The heart of any kaleidoscope is the mirror assembly inside the holder. Actually, most any highly reflective surface could serve as a "mirror assembly" in a kaleidoscope -- e.g. a highly polished, reflective metal surface.
However, nothing works quite as well as glass mirrors and, so, mirrors of varying quality are most widely used.
When an ordinary mirror is used in a kaleidoscope, light must pass
through a layer of glass before being reflected by the silvering on the back of
the mirror. Since glass is not perfectly clear or perfectly flat, some
attenuation of the image results, along with “ghost images” caused by
reflection off of the surface of the glass. These undesirable effects are
compounded in a kaleidoscope mirror assembly and cause the viewing field’s outermost edges to dim, blur, and become full
of interference lines.
By using aluminized front surface mirrors these problems are
solved. Front surface mirror is made by vacuum depositing a highly reflective
aluminum surface coating onto the FRONT of the glass. The light
then reflects off the aluminized coating and does not pass through the glass.
The high reflectivity (approximately 95%) and the absence of ghost images
permits a brilliant image which remains clear and bright throughout the viewing
field. The resulting “hall of mirrors”
effect results in images and colors that are much sharper and more intense that
would be possible using ordinary mirror.
To obtain that high quality image, I routinely use front surface mirrors in my scopes.
One of my favorites "woods" to work with for lathe-turning is "Dymondwood".
"Dymondwood" is composed of thin pieces of wood veneers (birch and maple) which have been color-dyed (in an almost infinite variety of colors/shades). The various colored veneers are then layered (wood grain all in the same direction) in an infinite variety of color combinations/paterns, glued, and laminated under heat and pressure to form the finished product.
The finished product is initially formed as panels which are about 30" long by 16" wide or 50" long by 16" wide. Thickness varies depending on the order, but can be as thick as 2". From these panels, dowel rods, and turning squares can be cut depending on the customer order.
CLICK HERE to see the web site for the Rutland Plywood Corporation in Rutland, VT, where "Dymondwood" is made. I've had the opportunity to visit the plant in VT and observe the cutting of the veneer, dye, gluing, and lamination process. It is really quite fascinating and the company employees are most friendly.
I like "Dymondwood" for two principal reasons: First, it provides a colorful product that is simply not available in nature. Many customers prefer the bright, vivid colors. Second is the workability of the product. Because it is a laminate, all of the cells of the wood are filled with dye and glue. This provides for a very stable and durable product which takes a finish exceptionally well. (The one downside is that the same glue and dye are tough on turning chisels and require more frequent sharpening. To me, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantage.)
"Dymondwood" is used in literally hundreds of applications from pen blanks to roller boards, to name only a few. I use it for kaleidoscopes, cutlery handles, boxes, candle snuffers, etc.
Although kaleidoscopes enjoyed a relatively wide popularity in the later part of the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century they had largely been relegated to cheap, inexpensive toys. Many of the World War II and Baby Boomer generations will remember them as toys, often used as favors at childrens birthday parties. Made often of cheap paper, of minimal optical quality, and often available for mere pennies, they largely fell into obscurity.
By the later part of the 1970s serious kaleidoscope makers began to come forward with more highly-crafted kaleidoscopes. Artisans crafted kaleidoscopes in most every medium available -- wood, stained glass, ceramics, polymer clay, paper, cardboard, acrylic, brass, copper, silver, even cigar boxes (see examples of some the limited edition Cigar Box Kaleidoscopes I have made below), just to name some. Kaleidoscopes were crafted from the "super-mini" scopes to the large, almost "building-size" kaleidoscopes.
Part of a limited edition of "Cigar Box Kaleidoscopes" with Image Wheels by WRIGHTMADE
The person credited by many with popularizing and reviving kaleidoscopes in the 1970s and beyond is a Maryland woman, Cozy Baker. She wrote some six books on the subject and founded the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society in 1986. She was the curator of the world's first kaleidoscope exhibition and turned her home into a museum of kaleidoscopes. For 18 years she was the sole officer of the Society and acted as a liaison between artists, retailers, galleries, collectors, and the general public. For many years she wrote a quarterly newsletter and planned an annual convention in cities around the country to popularize kaleidoscopes. In 2003, Cozy retired from the presidency of the Brewster Society, but continues as President Emeritus of the Society and remains very active in the field.
For more information on her and the society CLICK HERE.
In large part due to the efforts of Cozy Baker, as well as numerous artists, gallery owners, retailers, and collectors, kaleidoscopes are widely available across the country and are becoming more available around the world, largely due to the internet. There are literally dozens of galleries, web sites, and other venues exhibiting kaleidoscopes of most every type, shape, and material imaginable. Although interest remains strongest in North America, it is growing worldwide, largely through the internet. I am receiving orders from Singapore, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, France, Great Britain, to name only a few.
To see my current offering of kaleidoscopes -- mini and full-sized -- as well as a variety of other work I craft see my shop:
As was noted in an earlier post, the modern kaleidoscope was invented by Sir David Brewster in 1816. Initially conceived as a scientific research instrument, kaleidoscopes became more widely viewed as a form of entertainment during the mid-nineteenth century in Western Europe and America.
