How to make Dust Goggles
Tim Elverston design and process
I made these goggles for the dust in the desert at Burning Man. I am posting these images as instructions for those who might want to try making some of their own.
Good goggles for the desert are hard to find and they are very expensive if you do.
These are made from an old leather jacket, and from two pieces of tempered and UV resistant glass that I got from the halogen 'puck style' lights. I popped the glass out of the plastic ring. They also sell tinted circles that can be used for torch brazing which would be great. I wanted these for night also, so I'm leaving them clear.
Once I worked out how to design them, the whole process took about 3 hours. If you have any questions please email me. You can get the address from our website.
Paper templates for the two shapes that make the goggles. I found the shape of the two ovals [the mask] by laying cling film over my face. Ruth traced what she thought would be a nice shape directly on the plastic which was laid against my face. I then asked her to trace the actual perimeter of my eye. After that I just put the plastic on paper and cleaned up the shape a bit before cutting it out. I only found the shape of the oval mask
like this. Read on to see how to find the eyepiece shape.
This is the test piece for the mounting technique I came up with for the lenses. It just uses two strips of leather stitched into a piece long enough to go around the circle. They form a channel that holds the glass in.
Another shot of the test piece. This clearly shows the groove that holds the glass. This leather here is not the final shape off the eye piece cylinder.
The wire frame. This is not used in the final product. However, it was crucial to help find the shape of the eyepiece. I taped it to the leather mask so that I could bend it to my face, so I could keep that bend as I found the next shape, the eyecup.
Forming the wire to my face.
This was an important step because it allowed me to keep the shape of my face in the mask while I found the correct angle for the eyepiece. In the next step I have a paper cylinder that is inserted into the oval of one side of the mask.
This shows how the wire helped hold the form of my face while I found the shape of the eyecup. I wrapped a cylinder of paper around the lens and then positioned the lens at the correct angle. When I liked how it was sitting, I traced the line where the leather oval touched the paper cylinder.
Another shot of the wire and leather.
Looking at the eyepiece as it lies against the mask. This is the test piece, it's not the cylinder shape I used.
The structure of the eyecup without the lens mounted. I am about to sew it onto the leather mask. The triangle overlap near my right thumb is where the leather comes around on itself and is two layers, adding stiffness to the outside of the cylinder.
Here I am about to sew the eyecup to the mask. I am judging the alignment and also figuring out where and how to sew it. I haven't done this before, so, there are decisions to make.
I decided that to make the goggle fit my face properly, I needed the inner [against my nose] half of the circumference of the seam to be sewn as a normal seam and the other [outer] half to be top-stitched, basically lapped over. Shown in a future shot.
Here I am about to flip the seam and begin top stitching the eyecup to the mask around the outer edge. I intentionally didn't lock the ends of the inner stitch so I could partially flex it open as I flip this section of the seam.
Top stitching the outer edge to the mask. All of this stitching is zigzag of varied widths.
Another shot showing the top stitch. You can see the way the eyecup is folding flat towards the nose because of the inner seam being run that way.
The first test-fit of the eyecup. This is very exciting stuff, although my concentration as to how I feel about the fit doesn't show how giddy I am.
Here it's easy to see the way the seam flips from an inner to an outer seam around the oval. This helps with the angle, and the leather is so compliant that this worked really well and blended so naturally.
This is a test fitting of the glass. This glass came from a cheap halogen puck light. It is both tempered and UV resistant. It is not tinted, but this will be great for night use.
Piles of merino and silk in the background. Erin, adding black to the leather.
All together, polished, with the glass in. Also you might notice that there is now a piece of leather bridging the nose. I found that it needed a bit of tension here, but the outer layer was still forming a lovely seal against my face.
Front view, with the lenses in, and still a bit dirty from being handled.
I used a black bra strap for the elastic. It was hard to use a synthetic along with so much leather, but yeah, I'm happy, really happy with these.
I have decided to add to this page after all the interest it has garnered. This page has been featured on BoingBoing, Make and Gizmodo too. These goggles are essentially a prototype. They came out extremely well for a first go. Some modifications that I may add on future versions include vents which have a knitted fabric filter in place. I have ordered some more leather and I will definitely be making some other versions of these. I already have plans to make a future version.
Safety of these?
Notes about the safety of this design. Due to some comments on the sites that picked this up, I will say that I do not endorse the safety of these goggles. This of course should make little difference since I'm not selling them. But, if you plan to build a pair, give some thought to the safety of the lenses you choose. I feel extremely good about these lenses and their relative safety - or else hey, I wouldn't have used them. However, it has been brought up by multiple concerned individuals that they may not be entirely safe.
These do have a few things going in their favor. One is they are quite thick, at about 2.8mm, which for their diameter is substantial. The second thing they have in their favor is they were never installed. I used the halogen light set in another project and just never used these lenses thus they have never been heated, so whatever tempering they had in China is still the same as it was from the factory. They are also soft-mounted in the leather and the edges are protected. Tempered glass has a well-known vulnerability at the edges, and these are quite protected there. Whatever might hit them at any angle would deform the leather instead of transferring a lot of the force to the lens.
These goggles are not necessarily designed to be used in a high-impact sport, they are just to keep dust out and have great visual clarity while doing it. However, I believe they would easily stand up to some really insane abuse and I think they would fare very well in a high-impact environment.
Any eyewear that uses glass uses tempered glass - the only difference is that they are tested with a ball bearing drop test to see if there is an error in the tempering process - but it's still just tempered glass. I dislike looking through plastic, and with the dust in the desert plastic scratches up quickly if you are not ultra-careful with it. True safety goggles all use plastic lenses, and hey, maybe plastic is a much smarter choice. My personal preference is that I can't stand plastic lenses for eyewear.