DIY Inuit Snow Goggles

Categories: DIY

The Inuit of arctic North America used goggles like these in springtime to protect their eyes. The combination of clear skies, stronger sun and longer days created ideal conditions for snow blindness—an eye injury caused by glaring light bouncing in all directions off the wet, white snow.

The eyepieces, held in place by a braided sinew strap, are curved. They fit tightly against the face, blocking light from above, below and the sides. (Some Inuit darkened the insides with soot to further reduce glare.) The only light enters from the narrow slit in front. Like a permanent squint, snow goggles not only kept light to a minimum, but also helped focus images at a distance.

The following is a full transcript for Timo's original content click on the link at the bottom of this page.

One of my favorite trips to make is to the museum. Here's a place to learn more about the traditional skills, crafts, arts and practices of other cultures. With my background in ethnobotany, skills, and craft, I can study each piece, and they speak volumes. After a recent exhibit on the Inuit, I observed a few pairs of Iggaak, or snow goggles. Although bone is a common material utilized in the Arctic Circle and tundra since wood is scarce, there are a great many things that they create with wood. There were many hand carved pieces, aged with time and use, that inspired me. I had to make a pair.

An example from the de Young Museum.

Another pair from the de Young Museum.

I axed up a nice blank of Maple, and went to work. I roughed out the shape and hollowed out the eyes, intermittently checking the fit to my face. This was the interesting part. Translating the contours of my face into a carving was a first for me, examining the fit, seeing how it wrapped around my eyes, if the sides let in light, if it fit my nose, if the eye slits were level to my eyes, etc.

Apart from the axe, these were the two tools I used. A carving blade and a northwest coast style double-edged bent knife.

I cut the eye slits by making v-cuts with the knife until it went through, then opened it up. I made sure to check the eye level before doing this part.

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