Introduction: Coffee Filter Surgical Mask

With a global pandemic upon us and faced with shortages of protective gear, I will show you how you can easily make your own mask for pennies with readily available materials I provide tips and suggestions for optional methods of assembly. Although this mask offers a level of protection over not using one at all, it does not “guarantee” protection from infection from other people and helps to reduce transmission of infection to others. This is a timely project for children and adults who want to use their time constructively by making this potentially life-saving device for them and others.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


· Stapler

· Ruler

· Pencil

· Rubber Gloves (optional)


· 2 Coffee Filters (Size 4, 8-inches diameter, White, Unbleached Optional)

· 2 Large Rubber Bands (Size 117B: 7-inch x 1/8-inch x 1/16-inch or Size 125: 5-inch x 1/8-inch x 1/16-inch or Size 5C (a.k.a 135): 5-inch x 1/4-inch x 3/32-inch)

Step 2: Trace the Fold Lines

Before beginning, thoroughly wash your hands and disinfect your tools. You may consider wearing rubber gloves as well.

Print the included template 1:1 full scale. Using the template and pencil, trace the template fold lines (A,B,C,S) onto one of the coffee filters.

Concentrically position the coffee filters together, fold along crease “S” and staple around the periphery as shown. This fold establishes the “top” of the mask.

Step 3: Form the Pleats

Next, form three pleats by folding on crease lines “C” by matching crease lines “A” and “B” together. Staple each pleat together using one staple parallel and close to the mated “A” and “B” crease lines. The picture shows the result.

Step 4: Flatten the Pleats

Next, fold the pleats again across the mated “A” and “B” crease lines flat against the mask and staple using one staple on each pleat as shown here.

Step 5: Installing the Top Headband

Before installing the rubber bands, “stretch” them a few times to make them more flexible and extensible. Fold the mask vertically in half and position one of the rubber bands 1-inch from the top of the mask.

Lightly pull the band to remove any slack to maintain flat contact of the band against the mask. Staple the rubber band in position using two staples within 1/4 inch from each side of the mask edge.

“Straddle” the rubber band with the staple. Do not staple through the rubber band. Be sure to staple through only two layers of coffee filter paper and not through all four layers! The picture illustrates the attachment of one side of the rubber band.

Similarly staple the rubber band into position the opposite side. The picture shows the completed installation of the “upper” rubber band.

Step 6: Install the Bottom Headband

Next, we install the “bottom” rubber band. Position the second rubber band perpendicular to the vertical centerline of the mask about 1/2 inch from the bottom edge.

Place two staples on the centerline of the mask over (not through) the rubber band to hold in place as shown.

Step 7: Attach the Bottom Headband to the Sides of the Mask

Next, position the rubber band such that the band crosses the edge of the mask over the mated creases “A” and “B.” Before stapling, lightly pull the band to remove any slack to maintain flat contact of the band against the mask. Staple the rubber band in place using two staples 1/2 inch from the edge of the mask. Similarly position and staple the other side of the band to the mask.

Step 8: Fitting and Adjusting Your Mask

To put the mask on, hold the bottom band with two hands with the inside of the mask facing you.

Stretch the lower band away from the mask on each side as shown to form a “loop” through which you can insert your head.

Place the lower rubber band under your chin and pull the band over your head. Position this band comfortably below the ears.

Similarly, stretch the upper rubber band away from the mask and pull the upper band over your head. Comfortably locate just above your ears as shown.

Using your fingers, position the mask symmetrically on your face and gently mold the mask periphery to your face to minimize air leakage. The lower band should ride just under your chin and the upper band across the nose as shown.


You may use the mask immediately or store for future use using for example, a ziplock bag or plastic resealable container.

Step 9: Comments and Recommendations

  • There are several sources of rubber bands on the internet, which provide size charts. One example: I found mine at a local office supply store.
  • The suggested sizes work fairly well. You can try other size bands if you prefer a different fit.
  • Remember to use two or more staples over the rubber bands, as these are high stress points.
  • Squeeze the stapler solidly forming fully compressed staples to eliminate exposed staple tips.
  • Consider the stapling orientation to project the staple tips towards the outside of the mask.
  • You may also use unbleached coffee filters, which are more sustainable.

· Stay healthy!