Day 98: How To Make A Thaumatrope


Supplies: Cardstock, something round (I used the lid from a baking powder tin), pen, scissors, hole punch (don’t have one? Use an embroidery needle.), twine/yarn/string (don’t have the hole punch to make these fit?  Use embroidery floss)

Time: 10-15 minutes

DAY OFF!!!!  Today was my first day off since I started my second job at Shakespeare’s Pizza two months ago.  I have been so excited all week!  After enjoying a nice Thai lunch with my parents I went back home for a lovely afternoon of sewing.  I had a really cute and pretty simple pattern I was going to make, but I proved to myself that I do not know how to sew (and apparently don’t learn well by doing) and the project kind of bombed.  Luckily, my mind was quick on this day off, so I thought of a backup.  A thaumatrope!  If you haven’t heard of thaumatropes before, you’re in for some magic.  It involves an optical illusion that illustrates the persistence of vision.  You’ve probably seen one before without a name attached.  It’s very simple to do.

Start by tracing circles onto card stock and cutting them out.  I cut several extra circles since I’m not a strong illustrator.  I definitely needed some extra tries with my drawing!  Make sure you make one extra circle though.  If you want to make one thaumatrope you need two circles.  If you want to make five you’ll need six circles.  (Actually, it’s not 100% necessary, but it makes things easier later.)

I cut my circles out of index cards

Fold your extra circle in half and snip off about 1/8” from each side.  This is going to act as a sort of level for the string you’ll attach later.

Unfold the circle and place it on top of the circle that shall become your thaumatrope.  Make a small dot at the edge of each crease.  This is where the strings will be tied.

See that little dot?

Now you’re ready to draw.  I tried a few drawings, but they’re too embarrassing to show on the internet.  Like I said, I don’t draw well (it’s really my biggest disappointment and my #1 thing to learn- well, that and sewing).  Anyway, at the recommendation of my friend Megan (appendix-less Megan) I made a clock.  It’s simple, but it illustrates how this is to be done.

Draw one part of your illustration on one side of the circle.  I drew the numbers on the clock.

Then on the other side you’ll draw the other part of the picture UPSIDE DOWN.  I wanted the hands on my clock to point to 12, so I turned the card over with the 12 still at the top, and drew the arrows pointing down.  If I drew the arrows pointing the same direction at the twelve the image in action would read 6:00.

There are so many options for skilled illustrators!  Some classics are a bird in a cage and a horse and rider.

I forgot to check my pictures of the next step, and they were bad, so I’ll just explain this part.  It’s simple anyway.  Poke holes through the dots you marked earlier using the embroidery needle.  Then thread the needle, pull about 5” of thread through the hole and tie a knot.  Repeat this on the other side.  These will be the “handles” used to spin the thaumatrope.  (You’ll notice in the supplies list I suggest using a hole punch and string.  That would be ideal, but I couldn’t find my hole punch so I used this alternate method.  Why didn’t I just use an X-acto knife?  I don’t know!)

Speaking of spinning, it’s time to spin your new toy!  Just hold the strings between your thumbs and pointer fingers and spin the circle.  You could also have someone wind the circle while you hold the strings and then let it go.

If I could change the shutter speed on my phone you might be able to see how this works

Unfortunately, I have to pay to be able to put video on my blog, so I’m going to share this Youtube video with you.

There are many many ways to make a thaumatrope, so play around with it.  They don’t even have to be circular!  Promise me you’ll watch that video!  You’ll definitely want to make one if you do.


Ps- Did you set your clocks back?  The clock on my thaumatrope was an unintentional tie-in with the end of daylight savings time.  Does anyone else love when it gets dark early?


One response »

  1. Very clever! Where do you come with these neat posts?
    P.S. Thanks for the reminder about the clocks. No, I don’t like the darkness…too depressing. 😦

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