Steampunk Goggles: A Tutorial

First published July 10, 2008

Russian translation provided by
Latvian translation provided by

Steampunk: a fanmade subculture that emphasizes Neo-Victorian aesthetic. A world of steam engines, clockworks, polished brass, and unpolished leather. Every fandom has its signature tchotchke. Ravers have their glowsticks, furries have their pointy ears, Renaissance festers have Styrofoam swords. What does that leave steampunkers?


Yep. Fashioned after antique goggles used for aviation, welding, and bombing, widely coveted, and widely available from artisan outlets from fifteen dollars USD to an excess of several thousand, depending on complexity. I made these beauties for less than $40, using materials that can just as easily be found around the house.

Materials used

I was a little reluctant to release this, because really, every step in this tutorial is a suggestion, not a requirement. This was largely engineered to promote creativity, problem-solving, and above all, rule-breaking, and I worried that posting a list of ingredients would be cheating. However, after having been emailed often enough, I’ve concluded that this may be the lesser evil compared to frustration.

  • 2 mason jar lids (detachable rings like you often see on gourmet preserves. Can be found at most hobby shops and grocery stores.)
  • tan suede leather
  • brass belt buckle
  • 4 rectangular brass links (Hobby shop, most textile shops)
  • 1/2-inch strip sheepshide, unshaven. (Sample was cut from a chair cover.)
  • A tube of black oil paint
  • 14 capnuts, 1/4 inch wide
  • 2 wingnuts
  • a pack of eyelets
  • Grey smoked Plexiglass (available from most glass cutters)


Two mason jars. I chose these particular jars for the lids with the detachable bands. Of course, there’s plenty of alternate options. I’ve seen people use deadbolt casings, plumbing couplings, bottlecaps, and even Styrofoam rings. The scraps of suede and buckle are from a hobby shop.

Leather for the eye cups. This just happened to be the length I wanted, but if you get it too long, use this formula to cut it to length:

It’s better to cut too long than too little.

Template, the length of the leather. This won’t be the same for everyone, given the shape of your head. Reserve a little space for however thick your lid/coupling/lock casing is (shaded area.) The half-inch overlap was also marked.

I didn’t want the stitchline right on the bridge between the lenses, where stress is greatest, so I snipped a little off the end of the template and taped it to the other.

Thar be whales!


A quick fold, stitch, and invert, and you can pretend you’re a pro.

This stitch around the edge is purely cosmetic. The edge by itself was a little unappetizing, but not hopeless.

I also managed to find some hide around the house. A little glue and trim and it could pass for an aviator’s attire.

Let’s set these aside for a moment.

I “aged” the rings and buckle a little, using oil paint. The unaffected jar lid was placed next to them for comparison.

To give the rings more of a mechanical look, I hot-glued seven capnuts and one wingnut equidistantly to the side of each ring.

And if you look out the porthole to the left, you’ll see more whales made of leather.


The packet of leather links I bought at the hobby shop had four of these. I used two pliers to bend one into a nosepiece. As it stands now, it’s not too structurally sound. I’d rather have soldered this instead of hot-glued, perhaps even drilled into the lid and bent the nosepiece into a loop in it.




These inch-thick strips will be fashioned into straps.

It probably would’ve been better if I sewed the strap to the middle of the buckle. Trial and error.


On the other strip, a chisel was ideal for making belt holes. A needle or a nail would also work.

A couple DIY eyelets and 1.5-inch-long strips.

And more eyelets to fasten the whole mess together. You can almost not tell it was super-glued on.

I had this Plexiglass custom-made. Twelve bucks. If you can find something similar, or if you have the tools necessary to cut your own glass, that’s fine. I personally would’ve preferred something beer bottle-green.

The glass cutters I bought this from talked me out of buying real glass for safety reasons. Though less scratch-resistant, this is thinner and lighter; more comforable.

The Plexiglass fit perfectly. A little hot glue and the leather was down. Afterwards, super glue was used to touch it up.


Another strip of leather! Whatever for?

This piece was dual-purpose: comfort and reinforcing the otherwise weak nosepiece.

The rest of the leather and a bent link made for a handsome frontpiece.

Remember that tweaking and field-testing are never a one-off job. Expect to find many minor issues concerning comfort and structural integrity, and don’t be afraid to bend things, tear then apart, and re-glue to get a decent fit. I noticed, for instance, that the lids were digging into the bridge of my nose, so I had to bend parts of the lids inward with pliers.

Congratulations! You’re a nerd!
You may now wear your creation.