Make a Cardboard Binocular Microscope




About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

I have wanted to make a microscope out of cardboard for some time. So I decided to spend the best part of two days making a pair of cardboard binocular microscopes. Originally, I thought one would suffice but I wasn't satisfied with the results so went ahead and made a second scope. The procedures and documentation are the results of these efforts.


Step 1: Materials and Tools

To make the microscope, I had all the needed materials on hand. These included: Cardboard; wooden dowels, 1/2 in. pvc pipe, kraft paper from regular grocery store bags, glue, both pvc type (Elmer's, and hot melt glue).

Tools: Knives or cutters for cutting cardboard and paper; circle template, rulers, scissors, pencil, cutting mat, hot melt glue gun.

I used a table saw, drill press, cut off saw, and band saw also, to speed things up a bit, but all materials can be cut with hand tools if other shop tools are not available.

Step 2: Design and Layout

No cad here, I just drew the microscope I wanted on a piece of 8.5 x 11 copy paper.  My goal was not to reproduce a technically accurate microscope but one that was aesthetically or visually accurate as in any art project. After drawing the design, I copied it several times so that I could cut out the individual components and be able to label  parts in red pen to make them more apparent.

Step 3: Cutting Out Components

Now all parts are cut out of their respective materials, such as cardboard for the majority of parts; i.e., body, base, ocular support, condenser, illuminator, etc. I use the box cutter knife for alot of cardboard cuts as well as the paper forms. Great care is taken to maintain accuracy, of course, but safety has to be paramount as well. BE CAREFUL IF YOU ATTEMPT THESE STEPS!  See pictures to see cutting procedures.  I did use the shop tools to cut dowels, pvc pipe, and some cardboard was cut on the bandsaw. Again, all cuts could be made with hand tools.

Step 4: Assembly of Parts

It doesn't matter what order the parts are assembled in so just start anywhere.  My first assemblage was the base.  This allowed me to practice cutting some parts with hand tools (box cutter knife) primarily and get warmed up. 

Step 5: Special Treatments of Various Parts Assembled

This step shows the special treatment of cardboard that allows for a project of this type.  Mainly, the formation of a rebate on parts by partially cutting through the cardboard but leaving the final layer of kraft paper intact.  A line is cut to the width of your cardboard making sure that the bottom piece of paper is not cut or scored. Takes a few times to practice this part. When the cut pieces are removed, a rebate is left into which the various pieces can be hot glued.  This leaves a virtually seamless joint and appears that the pieces joined are one piece.

Step 6: Final Assembly of Major Components

After all parts are separately assembled, they can then be attached to the base, body, supports, etc. Again, the order of assembly is not as important as just visually making sure that the parts fit properly and make sense visually.

Step 7: Gallery of Projects in This Instructable

I am quite pleased at the way these turned out and like all art projects, it can lead to all sorts of other ideas to be made in various future projects, time permitting, of course.



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12 Discussions


3 years ago

plus can you send me the measurements


3 years ago

can I use it for a science assessment plz, I have to make a microscope for high school and I like your design.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for your comment. I thought of putting real optics in it, but afraid the time investment is out of reach at this time, maybe in the future...put off, procrastinate, waver........ay yi yi!


5 years ago on Step 7

hey i have that shirt!