A Surefire Way To Make Masks

By now, the wearing of a facemask to protect ourselves from pandemic infection is for many of us a daily fact of life. Perhaps that means a cheap disposable mask, but there’s no reason that has to be the case. It’s easy to make more durable masks that can be washed and re-used time and time again, and our Hackaday colleague [Kristina Panos] has shared her pattern and workflow to help you do it.

Her pattern isn’t a complex cut-out but a simple rectangle, and the trick of sewing them together and flipping them inside out makes for a very tidy result. With three pleats pressed in and the elastic sewn up the result is a mask that’s neat, attractive, effective, and cheap, which is a win in our book.

It’s worth repeating her important point that these are not for use in medical environments, instead they’re the standard street-wear aerosol catchers we’re all used to. This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at masks here at Hackaday, or indeed though [Kristana]’s are by far the tidier neither is it first time one of us has made a mask. We looked at them in depth last year in our surviving the pandemic as a hacker series.

41 thoughts on “A Surefire Way To Make Masks

  1. No, we know it’s not that effective. Better than nothing at all? Sure. Actually effective? Not really.

    Also, editors, please add a space between “to.This” as well.

    1. Oddly enough, the details seem to be even more murky. That article focuses on the efficacy of masks for other historical illnesses, plus current illnesses like the flu and other respiratory bugs. Here’s a CDC study that is specifically about Covid19 transmission.

      This study: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/pdfs/mm6936a5-H.pdf

      When it comes to Covid19, it seems to indicate that wearing masks is ineffective according to the above study. I’m sorry to add to the swarm of confusing and contradictory information, but it is what it is. Make your own conclusions, for me, the jury is still out.

      I forget who, but I recall a virologist saying that using cloth masks to stop a virus is like throwing rice at a chain link fence.

      1. I don’t know how its possible read that study and come to the conclusion you did. In the first table, it is clear that people who had Covid-19 were much more likely to be around people who were not wearing masks, or as written in the study, “Among 107 participants who reported dining at a restaurant and 21 participants who reported going to a bar/coffee shop, case-patients were less likely to report observing almost all patrons at the restaurant adhering to recommendations such as wearing a mask or social distancing.”

      2. I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion from that study, since it only looks at people who came in for treatment. It does not consider the population that didn’t come in for treatment.

        There is no doubt that air you exhale is slowed down by a mask, and this will slow down the diffusion of any viral particles, as well as contain any large moisture droplets. If you are in a room where the air circulation doesn’t remove the particles, then you will be exposed eventually, mask or no mask, given enough time. But in other cases, where you keep your distance and don’t spend any significant time near others who may be exposed, masks will reduce any possible exposure.

        As should be obvious, though, masks are just one part of the solution, not the entire solution. Distance and good ventilation are other parts, as well as just avoiding unnecessary contact in general.

      3. It’s not about stopping virus particles. It’s about stopping the droplets carrying the virus particles.
        You don’t need a HEPA filter (but it wouldn’t hurt), you need a condenser.
        A couple of layers of cloth can aggregate droplets enough to prevent them from being emitted.

        1. > It’s not about stopping virus particles. It’s about stopping the droplets carrying the virus particles.

          Masks reduce the infected exposing others: catch expelled droplets.

          Masks reduce the mask wearer’s exposure: this is also very much about stopping you from touching your mouth & nose (and hopefully reminding you to not touch your eyes) when you’re out & about where your hands can become contaminated.

          A study at a Bramptom hospital showed that staff who wore a mask all the time had an 83 to 85 % reduction in infection rates. The odd part, is that those wearing a surgical mask or a properly sized & fitted N95 had the same reduction benefit, even though the filtering capability of those masks are significantly different. Due to that, the study suspected that the infection reduction benefit was also related to other factors to be determined. Suspected is the not-touching-mouth-nose and mask served as reminder: re. touching eyes, washing hands and being more alert regarding safe practices/protocols.

