Survive in Style (3) - Sun Goggles




About: I made a beer mug with only a knife and a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

In this third episode of SIS I wanted to make something ambitious.

Imagine. For some reason you're in a sunsaturated environment and for another reason you don't have sunglasses to protect these sensitive balls in your skull.

You really want to get out of there, of course, but too bad just waking up isn't an option.

Yes you can walk by night, and rest during the day.

But no, in fact. You're in a hurry, and so you're going to walk all day AND all night.

To make this story short: you're going to make that eyewear by yourself or stay there forever.

Your choice.

You know, thanx to one great invention men survived in the arctic for thousands of years, and so I really didn't see any reason why this invention shouldn't work today.

So I decided to make my own snow/sun goggles, with nothing but a hatchet & a knife.

Something ambitious, I said.

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Step 1: Soft Wood, Again

I wanted to make this device sturdy & handy. No bark, no leather, no leaves, but real solid wood.

Willow is, as always, an excellent choice: soft, flexible & abundant.

Cut a larger piece of willow and make sure there are very, very, few knots. No knots is even better.

Cut it in half with your hatchet or knife. If you see those black spots: no good, they're known as knots.

One good advice: choose another piece. Thrust me.

Step 2: Thin, Thinner, Thinst

This is the most painful step.

You need a plank, in fact. A plank just thin enough to bend it in a circle.

This doesn't work with a 10mm plank. Not with a 5mm, either. And not with a 3mm plank.

I discovered that to make this project work the plank hasn't to be thicker than 2mm.


Hatchet & knife. You're gonna hate me.

To be completely honest: I removed the very last mm with a plane. I'm pretty sure that it could have been possible without, but I just didn't want to ruin those 2 hours of carving. One pass with the plane. Same thickness everywhere.

Step 3: Water Is Good for You

Somehow I felt that without water this project was doomed, and since I really wanted all chances on my side - I spent 2 hours carving that 2mm plank - I just didn't want to take any risk.

So put that plank in the water. A few hours is good.

A day is better.

Step 4: Breaking Bad

Yes, I thought in the first try that 3mm and a few hours were more than good enough.

It wasn't.

I made a cruel mess out of my first plank, using some cord from my survival kit.

It bended like a brick, broke into pieces and gave me just excellent firewood.

Step 5: Bending It Better

The second plank - 2mm - went almost the same way.

It broke on a knot - NO KNOTS, I said - and I gave up trying to bend it with my hands.

I needed help. And so I used a tree to 'mold' what was left from the plank - a piece only 10 inch long - around the trunk with the help of my (soaking wet) belt.

You know, that's just a really good way to do it. Increase the tension bit by bit, slowly but steady, and tight the plank close to the trunk.

Important: the diameter of the trunk has to be smaller than the diameter of your head - you want those goggles nice & tight on your nose, no?

Let it dry and give it the time it needs.

Step 6: Jump Around

Also this is a painful moment.

Unwind your belt, and reveal the result.

Honestly: I really jumped around when I discovered that the plank had dried perfectly and that it just held its form like I hoped.

It worked!

Step 7: OAKley, Almost

I wanted it to be sober & functional, so I designed a sunglass-ish design on that wooden loop and started carving.

Knife & sanding paper - every survival kit needs it - and you're done.

Carve carefully - think you're doing surgery on a person you love.

It helps, really.

Step 8: Carvin' Carefully

This whole concept is based on one thing: letting just a minimum of light enter your eyes, and blocking the maximum off - also called 'filtering'.

When there's plenty of light, just one tiny slot is enough. Draw carefully the slots on the loop - just in front of your eyes - and go on with the surgery.

Measure twice, cut once. This step can ruin your project completely.

After two days of cutting, soaking, waiting, bending, drying, waiting & carving you finally can put this hyper-lightweight device on your nose and face the snowy scenery with no fear.

Step 9: Comfortable, Really

I'm sure there are easier ways to make this device and I'm not sure that someone really is going to build it in a real survival situation, since there are just too much critical parameters: good wood, water, time etc.

Whatever, in fact. When I finally held this tiny piece of paleo-technology in my hands I just felt simply satisfied. Things can go wrong many times, but when they go right the result can just be amazing.

Holding them in your hands is one thing, though, carrying them on your nose another.

Honestly, I was quite sceptic about their effectiveness. But I had them a while on my nose, working in our pasture, and the biggest surprise of all was that not only they're quite comfortable to wear, but also quite pleasant.

My eyes felt less tired than without them and once you're used to the smaller viewsight it's like the most normal thing on earth.

Respect, for those Inuit people. If it wasn't for the fact that I have to wear correction glasses I'd wear them all day.

I can't wait to test them in the mountains...

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    32 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Would balsa wood, if around, be too soft?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    So one tip is get the shine off the top of the cheeks as well , to avoid reflected glare from below.. Mountaineering the darn sun is so bright it sneaks up from below the sun shield too... Nice instructable - so valid for other types of projects too... the burns happen when you don't know so - best to take steps as the author already knows before stuff happens.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Snow blindness is a real thing (sand blindness too). These will save your eyes.

    I saw that you soaked your plank, but you didn't apply heat. If you could have made a small camp fire and applied heat to the soaked plank, you probably could have got a 5mm plank bent.

    Compression on the outside curve is really helpful (as you found with the belt). You would need a perfect plank, with no grain run-out, to prevent it peeling fibers out otherwise.

    Great read. If I had some willow near by (that wasn't either in a protected area or on private land that I don't know the owners of), I would duplicate this. I never thought of bending to the shape, only carving from a billet.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I never tried the heat method before, but it's definitely on my list!

    You know, if you can put your hands on a piece of poplar or birch, these will do the job as near as good as willow.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Neither (poplar or birch) are native to where I live, so finding them in the woods where I can harvest is slim. I've have to keep an eye out for similar species when I'm out in the woods next.

    Pure Carbon

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I think using birch bark would be much easier to work with and would allow you to get a finished product sooner, great project!

    3 replies
    Just4Fun Media

    4 years ago

    Nice build! I have made them from birch bark before but never from real wood. Good luck in your contest! You got my vote :-)

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm confused!!! Which one of these awesome projects making up your SIS series should I vote for to win? I guess I'll have to vote for all of them.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much! Voting càn be cruel, indeed - personally I think I'm going to vote for this one, because it's the onle that simply was the most nervebreaking...