I have a soon to be toddler and like any dad I want the best for my son.
With this in mind, I think it's a good idea to encourage his explorations, experimentations and general enjoyment of as much as possible.
I know how much I like lenses.. making things appear a lot bigger or smaller or upside down.
I'm pretty sure my lad will enjoy using his just as much, and I will feel better knowing the lens he plays with will be a little safer and easier for his hands to work with than a raw lens. and that he is less likely to use it as a hammer than a traditional magnifier.
So far he seems to really enjoy it and has chosen it as one of the toys to go in his exploring backpack (the bag with toys to go out and play with)
My hopes are that having access to toys like this will make it easier for him to understand and digest more complex information as he grows up, having already experienced things like refraction and reflection etc.
By the way- it also works nicely as an extra smart phone camera lens for macro photography.
Step 1: Design
I had a rough idea of what I wanted.
Something similar to a jewelers loupe but safe and fun for a wee one to play with.
The key parts were for the lens not to stand proud of its surround (to avoid scratching) and for the surround to be kid friendly with nice round grabbable curves, rugged enough to withstand a little one playing and dropping it and for it to be not too or small.
Step 2: Getting the Bits an Bobs
I have been making things for a good amount of time and tend to keep bits that I think would be useful in the future. As a result, I have a good selection of lenses but if you don't have these in stock, don't worry. They are available online relatively inexpensively . Or you might have a camera repair shop nearby where you could beg for an old broken lens to harvest.
The wood I used was an old piece of spalted beech left over from another project which had been forgotten about at the bottom of a scrap pile. (spalting is the pattern of black or marble like lines in the wood)
Step 3: Turning the Main Bit
I chucked it up the spalted wood (held it on the lathe with a chuck) and cleaned up the end of the wood before creating a shape big enough for a lens to fit into.
If you aren't a wood turner and you're worried at this point that the tools etc might be a bit complicated for a first-timer, don't worry I have a handy primer available here.
When I had an indentation for the lens I turned a chucking point on this side and started to shape the outside of the holder.
A top tip for getting your turnings to balance if they have been knocked out it to use a tool against your tool rest to push it back
Step 4: Parting an Shapeing
Using a parting tool I worked most of the way through before finishing the part with a small saw.
It's important to leave a little gap when parting to avoid the tool heating up. So creating a channel and then widening the channel is a good way to go.
Once the main body of the work rough I flattened the remaining wood and created a void large enough to hold the chucking point I had made on the main body.
Holding these two parts together I rounded what will be the top of the magnifying loupe before parting it off.
Step 5: Making a Hole
I chucked the main body up and turned a secondary chucking point on what would be the bottom of the magnifying loupe. (This chucking point will work by expanding the chuck jaws into the void rather than compressing onto the wood.) Whist working on this side I used a ball gouge to remove material from the inside of the loupe and create a nice shape with smooth transitions.
I flipped the work chucking up on the other side to refine the shape and finish the turning on this part- almost.
I took the work off the lathe to admire and dry fit the lens to make sure everything worked.
Step 6: Turning the Lens Holding Top
Happy that everything looked to be working I held the lid or top part if the loupe on the main body using the tailstock and a live center to help apply pressure. once I turned the rough shape I needed to use some tissue paper to create a jam chuck or friction chuck to further refine the shape.
Step 7: Fixing That Pesky Chucking Point
There's just one bit that could be a bit tricky.
The chucking point at the bottom has a sharp edge that I wouldn't want to give to my son.
Luckily there was just enough wood left over from the lid part that I could turn a tenon to fit into the chucking point and glue it in.
Once this was glued in I flipped the work chucking on the top part of the loupe and I turned the foot nice and round.
Thinking about it I could have just turned the bottom using the wood available on the main body of the work but I don't think its a bad thing to be able to reflect on a job after its been made and I kind of like the feature I created.
Step 8: Finish and Glue
Because this toy is for my son, and likely to be played with by a child, it's important to finish it with a toy safe finish. I sprayed on a few coats and sanded down to about 800 grit.
The lacquer used was an Acrylic Spray Lacquers which can be found here
The last step was gluing the top onto the loupe to hold the lens in place.
(note I left a bit of room in case of wood movement, though wood doesn't tend to warp in the direction the lens is seated)
Step 9: Enjoy It
So my son is a little too young to really understand that the loupe can be put to his face to magnify things but he does like to play with it. its a nice shape and has a weight that he seems to enjoy.
What would I do differently if I was to make this again?
Probably not for my son but I do like the idea of adding LED's to illuminate target items shown here in an Instructable by Gadre
Other than that I think just turning off the bottom end rather than inlaying a patching ring would result in a better product. And probably inlaying a ring of brass where the joint in the wood is. But this is more for personal aesthetics rather than adding to its functionality.
As things go, I'm very happy with this 2-hour build and would encourage people to make their own. I have made it for a toddler but I think when he gets bored with it... I will probably take it back and have it as part of my desk tools collection.