How to Make 1900s Pilot Goggles

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Use the remaining leather to make a matching pilot's cap.
Use the remaining leather to make a matching pilot's cap. (Image: Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images)

When the Wright brothers flew in 1903, comfort and safety were secondary to mission success. The open structure of early-model airplanes left pilots' eyes vulnerable to small particles and serious injury. Protecting one's vision prompted the creation of pilot goggles, also called aviator goggles. Unlike reading glasses of the time, pilot goggles covered the entire eye socket which enabled a broader field of vision. Creating your own pilot goggles of the period isn't difficult, but familiarity in working with crafting glue is helpful.

Things You'll Need

  • Chemistry goggles
  • 1 square foot brown leather
  • Silver pen
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Craft glue

Lay the leather square leather side down on a hard, flat surface. Place the chemistry goggles, eyes down, on top of the leather.

Trace around the perimeter of the goggles on the back of the leather using a silver pen. A black or blue pen won't be visible against the dark leather.

Cut the leather along by following the silver pen perimeter with your scissors.

Place the leather cutout face down on the goggle eye area and secure the position with three pieces of tape on either side. Once the tape is secure, the leather covers the eye openings of the goggles.

Feel where the outer plastic perimeter ends and the eye openings begin using your fingers. Trace the interior of the eye area on the back of the leather using your silver pen.

Cut out the interior eye area using your scissors by following the silver pen lines. The result is a thin border of leather that fits around the perimeter of the goggle eye area without obscuring the wearer's vision.

Glue the leather border around the perimeter of the goggles using craft glue. Apply glue on both sides of the border where you'll glue the leather material.

Press the leather material on the goggle perimeter for 35 seconds before lifting your hands. Let the glue dry for 20 minutes afterward before wearing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although leather appears more authentic, use felt fabric if leather is unavailable.
  • Make one prototype of your pilot goggles before making several pairs. This allows you to adjust any materials or sizes if necessary.

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