Kaleidoscope Parts and How to Build One

Kaleidoscopes come in an unlimited number of shapes, sizes, materials and colors. 

There is no set design for kaleidoscopes, however many do have similar appearances.  Most are round or square tubular shapes around 6 to 12 inches long and a few inches in diameter.  Most have one end designed to be looked through and the other end designed to provide objects for viewing. 

All Kaleidoscopes have one or more reflective surfaces inside them to create the kaleidoscope's image. This is called the scope's mirror system. 

All kaleidoscopes allow for light to enter the object end.  Without light, kaleidoscope do not function.

There are four basic scope types:

  • Handheld
  • Parlor or Desktop
  • Miniature (often made into jewelry such as necklaces, rings, pendants and earrings)
  • Floor Model


Pictures of two handheld and then one parlor, miniature and floor model kaleidoscopes

Kaleidoscopes consist of the following parts:

  • The Body
  • The Mirror System
  • The Eye Piece
  • The Object Mechanism (and the Objects)
  • The Stand (optional)
  • Additional Options (Additional Viewing Objects, Storage Box, Light Source, Music Box) 

You basically need to construct each part in a manner that will eventually allow them to fit together and then assemble the scope by combining the parts. Start with the body and insert and secure the mirror system inside it.  Then add the eye piece and object chamber to each end.

See either of the following two books for detailed directions on how to make many different forms of kaleidoscopes:

  • "The Kaleidoscope Book: A Spectrum of Spectacular Scopes to Make" by Thomas Bowell
  • "Simple Kaleidoscopes: 24 Spectacular Scopes to Make" by Gray Newlin

Another good option for making a first kaleidoscope is to purchase a kaleidoscope kit.  The kit will provide the parts needed and allow you to assemble it.  Be careful when picking a kit, as the amount of effort needed varies greatly between kits.  Many different kits can be found by searching the internet.  A variety of good kits are available from Kaleidoscope World or Boston Craftworks.  More advanced kits can be found at Clarity Glass