Build: Phenakistoscope

Build: Phenakistoscope

YouTube player

This week we are going to continue with the “moving picture” theme and build a Phenakistoscope. Luckily for all of us, it’s a lot easier to build than it is to pronounce. Even better, you the first thing you need to do is eat a lollypop! Why? Well, read on.

So the big question is, what is a Phenakistoscope and is it going to hurt me? I found some good information for Wikipedia:

The phenakistoscope (also spelled phenakistiscope) was an early animation device, the predecessor of the zoetrope. It was invented in 1831 simultaneously by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and the Austrian Simon von Stampfer. The word “phenakistoscope” comes from Greek roots meaning “to cheat”, as it deceives the eye by making the pictures look like an animation.

And no, it isn’t going to hurt you! Not even in the wallet! Best of all, it takes about 15 – 20 minutes to build. Let’s get started.

What you need:

  • Lollypop spinner – You know, the lazy kid lollypops
  • Template – Phenakistoscope.pdf
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife – Be careful!
  • Glue – Glue sticks work best
  • Black, heavy weight paper

Step 1: Make the disc
Print out the dial template [Phenakistoscope.pdf] and glue it to some heavy weight black paper. It doesn’t have to be black, but a darker color works best. The dial I printed has a 3D MAKE logo that spins around. You can draw whatever animation you want in the empty boxes provided on the template.IMG_3910.JPG
Cut out the circle with scissors. Simple!

Next, using an X-Acto knife carefully cut out all the rectangular “viewing slots” on the dial. Finally cut an “X” in the middle of the dial as it is marked on the template.

Step 2: Hack the Lollypop spinner
Find a spinning lollypop. You can usually pick them for $1 – $2 at any store that sells candy.

You might not have to do anything to your spinner except eat the lollypop.

If you are really opposed to sugar, just cut the pop off the stick. Mine tasted awful, so it got the scissor treatment.

If you need to modify your spinner, go ahead and take it apart and remove all the extra parts that you don’t like. I removed Belle because she got in the way and moved back-and-forth when you pressed the button.

Now I have just the spinning mechanism. Again, look for one you don’t have to modify. Most of them will work fine untouched.

Step 3: Putting it all together
Just stick the lollypop stick through the “X” you cut in the template and you are ready to try it out.

Step 4: Enjoy

YouTube player

Go find a mirror and enjoy the show. You need to point the disc towards the mirror and look through the slots you cut in the disc to see the animation. If you don’t look through the slots, the animation will appear as a blur.

Now go make some cool animations and send them to us!


If you want the MAKE version of the dial you can download it here.

Build: An Electrified Zoetrope from recycled parts

6 thoughts on “Build: Phenakistoscope

  1. Joe Kelly says:

    My website has a number of precinema aparatus:

    1. Marc de Vinck says:


      Nice work! Check the MAKE blog tomorrow morning!

  2. Lyn Knight says:

    How do you film the animation?

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