Meet the man with kaleidoscope eyes

Published 3:30 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Community Columnist

For months, Stanley Batchelor of Clanton has traveled to various hospitals around the country that have been understaffed and overwhelmed by COVID. Since October, he has worked in multiple hospitals and makeshift COVID tents around the nation in Alaska, Montana, Utah and Alabama. When Batchelor is not working as a Federal Reservist for the Public Health System, he is likely found in his woodworking shop at home.  In 1979, when he became sick with pneumonia at the age of 21, it was a turning point for his life and gave him a lifelong love of woodworking.

“I was sick in the hospital for nearly a month and almost died,” said Batchelor. “The doctor told me that I was working too hard and that I needed a hobby. My parents told me that if I got out of the hospital, they would buy me the wood router for carpentry that I wanted from Sears. So, when I got out I started piddling with wood and have been making sawdust ever since.”

Batchelor is well-known by his friends and family for his carpentry skills, but one of his talents is unique and a rarity — he enjoys making hand-crafted kaleidoscopes.

Each kaleidoscope that Batchelor makes is unique and most often made with recycled wood from other pieces.

“I like to recycle and try to be ecologically friendly,” Batchelor said. “I take wood scraps from cabinet shops and put them together to make the spool that you look through for the kaleidoscope. The one that I am working on now has Cherry, Maple and Black Walnut wood, so the colors alternate as red, white and dark around the spindle. I like the contrast. I also like to use antique stool chairs. I use the spindle that is hollowed out when making some of the kaleidoscopes.”

The wood detail that Batchelor gives each kaleidoscope gives a vintage aesthetic, as if the toy could have been made a hundred years ago.

Many times, if a tree has fallen, Batchelor will cuts logs and take them to the mill for lumber to be cut. However, the wood must dry for a year for every inch it is thick, leaving some pieces of wood needing to dry for years.

Once the wooden spindle is formed, Batchelor takes pieces of first-sided glass (which is different than an average mirror), cuts three strips of glass, lays out tape to lay the pieces edge to edge and then rolls them up to slide them down into the tube.

“When you look in a mirror you are looking through a piece of glass that has foil on the back of it,” said Batchelor. “In a kaleidoscope, with first sided glass you are looking at the foil. It is the reflection you are seeing and is the same kind of glass used in microscopes. The reflection keeps bouncing off of the glass giving you hundreds of pieces to look at.”

While Batchelor does not usually sell his kaleidoscopes, he does occasionally place his pieces for sale in Homewood with the Assistance League of Birmingham. The Assistance League of Birmingham hosts a variety of artwork for sale by local artists that are age 50 years or older. A percentage of the sale benefits local charities and the other part of the sale goes to the artist. Batchelor has used his profit from sales to sponsor children in missions, particularly in Guatemala.

“I love to take raw materials and make something from them,” said Batchelor. “I like to see wood salvaged and used again. It relaxes me to do woodwork.”