Titanium and Brass Photochromatic, Variable-Aperture Goggles
For the leather I used Oiled Tanned Utility Hide. I actually did a lot of research on leather before making this decision. I love the look of the Latigo Leather Mikest chose but, wanted something a bit sturdier. Latigo leather contains acid which will gradually deteriorate the leather over time (about 100 years if well maintained) This leather uses a tanning process that is very similar to to process the Roman Legions used to construct tents and battlements in 400 b.c., some of which still survive today in museums and are in excellent condition, despite being nearly 2500 years old. Again, I wanted these goggle to still be around in 500 years. This leather will get darker and softer as it gradually accumulates oils over time. I'll probably put some mink oil on it to speed up the process and give them a more worn look.
Rather than stitch the leather onto the frame, I decided to bolt it on with little brass bolts. 48 of them plus an additional 4 for the nose piece to be exact. Thread can wear out over time. Hopefully these will last forever. It was extremely difficult getting these bolted down. This is probably the one thing that would prevent me from ever building another pair of goggles like these again.
The button head cap screws on the front are made from brass as well as all the hardware used on the temples and strap. I had to special order these from a company in New York after searching for them for nearly 4 months.
I used Barges cement to glue the temples. It's toxic nasty stuff to work with but, it's the best thing around for bonding leather. If you ever need to find out how to glue something take a look at http://www.thistothat.com
This is a close up of the slider that adjusts the Iris diopters. I also added brass eyelets to the side for ventilation so they don't fog up.
Here's some of the leather work. I placed the join on the inside rather than the outside of the eye cup because I felt it gave a cleaner appearance.
Here are the Titanium housings or frames before being coated with Titanium Nitride. Titanium is a very cool alloy for many reasons. It's extremely strong and resilient, resists corrosion and has a very low thermal conductivity. This means that these goggles can be worn comfortably outside on very hot as well as cold days because they do not readily change temperture.
Titanium is also extremely expensive and difficult to work with and mill. To put things in perspective, Titanium wedding rings go for around $900-$2000 in the U.S. so these were not cheap to make. I won't be making any big purchases anytime in the near future unless someone makes me a great offer to buy them from me. They pretty much broke the bank.
EDIT:It's seems as though I have some egg on my face. It's been brought to my attention that titanium rings are in fact very inexpensive. Just to clarify the statement I made about titanium rings, yes, it is correct that they can be purchased and engraved very inexpensively. However, having a custom designed one-off made by a jeweler/artist is not. Titanium itself is very expensive when compared to some alternatives such as brass or aluminum (about 10-20x more expensive for just the material) but that's not the real cost. It's the machining that's the expensive part.
If you like these, hate them, or just think I'm crazy for building them then, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you think. I'll add more images of them here as time allows.
I've recieved so many e-mails and questions I decided to add a little FAQ here.
Q: How do the Iris's work and where can I find them?
A: Do a search on google with the keywords iris diaphragm aperture. You should find all the information you need as well as many optical supply stores where you can purchase them. Here's a site that gives some information on how they work. http://www.tpub.com/content/photography/14209/css/14209_86.htm
Q: Will you post the schematics/CAD files/plans for these and a detailed parts list so I can build my own?
A: I'm happy to give encouragement and advice to anyone seriously thinking about building something like this but, I will never post detailed plans on how to build a pair exactly like them. When I started these a year ago I knew nothing about CNC milling, leather work or optics. You can create anything you want with enough hard work. The most rewarding part of this entire process was figuring out how to create these and tracking everything down on my own starting from zero experience. I learned a lot over the past year.
Q: Can I commission you to build another pair for me?
A: Sorry but no, I won't be making any more of these. I like to think there's a certain mystique to them being one of a kind. They would be much too expensive to mass produce anyway. I'm pretty confident that no one will attempt to manufacture another one-off pair of milled titanium goggles anytime soon. I would sell these if I receive a very good offer.
Q: Can I buy these?
A: Sure, although they were very expensive to manufacture and I've invested a very large amount of time designing and constructing them. I believe they are as much a work of art as a functional wearable device. As such I would sell them for $7500 USD.
Q: That seems like a lot of money. How much would it cost to have you build another pair now that you've done all the work of designing them?
A: As I've said before, I will never construct another pair of these. I like to thing there's an intrinsic value to having something completely unique.