      4. Masks are effective because in Poland if you don’t wear one and get caught you’re risking $2600-$8000 (10,000-30,000 PLN) “administrative penaly” with 7 days max. payment time. Those “administrative penalties” are issued by “Sanitary Inspection” based on police reports. Fail to pay in time and your car, laptop, TV or anything else of value will be repossessed if you don’t have enough cash in bank account.

        Of course you can appeal to court but only AFTER paying the “administrative penalty”.

        The difference between this so called “administrative penalty” and regular fines issued by the police is that the later is max $133 (500 PLN) and if you disagree you may go to court first without paying.

    2. Ah yes, Reddit’s universal solution to all problems. Do nothing, not by governmentmandate, not by the free market, not voluntarily as an individual, and just say whatever happens isn’t actually a problem.

      Encourage others to also do nothing, shame anyone who does anything to solve the problem, even just as their own personal choice.

      Then if anyone tries to argue with you, say something really abhorrent and unexplainable that makes everyone hate you, and complete ignore any good points you might have made during the process, like a bunch of pro-eugenics type stuff.

  2. i’ve made a dozen masks now… i am impressed by the neat hack of assembling it inside-out to avoid the tricky maneuver of folding the hem in at the same time as attaching the straps, but i’m not sure i’d ever do it that way because it’s really not that tricky to just do it with pins in the traditional way. i used to try to combine pinning the hems and the pleats, and securing both in one sewing step, but that was tricky…now i just pin and sew the hems & straps, then pin and sew the pleats in a second step, and the whole process is actually really easy now.

    the thing about the masks that gets me is the straps. my wife made about a dozen with elastics like this for the kids to wear at school, but they are always sliding down below the nose even when the elastics are new. and the elastics age so quickly, even when they are segregated from the dryer! i see this problem constantly on other people so i’m kind of astonished this is still the dominant design.

    for myself and 8yo, i’ve been making masks with inelastic straps…the top strap is effectively fixed (it has a friction adjustment akin to a backpack strap, but you don’t have to adjust it to put it on or off), and it goes over the ears. the bottom strap has a hook-and-slot disconnect in the middle of it so it is easy to operate behind your head. the bottom strap also has a friction adjustment in it, which you only use for setup. the plastic parts are 3d printed, of course. so to put it on, i just hold the mask against my face, slide the top strap over my head, and then hook the bottom strap together behind my neck.

    but for 7yo, i’m having a problem coming to a good design. his head is bulbous, i guess, and if the top strap is tight enough to hold it to his face then it is too tight to fit over his head! and he does not really have the dexterity to tighten the straps after he slides it on, though he has the strength to loosen it just by trying desperately to yank it off his head. ah well, back to the drawing board. i’ll check back and see if anyone has advice for me on this thread :)

    1. “Ourselves” is a group that includes “me”. I wear a mask so that if I have Covid-19 I will be less likely to pass it on with the expectation that others will also wear a mask so that if they have Covid-19 they will be less likely to pass it on. Why do some people struggle to understand that what’s good for their society is good for them?

    2. Which is precisely why the mask wearing should be both compulsory and does not need to be N95 or anything fancy. It’s cheap, easy to implement and effective enough to be worth it. It’s not perfect, but it never had to be.

  3. Surely we need to be realistic with masks. No, good old fabric store cotton isn’t going to keep 100% of the floating viral material out. But it’s not 0% either. What it does do is diffuse and slow down exhalation and sneezes which pretty logically limits the amount of material an infected person can girl about an environment. Mask wearing is a herd thing and it has an impact beyond just the wearer. I f#cking hate the things but I’ll wear them on request (planes, healthcare settings, mass transit etc) because I can see how they’d be beneficial, at least mechanically.

    Props to anyone out there DIYing them. Keep it up.

  4. A year into the pandemic and we in the US are still making do with sub-standard home-made masks??? That was supposed to be a temporary hack to get us through until real masks (eg, N95) were available in sufficient quantities. WTF?

    1. N95 and full PPE is for people who have to work with and protect themselves from infected people (i.e. medical workers, quarantine guards, etc). Masks for everyone else are *not* to protect yourself directly, but to reduce the risk of you passing an infection to others. That’s why 1) simple fabric masks are completely sufficient and 2) everyone needs to wear a mask.

