Make a Kaleidoscope




Introduction: Make a Kaleidoscope

About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

In this project I will show you how to make a teleidoscope, which is basically a special type of kaleidoscope with a lens on the end. For those who want a more traditional kaleidoscope in their lives, you can easily modify it to become one by replacing the lens with a clear plastic container.

The kaleidoscope body is made out of 1.5" aluminum tube. Throughout this project I'm going on the assumption you understand how to do some basic metalworking. However, for more in-depth instructions on how to modify the aluminum tube for this project, please take the Metalworking Class.

Total Time: About 1 hour

Step 1: Materials

Follows are the materials you will need for this project.

⁕ indicates Amazon
⊚ indicates McMaster
⍙ indicates other suppliers

(x1) 1.5" x 12" aluminum tube
(x1) Pack of 5 6-32 thumb screws
(x1) 1.5" plastic washer
(x1) 31.52mm flashlight lens
(x3) 6.75 x 1.0625 front surface mirror
(x1) 30mm crystal ball
(x1) Clear packing tape
(x1) 3M 30NF Fastbond contact adhesive (or contact cement of choice)
(x1) 50 count 5 gram plastic jars (optional)

(Note that some of these are affiliate links. This does not change the price of the materials.)

Step 2: Cut the Aluminum Rod

Cut the aluminum rod to be 7-5/8" in length and deburr the edges.

Step 3: Drill

Drill three equally spaced 7/64" holes approximately 0.2" from one of the edges.

Step 4: Tap

Thread each of the holes with a 6-32 tap and then insert the thumb screws to make sure the threading is okay.

Step 5: Polish

Sand with progressively finer sandpaper and then polish the aluminum to a nice shine.

Step 6:

Once the tube is complete, apply contact cement around the edge of the aluminum tube that was left uncut, and the outer edge of the plastic washer.

Wait until the contact cement has dried to a tacky consistency, and then firmly press the two together.

Step 7:

Next, peel the protective coating off the lens and drop it into the tube.

Step 8:

Peel the protective coating off of the front-surface mirrors.

Form a triangle with the front surface sides facing, and then wrap a piece of packing tape around the center of the assembly.

Slide the mirror assembly into the tube. It should be a very tight fit, but do not force it in. Just wiggle it very gently until it slides in freely on its own.

Step 9:

Drop the crystal ball into the top of the tube.

Step 10:

Finally, insert the set screws one half-turn at a time. In other words, turn one in a half turn, then the next, and then the next. Keep doing this until the ball is firmly held in place in the center of the tube. If you do one screw at a time, the first screw will push the ball off center.

Do not tighten them too tightly or you might damage the ball.

Step 11:

Now that you have made it, it's time to play with your cool new toy.

These also make great gifts!

Step 12:

As mentioned, you can also easily convert your teleidoscope to a kaleidoscope by getting some clear plastic 5 gram cylindrical jars.

Fill them with whatever you like, and then insert them into the tube in place of the crystal ball. I filled one of mine with electronics components.



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    19 Discussions


    7 months ago

    This instructable was a surprising source of nostalgic thoughts resurfacing. Many years ago when I was very young I had an extended hospital stay. I had been given a kaliedoscope that was a plaything that i really liked.

    This instructable is EXCELLENT not just for the quality of the presentation, but for the valuable links included.

    Thank you,


    A fun project, and well laid out and presented in detail. Thanks for posting such a great idea for gifts.


    1 year ago

    Bautiful pics samples !


    1 year ago

    Very nice instructable. One addition to this would be to use a black marker on the edges of the mirror to reduce excess light from coming in and spoiling the image. You can also change the image by making one side narrower. Play with the mirrors to see what you can find. You can also replace one mirror with non reflecting card sock (flat black of course). This causes the image to stay at the end of the tube instead of reflecting all the way to the eye piece.

    Thank you for a wonderful instructable. I enjoyed it.

    1 reply

    may I suggest black paint? Kids get the marker stuff all over their hands, as it can rub off easy. Also to either wax coat the metal, or clear coat it after getting the polish off, or even powder coat it. Also prevents the metals from turning hands black...lots of fingers tend to do that.:) Just an extra tip. :) I have to make a ton of stuff that also has to be kid tough and finger friendly...etc.LOL.

    This is brilliant! I love the fact you can also interchange the eye piece to have other attachments for observation. This is great for a set on Light, and everyone will have fun with this. YOUR PARTS LIST ROCKS! Thanks for supplying that, as often it is hard to find where to get supplies!:) I will also take note of other comments on improvements as a couple have mentioned below. Great project which I will enjoy making for our nature centre!:) Cheers!

    I was searching for a nice (not a cheap one) kaleidoscope for ages!
    Now i can make it myself! It's a dream come true :D
    Thank you so much randofo

    Very nice instruction. If I might add something that will make the images better - when assembling the mirrors in a triangle make sure that one edge overlaps the next mirror.

    The polished aluminum and screws gives this a very industrial, professional look. I love it. Looks more like an actual tool than a toy.

    1 reply

    I agree, I like how it creates a dichotomy between the serious "I'm a tool!" look and the total lack of usefulness of the object

    It's great!

    Can we get a parts list for the tub, glass, and mirrors. Where to buy and what not. Thanks

    2 replies

    Yes. I accidentally deleted it from existence. Please hold while I re-compile everything. Might take a moment.

    Actually, I found a copy. I've updated the project with a materials list.

    That worked out really well, looks awesome too!

    Way to go bro! I like it.

    I have made these before using copper tubing and a large clear marble. I believe these are actually called "Teleidoscopes" as they are more like a telescope in that they use lenses. Nice work there though! And as a suggestion, you can use PVC tubing as well which can be painted or covered with contact paper and they are very light and durable too. So many possibilities!!

    I've always loved Kaleidoscopes since i was a kid, but it never occured to me to make one of my own. Amazing :)