Author Archives: kaleidojean

Did You Know that We Also Custom Cut First Surface Mirror ?

Karl has custom cut first surface mirror for government contracts, for medical devices, for repair of cameras, for phone devices to use as an inspection tool, and other scientific uses. Obviously, he also cuts mirror for kaleidoscope makers as well. He has designed a mirror cutting system using a linear bearing and air pressure for straight and accurate cuts within a millimeter of tolerance. He makes sure that the desired size is as accurate in custom cutting as possible, and checks the size with a caliper before sending the mirror to the customer. He can hand cut squares or rectangles, but not circles, ovals, trapezoids, tapered mirrors, or other shapes, which is a frequent question.

Front Surface Mirror Strips

The first surface mirror that he uses is 1.25 mm thick and has a removable blue netto backing that can be pealed off to expose the side to be used in the application. He uses a sharp knife to separate the blue netto backing from the first surface mirror he just cut, so it remains to protect the cut mirror that will be used and then pealed by the customer. After he has custom cut the order for the customer, Karl takes particular care in packing the very breakable mirror so that it arrives safely. He uses a lot of foam packing materials to cushion the first surface mirror, which is more plentiful than the glass itself in many instances. He has shipped first surface mirror all over the world with great success, so don’t hesitate to inquire what he might be able to do for your project or process.

Click here to see Karl Cutting Front Surface Mirror.

Guide to Kaleidoscope Artists

In this blog, we investigated the mirror systems, and now I’d like to address the artists who have been most instrumental in creating these remarkable collections. There are several which I inadvertently will miss, I’m sure, and I’d be happy to add them once it’s brought to my attention. There are over 75 who have added their knowledge and talent to making such fine, collectible objects. With such a large number of people who have contributed to this art, it may take awhile to cover even those 75 that we have probably met and been privileged to know, and that we sold their works in the past 40 some years at our five shops in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota or online.

Bob and Grace Ade

For ease of finding information on these designers of fine kaleidoscopes, I will attempt to address them in alphabetical order along with some of their work. So with that in mind, Bob Ade comes to mind as the first artist that I mention. Bob and his wife, Grace, called their business Ade Enterprises, starting in 1983. Bob enjoyed adding nontraditional images to his kaleidoscopes. His work was made of lovely stained glass some of which were limited editions, and some were production pieces. His production pieces included, but bot limited to the “Mini-Tube,” “Number One,” “Jewel,” and ”Iris Garden, (priced originally from about $15 to $300). Bob’s limited-edition kaleidoscopes were priced originally from $1250 to $1800, some of which are “Crystal Pyramid” and “Crystal Rapture” in the Crystal series which used internal lighting to enhance the inside images.

Bob and Jan Anderson

The Andersons made stained glass as Anderson Art Glass of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. They were known mainly as limited-edition kaleidoscope artists. They also have had both an artistic background, studying at Prism Art School in Oak Park, Illinois, as well as technical backgrounds. A few of their limited editions are named “A Look into the Future,’ and “Moon Glow.” Their work was in the price range originally of $90 to $400.

Types of Kaleidoscope Object Chambers

Subject: Kaleidoscope Basics: Featuring the Object Case (or thing to be viewed)

Last month we wrote about the body, made of a tube of almost any material, plus the mirrors along the length of the tube, set at an angle to each other. We discussed the number of mirrors and the angle, which determines the symmetry of the pattern and the number of images within that pattern.

The pattern is modified by motion of the objects, caused either by rotating the kaleidoscope or the objects and this will be the focus this month. The objects are sometimes encased in an acrylic cell with or without oil present. Sometimes the object is a wheel of varied colors of glass or plastic pieces. Some of the objects might be within the room itself. Let’s explain this concept first.

The Teleidoscope

A simple teleidoscope is made of a tube, plus mirrors inside the tube. As the teleidoscope is moved by a person, objects in the room itself are mirrored within the tubes by the mirrors inside the tube. If you are in a living room, you might see parts of a chair or sofa inside as part of the symmetry of the pattern inside the tube. Even if you place your hand in front of the teleidoscope, you will see your skin color as a symmetrical pattern inside. So, the teleidoscope has no object cell attached to it as a cell or as a wheel.

