It's all done with Smoke and Mirrors


Have been playing around with a project using lens, mirrors and prisms. It is not a GF friendly effort but somewhere in the middle of the project I started to wonder what the average GF user could build. Maybe the simplest of Kaleidoscopes (3 mirrors) would be easy enough. Chose a box design instead of the usual tube because I wanted to use only readily available GF friendly materials. The current GF inventory doesn’t include mirrors so I ordered a sheet of mirrored acrylic from Inventables. The rest is just 1/8" Proofgrade plywood and acrylic.

Basic parts

Slide in the mirrors

Paint random colors on the acrylic wheel using kid’s sun catcher paint.

Button it up and spin the wheel.

Included the SVG file not because anyone might want to use it (fairly crude), but just to give you ideas for your own designs.Total (1.6 KB)

Weekly Highlights for the Week Ending May 13th, 2017

Thats really nice!!
You could make it round with a living hinge! Just a thought. Wonder how it would work out.
Uh oh… I hear a challenge!!!


Thought about using the living hinge, or a leather tube, or heavy cardstock and a dozen other designs. Thought about using small pieces of translucent acrylic in a three piece acrylic wheel. Many different ideas. Went with the quick and dirty approach.

Didn’t use the hinge primarily because the radius would be very tight, and I have already broke my share of hinges in the precious Proofgrade supply. Also worried that the hinge would let light in and mess with the reflections unless the mirrors were perfectly tight at the corners. Might have to back the hinge with paper stock. Moved on to the next project.


Oh man, that is SO COOL! I can really see making some of these. And dang, now I wish I had bought some of that mirrored acrylic when I ordered. I definitely need to look into this.


P.S. Please post a link on the Weekly Highlights!


I thought of the light coming in also. Line it with felt.
Can’t wait for your next!!!


Now you got me wondering about adding a light source and modifying this idea into some kinda kaleidoscope projector…


Now that’s completely cool! :grin:


Everyday I ask is there anything that this group will not come up with the can be done with a CO2 laser?


For anyone looking to make a kaleidoscope (or any other object that is meant to reflect an image) you may want to consider using “first-surface” mirrors (unless you aren’t concerned about optimizing the clarity of the reflected image). Unlike ordinary mirrors, first surface mirrors have the reflective material on the top of the substrate. Ordinary mirrors suffer from a phenomenon called “internal reflection”, which causes more than one reflection to appear.

I’m not able to explain this well in the amount of time I’m willing to take, and I couldn’t quickly find a video or web site that explains it in much detail, but here’s an image that might help a tiny bit…


Inventables sells laser-cutable acrylic first-surface mirror material. It’s prolly available elsewhere as well. (current Inventables price: $46.49 for a 12 x 24 x 1/8" sheet)

Screenshot from the Q&A section of the page above, posted here for ease, showing that this is laser-cutable.

Note: First-surface mirrors are difficult to clean without scratching. Personally, I use PEC-PAD (I don’t know if all those letters are supposed to be capitalized) wipes and a bottle of spray that claims to be designed for optics (but is probably glorified soapy distilled water) to clean first surface mirrors. But I’m sure there’s lots of things that will work just fine.


Good to know!


Awesome you just made my lsd trips that much more fun…juuuuust kidding…I don’t do lsd…or DO I ?.. hahaha


Good suggestion - thanks for finding the link!




That is a very creative idea. Since you took the working engineer out of gear there is this freer flowing artist emerging - and he’s rocking it. :+1:


Just found this video.


Thanks. Silly me. I threw together this one without knowing how a Kaleidoscope was actually made. I live on Google but didn’t think to look it up. Actually went down to a toy store but couldn’t find one. So relied on memory of a child. Guessed right on the number of mirrors.


He only uses 2 mirrors in the example above. I should imagine 3 gives a different kind of pattern.


3 forming an equilateral triangle, produces a hexagonal repeating tile effect.