Inspired by some plans from 1942, I made my own gas mask from a snorkel, a tin can, and some charcoal I made from coconut husks. It works great!. I varnished my boat and didn't get a headache!
I'm not wearing it now, I can smell the fumes from outside, and I AM getting a headache.

This gas mask is very similar to the successful British Small Box Respirator used in WW1. Inside the familiar cloth hood with goggles it had a nose clip, a mouthpiece and a hose to a can full of charcoal and soda lime. My canister only uses carbon as the absorbing agent since I'm not concerned about "acid gases". If you need to filter out military poisons or chemicals similar to them, add the soda lime and other ingredients.

There are many avid gasmask collectors and enthusiasts. Images and information about gas masks is very abundant online. The French collector's site gasmasks.net has an amazing pictorial database covering gas mask evolution in all the worlds armies.

In 1942 Time Magazine published the following piece:
"Homemade Gas Masks
Monday, Sep. 07, 1942

An emergency gas mask that can be made at home was demonstrated in Manhattan last week by the American Women's Voluntary Services. The necessary materials can be found in almost any house: a bathing cap, a small tin can, the transparent cover from a powder-puff box, a bit of wire net (from fly swatters), two handkerchiefs, elastic ribbon, adhesive tape, and (from the drugstore) a few ounces of activated coconut charcoal and soda lime. The principle behind the homemade mask is simple; the assembly is more difficult. The rubber cap is fitted snugly over the face and two holes are cut in it; one for the powder-puff cover (to look through), one for the tin-can respirator. The ends of the can are removed, replaced with the wire net. Inside the can go the chemicals (two parts activated charcoal, one part soda lime) wrapped in the handkerchiefs. All openings in the cap are hermetically sealed with adhesive tape. An elastic-ribbon harness holds the mask on tight. An alternative model makes use of rubber baby pants (see cut) instead of the bathing cap.

When carefully made, this improvised gas mask is effective against all known war gases. But the A.W.V.S. and the War Department are leary of inexperienced workmanship. The least carelessness in fitting the parts of the gas mask together would permit gas to enter. The A.W.V.S. recommends that all such masks be made under its supervision.

An even simpler mask is advocated by Dr. Kearney Sauer of the Los Angeles Citizens' Defense Corps: two twelve-inch squares of bed sheeting with a quarter-inch layer of baking soda between, held in even distribution by crisscross stitching. Dampened and held firmly over the face, this napkin will give temporary protection against any gas, according to Dr. Sauer but not the Army.

The simplest device of all consists only of a beer can filled with absorbent material and a clothespin to clamp on the nose. It is approved by no one except its inventor, Chemist Vernon Bowers of Baltimore, Ohio.

Step 1: 1942 - Popular Science

"Rather than go without any protection at all, the alert citizen can make gas masks for himself and his family."

So says a December 1942 Popular Science article on how to make that same type of improvised gas mask.

The following information may help you understand the instructions better.
"10/20 mesh" and "4/10 mesh" specifies the grain size of the crushed charcoal.
Sorting grains by size is called "screen classifying". To do it you put a stack of sieves on a sieve shaker with the coarse one on top. To make 10/20 you'd put a sieve with a 10 mesh (ten wires per inch) screen on top of a 20 mesh sieve. You'd pour your crushed charcoal in the top and shake the stack. The 20 mesh sieve would fill up with the good stuff, you'd dump that into your gas mask cartridge.

In other words the charcoal grains they use are between .05" and .25" diameter. I've read that that resistance to breathing while doing strenuous work is the major problem with gas masks. A mask made with such large grains might have very easy air flow.

Soda Lime ( w'pedia ) is calcium carbonate (lime) reacted with aqueous sodium hydroxide (lye). It absorbs carbon dioxide among other things.

Carbon tetrachloride is dry cleaning fluid, very common in those days when synthetic fibers were rare and many people wore clothing such as suits that would be harmed by laundering in water.
Star says "CCl4 note that carbon tetra chloride is carcinogenic like pasta sauce is red, and you probably don't want it in your house or on your hands or anywhere"

