How a Kaleidoscope Is Made

A couple of mirrors, a cardboard tube, and a bunch of random crap. That’s what’s behind the mind-twisting magic of a kaleidoscope. And when we say random crap, we literally mean that. There’s no real method for designing the end cap of a kaleidoscope—the creators just add whatever they want. Some objects are glued down, some are left to float, and the results all look totally crazy because of the triangle mirror system.


The mirrors are set at 60 degree angles to each other which reveal basically limitless reflections when you look down the tube.

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I had an elderly Aunt who would collect these and when she passed she left them for various relatives. The one she gave me is a small egg shape/size kaleidoscope a few decades old but was made by a local artisan—woodgrain on the outside, great optics within; sits in a little demi cup shaped holder on display. It is cool because it fits in your hand and you can see the tiny end container with a small amount of objects but looking inside it seems big and bright with deep colored “jewels” and trinkets providing a vivid display. The odd shape doesn’t betray the placement of the mirrors as some do—my sister received one of the tube shape larger scopes but pretty standard construction inside and out which isn’t nearly as magical as my little big egg!