We feature several teleidoscopes on our website, or One that we have designed along with Big Muddy Woodworks in Arkansas, forming N and J Kaleidoscopes, is shown on this page There is a video showing how a teleidoscope works, and shows what you can see inside. Be sure to press the arrow to see the video!

Acrylic Cells as the Object Case

As previously mentioned, the acrylic cell may or may not have an oil inside that cell. If it doesn’t have oil, you will hear the sound of things tumbling as you turn the cell to vary the pattern inside. Some people remember the Stevens kaleidoscope making that sound. The Stevens model was made of hard paper, and was a favorite toy of many children. I have sold many of these as vintage kaleidoscopes, but can only show you pictures of such toys at

There may be oil inside the object case as is our best-selling model, the “Spirit.” One style, “Seashore,” can be seen at The price point of a “Spirit” kaleidoscope seems to be one that appeals to those seeking graduation gifts, birthday or father’s day gifts. We make the “Spirit” in many colors, so you can choose a favorite color.

Wheeled Kaleidoscopes

Another of the N and J models that we make is shown at N & J’s “Padauk Double Wheel Kaleidoscope.” A seven inch long solid wooden kaleidoscope is one of our most popular inlaid patterns. As one or both wheels are moving, the lovely symmetrical pattern are seen. Be sure to view the video at

The Mystery of Mirror Systems in Kaleidoscopes Unfolded

Equilateral TriangleEquilateral TriangleThree equal sides
Three equal angles, always 60°
Scalene TriangleRight TriangleNo equal sides
No equal angles, one 90°
Isosceles TriangleIsosceles TriangleTwo equal sides
Two equal angles
Scalene TriangleIsosceles Right TriangleTwo equal sides
Two equal angles,  one 90°
  • The number and angles of mirrors inside kaleidoscopes determine the shape of the image you will see in a kaleidoscope.

2 Mirror Systems

  • A kaleidoscope with two mirrors will produce a round mandala and the angles of the mirrors will determine the number of points that you will see inside.
Angle of MirrorsFoldsPoints
90 Degrees42
60 Degrees63
45 Degrees84
36 Degrees105
30 Degrees126
25.7 Degrees147
22.5 Degrees168
20 Degrees189
18 Degrees2010
16.3 Degrees2211
15 Degrees2412
12 Degrees3015
10 Degrees3618
9 Degrees4020
6 Degrees6030
5 Degrees7236

We handmake our Color Spirit Kaleidoscopes using a 2 mirror system mirrors and a black matte board as the third side

our 2 mirrors are set at 30 degrees producing a 6 point interior mandala Image.

3 Mirror Systems

On the other hand, the most popular kaleidoscopes contain three mirrors, which will produce an entire field of patterns that are triangular in shape, The angles inside can be equilateral (three sides are all the same), or isosceles (two sides are the same, but a third is different, or a 30/60/90 degree triangle.

Be sure to check out the images shown on the page. A three-mirror system inside a kaleidoscope should equal 180 degrees, but any form of triangle. The images inside are continuous and rather honeycomb-like patterns. There are numerous examples of these on my website. One can see the equal sides reflecting the equilateral triangular mirrors inside on “Plum Blossom”:

3 mirror interior image

30 60 90 3 Mirror Systems

Likewise, you can see several examples of a kaleidoscope with an isosceles configuration. One rather inexpensive model has been a top seller for all ages, and is seen here Another especially enjoyable image is the 30/60/90 degree designed kaleidoscope. Such a kaleidoscope contains three types of symmetry: fourfold (from the 90 degree angle) sixfold (from the 60 degree angle) and 12-fold (from the 30 degree angle.)

3 Mirror Tapered Mirror Systems

this is a fun and unique interior image as it produces a 3 d Globe like image

4 Mirror Systems

There can be four mirrors inside a kaleidoscope, and are not seen as much as the 2 and 3 mirror kaleidoscopes. So, the number and differing angles of mirrors are determining the image inside! That is worth repeating, because it is one of the reasons that kaleidoscopes are revered and collected by many people. As mentioned in the first paragraph, there can even be four mirrors inside, which typically produces a long and narrow, square or rectangular image inside. An example of a four mirror can only be seen, but not purchased since it is a vintage 1985 model, by going to my website, The vintage kaleidoscope, “Brass 4 mirror” (era 1985) is by Apries La Pluie of France and is discontinued and not in stock, but is a wonderful example of a 4 mirror.