The text of the article continues: "
This type of mask, designed by Dr.Simon L.Ruskin of New York City, is intended to protect the wearer only against the common, known gases used in chemical warfare. It is useless against smoke, illuminating gas, and carbon monoxide (automobile exhaust).
How such a mask is made is shown in the accompanying photographs. Use a heavy bathing cap, not a thin one. Make joints airtight so that the wearer can breathe only through the canister.
The physical filtering agent in the canister is activated granular charcoal, which can be obtained at drug stores and wholesale drug houses. To test it for activity (the ability to take up and hold gases), place a small amount, such as a tenth of a gram, in the palm of the hand and pour on it five drops of carbon tetrachloride.The charcoal should become warm.
If not, it's unsafe. Either one half 10/20 mesh and one half 4/10 mesh, or the coarser charcoal alone, may be employed.
With it mix one half as much coarse-mesh soda lime (sodium calcium hydrate), also available at drug stores. Pack the canister solidly. No air must enter without passing through the charcoal. Do not forget to seal both ends of the canister with tape or heavy waxed paper. If left unsealed, the charcoal will absorb moisture from the air until it is saturated, and the mask will be useless. Unseal the canister only when the mask is to be put on for protection against gas. Once the mask has been used, the canister must be refilled with fresh charcoal and soda lime. "
those holes in the tin foil were due to a small trace of sodium hydroxide you can make stronger form of it by running the water thought it over andover again then you can make soap. :)
If I'm not mistaken, Soda Lime is sold quite cheaply for CO2 Scrubbers, commonly used for reef aquariums. So I'd suppose you could find a bag of soda lime at the pet store, in the fish section, next to where you bought your activated charcoal (made for charcoal filters). <br>Good Instructable by the way, very informative!
Well, where I think I'll buy my charcoal anyways, not too much in the mood for burning coconuts at the moment.
where do we buy soda lime?
Would baking soda work in place of the soda lime. They are both alkaline and neutralize acids but im not sure of teh potency of the baking soda.
baking soda also expires after 3 months
&quot;Every silver lining has a cloud,&quot; as they say. Breathing through your mouth means you are pulling mercury fumes from your metal fillings into your lungs! It's a cumulative neurotoxin. <br> <br>But the most likely use for this is smoke from fires in a building or a forest. The next most likely is dust from various natural sources. It would also stop you from smoking a cigarette. Airborne allergens could be stopped, hopefully before they cause too much problem. <br> <br>Keep swimming goggles attached to the breather -- whatever bothers one will bother the other. Keep them handy under your bed. <br>
Is baking soda a possible mild-ish substitute for soda lime? It does, however, react with those acidic gases to form carbon dioxide. I wouldn't be so sure to use that stuff, though. Yeah, I think I'll stick to distilling carbonates out of our water and treating them w/ lye... Lol
Am I the only one who has cracked open a real respirator filter and inspected it? <br> <br>Surprisingly, it is really similar to this. There is a layer of what looks like dense cotton or soft padding, then loose charcoal, that is more like flakes or Black Powder grains than an actual powder. Then another layer or two of that cottony stuff, and that is it. I am not sure about the actual chemical make up of the charcoal stuff, it might have additives.
Will this filter work against tear gas?
Maybe for a few seconds against inhalation, but since his eyes are exposed, no.
Would this filter the fumes from spray paint?
Better than nothing. It would catch any aerosol drops for sure.
this instrucable was helpfull to what i was looking for im making a rebreather like what navy seals use and i couldnt find any thing on making a carbon scrubber wich is what you made as a filter it will take carbon out of the air you are breathing in small amounts
will coffee filters work instead of a paper towel<br>
they will work way beter
could aquarium charcoal work as a good substitute for the filter <br>
yes it is what is used by every one iv seen
With a hose and can of that size, wouldn't it be extremely laborious to breathe?<br><br>Every breath you'd have to push all the air in that house right out, and breath it all back in again just to get to the clean air on the other end. Then there's the resistance due to the can to consider.<br><br>That's why most gas masks have the filters hanging in front of the face, to shorten the amount of hose needed.
it has an exhale valve. so the air goes out of that valve while fresh air comes in through the hose
what do you mean by: &quot;After some reading I decided<br>my wasteful way of making it pretty much guaranteed it would be 'activated' &quot;?
This is just a toy this WONT help you in case of poisonous gasses or nuclear explosions!
Sure, it won't protect you from radiation, but it provides pretty good protection from many types of poisonous fumes. If I were to use this for welding or something, I might go ahead and plug up my nose somehow anyway just to make things a bit easier.
&nbsp;a gas mask won't protect you from radiation anyway....
On the contrary. Gas masks are also 'particulate filters' and one danger of radioactive fallout is when particles of alpha-particle emitters (eg, plutonium) are brought into the body. Alpha's are nearly harmless when outside the body .. their range is very short .. Touching a block of plutonium will not burn you. It'd probably warm your hand. That is not much of an issue, but when such particles are ingested/inhaled they become extremely dangerous, for *all* of the energy of the alpha particles is transferred to internal body parts, vastly increasing cancer rates.<br>Beta particles are the opposite: their range is great, though energy is small .. Inside the body, beta's do little damage, but outside the body, their great range can affect a person who is not close to the source.<br>Anything that reduces the inhalation of alpha-emitting dust can be very beneficial!<br>