Although a few Americans apparently began experimenting with kaleidoscopes as early as 1818, it really wasn’t until the 1870s that they became more widespread, due to a Prussian immigrant, Charles Green Bush (1825-1900). Not much is known of Bush other than he was from Culberg, Prussia (now Germany), and came to Plymouth, MA about 1847. Bush had worked in his father’s hemp manufacturing business in Prussia and established a successful business in Plymouth.
Apparently he was untrained in any of the physical sciences, but later in life he moved to Boston and pursued interests in microscopes, telescopes, astronomy, and photography. During the 1870s he began manufacturing his “parlor kaleidoscopes” by the thousands. Even then, they were recognized as extraordinary. Keep in mind that this was the Victorian Age and there was wide interest in parlor games such as showing stereoscopic photographs, charades, and the like. “Parlor Kaleidoscopes” were the right idea at the right time. Although Bush was not the only kaleidoscope maker of the day, his were extremely popular and trend-setting.
Bush’s kaleidoscopes had a barrel of black hardboard with a spoked brass wheel rotating an object cell, mounted on a turned wooden stand. Bush’s ‘scopes were unique largely because of the objects to be viewed – as many as 35 different objects of various colors and shapes, some even filled with liquid containing air bubbles. These liquid-filled objects (ampules) were patented by Bush and the concept is still widely used in modern kaleidoscopes.
In 1873, one of Bush’s “Parlor Kaleidoscopes” sold for $2.00. Today, collectors willingly pay well over $1000.00 for one of the original kaleidoscopes, when they do come on the market.
For a more detailed account of Bush and his kaleidoscopes see the article on the Brewster Society site CLICK HERE
An example of one of an image from one of Bush's Kaleidoscopes being used as a screensaver can be found at the following site CLICK HERE
The modern variant of the Bush ampule kaleidoscope is commonly referred to as an "Oil Cell Kaleidoscope". They provide a very different "view" than non-oil (or other liquid-filled) cells. From time to time I make oil cell 'scopes and you can see samples on my web site CLICK HEREto see the various kaleidoscopes and other items I craft.
Above are images of one of the oil cell scopes I have made in Pennsylvania Cherry as well as one of an infinite number of "views" from such a scope.
In the next post we'll track the evolution of kaleidoscopes from the "toys" of the early part of the twentieth century to the works of art of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
The word "kaleidoscope" is composed of three (3) Greek words -- "kalos", which means beautiful; "eidos", which means form; and "skopios", which means view. Thus, a "beautiful form view".
It appears that the concept of the affects of multiple reflecting surfaces may have been known to the ancient Greeks. However, no information or models survive to provide us with definite information.
"Legend claims that early Egyptians would place two or three slabs of highly polished limestone together at different angles and watch with fascination as mandalas were formed by human dancers." (Quoted from a History of Kaleidoscopes on the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society site)--CLICK HERE
The modern kaleidoscope was invented by a Scotch scientist and inventor, Sir David Brewster (1781-1868). Brewster was a child prodigy who entered the University of Edinburgh at the age of 12. Over a long and distinguished career he made numerous studies and discoveries in the field of optics and the physics of light.
Brewster invented the modern kaleidoscope about 1816 and had it patented it in 1817. It was met with much enthusiasm at the time and was seen as a scientific instrument with great potential. Brewster, however, derived little profit from it due to a fault with the patent registration.
This scope is crafted in Chokecherry, from a log given to me by a friend here in Grand Forks. Chokecherry trees are found in many parts of rural North Dakota, northern Minnesota, and the province of Manitoba in Canada. They are commonly found in yards of rural homes in the region. The fruit -- chokecherries -- is used for jam/jellies, as well as pies, and which are considered a treat around here, that is to say when the birds don't eat them first, which they tend to do.
The base color of the wood is a cream to light tan, but the grain pattern can vary widely and be very interesting with brown to dark brown to almost black markings. It is a nice, even-grained wood for turning.
Well, this is an attempt by a neophyte to establish a blog about handcrafted kaleidoscopes and related matters. In addition, there will be information on other areas of interest.
First, a word about wrightmade. I am a wood worker -- well, really more of a wood turner. I design and craft a variety of kaleidoscopes and other handcrafted wooden items on a wood lathe in my shop next to my house.
Starting over 25 years ago with the design and crafting of wooden board games, my work has evolved through games, bowls, cutlery handles, custom to wholesale bulk, into a wide variety of items that can be turned on a wood lathe. Quite literally, hundreds of different items have been made at one time or another.
I have sold retail and wholesale, craft and art shows, national wholesale gift shows, direct mail, galleries, consignment shops, and now the internet. In recent years the focus has been mostly on kaleidoscopes and other small scale wood turnings with marketing on various web sites. Having tried amazon.com "z" shops, e-Bay, among others, I have found that, at least at this point in time, having my work on www.wrightmade.etsy.com is the most efficient way of showing my work.
Professional woodworker specializing in small-scale wood turning on a lathe. I work primarily with exotic woods from around the world and "Dymondwood" a laminated wood product that is dyed a variety of colors and provides a visually appealing end-product. Most of my turning is of kaleidoscopes, desk accessories, cutlery, back scratchers, key rings, etc. I market on the web and wholesale and consignment.