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How to make a Periscope



A periscope is a neat little project to make. If you aren't familiar with what a periscope is think about a movie you have seen with submarines in it. The periscope is that thing that the captain looks through - there is a long tube that goes up out of the top of the submarine and the captain can see things on the surface. So, you can use a periscope to look up over things like fences or you can turn it sideways and look around corners.


I also have a video showing you how to make a periscope. It is toward the bottom of this page.

All you need is some cardboard and tape and two mirrors or mirror like objects. I will give you some tips and hints on where you can get mirrors and some safe alternatives to actual glass mirrors.


Drawing of a Periscope


Here is a drawing of how a periscope works.

You can see that it is pretty simple. Just two mirrors at 45 degree angles and some kind of a structure to hold them together.

And, there isn't much limit to how long you can make this tube. The longer the periscope the more dramatic it is but the longer it is the smaller the image you will see!








Here are two images that describe what I mean about the longer the periscope the smaller the image. Picture in your mind's eye the top mirror in this periscope.


Through a periscope 1

In this view we are looking through a periscope. The rectangular hole is the top hole. It is approximately 6 inches away from the camera and we can see quite a bit.






Second look through a periscope

And in this picture I am standing the samedistance from the wall but I have moved the periscope to about 18 inches away from the camera. Now see how much less can be seen through the rectangular gap?

So, when it comes to the length of your periscope you need to consider this limiting of view that comes along with it.

The longer your scope the less you will see!


So let's take a look at the basic build of the periscope. The picture below shows you one that I have made. You just need a cardboard box and a few extra pieces of cardboard. I have cut a hole in this one so you can see inside. Pretty much as simple as this. Cut two holes in the box on opposite ends and corners. One hole you look into and the other is what you will see out of. Then glue or tape two pieces of cardboard at 45 degree angles. After this you just need to glue or tape two mirrors in place and you are done.


A look inside the periscope


Getting The Mirrors

You might want to get your mirrors first so you can custom make the periscope to the size of the mirrors without having to cut them.

Three inch mirrorsAnd you have several options for getting mirrors. I bought a bag of small mirrors at an arts and crafts store. they are three inches square. It was either Michaels or AC Moore. For five mirrors it cost me three dollars. You can also try an auto parts store - buy two vanity mirrors - sometimes they are called visor mirrors. They usually come in a nice rectangular shape.






Chromalux mirrorAfter the mirrors you do have an inexpensive and safer mirror option. You could use something called Chromalux. This is a poster board that has been treated with a reflective surface. This is a nice safe alternative to mirrors if a child is going to be making or using the periscope. This way there is no glass. But, the chromalux is not as reflective as a real mirror and the scope won't be as effective. It's a trade-off.

Look for it in the racks of poster board. It might go by different names.


You can make all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Dragonslayer wide periscopeYou don't have to make your periscope a long thin box. You can use a tube or you can make it wider too. I originally made a periscope for my DragonSlayer Tank project so I could see out of the tank while I was driving it. So I wanted a wider view so I could see more.


This picture shows the wider periscope I made for the tank. It is nine inches wide. I use three mirrors for each surface. Each mirror is three inches wide.









Building Das Boot? Finish it off with das periscope. Perfect for a blue-plastic submarine, our blue-plastic periscope will let you see the destroyers following your bubbles, or, if you're stuck on land, let you look around corners. Our visual aid is 1-3/8" dia, telescopes from 14" long to 10", has a clutch to secure the length and a 1" dia port to look through. Handy for reverse snorkeling, too. (Just think about it, OK?)


Elenco Adjustable Periscope

  • Remember the Periscope play of your youth?
  • Welcome back with the adjustable periscope from Elenco
  • It's all great fun
  • Handle is adjustable and Periscope extends from 21 to 29 Inch
  • Another great learning toy from Elenco




The Video Tutorial


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