Monday, June 21, 2010

Anatomy of a Kaleidoscope -- Part # 5 -- Object Center - Oil Cell

In a post back in April, we began a review of the "object center" of kaleidoscopes. The first part discussed image wheel (sometimes termed "tumble" wheel) 'scopes. As noted then, these are my personal favorite. However, many people like a variant on the image wheel which is an oil cell kaleidoscope.

An oil cell 'scope is really just a tumble 'scope with liquid. Instead of having the "objects" or movable pieces simply tumble in a housing, an oil cell has them tumble in "oil" -- a liquid. ("Oil" is a bit of misnomer as glycerin is probably the most common liquid used.) However, the effect is a much more languid, slow-motion visual, which seems to "swirl" more than "tumble". The glycerin is normally in a plastic or glass ampule with the objects, which is tightly sealed to prevent leaks.

The body of an oil cell 'scope is often constructed differently than a tumble 'scope. In many cases, the oil cell is mounted directly, and permanently, in the housing and the whole 'scope is turned to view the movement as opposed to a tumble 'scope which often sees the object cell externally mounted to the body of the 'scope (see examples of my image wheel 'scopes in earlier posts) and only the object cell (wheel) is turned.

As was the case in the previous discussion of image 'scopes, am almost infinite variety of materials can be inserted into the "oil" medium -- rocks, minerals, beads, colored glass, colored plastic, bits of metal, etc. One type that I like uses small sea shells or fragments to continue the "liquid" theme.

(Above are samples of two of the oil cell 'scopes I craft.)

A web site I like to check,, usually has several oil chamber kaleidoscopes which are particularly impressive.

To see all of my current work go to

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