Polyangular Mirror Systems

Perhaps the most perfect symmetry and best images appear inside two-mirror kaleidoscopes when the angle between the mirrors divides equally into 360 degrees. Hopefully the following makes sense! Degrees Symmetry Points 60 6-fold 3 45 8-fold 4 36 10-fold 5 30 12-fold 6 22.5 16-fold 8 20 18-fold 9 18 20-fold 10 15 24-fold 12 Now, imagine if the designer can make one mirror of a two-mirror kaleidoscope change angles! It has been done! It’s called a polyangular (meaning many angles) kaleidoscope and is most elaborate and satisfying. A wide range of symmetrical patterns can be produced in a polyangular kaleidoscope! Steven Gray made many of them in the 2010s, and they are now quite collectable.

Unusual Mirror Systems and Creative use of reflective materials

As the mirror system is the heart of the kaleidoscope it is no wonder many artists have come up with some fun and verry different non traditional mirror systems.

So the sky is the limit here limited only to your creativity and available reflective materials.

Here is one artists Work Marc Tickle who through out his career produced many different and exciting Mirror systems

Artist Steven Gray was another artist pushing the creativity of Mirror sytems in his artwork.

The Wonder of Kaleidoscopes find Symmetry in Front Surface Mirrors.

Why are we so intrigued with kaleidoscopes? Do people really spend an hour looking at
the beauty within kaleidoscopes? How is it that such stunning images inside are possible? Why
does it work? People who purchase kaleidoscopes find them relaxing, colorful, and interesting.
Viewing a kaleidoscope is even more interesting when understanding how the image is made.
Sometimes when they find out how a kaleidoscope is made, they are somewhat disappointed in
the simplicity of the workings.

Colorful kaleidoscope
The Simple Recipe of a Kaleidoscope
Extraordinary kaleidoscopes are made by hand and show fine talent and techniques,
and the art of making them combines 10th century tradition with 21st century know-how. This
art has been studied, but the simple recipe was described by Cozy Baker in her books as
An eyepiece + 2 or 3 mirrors inside a tube x colorful objects = a beautiful image

The eyepiece of a kaleidoscope is better when large for viewing ease, and a tube holds 2 or 3
mirrors together inside. The mirrors are invisible to the eye, but they are the key to a lovely
image. The colorful objects at the opposite end of the eyepiece tumble when turned to create
the color and loveliness that are seen inside.
The Mirrors are Key
Ordinary mirrors aren’t used because they don’t create a clear image inside. The
kaleidoscope artist of today uses first- or front- surface mirrors, which are coated with a
reflective coating on the front surface. This clearer image is preferable to a fuzzy image just as
today’s TVs are made clearer now. Regular mirrors are coated on the rear surface, so light and
colors are reflected more than once and make the image fuzzier.
Karl Schilling has been cutting the very thin, first- or front- surface mirrors

for over 30 years after discovering this type of mirror. He can custom cut first – or front- surface for
other manufacturers needing precision-cut sizes. If you have need for first-surface mirror see
his website at give him a call at 641-4542068.
Watch for the difference between a two mirror versus three-mirror kaleidoscope in March on this blog.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas 2022

Yes, it’s time to think about Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for 2022. (February 14 for the date challenged) which is only a few short weeks away! Don’t disappoint that special person by putting off a purchase and perhaps sadly forgetting. For your special lady, we might suggest the “Hearts and Flowers” sterling silver kaleidoscope necklaces, which are currently on sale for Valentine’s Day. This handmade wearable art by the kaleidoscope artisans Kevin and Deborah Healy shows the artistry of this talented husband and wife team. She will enjoy the brilliance of the kaleidoscope with the stunning, bright pieces of glass inside, including unique sea glass pieces that really add depth and dimension to the image. You can see a video of “Hearts and Flowers” and more information about this exclusive kaleidoscope necklace by clicking here:

Now, if you’re looking for a special guy, we have many other selections in brass or wood. You can shop in the comfort of your own home, in the snow and cold outside is frightful. For brass selections see this link,

and for wood kaleidoscopes for your special fellow see here.

And of course, don’t forget to get a few kaleidoscopes for the kids!

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day from All of us at Kaleidoscopes To You

Celebrating 40 Years of Selling Kaleidoscopes.

New Year and New Thoughts As 2022 begins, I am astonished to think about where I am now and how I got here. This year 2022 marks the 40th year of selling kaleidoscopes for my families income. My professional history started as a twelve-year-old becoming interested in stained glass as I watched a teacher cut glass. How time flies, was that over forty years ago? Dad and I attended stained glass classes together which began a lifelong interest in art. My college Bachelor of Fine art degree in Glass and Fine art Painting was financed with family-run, stained glass businesses which started at various travel destinations in the Midwest such as House on the Rock in Wisconsin, Red Wing, Minnesota, Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota and historical Galena, Illinois. We found our niche in kaleidoscopes as we sold stained glass in these retail shops. We started making an article that I describe as, “I built businesses selling something no one needs! … but wants! ” should be added. We found that we couldn’t keep these kaleidoscopes in stock and so started selling other kaleidoscope artists’ works. Who wouldn’t admire Henry Bergesons’ “Turniton” or the Kittleson’s lovely “Paula’s Rapture”? Note these items are only available until sold since they are limited editions. We met many professional kaleidoscope artists as members of an organization called the Brewster Society. Thanks to my father, who taught Small Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin, we were blessed to have his internet and management expertise. Through internet sales, we soon started selling kaleidoscopes worldwide from a small town in North Central, rural Manly Iowa. My Dad advised me to develop my own line of kaleidoscopes, which resulted in production kaleidoscopes rather than limited editions so far, such as the “Color Spirit” line or the “DIY Discovery Kaleidoscope Kits” I would like to develop my own limited editions and have begun to do so. The world-wide pandemic of 2019 (and still going as of 2022) has affected my business in that I have been unable to receive all the inventory that I have ordered. Shipping costs have also increased which is a factor in pricing kaleidoscopes. One thing that has helped my business is being able to offer custom cut, specialized “first surface mirror” to companies needing special precisely cut sizes. An Australian company that manufactures medical Devices found my services. I can custom cut these specialized mirrors for them. My goal this year is to continue to provide good service to existing and new customers and hopefully survive this seemingly long pandemic! Happy new year 2022!

Kaleidoscopes in Review

When you hear the word kaleidoscope, a cheap plastic kid’s toy may come to mind. A kaleidoscope is a piece of artwork, something you can enjoy at any age. They are collectible but can also be enjoyed as a unique, one-time gift. Artisans handcraft imaginative masterpieces that often incorporate other talents from metal work to glass blowing.

Color Spirit Kaleidoscopes

What is a color spirit kaleidoscope? It’s a handmade kaleidoscope featuring an oil filled cell with at least one hand lampworked glass piece by the artist, Karl. There are many different themes in this wonderful, magical series.

Starry Night – the Kaleidoscope

Are you or someone in your life a fan of Van Gogh? If art is in your blood, then the Starry Night color spirit kaleidoscope is a masterpiece both inside and out. Adorned with Van Gogh’s starry night, the outside of the tube is only a preview of what’s to come. The white at the base and cap offer a nice contrast to the Starry Night image.

Starry Night Color Spirit Kaleidoscope

Inside you’ll find an array of rich blues, yellows, and reds mixed with a contrasting white. It’s filled with mineral oil, so you’ll see flowing, vibrant images as you slowly twist the turning chamber. The images ooze and dance in fluid motion. The 2 mirrors form crisp 6-point mandalas.


Inside the object cell, you’ll find colorful beads and lampworking, many of which have been created by the artist who is also a glassblower. This amazing kaleidoscope can create an infinite number of new images and patterns due to the combination of medical grade mineral oil and vibrant beads. You’ll never be disappointed no matter how many times you pick it up.


The Kaleidoscope Details

Composed of durable plastic, the kaleidoscope features a slide closure dust cover to keep your eyepiece safe. The white tube is acrylic adorned with a bold Starry Night image. Inside are 2 mirrors, beads, lampwork, and medical grade mineral oil. It measures 9 inches tall, 2 inches in circumference at the eyepiece, and 2 ¾ inches at the turning cylinder.


Interested in seeing more about the Starry Night Color Spirit Kaleidoscope? Check out the video.

Color Spirit Kaleidoscope in Charcoal

Don’t let the outside of the Color Spirit Kaleidoscope in Silver fool you. It’s business on the outside and party on the inside! The simple silver tube houses brilliant colors on the inside. The black and silver provide a nice contrast and give the kaleidoscope an overall clean aesthetic. Charcoal Color Spirit Kaleidoscope

Inside the object cell are a variety of objects including glass beads, Fimo clay, and silver metal beads, which form colorful 6-point mandalas inside. The bright colors form vivid images that slide with a liquid fluidity into view. Whether you’re 9 or 90, you can’t help but admire these fantastic images. In short, you’ll be entertained for hours.

The Kaleidoscope Details

The Color Spirit Kaleidoscope measures 9 inches in length and is 2 inches in circumference around the eyepiece. The turning chamber is 2 ¾ inches in circumference. The outside of the kaleidoscope is made of durable acrylic and has a separate turning chamber. Inside the oil-filled turning chamber, you’ll find silver metal beads, Fimo clay, and handmade glass beads and 2 mirrors. The eyepiece has a dust cover with a switch to open and close it.

Interested in seeing more about the Starry Night Color Spirit Kaleidoscope? Check out the video

The Kaleidoscope Experience

Prior to using these 2 kaleidoscopes, I’d never really handled a “real kaleidoscope.” As a kid, I played with some cheap toys but that was it. For some reason, I was under the impression that this was all there was. I wasn’t aware of handmade, artistic pieces. Looking inside these 2 kaleidoscopes was a bit like going to an art museum without ever leaving my home. I suggest buying one of these. You won’t regret it.

Long time, no post!

Karl and I are finally getting around to fixing a few things and bringing them up to speed!  That means our blog too!

While Facebook and Twitter are fast and furious, it’s nice to come back to this format of the blog where I can write more in depth and offer deeper details.  If you’re just catching us after a long break, we have developed a What’s New section on our website so it makes it easy for collectors and regular customers to come see what is fresh and new from artists as well as New Artists!


What’s New in Kaleidoscopes

And if you’re doing a double take because I’m actually getting a blog post written, we have a double view or binocular teleidoscope for you to see and experience now!

Leif Colson is creating these creative binocular style teleidoscopes that you can wear and enjoy!

Wooden Binocular Teleidoscope, in Maple By Lief Colson of Liefer's Look.


Highlight and Protect Your Kaleidoscopes

Whether you have a large kaleidoscope collection or are just starting out, proudly display your prized possessions with high-quality kaleidoscope accessories. Kaleidoscope stands safeguard your kaleidoscopes and put them in the spotlight. Kaleidoscope Stand

From 19th-century antique kaleidoscopes to styles from the 1980s, vintage kaleidoscopes capture the imagination with their period-specific differences. Contemporary kaleidoscopes are equally inspiring and are available in designs from a wide range of current artists. Whether you go for the intriguing styles of yesteryear or today’s exciting designs, kaleidoscope stands put the spotlight on your favorite works of art.

Highlight the unique beauty of each kaleidoscope you own with a kaleidoscope stand that’s stylish in its own right. Kaleidoscope stands are available in a wide range of materials and sizes to complement your kaleidoscopes and enhance your decor.

In addition to drawing the eye to your kaleidoscopes, stands are the perfect kaleidoscope accessories to protect your collection from harm. Stands prevent your kaleidoscopes from rolling off of flat surfaces and breaking. Kaleidoscope stands are helpful in any room, but especially in children’s bedrooms, playrooms or other living areas where active kids play. Protect your investment in handmade collectible kaleidoscopes with stands in a variety of sizes and styles to suit your needs.