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This project appeared in our December 31, 2006 Newsletter.


I always enjoyed looking through kaleidoscopes as a kid and figured that my grand kids would enjoy it too. I made these for Christmas presents this year and they were thrilled.

I was inspired by an article in the November 2006 Wood Magazine. I liked the idea of a wood kaleidoscope but their design was rectangle and I wanted one that was octagonal. If you like the rectangular design you can get the pattern for it at the Wood Store.

Here's what you'll need for the kaleidoscope:

  • 6" X 9" X 1/4" Curly Maple
  • 6" X 9" X 1/4" Padauk or Walnut
  • A kaleidoscope kit that includes the mirrors and oil wand. You can get this kit from Glass Crafters at for $15.95.
Here's what you'll need for the base:

You can order a wood kit to make the rectangular kaleidoscope and stand from Heritage Building Specialties at or make your own. I did both and I have to say that the Heritage wood is very nice, especially the Curly Maple!

  • 8 1/2" X 5 1/4" X 1/4" Padauk or Walnut
  • (2) 8" X 4 3/4" X 3/4" Maple
The first thing I did was make a sled to cut the parts on. I just used a 1/2" piece of plywood and screwed a couple of 2" X 4"s to the front and rear edge. It's about 15" long and 8" wide. Screw countersunk flat head screws into the 2" X 4"s from the bottom of the plywood. Make sure that you have two screws close to the fence edge and also make sure that you don't have a screw where you saw will cut through it.

Use the sled to cut the pieces
Use the sled to cut the pieces

Set your tablesaw blade to EXACTLY 22 1/2 degrees. Set the fence using some scrap pieces so that the pieces you cut will be 17/32" on the inside edge.

Measure the bottom

Run the sled through the blade and check that you have enough height to cut through the 1/4" pieces.

Cut eight pieces 9" long.
Lay out two pieces of blue masking tape long enough to wrap all the way around the eight pieces.

Tightly align the pieces
Make sure that the pieces are tight against each other.

Set the two pieces that will be the sides of the kaleidoscope 1" back from the edge of the other pieces.

Apply glue between each piece and "roll" all the pieces together. Make sure that the tape is tight around the tube.

Let the glue dry for 24 hours so the tube is good and solid.

I really like the TiteBond glue because it has great hold and a reasonable working time.

Titebond™ III Ultimate Wood Glue
Titebond™ III Ultimate Wood Glue

You should now have something that looks like this:

End Detail

Using a scraper, scrape the edges to remove any glue and smooth the edges.

Scrape the edges
Keep the scraper perfectly flat along the sides.

3-Piece Cabinet Scraper Set
3-Piece Cabinet Scraper Set

To drill the holes place a spacer inside the tube to prevent tear out.

Spacer prevents tearout

Drill the center top and bottom holes 5/8" diameter, 1" back from the edge using a forstner bit.

7-Pc. Forstner Bit Set
7-Pc. Forstner Bit Set

Set 1 inch back
Find the plans for the drill press table at to align the holes.

Now cut the little fillers that go on each side of the setback. This is sort of a fiddly little job and I suggest making a sample or two first to get the right fit. Here's what the filler should look like:

Cut to fit
This is really a trial and error, cut to fit part.

Use your band saw or scroll saw to cut the parts.

Here's what the filler should look like once it's in place:

Glue and clamp the two fillers in place.

Place a caul on both ends of the clamp to hold the fillers in place.

Once the glue dries draw a curve using a French curve from the front of the tube, just outside of the center piece, down to the back edge of the filler.

Use a band saw to cut along the curve. You will be cutting both the top and bottom at the same time so be very careful to keep the tube flat to the table while cutting.

Cut the tube to length. Determine the cut by installing the oil tube into the holes and measuring 7 7/8" from the oil tube to the back of the kaleidoscope.
Wrap a piece of blue masking tape tightly around the area to cut. This will help prevent any tear out.

Use a good sharp crosscut blade for a good cut. I prefer the Freud Cutoff Blades.

Freud® LU85R Ultimate Cutoff Blades
Freud® LU85R Ultimate Cutoff Blades

Assemble the mirrors from the kit using the supplied instructions. Be sure that the front side mirror finish is to the inside. Be careful not to get dust or fingerprints on the mirrors.
Slide the mirror assembly into the kaleidoscope and locate the position for the hole in the eyepiece. It will be a 1/4" diameter hole and should be just slightly above the top of the bottom mirror.
Next we'll make the eyepiece from a 1/4" piece of Curly Maple.

Align two edges of the maple to the cut end of the tube and trace around the end of the tube.
Cut out the eyepiece on a band saw or scroll saw.
Drill a 1/4" hole using the dimensions from above.
Next determine the distance from the top of the bottom mirror to the inside peak of the mirrors.
Draw a triangle from the sides of the 1/4" hole to the point of the inside of the mirrors.
Cut out the triangle using a scroll saw.

You should now have an eyepiece that looks something like this:

Lightly sand the edges of the hole.

Glue the eyepiece onto the end of the tube. Make sure that the eyepiece is oriented correctly with the point to the top.

Use a caul to protect the ends.

Once the glue has dried sand each flat on the tube using a belt sander.
Use a rubber sanding drum in your drill press to smooth the surfaces on the curved end.

25 Piece Rubber Sanding Drum Set
25 Piece Rubber Sanding Drum Set

Use fine sanding paper to smooth the whole project and apply a good semigloss finish. I really like the General Finish water based line of products. I used a satin polyacrylic finish on the kaleidoscopes and the bases.

EF PolyAcrylic Blend Top Coat
EF PolyAcrylic Blend Top Coat

The stand is pretty simple but requires a tiny bit of creativity. I used the pattern from the November 2006 Wood magazine as my base. You can order this pattern from the Wood Store.

Cut two pieces of 3/4" Maple into a triangle that is 4 3/4" high on the end and 7 5/8" long on the bottom. Draw a diagonal between these two points and you'll have your triangle.

Glue and clamp the two pieces together making a 1 1/2" wide block.
Cut two triangles from 1/4" Padauk or Maple. The end height is 5 3/16" and the base is 8 5/16".
Cut two stop pieces from Padauk or Maple 1 1/2" X 1 1/4" X 1/4" or 3/8".
Glue the two sides onto the sides of the Maple block flush with the bottom and end. Glue the stop piece aligned with the end of the triangle.

Clamp the sides while the dry.

Now's the fun part. Create a design for the stand using a French curve.

Cut out the design using a band saw.

You should now have a stand that looks something like this:

You should now have a wonderful kaleidoscope that will become a family heirloom! Here's proof that it should bring years of joy :-)

That's about it. We hope you liked this project. If you build it and your friends ask where you got such a clever idea, please tell them that you got it at

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This is what it looks like: