Coming soon to my Glowforge, a kaleidoscope

I’m going to make a kaleidoscope, mounted on the wall and hopefully large enough for me to sit at my desk and watch. I’ve noticed that all the websites I’ve visited specify building it in a tube, but none have addressed why that’s a requirement.

I assume it’s because it aids the build, keeps it simple, and accomodates the focal length for most peoples’ eyes (for a personal, handheld device). Can anyone tell me the pitfalls of making a stubby kaleidoscope? I’m going to experiment also with tapered mirrors, so the viewing opening is much larger than the opposite end where the colorful trinkets are. I’m not worried about loss of clarity.

Also, mirrors. Front-surface mirrors are typically used to eliminate the dispersion fringe you get. In my case, that might add to the interest in the final display; I would be able to use mirror acrylic, right?

Any links or practical experience is welcome.


There is double sided acrylic mirror. One side is first surface and one is second surface.

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Tapered mirrors sound cool but I think you’ll find that they don’t give a kaleidoscope effect. The reflection angles will be all wrong. It might look cool but it won’t be a kaleidoscope in a traditional sense.

The reason for the tube is really just to hold the mirrors and channel your vision towards the center where the images converge so you get that “repeating” effect… I’m curious as to you’re referring to as a “kaleidoscope”, that you can mount on the wall though?

Yeah, what he said…

and @evansd2 Well, cool with kaleidoscope principles will do. This is for “create art using electronics”. So I want to make a kaleidoscopish device that mounts on the wall, has a sidelight (illuminate the interior), large viewing aperture and a motor to drive the rotating trinket disk.

Think night time, with a cat on my lap, some tea and edibles, i’ll just be able to sit back and enjoy the show. At least, that’s my vision.


Ahhh… Gotcha. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out if there was some way to do an actual wall-mounted kaleidoscope with a wide field of view other than a projected one… Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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Yeah, and I just realized that I’ll need to illuminate from teh back, not the side due to the size I plan on.

The apparent size is matched by the length of the tube. Too long and the “circle” is the light at the end of the tunnel. Too short and the "v"makes a warped circle. No matter what you do inside the “v” will be different that the rest unless all sides look the same.

I “designed” one that was glass and therefore round suggesting it to a customer who would claim it as her own, but in that case it was filled with Lava Lamp like oil and glycerine that provided the interest. Something like that with mica and plastic bits could be very interesting just as a rotating circle,


One of the first projects I did with my GF was to build a simple traditional Kaleidoscope. Generally there is no focal length because there is no lens. The mirrors run the length of the tube and are necessary to reflect the light from face to face multiple times as you look through a small hole in one end. It’s not just bouncing the light once off three or more mirrors. A stubby Kaleidoscope would reduce the number of reflections to reach your eye. The tube is also there to reduce external light and concentrate the effect. The simplest devices employ three long mirrors but the number will vary.


Three will get an infinite spread, but most I have seen were just a single piece of stainless steel bent to a 30 degree inside angle so the view was a circle.

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