to go. However, if you're interested in being able to take photos of your visuals, you may wish to leave this end open to allow room for your camera lens. If you're unsure, you can always skip this for now and add it later on.
Stand your triangle tube on end again.
This time, trace your triangle onto black construction paper of thin black mat board.
Cut out the shape.
Mark the center point of your triangle with white pen/ pencil.
Use a standard hole punch to take out that center point. This hole is what you will look into.
After you've checked to make sure the piece fits correctly, apply a thin line of E-6000 to the edge, as you did before.
Apply and press.
Step 8: External Decor
A simple decorative duct tape wrapping hides all your construction work and prevents the ends of your anchor wires from snagging on things. I decided to use this vibrant lime green duct tape I got as a runner up in the duct tape challenge. Use a color or pattern that suits you. Personally, my next duct tape purchase is going to be the macaroni and cheese pattern.
Cut 6-8 inches of tape to work with. Begin wrapping at one end, making sure the tape edge is flush with the end of the triangle tube. Press down around your anchor points and smooth bubbles/ creases as you go. Do not try to wrap your tube with the roll still attached or you'll endue with wrinkles and bulges.
DO NOT try to wrap over the edge onto your lens. You'll just end up with bulky corners and might obstruct your viewing area.
Continue wrapping, working with sections of tape, until you have full coverage.
Step 9: Up-Cycled, Interchangeable Cartridges
Survey what is about to head to your recycling bin. Plastic vitamin bottles, mini booze bottles, spice containers, travel size lotion bottles, and other small plastic vessels are perfect for housing your custom glitter and confetti mixes (as long as they have a tight sealing cap).
Note that different vessel shapes will affect the patterns of your visuals. Long skinny containers like a spice vial will cover only the center of your lens and create a network of lines and triangles. A short, wide container that covers the entire lens will provide total color coverage and your morphing patterns will come from the glitters and confettis you put in the mix.
As a test, fill your chosen containers with water, cap, and turn up side down. My first container, a mini hand sanitizer bottle, is being tested in the first photo. I suggest doing this test over/near the sink in case one proves to be leaky.
Filling combinations are nearly limitless. Consider different weights of loose glitter (chunky, regular, ultra fine), shaped metallic confetti, and even small seed beads. Heavier items like beads will fall quickly, but they do add visual interest.
Glitter glues are a great addition to your cartridge mixes. The glue will break down in the water but will remain a bit viscous, causing a different sort of motion than loose glitter. You will notice your glitter stays suspended a bit longer than loose glitter alone.
You want to fill each cartridge with a variety of not only colors, but weights and consistencies.
Step 10: Filling Suggestions
I encourage you to play around and find your own methods for mixing. It's part of the fun with this project. Here are a few tips I have to give after mixing several cartridges myself:
Glitter Glue squeezed into water will look like little organs preserved in a science lab jar.Don't fret! Just shake it up (or don't! Try looking at this globs through the kaleidoscope and see if it gives you a lava lamp type effect).
If you don't have glitter glues, you can add regular school glue (white or transparent) to a water + glitter mix to add some viscosity. Using warm tap water in your container will help break up the glue.
Add a little glitter, add a little water. If you totally fill your container with water first and then try dumping a bunch of glitter in, the glitter may fail to break the surface tension of the water and just pile and up and out (all over you).
Cap your container and Shake after each addition. This will get things mixing properly and also show you where your chosen color combo is heading.
Using straight Water + Glitter? If you find that all your glitter just wants to clump at the surface (10th photo), try adding a drop or two of liquid dish soap. The added viscosity changes the way the water behaves, preventing glitter clump ups and making contents fall a little slower. You may get a few bubbles when shaking, but you can take the cap off and let them dissipate.
Try using a few drops of food coloring to tint the water. No special tricks here, just another way you can layer more color into your mixes. I found that some glitters leak their color when in water for a while, and will end up tinting the water for you.
Step 11: Installing a Cartridge
Find a rubber band in good condition (no cracking or dryness). Choose a fun color, if possible. You may see the rubber band present in the kaleidoscope visuals, but as you'll find in the video later it can actually be a cool contribution.
Use scissors to snip it open with one cut, so that it is one long piece. My rubber band was animal shaped, which is what it's maintaining a form when loose.
Take one end of the rubber band and tie a knot around your left anchor point.
Hold your plastic cartridge vessel in place, resting flat against the lens.
Stretch the rubber band over the cartridge and run it through the other anchor point. Pull tight to secure the cartridge --you don't want slack in the rubber band.
Tie another knot on that side, OR if the band is long enough, loop it through, double back over the cartridge and tie your second knot on the original side. The rubber band will hold your cartridge in place. Turn everything up side down to make sure everything is secure.
Why rubber bands? They're easy to come by and they offer a no-slip, gripping texture compatible with our plastic vessels. Generally I have not found that they interfere with the visual in the kaleidoscope much. If you don't like seeing them at all, try to find some transparent elastic. *Go-to transparent options like fishing line will not support the cartridges reliably because of their slick, smooth coating.
Step 12: Limitless Color
Double Rainbow? No --Infinite Rainbows!!
Take your new kaleidoscope and cartridges out for a spin! These are just a few of the visuals I was able to capture with my camera. The same glitter/color combo can appear different when you're indoors vs. outdoors, facing into the sun or away. Keep up-cycling your small plastic containers into cartridges and build a whole library of favorite glittery mixes to inspire and help you chill-ax!
Watch the video to see the whole thing in motion.
If you enjoyed this Ible, consider sending it a vote in the Rainbow contest.