ah. that's interesting. it would probably be good to know that in the event of nuclear fallout...
But it could prevent you from inhaling irradiated dust.<br />
That would be incorrect. However the dust will &quot;clog&quot; up the carbon bed rather quickly and render the filter useless.
I think you're right... It would only act as a very good particulate filter which wouldn't help in the case of poisonous or noxious gases. But, for pretty much all applications that have been mentioned, (besides the whole radiation thing) it would be great. Great instructable.
how do you make &quot;activated&quot; carbon?
very well thought :-) AND cheap!!
I didn't read all the comments, but what about the eyes and nose? They are still exposed and rather sensitive bits of the body. <br><br>Better then nothing, possibly.<br>But I have plenty of plastic film and duct tape for the windows, so I'm good to go! :)
Goggles + duct tape.
What if ypu farted???
A properly-directed and sufficiently powerful fart might help in your ability to accelerate to that 20mph goal ...<br><br>Something about Newton's Laws ...<br><br>;)<br>
Thank god I don't need to follow this, already got a working gas mask with a supply of filters. :D
Since someone is going to say it and proclaim themselves an absolute authority on the matter. Just because you cannot smell whatever it is you're trying to filter does not in any way mean that your filter is working.
The instructable is interesting but dangerous if you do not know what you're doing. The information, as far as the chemistry goes, is pretty much incorrect and useless. Making and packing impregnated activated carbon is an art form. The most important aspect of making a filter is packing. Having some experience doing this I would never wrap carbon in a cloth and stuff it in a can unless it was an emergency and there were no other options. <br><br>This mask will do nothing more against &quot;acid gases&quot; if you add soda lime. Furthermore soda lime is useless against any military &quot;poisons&quot; The only thing the soda lime is going to be good for is C02 and absorbing moisture. If you want protection from acid gases you're going to need to impregnate the carbon with KOH (potassium hydroxide). If you want protection from military &quot;poisons&quot; you're going to have to do a whole lot more work or call Calgon and try and order ASZM-TEDA carbon. Also the 10/20 mesh is too large and if you do not pack it in the cannister properly it is going to be useless. 10 mesh is not 0.25&quot; in diameter contrary to what the article claims. http://www.tempo-foam.com/engineering/conversion_charts/conversion_chart_mesh_inches_microns_millimeters.htm<br>30 mesh is the most common size used for air filtering. A 0.25&quot; diameter particle will not do anything for you. Soda lime is not made by a reaction between calcium and aqueous sodium hydroxide.<br>You're better off and safer buying a pre-made filter.<br>This is a decent resource.<br>http://www.americansaferoom.com/AmericanSafeRoom-2011Catalog.pdf<br>Contrary to some of the claims the filter described in the instructable will filter out radioactive dust, unless your filter is a miniature pachinko.
you know yo can buy a real gas mas for $50<br />
Can you please Pay Pal me $50 then, because I don't have that much.
Tim,<br><br>For this step, would it have been possible to use a 'charcoal maker' over a regular wood fire to turn the coconut husk into charcoal? I would think that even propping a metal coffee can over the flame with the husks inside it would work to cook off the wood gas and leave you with a lovely bit of charcoal. Of course it may need to be activated, but that's nothing a muriatic acid bath wouldn't solve.
fish tank charcoal (i was told) is activated carbon, affordable as well. Another instructable tells you how to make a water filter (for drinking water) using it.<br><br>nice.<br><br>As far as radioactive dust. well there could be 1 type of radio activity all about you , not enough to kill you BUT fallout that is very fine being blown around you. A high school friend of mine live 50-60 miles from the reactors and they made them carry umbrellas to keep dudt off them and people sealed up all windows from the falling dust. Now, how this will help after the dust falls is not explained. <br><br>But even in od CD films showing bombe shelters they had filters on the air pumps going to the shelters.
Mercury attacks the oxide layer on the aluminum (which is why aluminum doesn't corrode), leaving mercury oxide and aluminum - the aluminum quickly forms a new oxide layer, but the mercury continues to strip it off until all the mercury has been converted into mercury oxide...<br><br>Link: <br>http://theodoregray.com/PeriodicTable/PopularScience/2004/10/1/index.html<br><br>Just don't bring mercury on a plane - or do! <br>Knowledge is power - but it's up to you whether you use it for good or bad!
&nbsp;can you just let it cool then use it instead of having to wait for it to dry
I don't think that would be a problem. Maybe a little harder to breathe through.<br />
i think there will be a difference. the coal is used as a filter bacause of its big surface, if its wet you will have less filtration. plus when i was in the bundeswehr we were told not to let our filters go wet.
can you just use charcoal frome wood or does it have to be coconut?
could you just use a dust mask if you were welding? or do you need the charcoal and possibly soda lime?<br />
Depends on what you're welding and the technique. The gaseous products of SMAW are usually much more dangerous that the ones of processes like MIG or TIG. How dangerous those gases can be will depend on the choice of electrode in SMAW and the choice of the wire and gas mix on MIG/TIG. Those are examples, there are other techniques. The base metal itself can produce noxious fumes. Zinc or even zinc-plated steel will produce such gases. Dust masks won't do a thing. In some cases, a forced ventilation mask is advised.

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Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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