Picture of Cheap and effective filters (solar)
You can buy solar film (thin plastic sheets) at a very reasonable prices online. However, the sheet format isn't great for photography, telescopes or binoculars. You can by them as screw-on filters, but the cost gets a bit ridiculous and the size selection is limited.

This instructable is trivial, but that's where the beauty lies. Using cheap and readily available filter step-up adaptors and UV filters you can fit solar filters to your equipment.

  • Protects film from accidental scratches.
  • Wind protection to stop creases.
  • Holds filter flat and close to lens to stop internal light reflections that can create image artifacts.
  • Looks clean and professional.
  • Made using cheap and readily available parts.
  • Securely holds filters to reduce risk of them slipping and exposing your eyes to magnified UV.
    Important safety feature when using with telescopes or binoculars!
It is important to never scratch or crease the solar film since it might allow dangerous UV light to reach your eyes. If you mistakenly do so while following this instructable, don't try to salvage that section of film, just use a different piece.

This technique can also be used for colored gels!
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Step 1: Materials

You'll need a few things you can get pretty cheaply.

  • A cheap, thin "step up ring adaptor".
    Used to attach larger filters to cameras. ($1.20 on ebay)
  • A cheap, thin UV filter. ($3 each on ebay).
    You don't really need the UV protection, you just want physical glass to protect the film.
  • High quality solar film.
    Do NOT go cheap here!!!! 8x8 on Amazon is $18, but it's enough to do a lot of filters. Also, you won't have to worry if you mess up the first attempt.

  • Clean, smooth surface that you can cut on.
    You will be sliding the filter film around on it and you don't want to scratch it. Non-corrugated cardboard, felt, or paper with cardboard under it.
  • Needle
  • Razor
  • Lens cleaning cloth

Again, do not buy solar film from unknown vendors. If you get sold something that isn't really cutting out the UV, then you will damage your eyes and not even realize it until it's too late. It's not as important with digital cameras that use LED screens, but anything involving your eyes and the quality becomes critically important.

JTomM1298 months ago
I would aim for the true color filter solar material myself. And you can always sandwich two UV filters together to give the solar filter material more protection.
arikii8 months ago

Of course, a micrometer and cnc laser cutter might be the most precise way to go about this, but this works great for those of us who don't have expensive laser equipment available to us...

pavel37599 months ago

Why don't you pay attention to the huge spots on the sun?

chadn19 months ago

Will this type of solar film work for viewing an eclipse?

trophygeek (author)  chadn19 months ago
It's the same film and it works great for photography and this hack.

I plan to do it for my binoculars for the upcoming US solar eclipse in 2017.,_2017

It's a good idea to plan solar eclipse trips a couple of years in advance.
chadn1 trophygeek9 months ago

Thanks, I am already making plans. Come to Grand Island, Nebraska to see the eclipse. likely to have clear weather that time of year and time of day. That is why I was asking.

trophygeek (author)  chadn19 months ago

Oh, and some other comments below list sights that have high-quality solar filter sheets. You might want to check them out.

maewert9 months ago

When I was a kid, in accordance with the astronomy books at the time, I 'smoked' a glass plate by placing the glass plate over a candle's flame and moving it around until the soot was dark and uniform.... my goodness, I'm lucky I still have any eyesight left.

Nice instructable and much more safe!

trophygeek (author)  maewert9 months ago
Yikes! Yeah, I had a "wood burning kit" as a kit that was nothing more than a soldering iron. Your story makes that sound downright safe.

I was in China for the 2009 solar eclipse and the "solar viewing glasses" that street vendors were selling would damage people's eye. Their culture (at the time) was very much buyer-beware. Good thing is was clouded over for most of the country.
gingertux9 months ago

You can use a good set of scissors to cut the solar film out. If you are using corrugated cardboard, the change in density between corrugations can cause the razor blade to slip and give an irregular edge. Also not as safe.

trophygeek (author)  gingertux9 months ago
Yeah. I suggested felt fabric and when I said cardboard, I was thinking non-corrugated. I'll update the instructable to be more clear.

High quality scissors can be used, but I always struggled to not crinkle the solar film while handling it. Placing it on flat surface seemed to work better for me. But I don't have a lot of scissor cutting experience.
alzie9 months ago
Great idea.

Also, consider the Baader solar film.

Ive used this stuff telescopically, and
it works very well.
trophygeek (author)  alzie9 months ago
That site has a scary instructable for using cardboard and tape to "secure" filters onto a pair of binoculars. (PDF)

Would be nice if they updated it to use the technique I described here.

BTW, I put this instructable under a public domain license. Sites can either link to it or just create their own white paper based on it.
alzie trophygeek9 months ago
Actually, the card board n tape method works pretty well.
You make a card board cup that
mates to your instrument with a friction fit.
Also, since youre looking Up at the sun,
gravity helps keep the filter on your instrument.
Ive made 2 of these,
one for my 3" refractor and
one for my 8" reflector.
The baader film works very well.
trophygeek (author)  alzie9 months ago
Thanks! It's good to have choices since many sellers are perpetually out of stock.

My filter usage is with OLED viewfinder cameras, but I plan to do one for my telescope and am looking for a better source than Amazon.
King of Clubs9 months ago
This is one of the best solar films.
trophygeek (author)  King of Clubs9 months ago
Good to know! Thanks.
Much better than the Thousand Oaks filter.
AngryRedhead9 months ago
Clever, fellar!
trophygeek (author)  AngryRedhead9 months ago