Wednesday, July 11, 2007


With the job the way it's been, I've been having trouble getting to the shop. There are so many other things to do. But I keep an eye out on the Lee Valley seminars - they often have courses of interest (made my first spokeshave in one.) Not only are the courses interesting, an opportunity to meet like minded folk, develop new skills with assistance, have good instructors, and include all required tools and supplies - they provide a dedicated amount of shop time. A "MUST" be in the shop scenario. I recently managed to fit in two :) This was the first one.

This one was of interest to me. I'd never made a kaleidoscope before, but had recently run across a couple of interesting websites when I was looking into some finger spinning tops on-line. The Brewster Society was one I would up on during some link surfing.

Lo and behold, a couple days later, Lee Valley provided the opportunity to make one without having to invest in extra equipment on a venture that may prove disappointing, disastrous, or a dead end after the one project.

It was fun. I was one of three in the class with any turning experience (with the exception of a fantastic instructor) and the only one that owned lathes. Consequently, I was the one that got to "try" everything first during the demonstration part and was used as an example. Remind me to stay quiet and in the background next time.

Anyone interested in more of the technical detail on this project, let me know. This particular project was developed by Lee Valley specifically and fine tuned over a couple of years. There are a couple of things I would consider changing for the next one I do.

A moving object cell would be the first amongst the list - as most people that pick it up to play with try to turn the cell instead of the entire scope.

It was a lot of fun, and a bit of a confidence builder - there are a number of fairly critical tenons and such used to glue these together. Although I took a Mike Darlow based turning course at my local lumber supply specialist, it has been a while since I had done any major projects.

The wood is Claro Walnut, with Maple end caps. Most of the class turned their end caps plain, I opted to add the coves and a couple of decorative grooves. I managed to luck out and obtain a piece of Walnut with some nice grain - a combination of luck, and looking for some knarly figure.

And some samples of the patterns from the finished kaleidoscope.

This object chamber uses a glycerin solution as the liquid - this allows the objects to float or fall, providing a view that slowly changes. It is often like watching the blooming of a flower.

I apologize for the lack of quality on the photos of the viewing chamber - I was literally holding the lens of my little digital camera up to the viewing hole and trying to keep it centred while holding the object chamber over a bright light source. Not great, but it provides a general idea.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful kaleidoscope! I'm finding some of the components are hard to find, especially the object cell. I found one but the cell has a tiny hole with a rubber plug. This allows you to fill the chamber with oil and then pulg it. My question is what's the possibility of the plug falling out and causing an oil leak? This seems risky to me. Thanks Melvin

messiah said...

I agree - that sounds somewhat risky, but not having seen the cell it's hard to say.

I made this Kaleidoscope at a Lee Valley Seminar - they had done a lot of work on the project before offering the course.

The cell in this one is a 2" acrylic tube, that is sealed on both ends with 1/4 thick acrylic.

The tube was turned on a lathe to make sure the ends were even. The ends were cut oversized and then turned so they had a tenon that fit into the tube. The front end is clear, the back was black. This provides side-lighting with high contrast against the black.

The cell was then glued with epoxy (one end to the tube, let dry 24 hours). Filled with beads, etc & medium viscosity mineral oil (about 2/3 - more and there isn't much room for stuff to move). Fill carefully so that there isn't any oil near the rim. Glue the other end on - tape it, let it cure 24 hours.

It was then glued into a mortise in the body, and a cap on the other end - this hides the ends.

A good place to start for information, forums, book recommendations, etc is the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society -

If you want to chat more, leave a contact email. Be more than happy to.

And thanks :)