Kaleidoscope Care: Keeping your scopes in order can be quite a challenge. Metals tarnish, glass grows foggy, lucite dims and wood loses its luster. What to do? Here are a few tips from our years of scope-tending.
General RX for Kaleidoscopes
Bright light is fatal to some scopes. Keep your flower wheels in the dark as pressed flowers will lose all color in direct sunlight. Bright light causes wood to fade, so keep it in subdued light. Not all fluid ampules are light-fast. Keep your scopes in dim light when they’re at rest. Humidity can be critical. Too much moisture makes wood swell and mirrors fog. When indoor humidity falls below 30%, wood dries out and checks or splits at the grain.If you can increase the moisture in your house at these times, your handcrafted wood will thank you… as will your nasal linings!
Non-lacquered metal can be kept bright with a product called Nevr-Dull. It’s a waterless metal polish made at Freeport, NY and comes in a blue tin filled with solvent-impregnated fiber wadding. You tear off a piece the size of a cotton ball and rub a tarnished scope until the oxidation is gone. Buff with a soft cloth for a brilliant luster. It’s good for non-lacquered silver, gold, brass, copper, pewter, steel, aluminum, chrome-even glass.You can also use Nevr-Dull to brighten your mag wheels and remove tar from your motorcycle. You can buy it at a real hardware store-if you can find one. The folks at the hardware boutique (where they sell nails in little blister packs) won’t know what you’re talking about.
Glass can be cleaned with Windex, Glass Plus, etc. For scopes we’re careful to apply the cleaner to the cloth, not the kaleidoscope. For Tiffany-method glass with leading, we use Pledge (sprayed on the cloth). It cleans the surface and imparts an ultra-thin waxy finish that may repel dust. Our remedy for a foggy kaleidoscope eyepiece is a Q-tip with one end barely moistened with glass cleaner.
Lucite, Lexan or Plexiglass
Lucite, lexan and relatives must be kept well away from glass and window cleaners. These contain alcohol or ammonia and can permanently dim the sparkle of some synthetics. Instead, use Novus Plastic Polish, available from lamp shops and plastic fabricators. Non-oily, non-toxic Novus leaves a finish that resists fingerprints, fog, dust and static. Apply with a clean, soft, grit-free, all-cotton cloth. For restoring surfaces that show signs of wear, haziness, fine scratches or discoloration, try Novus 2 or 3.
Wood, when lacquered or varnished, is fully sealed and needs only an occasional wipe with Pledge to rid it of dust. Natural (un-lacquered) wood reacts to atmospheric changes, expanding and contracting, absorbing or losing moisture. It needs additional care lest it become dry and brittle. Old English Lemon Cream Furniture Polish is one of the best treatments we’ve found. Applied to a soft cloth and then to the wooden barrel of a scope Lemon Cream restores color, grain and luster to a degree that may astonish you.
Alabaster is a low-maintenance material. Florida scope maker Ben Ansley advises you not to use water to clean it. Just keep it dusted with a soft, dry cloth and give it a once-over with Pledge every five years or so.
Leather needs a treatment with leather cream every few weeks to keep it from drying out and losing its flexibility. Lexol or something like it will do the trick