Kaleidoscope Projector Pictures
By Larry Brian Radka
Kaleidoscope comes from the Greek kalos meaning “beautiful,” eidos meaning “image,” and skopeo meaning “I see.” So the English word “kaleidoscope”—whose principles were known to the ancient Greeks—is an appropriate name for describing the optical instrument that presents a variety of beautiful symmetrical images that unexpectedly change from one graceful form to another. Historical records show that the ancient Greeks were well aware this so-called "recently invented" technology. This adds support to the Bible's claim that there is nothing new under the sun.
The ancient Greeks almost certainly enjoyed the kaleidoscope and perhaps even developed an electric kaleidoscope projector—which would have been a mere toy compared to the elaborate electric beacon that they used to light up to the Mediterranean Sea from the Pharos Lighthouse at ancient Alexandria. Nevertheless, all children, as well as adults, past and present, probably could not count the endless hours and variety of enjoyment that even a little mechanical toy like the one below offers.
We should, however, observe now that Sir David Brewster brought the Kaleidoscope back to life in 1813
A technical illustration from his 1816 patent is reproduced below, and several variations of this optical instrument have been produced since.
Their popularity among children, parlor gamers, and designers has continued to endure. Designers usually set their kaleidoscope mirrors up in a vertical plane on a table on which an object can easily be placed to see the symmetrical patterns produced. Children and parlor gamers rotate small hand-held kaleidoscopes (similar to toy above) in front of an eye.
Adequate descriptions of this optical instrument, its history, and how to make a hand-held kaleidoscope are provided in various books,* encyclopedias and Web sites so we will not delve into the issues here. Our objective goes much further, to the Kaleidoscope Projector instead—a very rare optical instrument indeed!
“Attempts have often been made to project kaleidoscopic patterns, but usually with indifferent success,” wrote Dr. R. S. Clay, the author of Practical Exercises in Light and a Treatise on Practical Light. “If a pair of mirrors are merely interposed between the condenser and the projecting lens, it will be found impossible to illuminate the images formed by the successful reflections.” I will not bore my visitors with the details of how he thought the problems might be overcome—especially since I have a genuine Kaleidoscope Projector here on hand that works very well instead.
I purchased this extremely rare kaleidoscope projector from a Canadian seller in an Ebay auction about a year ago, and, at last, among so many of my other Web site projects—dealing with rare ancient and modern history—I have found the time to give it a little attention.
I am by far no expert in the field of optics. However, the pictures of this homemade instrument that I am sharing with you will demonstrate that the builder had overcame a difficult and complicated task in knowing what to do and where to obtain the necessary ingredients. I commend him or her on building such a wonderful instrument that works very well; and I have enjoyed many hours of viewing the bright, beautiful, and ever-changing patterns that this kaleidoscope projector pleased itself to produce on my homemade screen—an old piece of white paneling.
I do not have a flash animation program and my Web sites will not handle them—or movies. Therefore, I cannot show you how well this instrument really works and the great variety of beautiful patterns that this kaleidoscope projector generates. However, I can give you a brief and quite inadequate sample with the short GIF animations above, which were probably as difficult for me to produce as the kaleidoscope projector itself was for its ingenious builder. Below, I will try to briefly attempt to describe some of its ingredients with a few notes and the photographs below:
In this front view of the electric kaleidoscope projector, we can see the light radiating from the top, out of its 300 watt General Electric lamp, which throws out a lot of heat and requires a fan for keeping the projector cool. The lamp found in the projector worked very well when I received this wonderful instrument from the Canadian Ebay seller, but I decided that perhaps it would not last too long, especially since it was old. Therefore, I purchased a couple more of the lamps (old new-stock), illustrated below, on Ebay for about $10.00 a piece. This was a bargain and bonanza, considering that these lamps sometimes cost as much as $30.00 a piece and that they are probably not manufactured anymore.
Note the warning about inadequate cooling of the lamp, and the tiny concave mirror behind the filaments inside the bulb. This reflector keeps the light concentrated in a forward direction toward the condensing lens when the projector is beaming out its beautiful symmetrical images across the screen.
The objective lens cap with its clamp-down screw is shown removed here so the two mirrors can be seen inside the focusing barrel. The inside of the cap is lined with yellow felt, to allow the lens cap to be turned around snugly on the outside of the barrel—to focus the kaleidoscope display.
The rotating round black switch on the side of the projector, above the white on/off power switch, was originally wired to start and stop the motor driving the rotating screen display. Since the 300 watt lamp heats up the case so much after awhile, I decided to wire the lamp into the switch instead. Now I can cool the projector case faster by turning the lamp off and allowing the projector fan to continue to run.
This picture should warn the novice that acquiring the right gear wheels, motor, fan, and lenses might be a real challenge—not to speak of putting them together and of their alignment.
Here I have taken the kaleidoscope wheel apart to demonstrate some of the objects I have displayed on my screen. If one packs it tight, the variations between displays are less jerky. In second animation on this page, however, I used only a few. In the animation at the top of this page, I set a Christmas tree illuminating color wheel inside the kaleidoscope projector display wheel to allow me to produce an easier animation.
Closed up, this kaleidoscope projector measures about 12 inches in length, 6 inches in width, and 13 inches in height—with the handle included.
Here we see the bottom of the fan motor and two large holes to allow for an adequate flow of cooler air up through the projector, past the 300 watt lamp or heater, to exit in in louvres atop the projector.
Perhaps the photographs above might give you enough clues to figure out how to build a kaleidoscope projector yourself, if you are well versed in optics, electricity, and mechanics—and can secure the needed materials. Let me know if you succeed, and I wish you good luck friend!
*Two books worth reading on the subject of building kaleidoscopes (not projectors though) are: Thomas Boswell's The Kaleidscope Book—A Spectrum of Spectacular Scopes to Make and Gary Newlin's Simple Kaleidoscopes—22 Spectacular Scopes to Make.
I hope you have enjoyed these kaleidoscope projector pictures.
This page was last modified on Friday, November 25, 2016