Introduction: The Bespoke Fully Fitted Covid-19 Face Mask
UPDATE: I have since redone this design with no fleece materials. I put them in for
comfort but I've since read that they make it worse, not better as the fleece material causes the droplets to split and become more aerosol. So please be aware of this when making your own masks.
There are many other designs around that are basically the same as this. This is not particularly different as a basic design, it's more to draw attention to what is a great way of forming a really effective seal around the nose and the top of the face but you can adopt this method to your own design. By doing this, you will also find the mask doesn't slip down and becomes more comfortable to wear. It also has a side benefit, if you are a glasses wearer, of cutting down on fogging.
So what do you need?
1) Material to create filter. I used 6 layers formed from three pieces of material folded over (which saves stitching one side). An outer of soft material for comfort and 4 inner layers made from tightly woven cotton. There is plenty of advice online on suitable materials.
2) Some elastic cord. Knicker elastic works well, just don't take it out of the ones you are wearing in case you have an embarrassing accident in the supermarket or church. And don't take it out of someone else's in case they spot you taking it. My ears are still ringing from that particular faux pas.
3) A piece of plastic guttering or a piece of other suitable thermoplastic.
4) A lighter or heat gun to warm up the plastic.
5) A needle and thread and almost zero sewing skill (I did it after all!).
"Guttering? Is it in case it's raining?", I hear you ask! Yes, plastic guttering is the secret ingredient in the bespoke fully fitted face mask. You don't need much, only a face's width in length (and that would make about 10 masks worth).
Step 1: Creating the Nose Seal
The nose seal will be made using some thermoplastic. And guess what black gutters are made from? 10 out of 10 if you said thermoplastic, go to the back of the class if you said dark chocolate. Thermoplastic is the type of plastic than can be heated up and re-moulded. Of course, you can use any thermoplastic you have lying around even if it's not a gutter, but gutters seem to be just about the right thickness and strength. You can test if it's thermoplastic by gently heating with a lighter. If it goes pliable and then hardens again when it cools it's thermoplastic.
So why use this rather than a paper clips or a bit of something else? The answer is that once it's been formed to the shape of your nose and face it is incredibly strong and durable and won't deform. Plus, I wasn't happy with using wire or a paper clip so near to my eyes either.
Let's go then! To make the nose seal, first of all use a strip of paper or a tape measure and measure from your cheek bones over your nose, following the contours to give you an idea of how much you'll need.
Then, cut a length of gutter to that size and then cut a strip out of that about 1-1.5cms wide that would reach from A to B as shown in the second picture. I used a hacksaw as my light sabre needed recharging.
Step 2: Bending the Nose Seal to Shape
Thermoplastic will bend when heated and go solid again when cold. So, to bend it you need to apply heat! It doesn't need to be raging heat, you can gently play a lighter flame over the area to be bent until you feel it getting floppy. Alternatively you can use a heat gun. A hairdryer though won't be hot enough.
WARNING: IF YOU DECIDE TO BEND IT USING THE LIGHTER<, JUST KEEP MOVING THE FLAME ABOUT THE AREA YOU WANT TO BEND UNTIL YOU FEEL IT GETTING FLOPPY. YOU DON'T WANT TO SET IT ON FIRE! IF YOU'RE NOT CONFIDENT OF DOING IT SAFELY, DO IT OUTDOORS OR USE A HEAT GUN.
As soon as it's floppy, bend it in half so it would fit over the bridge of your nose. It doesn't have to be exact, you can warm it up later to adjust it.
For the second bends, warm up the two sides as shown in the second picture. You can get it to fit now because it should still be flexible at a temperature that won't burn you, so test it with your fingers and then put it to your face and hold it into the shape you want it to be and just let if cool of until solid again.
BE CAREFUL WITH THE FITTING STAGE THAT IT'S NOT TOO HOT! IF IT'S TOO HOT TO TOUCH, IT'S TOO HOT TO PUT TO YOUR FACE.
Finally, when happy with the shape, drill holes at each end. These will use to tie off the elastic cord used in the final stage.
Step 3: Making the Cloth Mask
To make the cloth mask, you are simply creating a mask with two slots, one at the top to hold the shaped nose fitting and one at the bottom to run the elastic cord through.
I used three pieces of material, which became 6 layers when folded over. The outer one is a thin fleece material, the inner pair are tightly woven cotton. If I make another one, I will keep the same number of layers but just use a soft cotton outer because the fleece (from a scarf) is a bit bulky.
Measure the pieces so the are wide enough and long enough for your face to be suitably covered. Then stitch together. I did mine by hand using simple running stitches.
Step 4: Stitch Up the Sides and Create Slots
Fold the three pieces over and stitch as shown in the diagram.
The idea is to stitch all three together, leaving a slot at the top wide enough to thread the nose former in and wide enough at the bottom to pass the elastic cord through. The sides are stiched up but leaving an entry gap at the tops and bottoms.
Step 5: Create a Fitted Chin
I shaped the chin in so it fitted snugly at the sides and ran under the
chin, as shown in the third diagram.To do that, hold it in place and then squeeze the sides together to see how much you need to stitch together. It's not necessary to be exact. Once you've got a feel for where it is, just pin it and stitch it each side to create a box type bottom.
Step 6: Finishing the Mask Off.
Once the stitching is done, you can now finish the mask off. You will need a length of elastic cord that is long enough to go from one end of your nose former, around an ear, back through the bottom of the mask then over your other ear and back to the other side of the nose former.
To insert the nose former:
1) Tie your elastic cord firmly to one end using the holes.
2) Push the nose former into the slot you created at the top, empty hole first. Push it through until the hole appears at the other side.
3) Loop the elastic cord through the bottom bottom slot until it comes out at the other side. Push it through the empty nose former hole.
4) Now fit it by putting the mask on with the loops over the ears. Adjust the tension by pulling the elastic through the nose fitting hole until you are happy with the tension and then tie it off.
Step 7: Finally!
So, other improvements!
1) As already mentioned, I would use a less bulky outer, but having said that it is supremely comfortable.
2) I didn't like the feel of the elastic over my ears. It felt like it would come off at any time and didn't feel 100% secure. Maybe I've just got floppy ears? Anyway, I solved that easily, as shown in the fourth picture, by making a small hook, again out of bent thermoplastic with a couple of screw holes and then attaching that to one of the elastics with a short length of cord. Now, when I've put the mask on over my ears, I then hook over the elastic loop at the back of the ears. This really makes the mask feel secure while also pulling the elastic away from the backs of the ears so it's also more comfortable.
3) You could put an adjustable toggle on the elastic, but I don't think that's necessary, especially if you are using the back clip.
4) When I make my next one based on this prototype, I will make the bend on the bridge slightly looser to allow for the material thickness. This one squeezes the nostrils together a bit. However, I might take it out and just re-bend it slightly if I decide I can't live with it.
5) Give the slots a bit more width than you think you need, maybe 3-5mm more. Mine ended up being a tight push through although it went through in the end. Not a problem as I don't really intend taking it in and out a lot anyway.
To wash it, you can either just leave the plastic in or take it out for washing. I wouldn't put it in a tumble dryer though just in case the plastic resets itself.
Finally, please wear a mask in dodgy public areas and be safer. You may think you look an idiot or a dork, but being in ICU or a coffin isn't exactly a fashionable look either.
Keep well all!