Sunday, October 14, 2012

Goggles Modding

My fingers are currently stained in a palette of metallic colors and my craft room is smelling of paint fumes, despite the open window, all marking my first foray into using Rub n Buff, a product that many steampunk people use. I just looked down to find three smears of Rub n Buff what was recently a serviceable everyday shirt and now has become paint clothing, I am fairly certain Rub n Buff is permanently cemented to my fingernails, and I am somewhat light-headed from the fumes. Hopefully all is not in vain and that the result is a smashing pair of goggles.

For the past year or so, these have been my only goggles: cheap, badly-fitting, and patently generic. 

After attending a great modding workshop at Octopodicon, I picked up some great tips about how I could transform these pathetic, wimpy goggles into something I am proud to wear. Sadly, I neglected to take notes during the panel and the specifics on these tips have grown steadily hazier, but lack of knowledge has never prevented me from diving whole-heartedly into a crafting project. This was no different an occasion.

A trip to Hobby Lobby scored three shades of Rub n Buff.

From my vague recollections of the modding panel and through some internet searching, I decided my first step was washing the goggles to remove any residue that might cause the paint to not stick. This mean the elastic straps needed to come off, and tugging them off revealed that the brown frames had a snap piece on the side that, when removed, made it much easier to take the elastic band off.

I scrubbed the parts down and began the drying process only to realize that the lenses were glass and each eyepiece had a double layer. Due to the bath, water was trapped between the double lenses and would not drain out no matter how hard I shook. Some prodding revealed that the gold rims could untwist from the brown backing, freeing the lenses.

I thought briefly about wedging a decorative gear between the two lenses in each eye as I have seen people do, but an investigative attempt made me realize that I would hear an irritating rattle every time I moved, so I quickly abandoned that idea. Instead I dried the pieces carefully. At this point, I remembered that I needed to sand everything to make the Buff n Rub stick better. Luckily I had a spare sheet of sandpaper in my craft room, and some brisk stropping made quite a bit of the gold covering the rims flake off. I sandpapered away, then gave the frame pieces a roughing up too in order to help the Rub n Buff stick.

It was then that I realized another washing was in order to remove the paint flakes and sandpaper dust. A good drying and I was ready to add Rub n Buff. I picked the tube marked a color of Spanish Copper, broke the seal, and began spreading the pigment over the rim with my fingers. The end result was this.

Rub n Buff, I am learning, needs to be applied thinly for a smooth surface and preferably applied over a surface that is light-colored. Several thin applications are better than a thick coat. Because I used too much product, my rims ended up with a rough, textured appearance that actually looks pretty darned cool: weathered and well-used. I took a flat paintbrush and ran it around the bottom of the rim to make the edge defined.

Another revelation was that Rub n Buff likes to clog inside the tube. I was trying to squish out more when I applied too much pressure and about half the contents came shooting out, spraying liberal droplets of pigmentation across my work desk and getting on my shirt. The next tube I opened, I wisely squirted a puddle on a sheet of paper for use, then closed the tube up quickly.

Next was the brown frame. I decided on silver and used a flat paintbrush to mark the lining around the side as you can see below. However, the silver went on too thick and the end result looks like painted plastic, not metal - I think I need to sand off a little of it once it dries and bring up some of the brown to the surface to age it somewhat.

However, the silver is not going to show too terribly much because I found these awesome..well...I'm not really sure what they are.

Edges to a wooden chest would be my guess. Anyway, these are going over the frames of my goggles. The metal is pliable enough that I can shape them around the goggle frames. They look fine with the corner in the middle of each one, or I may beat that out so that each metal piece curves smoothly along the edge of the frame.

The end result of about 30 minutes of work was this....

Ha ha, I mean it was actually this...

The rims I like as they are. The silver frames are going to get the sandpaper, then maybe a few touches of copper to tone down the fake metal look and age them. I neglected to buy a clear fixative, so it will be back to Hobby Lobby next week so that my clever paintwork doesn't start flaking off during Emerald City Steampunk Expo.

Then I put everything back together and figure out what to do with the metal corner thingys. The original leather bridge that goes over the nose will be shortened and I think I have a few metal pieces that I'm going to string on the bridge for decoration. The elastic strap for the goggles is too cheap-looking, and I need to find some alternate things for it. I have some olive military-looking fabric. Maybe I'll make a tube of this fabric and run the elastic through it.

For now, the Rub n Buff is drying and I just discovered that I have neither paint thinner nor rubbing alcohol, meaning whatever I eat for dinner will likely be garnished with a generous coating of metallic pigmentation. Final note, if you scrub your hands with a  plastic nail brush after using Rub n Buff, you will end up with a decorated nail brush for your efforts. My nail brush is actually this soft-fingered thing that looks like a curry comb and was supposed to be for brushing pet hair off furniture and clothing. It has instead stood in as a world-class nail brush. It is now a world-class nail brush with an interesting abstract pattern of copper and silver on its handle. Oh well. 


  1. Those goggles seem surprisingly intricate, with so many parts! They will be cool to see when completed!

  2. Great tutorial! You definitely explained this well, both the steps and the pitfalls of the materials. I like the 'copper' patina a lot. Very interested to see how the brass trimmings work out. Sometimes sheet metal can be tricky to work in small details.