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How to Make a Camera Obscura


A camera obscura is a wonderful little thing. It harkens back to a time gone by. The words mean "dark chamber" in latin. And you can make one pretty easily.

I also have a video tutorial on this project at the bottom of the page.

YoutubeWill has a youtube channel with over 650 videos on projects you can make. Check it out right here


Earn a Certificate of Contribution!


If you make this project email me a picture! I will email you a certificate of contribution from stormthecastle.com You can print it up and hang it on the wall.


Camera obscura

I pointed the camera obscura out the window and this is a look.

The view through the camera


Yo can sketch on it

And you can use your camera obscura as a drawing light box too. I show you how to do that. You can get an image and then draw it out. All you need is a piece of plastic.



Let's take a look at how it works. This is a picture inside the box. There is a lens, a mirror and a piece of tracing paper . And that is about it. Everything else is just a box to hold things in place. And you don't need tracing paper. You can use wax paper.

The light path

About the lens. You have a lot of options. I use the main lens in one of these inexpensive telescopes. There are lots of these out there and you can buy one for twenty dollars. I have several of these. Often thrift stores carry them used very inexpensively.

An old telescope


Materials Needed:


Let's get started

The first thing we need to do is find out what the focal length of the lens is.

REmove the lens

Unscrew the lens assembly from the telescope. Most of these telescopes allow it to be unscrewed. And mark on it which way is the front. It makes a difference. The side of the lens that is inside the tube will be the side that is inside the camera obscura.

Clean that lens if it needs it.


Finding the focal length

Now we are going to find the focal length of the lens. We need a wall and a bulb for this. Be sure there is no shade on the bulb. It should be bare like you see in this picture.


Turn that light bulb on and then hold a yardstick against the wall and move the lens in and out. You will come to a point where the bulb shows up a a nice sharp image. It will look just like the bulb and not just a shiny spot. At that point take note of where the lens is on your yardstick. Mine is at sixteen inches. So, the focal length of my lens is sixteen inches. Now we can build our box.

MEasuring focal length


And there you go. We know that the distance between the lens and the paper needs to be sixteen inches. So we build our box to accommodate that. Your lens is probably different so adjust the size of your box accordingly.


The focal path


a mirror

For the mirror I am using this cheap hand mirror. The actual mirror comes right out of the frame easily.


Okay, We understand what a camera obscura is, how it works and what we need so Let's go ahead and make it!

Next Continue Or watch the video below




Make a Phenakistoscope!

A-Phena-what-a-scope? A Phenakistoscope is often referred to as a magic disk. The disk has a series of images on it and when you spin it an animation happens! Yup, I give you everything you need to make this early animation device. Just print up the template along with four different magic disks. Make a phenakistoscope.



Logan Foam Werks Foam Cutting Tool, Straight/Bevel


Foam core board

Elmer's 900802 Foam Board, White Surface with White Core, 20 x30 (Pack of 10)


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