Three Dollar Kaleidoscope (plus 7 Dollars in Tools)




Introduction: Three Dollar Kaleidoscope (plus 7 Dollars in Tools)

Very basic kaleidoscope. Plenty of room for creative (and obvious) improvement.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

1. One bottle of green olives (actual olives not used. I got mine from a dollar store)
2. A mirror at least 10" by 10" (dollar store)
3. Tape. Electrical works best (dollar store)
4. Napkins (or other filler material, such as newspaper; found around the house)
5. Small junk found around the house. Marbles, coins, paper clips, pinto beans, etc.
6. Glass cutter. Purchased at local hardware store for 5 dollars.
7. THIN metal ruler. Purchased at Wally World for two dollars.
8. Cardboard (found around the house. Not pictured)

Step 2: Cutting Your Mirror

You will need to cut two pieces of mirror, both 4.5 inches long by 1 inch wide.

This is the only difficult process of the project. The reason the materials calls for a 10" by 10" plane of mirror is that the first few cuts you make will not come out as usable.

To cut your mirror:

1. Measure and mark the glass where you want to cut your pieces from. I used a highlighter to mark the glass.

2. Use the thin metal ruler as a straight edge. It helps to tape the mirror to your work surface, and the ruler to the mirror so as to hold everything steady. You will need both hands to cut the glass.

3. Hold the glass cutter with your dominant hand like a pencil. Use your other hand as well, over your dominant hand, to provide even pressure.

4. Start at the end of the glass furthest from yourself. Push against the plane with medium pressure as you pull the cutter toward you. You should hear a slight "cracking" sound when the cutter hits the begining of the mirror and the end, but nothing in between. Only score the mirror once.

5. Hold the mirror with one hand on each side of the score, on the end nearest you (not on the sides). Hold it with your thumb on top of the mirror, and the rest of your hand on the bottom. Twist your wrists gently to break the glass along the score.

Note: While I did not wear protective gloves or eye protection, I do advice it. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Step 3: Mirror Assembly

You will create an equilateral triangle composed of two of your mirros and one piece of cardboard or wood, joined at the 4.5" edges.

1. Place two pieces of tape sticky-side up on your work surface.

2. Lay the first mirror down on the tape, each piece of tape at one end of one 4.5" edge. You should only "stick" it to half the length of the pieces of tape.

3. Join the second mirror to the second half of the tape, so that the mirrors are at as close to a 60 degree angle as you can manage.

4. Cut a piece of cardboard or very thin wood (i used the thin wood that was used as backing on the dollar store mirror I bought) to 4.5" by 1".

5. Optional but encouraged: Make one side of the cardboard or thin wood black with a marker or paint.

5. Join the cardboard or wood, black side inward (if you chose to paint it black), to the two mirrors.

You should end up with a closed triangle, all sides composed of 60 degree angles.

note: The picture shows an assembly that is not perfect. I took all of these pictures after completion of the project, and for the mirror assembly used my first, "reject" assembly. Viewing through this imperfect assembly actually worked fine, but it didn't fit through the opening of the jar. The view through this imperfect assembly, closer to a 90/30/60 triangle than a 60/60/60 degree only had four "reflections" instead of six, but still looked nice and interesting.

Step 4: Create Object Chamber

You have a choice here. The most simple thing to do is just dump your small shiny objects into the bottom of the jar. That is the easiest way to do this.

If you want to get slightly more complicated, create a clear barrier about 1" from the end of the jar, with the objects trapped inside. I used a circular cardboard cutout, then cut a hole in the cardboard about one inch in diameter, and glued a piece of thin, clear plastic from the packaging of the mirror over the hole. I also covered my initial piece of cardboard in black electric tape.

If you decide to do the barrier, don't worry about making it perfect. My barrier ended up being at about a 45 degree angle to the bottle, and it worked fine. As long as you have room to shake up your objects so as to get new arrangements, you'll be fine.

Note: The objects I put in my project were found in a junk drawer. They included small, colored rubber erasers (pictured), pieces of mirror from rejected attempts to cut glass, a coin, the paper sleeve from a cigar, a button, beads, a bottle cap, and pinto beans from my kitchen.

Step 5: Position Mirror Assembly in Jar

1. Tape up the mirror assembly completely to keep it secure.

2. Put it inside the bottle.

3. Stuff each side of the assembly with napkins, newspaper, or whatever you like, so that it is no longer free to move about.

4. Punch a hole in the metal top of the green olive jar. The hole should be about 1/8th inch wide. Screw the top back on, and peer through it. You may need to readjust the mirror assembly or hole in the jar lid to acheive the best image.

Be the First to Share


    • Trash to Treasure Contest

      Trash to Treasure Contest
    • Wearables Contest

      Wearables Contest
    • Fix It Contest

      Fix It Contest

    5 Discussions


    13 years ago

    I like it. I wonder if a plastic mirror would work as well. Maybe the kids version could also use a cardboard tube with plastic taped over the end and glued into a seperate small plastic jar that holds the objects.


    13 years ago

    please comment. thanks