Penmaking articles Penmaking Tips


by Joseph M. Herrmann of Timber Treasures
Reprinted by permission from Creative Woodworks and Crafts Magazine

Wood: maple burl or wood of choice—one piece 2" x 2" x 2-1/4"
Tools: band saw; chop saw; drill press with a 13/16"- Dia. Forstner bit (#PK 1289)*; awl; adjustable hand screw clamp; lathe with assorted chisels including a large roughing gouge and small detail gouge,
revolving center, and a 7mm pen mandrell; calipers; hand held electric drill with assorted power sanding discs; buffing system; X-acto knife
#PK-1090, "Kal-egg-oscope" kit*
#PK-1288, bushings*
Assorted grits of abrasive paper
Danish oil
Deft oil

*Available from: Steebar Corp., (973) 383-1026,

Kaleidoscopes were invented in Scotland in the early 1800’s and were introduced to this country by the middle of the 1870’s. They soon became the televisions of their time. Just as modern families sit and watch their televisions, Victorian-era families sat in their parlors and viewed the ever-changing images created by theobjects reflected in the interior mirrors of their kaleidoscopes.

I have always been fascinated by kaleidoscopes and have bought several at different craft shows around the country. Some of the more complex creations I’ve seen feature large, elaborate stands holding massive wooden tubes that produce extremely complicated reflections as the tube is rotated. Obviously kaleidoscopes of this quality are quite expensive, some of them even selling for thousands of dollars!
The kal-egg-oscope featured here is nowhere near as complicated, is far easier to make, and would probably sell in the $35.00 to $50.00 range at most craft shows. The eggshaped body holds a tube inside of which are the workings of the kaleidoscope. These parts are shown in Fig. 1.

Kaleidoscope theory
The interiors of kaleidoscopes contain 2, 3, 4, or more first surface mirrors running the full length of the tube. The angles of these mirrors determine the number of reflections viewed, which, in turn, determines the shapes of the images formed. For example, a two-mirror kaleidoscope image will appear as a cathedral window pattern.
Conventional household mirrors are usually referred to as second surface mirrors because the silver surface is applied to the rear of the glass. The resulting reflection is oftentimes distorted because it passes through the glass after being reflected off the mirrored surface. On the other hand, the reflective material on first surface mirrors is applied directly to the front surface of the glass and produces virtually no distortion, making them ideal for kaleidoscopes. Like most kaleidoscopes, our project uses three of these mirrors and will produce an image that is reflected along the full length of the mirrors.

Preparing the block
I started my project by deciding what species of wood I was going to use. While any kind of wood can be used, I decided to make mine from maple burl. Burls are usually never completely dry and, because of this, they will often shrink after they have been sanded and finished. This gives the surface of the object a leathery texture that I personally find appealing. The simple egg-shape of this project is a great platform to display the intricate figure patterns often present in burls.

Sometimes referred to as “nature’s jewels,” burls are the wart-like growths that appear on trees. While scientists do not know for certain what causes them to develop, a virus is strongly suspected.
I started with a block of wood measuring 2" x 2" x 2-1/4”. I found the center of the block by connecting the corners and center punched this point with an awl.
I used a 13/16"-Dia. Forstner bit to drill the hole through the block. I think you get a cleaner, more accurate hole with this type of bit. Chuck the bit up in the drill press and set the depth stop so you just penetrate the bottom of the blank. Be sure to have a piece of scrap stock under the block to prevent damage to the table of the drill press and to the drill bit itself. You will also get a cleaner exit hole with virtually no chipping if you use this precaution (see Fig. 2).

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