How-To: Make Your Own Desert Dust Goggles

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How-To: Make Your Own Desert Dust Goggles

It’s almost time for Burning Man, and you know what that means — no, not rampant nudity — dust. Lots and lots of dust. Tim Elverston decided to make his own pair of black leather dust goggles from an old leather jacket and some pieces of tempered and UV resistant glass from halogen ‘puck style’ lights. Tres Mad Max.

How to make Dust Goggles – Tim Elverston design and process [via Boing Boing]

14 thoughts on “How-To: Make Your Own Desert Dust Goggles

  1. drspectro says:

    Some tempered glass will nearly explode when it does break. If it is chipped or if heating has messed with the tempering it can be very unpredictable. Glasses and goggle lenses are made of glass that is at least intended to not blind you if it breaks. Break a “Corel” plate some time and watch what happens.

    Real goggle lenses are cheaply available from welding supply houses. With improvised plastic you can break a sample and have some idea what it will do when it breaks.

    1. Tim Elverston says:

      Hi there and thanks, you make a good point. I have certainly considered the safety of these lenses, and I came to the conclusion that I am unsure as to how safe they are. The text at the page specifically suggests the goggle lenses that you are mentioning.

      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 pretty 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 designed to be used in a high-impact sport, they are just to keep dust out and have great visual clarity while doing it. Any eyewear that uses glass uses tempered glass – they 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.

      I may put a little text on the instructional page about the unknown safety of these lenses, but it’s also reminding me that people should largely take responsibility for their own safety, and you can only put up so many signs in the world about how dangerous everything is. It’s somewhat akin to children wearing helmets on the playground.

      You do make a good point, thanks for the thoughts. I am tempted now to break the third lens to see what it does. But then I’d be out my extra lens. If anyone knows where to get perfect glass circles let me know. I’ve been combing mcmaster carr but I’m unsure as to what I’m looking at.

      Good making,

      1. Z says:

        I really enjoy people’s DIY attitude, but instructions for things that sole closely involve human body safety and permanent injuries like blindness take us somewhere different than the normal ‘I can hack things!’ DIY mentality.

        In medicine, and some other fields involved safety and lots of knowledge, this is called ‘standard of care.’ It means that you’re looking out for the dumb things that people may do under the widest range of scenarios you can expect.

        Respectfully, Tim, your follow-up comment didn’t hit that mark, yet. Your remark “These goggles are not designed to be used in a high-impact sport” presume that someone go and do something like… oh.. ride a bike, climb something, or other common Burning Man activities when wearing goggles you taught them how to build.

        The world shouldn’t have warning signs at every turn – but teacher do need to initiate students into Danger. Don’t wuss out, @drspectro comments are pro

        1. Tim Elverston says:

          Sure, and I concede that these are totally untested. I for one feel extremely good about the safety of these goggles. I picked these lenses specifically because I feel good about them.

          I respect your suggestions however and I have added text regarding safety to the instructional page itself. Will this text, or any text please everyone? I doubt it, but it is the best I could come up with.

          Two things:

          Great point about normal Burning Man activities. I will add this:

          Normal activities do not continue while a dust storm is in progress, they are impossible. People do not generally continue to wear the goggles when the dust storm is over. This at least has always been my habit and seems to be the norm. It is much the same as taking your tempered glass facemask off after diving under the water – you don’t keep wearing it while driving home.

          Two, I specifically suggest the plastic lenses on my instructional page and have from the beginning, as an alternative to the glass that I chose for myself.

          This has been a learning process for me and my next how to will definitely be handled differently.

          Thanks to all, and as a close for this comment, check out what I found:

          The German military used a design that was near identical to mine. I found this out after I designed mine. I happened upon these through interweb-style curiosity.

          German Military Goggles

          The parent page of that site where you can find the below description. I’d be willing to bet that since they are made by zeiss and from the look of them, that they are glass lenses with a metal rim. If someone happens to know differently please let me know.

          The text from that site describing the goggles:
          These are the standard sun and dust goggles made by Zeiss, used by all German armed forces. These have brown leather headstraps and eyecups. It comes with carrying case which is marked 55% tint on the inside. Mint condition. €80

  2. drspectro says:

    OK by me, just wanted to discourage things like watch crystals, pressure gauge glass etc. I dont think breaking your spare would be of as much value as avoiding chipped or damaged pieces. I have observed that about half the time my Corel plates break in a couple of big pieces, the other half they just explode,

    You are right that it is as easy (or easier) to misjudge a commercial product as a homemade one. I assumed my “safety glasses” were unbreakable until I dropped them and one lens shattered.

    You are also right about poor visuals through plastic. I have polycarbonate glasses, they scratch and they actually have visible chromatic aberration. White letters float in front of a red stop sign… I believe the principle is the thinner the lens for the same prescription, the less distortion.

  3. Tim Elverston says:

    This is a neat site. I am always unsure as to how things get posted here. I didn’t post this, it must have been found by a moderator here? Speaking of, if one of the moderator types is reading this could you please correct my name in this post. It’s Tim not tom.

    Anyway I think I will indeed save my spare lens. I talked with a optician years ago about glass lenses, and I was surprised to learn that every glass lens sold has a giant ball bearing dropped on it. It’s a certain weight, and a certain height. Has to to with an ANSI standard of course. But the metal ball leaves no mark on the lenses. I love my ray bans and they have the g15 glass military spec lenses. I have an old pair that I am seriously considering making a set of goggles from leather with.

  4. Car; says:

    “no, not rampant nudity”

    yet the guy appears naked.


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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