Monday, November 23, 2009

Mini Oil Wand Kaleidoscopes Video

A friend helped me to make this video of the view in a mini oil wand kaleidoscope.


To see all of my current work go to 
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Friday, November 20, 2009


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.

For a flavor of the range of colors see woodnwhimisies

Here are a few of the products I craft with "Dymondwood".


See all of my listings on

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Origin & History of Kaleidoscopes -- Part III

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:

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Origin & History of Kaleidoscopes -- Part II

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.
CLICK HERE for an example of a "Parlor Scope" for sale.

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 HERE to 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.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Origin & History of Kaleidoscopes -- Part I

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.
 For copies of the patents themselves CLICK HERE

For further information on Brewster's life and pictures of at least one of his scopes CLICK HERE

In future posts, we will explore the evolution of kaleidoscopes in the mid-later 19th century and beyond.

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See my web site of kaleidoscopes and other work  CLICK HERE