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The 3D Kaleidoscope.

"I want you to make a gift for my wife, something really cool... it's to celebrate that we just became parents, are you interested?"

I was...

Then I began to brainstorm.

Mechanical lion - she likes animals from Africa

Something made out of human hair - meh too 1850's

Another mechanical insect - that would be more for me than them

A kaleidoscope - Intriguing, but it's been a while since I got really excited about a kaleidoscope

The best Kaleidoscope in the world? - YES (I mean, I'll give it a shot)

Rough Drawing of the project

What would a kaleidoscope so exceptional?


Kaleidoscopes have always been a solo experience... This one must be for two.

Binocular and 3D.

Using one eye with a entertaining viewing apparatus like this destroys the possibility for a 3D experience... For this kaleidoscope two eyes must be engaged in viewing... and the image itself must be genuinely three dimensional.

Interchangeable image sources.

Kaleidoscopic images get old, you only have three marbles to pop into the twisted wire marble holder. Or two stained glass disks, and you have seen all the different combinations. The best in the world has really cool disks, and enough room to put in your fingers, or a hand-full of rubber-bands, or wrapping paper... what if you want to use something translucent, like sushi seaweed?

Has it's own light source.

To facilitate bright gorgeous viewing of see-through objects.


It can be made the right angle for a child to use, or an adult. Being positional means that the inevitably heavy device wont need to be picked up.

It moves the heart.

This one has a built in story, Nathan a new daddy/programmer, is commissioning it for Kristen, the new mommy/physician to celebrate their entrance into family-hood. Additionally, I asked Nathan to list 10 things that capture his imagination, and 10 things that capture Kristen's imagination. I need to use that information in the design somehow, making it super personal.


Finalizing the design on paper allowed me to work out kinks and make notes about form. The process results in something that looks like this:

I looked through my studio, and found some cool scrap metal items I could build off of and... pulled out a huge "first surface" mirror I had collected from a tossed rear projection TV.

The narrowness of the mirrors on the input end and the wideness on the viewing end was calculated to create a circular image of tessellating equilateral triangles. I made the viewing end wide enough that two people could both look down the barrel. Additionally, looking with both eyes at this mirror system gives the viewer that coveted 3D experience. The ball has depth, it's really a geodesic sphere, not a circle.

Here are two initial tests of system with wrapping paper as the image source, mirrors are still not cleaned:

Next I had to suspend the mirror body with the finished structure, add the electronics, polish and paint, and get the image disks ready to click into their magnetic holes.

Imax film can be exposed with hi res (12,000 dpi) imagery and turned into transparencies for roughly $40 per frame. These are the two image disks I created for this kaleidoscope.

Details of the disks (above).

I assembled a device to place into my drill press that would cut a perfect circle in the film. I glued the transparency to a thin piece of lucite and used the spinning blade again to trim the finished edge.

The finished Kaleidoscope:

My favorite moment of this build was getting to hand it over to the family.

What they were seeing :

There are a few half images hidden in the slides, like the tiger faces below. These only become visible when the disk is rotated to the correct alignment with the mirrors.

When you take a picture with a cell phone flash, the chamber fills with stars!

This Kaleidoscope took 60 hours to construct. If I did it again I would make it more compact. When you image is relatively small at the end of the mirrors, you can afford to cut down the mirrors on the looking side. When I make another, I plan to use a very complex mirror system to create the illusion that the viewer is running down a 3D psychadelic hallway.

        About this site:   

My site has three closely related focuses.


  • First: I aim to share my kinetic sculptures, and the process by which they are created.


  • Second: Maybe you are someone who suspects that you haven’t reached your greatest creative potential. This site will change that.


  • Third: I will give voice to the deep connection with God we experience as we echo His fundamental identity… Creator.



 UPCOMING Projects: 


Living Glass Plumage


Maple Zoetrope


Monarch Tower


Wind up fruit

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