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The word kaleidoscope is derived from the Greek words, Kalos - beautiful and Eidos - form. In other words, a kaleidoscope is an instrument for viewing beautiful images. And they're alot of fun to make!

A basic kaleidoscope has two or three mirrors taped together in a triangle with the reflective surface on the inside. The objects at the end of the tube are reflected in the mirrors and that creates wonderful symmetrical images.

The best way to start out making kaleidoscopes is probably with a kit. Boston ClayWorks has kits specifically designed for polymer clay. I'd recommend starting with the Single Tube Scope or the Large Wand Scope since they're the simplest to put together, but all of the kits are great. The following pages have photos and instructions on how to make the Large Wand Scope, but the kits also come with instructions.


  • Body - the tube or container which holds the kaleidoscope mirrors
  • End caps - coverings for the end of the tube
  • Eye cap - end cap which has the eyehole for viewing the image
  • Object Chamber - the container for the bits which make up the image
  • Wand - a special type of object chamber, it is a long tube which usually contains glitter and tiny beads.
  • Lens - glass or plastic circle for the ends of the kaleidoscope. They keep dust out and in certain cases (optical lenses) manify or sharpen the image.
  • First Surface Mirror - a special type of mirror which has the reflective coating on the front instead of the back of the glass. It gives a much clearer and better image but you have to be careful not to scratch it.
  • 4oz clay (I used Premo black)
  • White glue such as Sobo
  • Pencil or pen
  • Pasta machine or roller
  • Craft knife (such as exacto)
  • Large Wand kaleidoscope kit (from
  • Masking or duct tape
Optional Supplies:
  • Pearlex or other mica powders
  • Paintbrush for glue
  • Texture sheets or stamps
  • Mold release such as cornstarch or baby powder
  • Fiberfill or papertowel
  • Clay friendly glaze such as Future, Flecto Varathane or Minwax Polycrylic
  • Black electrical tape
NOTE: This lesson is based on the instructions that come with the kit. I have changed the order a bit and added some of my own notes but the credit goes to Larry Rubin of Boston ClayWorks. Used with permission of Boston Clayworks

Click Pictures for a Larger View
1: The Large Wand Kit from Bosotn Clayworks.

2: Place one of the wavy black end caps on the end of the cardboard tube. Use your pencil to trace the line where the endcap meets the body. You will want to avoid putting any clay above the line so the eyecap can fit on the tube later. The end caps are NOT bakeable.
3: Coat the cardboard tube with white glue so the clay will adhere better. I put a line of glue on the tube, then use my finger to spread the glue into a thin even layer. You could use a paintbrush instead if you don't want glue all over your hands. Let the glue dry for about 10 minutes or until tacky. (You could also let the glue dry completely if you want to work on this project over a couple days.)
4: While the glue on the body is drying, you can start assembling the endcaps. Take out the clear acrylic object chamber. Stand it up and put the colored pieces from the kit in the top. You can also substitute your own beads, or other translucent objects if you like. Put a thin line of glue around the inside of the black plastic end cap, and place the multicolored disk inside. Place a thin coating of glue on the upper rim of the acrylic chamber and place the black end cap on top. Set it aside for now.
5: Put a tiny bit of glue towards the outside rim of the clear plastic lens. Be sure not to get any glue in the center of the lens since you will be looking through this. (If you think you might have trouble, use the Sobo glue here. It can be washed off before it dries if it runs.) Glue the lens into the inside of the other black end cap, over the triangular viewing hole. Set this end cap aside as well.
6: When the glue on the body has dried so that it is touchable but tacky, you can cover it with clay using any technique you like. I used textured clay with Pearlex. Roll out a sheet of black clay on the #2 setting of the Atlas pasta machine. Powder the texture sheet with mold release, then roll it and the clay through on the #2 setting. Remove the clay from the texture sheet, trim one side, and roll the cardboard tube up in it until just past the point where the clay meets itself - being careful not to trap air bubbles. Unroll the clay sheet slightly. You should see a slight mark/impression where the ends met. Trim along this line , then gently smooth the edges of the seam together. Re-texture the seam area if necessary.
7: If you covered part of your wavy pencil line, you will need to trim the clay along it. Fold down the clay until you can see where to trim. Also trim the other end flush with the end of the tube.
TIP: You can avoid smooshing (highly technical term) your texture while working on the scope, by putting one hand on the inside of the tube to hold it.
8: Pick up some Pearlex mica powders on your finger and dust it over the tube to highlight the texture. I used several colors. When you're done, put the endcaps on the tube temporarily to make sure there will be no cardboard showing between the clay and the endcaps. Stretch and trim the clay as needed, then remove the caps.
9: Bake your kaleidoscope body following your clay's directions, either standing upright or nested on a bed of fiberfill or papertowels.

Do any finishing steps such as sanding or glazing before you assemble the scope. I gave mine a couple coats of glaze to protect the Pearlex and really make it shine. It may be a good idea to heat set the glaze once it's dry (if compatible) since your scope will get a lot of handling. I baked mine at 200 degrees for an additional 10 minutes. Don't bake it on it's side at this point! The glaze may stick to your baking surface.

You're almost done! Now it's time to put all the pieces together.
10: Lay out two or three strips of tape sticky side up. I used masking tape but duct tape will work as well. Put the thinnest mirror in the center. The protective plastic sheet should be on top. Put the larger mirrors on either side, with one mirror-edge-width of space between them. You can do this by putting the larger mirror on its side, right against the small mirror, then flopping it down. It will leave the right amount of space.
11: Carefully peel off the protective plastic sheets. Be careful not to touch the mirrors and do this in a clean area. You don't want to get fingerprints, dust, or scratches on the mirror surfaces.
12: Fold the large mirrors up over the thin mirror to form a triangle and then tape them in place. Try not to grate the mirror edges against each other since it could scratch the mirror coating. You want to make sure the mirrors fit together well.
Optional: Put a strip of black electrical tape or copper foil down each mirror seam to block any light coming through the tape.
13: Gently insert the mirror ends into the two black foam disks. Then slide the mirrors into the tube. The foam will keep the mirrors from bouncing around. If the disks break you can use newspaper as padding to make the mirrors fit the tube instead.
14: Glue the eyecap onto the wavy end of the tube with Sobo glue. Make sure the eyehole lines up with the mirrors. Clean up any extra glue that may seep to the outside. Glue the acrylic object chamber on the other end.
15: When the glue has completely set, insert the wand through the object chamber holes by gently twisting. Place a black o-ring on each end of the wand.
16: Hold the kaleidoscope so the wand is close to vertical and the glitter is falling, then take a look!
17: If you'd like to find out more about kaleidoscopes come join us and ask questions on the Yahoo Group - Kaleidoscope Builders Knowledge Base. Also check your local library for anything on Kaleidoscopes. Thom Boswell and Gary Newlin have both written good books which give you quite a bit of information and some fun projects to try. You can find out the difference between regular mirror and first surface mirror, two mirror and three mirror scopes, how to tweak kits further to make them more unique, or even how to create your own kaleidoscopes from scratch.
Christy Sherman
©2006 Text and Pictures

We want to thank Christy and Boston Clayworks for sharing this excellent project lesson with Polymer Clay Central. If you have a lesson or tutorial, or something you would like to share with PCC, please email Leigh or Stephen and we will help you prepare your project for the PCC Website!

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