Post #___: Expedient masks, part 4: My niche.

Posted on April 2, 2020

Source: 3M

You can find numerous plans for sewing a mask. I’ll present one below, from Instructables, that I like for its simplicity and efficiency.  And for the fact that I see that other like-minded people also point to that design.

And I do, in fact sew.  I own a sewing machine.  And I do … big stuff:  slip covers, drapes, and so on.

Which, if you really know sewing, gives away the fact that I’m not good at it.  I could not set a zipper if my life depended on it.  I think Velcro (R) is God’s gift to  mankind the ham-handed.

And I now am hearing that a lot of people that don’t sew.  Doesn’t surprise me, really.  But we have an army of unemployed people.  So I’m making it my mission to help the sewing-challenged.

This is America, folks.  Think Apollo 13.  Have you never asked yourself, why in the world did NASA sent a roll of duct tape to the moon?  Can you even conceive of what it cost to do that?  And they planned on bringing it back?  They can eject an entire Saturn V first stage to self-destruct in the atmosphere, but the friggin’ duct tape had do be able to make the entire round trip?  Do you have any notion of what it takes to get a pound of material to the moon and back?  (Let alone a kilogram, which is why America had the best space program, right?)

I digress.  Got duct tape?

My role for the next few days is to put together a few high-protection masks, for the maskless, with minimal sewing.  Duct tape, 3M products, furnace filters, and such like.  Because, if you’ve been around, you know that if it’s 3M, it does what it says it does.  May not be the cheapest, but clearly the best.  This is no time to screw around with generics.

So this is the mask blog for rednecks.  Or maybe old rednecks.  If you don’t sew, but still occasionally refer to the big hardware store at Fairfax Circle as Hechinger’s, you’ve probably found the right place.

If mainstream America has the comfy fabric-store masks, what you’re going to get here is your basic hardware-store mask.  I aspire to channel Hyneman and Savage for the next couple of days.  WWMG What would MacGyver do.

But with the serious and ultimate goal of producing an N95-equivalent mask. 

Trust me, if you want comfortable masks, go with something that somebody sews.  So this may or may not be the most effective source for mask plans.  The best mask is the one that you’ll wear.

But if you’re among the paranoid — and, seriously, that’s hard even to define these days — even the most nervous of nervous Nellies would accept an N95-equivalent. Even if it’s ugly, and really not a lot of fun to wear.  And maybe then they’d leave the real ones for the pros who need them.

So I’m going to do non-sewn masks.  That’s what I see as the unfilled market niche.  These will not be as comfortable as sewn cloth masks.  They are going to be every bit as much of a pain in the … face as real masks.  But they are going to be a lot more scientific.

Tomorrow’s task is to replicate a 3M 8511 mask, from MERV-rated cloth and … not sure what else.

Got any good ideas, within what I have outlined above?  Email me:

Post script:

Here’s what I believe to be the best sewn mask I’ve come across so far.  FWIW.  When I saw another MERV-mask maker mention this, I knew it was the right design.  Note that she has a design with a pocket for a filter.  So, if you have a high MERV filter at home, you could plausibly get the best of both worlds with this.  I find this an admirable design due to its simplicity, depth of face coverage, and attention to critical details like the nosepiece.  If you don’t have elastic at hand, think something like kitchen cotton twine would probably work.

Source:  Image used without permission, for which I apologize.

  • Mask 2:  DIY Cloth Face Mask.  By
  • Cloth:  Tightly woven cotton or cotton/poly.  Cotton recommended.
  • Layers:  2
  • Ties:  Elastic, over ears.
  • Metal noisepiece:  Yes, continuous wire, sewn in, floral wire or other thin wire.
  • Design:  Single piece of cloth with elastic feed through “drawstring”-type channels at side.
  • Methods/skill level:  Knowledgeable craft sewer.
  • Steps:  14
  • Number made:  73
  • Interesting quote:  “Surgical masks and some cloth masks will block 7 micron particles.”