Introduction: Leather Side Shields for Sunglasses
A couple of decades ago I rode a motorcycle as my primary transportation. For Christmas one year my sister got me a pair of Bausch and Lombe sunglasses similar to the RayBans shown in the picture. I loved those sunglasses and rode all over the Southeastern United States wearing them. As I moved away from my motorcycle days the sunglasses were misplaced and I have no idea what ever became of them. Recently I have been thinking about replacing my current sunglasses (I've been wearing the same pair for about 15 years now.) and went looking for some similar to my old side shield glasses. As with many things, the old vintage ones are still available used for between $300 - $600. The next closest thing that I could find was a pair of Fendi Aviators that I really like (see picture), but I could not find them for sale. Again, a vintage pair can be purchased for around $600. So I decided to try making my own.
Step 1: Buy Some Glasses That You Like
For this project I chose some inexpensive aviator-style glasses. I was not confident that my build would work at all, so I chose a pair of $12 glasses that I picked up from a truck stop. I did not have the confidence to try this on a nice pair of sunglasses. For this project you will probably want glasses with thin frames, particularly the side arms. You also want to look for frames where the side arm hinges near the center of the side of the lens.
When I first conceived this project I thought that the shields would need to be hinged to the glasses to allow the glasses to fold. Looking at images of glasses with side shields both folded and opened convinced me that the shields do not change position when the glasses fold and unfold. Once I figured that out I discarded the hinge plan. I still like the look of the sewn-on leather, so I just used a wire "frame" to shape the shields and glued all of that to the frame of the glasses.
Step 2: Make a Pattern for Your Shields
The next step is to make a pattern for your side shields. I tried several designs on paper before settling on the ones shown. The shape will vary depending on your glasses and your face. I cut the designs out of paper and taped them to the glasses to make sure they would fit the way that I wanted. Some time experimenting here will pay off in better-fitting shields. After you get the paper shields to fit the way you want, make another pair that includes a seam allowance along the edge that you will be sewing. These will be the final pattern that you will transfer to the leather.
Step 3: Buy Leather and Cut Out Shields
I bought a small piece of vegetable tanned leather from my local craft supply store. If you already have some thin supple leather, then I'm sure that you could use that. You want the leather to be thin and soft. Remember, it is going to be touching your face. When you transfer your paper pattern to the leather be sure to add some room to allow for sewing. We taped the paper pattern to the glasses, but we will be sewing the leather, so you need to add some material for the seam allowance. Between 1/4 and 1/2 inch should be enough. I used a regular ink pen to trace the paper pattern onto the leather. If, like me, you will be sewing around a curve, you will need to cut some wedges out of the edge of your leather as shown in the pictures. This will allow the leather to wrap smoothly around the curve without bunching or over-lapping. Your leather should be thin enough that you can cut it with good quality scissors. Be sure to make a "left" and a "right" shield. Since the leather has a "good" side and a "bad" side you have to reverse your pattern to make sure that the "good" side is on the outside on both the left and right.
Step 4: Sew the Leather to the Wire
Choose a piece of wire that is stiff enough to hold the shape of the shields, but pliable enough that you can shape it without too much trouble. You probably want something that is not going to rust and is thin enough that once you get it sewn into the leather it won't be too bulky. I used some wire that I already had.
Cut two pieces of wire long enough to extend beyond the edges of the leather shields. Wrap the leather around the wire and punch holes for sewing. There is an excellent Instructable here on preparing leather for sewing. I did not follow all of those tips. If I had my glasses would look much better.
I made an awl from an old screwdriver and punched holes through both thicknesses of leather all along the edge. I tried to keep the line and the spacing between holes consistent. Now sew the leather over the wire. Use a large needle and waxed thread designed for sewing leather. I found it difficult to pull the needle through the leather, so I used a pair of pliers to pull it through. As you can see in the photo, by the time I was finished the poor needle was in pretty rough shape. I will refer you to other instructables for instructions on stitch patterns. I did some over-lapping of stitches to create the look that I wanted. There are probably better ways.
Step 5: Test Fit the Shields to the Glasses
When I finished sewing I shaped the leather-wrapped wire to the frames of the glasses and bent the excess wires at a right angle so they would hold the shields in place temporarily. This allowed me to fine-tune the placement of the shields. I also cut the holes for the side arms. Other designs that I have seen add straps across the side arms. If you want to make that design you should do that now. Adjust the wires as needed to form the final shape for the shields. When you are satisfied with the fit, use a pair of wire cutters to trim the excess wire close to the leather.
Step 6: Remove the Lenses From the Glasses and Glue on the Shields
Before gluing the shields to the glasses I removed the lenses from the glasses. Depending on the design and quality of your glasses, you may need to simply pop the lenses out or there may be a screw to loosen that will release the lenses. In either case, you probably don't want to take a chance of smearing glue onto the lenses, so it's best to remove them.
Now you are ready to glue the shields to the frame of the glasses. I used some sandpaper to scuff the surface of the frames where the glue would be applied to increase the holding power. Take care when applying to glue to avoid getting it into the channel of the frame that holds the lenses. You are going to need that channel to be clear in order to re-install the lenses.
For choosing glues for various projects I have found thistothat.com to be very helpful. For this project I chose Industrial Strength E6000. As of this writing this project is less than a week old, so we'll see how the glue holds up. So far, so good. One of the nice things about this type of glue is that it does not require clamps while it cures. I allowed a full 24 hours of cure time before re-installing the lenses. When re-installing the lenses be careful not to push against the shields. You don't want to break the glue joint that you just made!
Step 7: Re-install the Lenses - Done!
Let the glue cure and re-install the lenses. You are done!
I hope that you enjoy your newly upgraded glasses!