      Unfortunately the group of people who refuse to wear masks are also the people who don’t give a crap if they infect you.

      1. I agree that people who work a lot with known infected people should definitely wear effective PPE, but if about 1-2% of the population are currently infected (UK government numbers) then there’s a reasonable chance I will come into contact with an infected person whilst grocery shopping. If they cough, or sneeze, or breathe in my direction, would an N95/FFP3 mask not provide me with some protection and therefore help prevent the spread?

    2. Because making them yourself, they are what works best for you, and more comfortable. I bought the cheapest, reusable cloth masks I could find. I knew we were going to be using them, 2-3 years minimum. I wanted to get the thinnest, most breathable, still available, before standards were set. My only goal, was compliance issues, not expecting to be protected. Even then, 30-40 minutes of wearing, the masks are sufficiently saturated with moisture, to severely restrict breathing. Much longer, than the paper disposables, but still not great. Fortunately, that’s just the only time, I have to spend wearing a mask, on a weekly basis. Air, like everything else, will take the path of least resistance. If the filter material impedes the flow, it’ll find a path along the edges. Masks are more of a fashion statement, of trendy compliance. Our tear ducts drain into our sinus cavities. The tears, keep our eyes clean of dust, viruses, and other crap, which get rinsed into our sinuses. That’s why they need to shove a Q-Tip so far up our noses, to test.

      Every little bit helps reduce the spread… It’s better than nothing at all… We are humans, we can control everything…

  5. I like these masks.
    They are tied with a cord. so suit wearing a hat, turbin, etc. Machine washable and do not fog the glasses.
    Included is a pouch so if you want extra filtering, that can be added.
    Various fabric patters can be used, and adornments like grinning teeth, beard and mustache (like mine) or whatever you like can be added.
    I have lung damage so really like folks to wear masks.
    Here in Oz, we locked down pretty well and have a total of 909 deaths overall. Even that was quite bad as in Victoria, it got away at the start so we had the most deaths. 15 times the next state.
    Still, I am very grateful to be living here as most people did the correct thing and it is almost beat now. We are still careful and are waiting for the jabs.
    Masks are a big help, along with social distancing, washing and of course, the lock down. Our government was up front with payments to keep people going so most survived ok on even in the lock down.
    I just cannot understand those people (and we do have a few here too) who deny the virius. My wife is from USA and 10 of her family there have caught the virus, and all recovered, fortunately. It remains to be seen what extra damage the Covid 19 has done to them as it does damage other organs too. I pray they do not have that.

  6. Honestly, I don’t think anyone who be wearing anything less than battery-powered, true HEPA, unless they’re in a very low risk environment.

    This is better than most, but what people really need are Ultramasx type masks, or DIY equivalents. The development of those may well be one of the best things to come from this whole nightmare. If people used them widely, and kept wearing them for the regular flu season, we could save thousands of lives, and millions of hours of lying in bed being miserable.

    Then again, I’m still working, and riding the bus to work, so I might be a bit biased to thee extreme side about how much protection a person needs.

    But they don’t get hot like regular masks, so I’d say they’re completely worth the price.

  7. Correctly fitted masks when worn by a trained person and used in an appropriate manner will be of benefit in relevant environments. Then some idiot will go into a public toilet and use their phone while sitting on the seat, transfering virons from handle to hand to phone to face then mouth, and or smoke a cigarette, so from handle to hand to cigaret to mouth. Also if you are smoking and another person flushes the toilet next to you you have a very high chance of breathing in droplets caused by that process because you have taken your mask down. There are hundreds of similar scenarios and gotchas and most people are not capable of been mindful enough about what they are doing all of the time without giving themselves mental health problems such as anxiety.

    This is the reality of the situation, most other argument either way are not pragmentic or realistic.

  8. Thanks for the input. Will read.

    Note that my main goal in wearing the mask is to not infect others (in case I’m asymptomatic), just to help lower the transfer probability and thus R.

    Protecting 100% against catching it seems unrealistic to me.

  9. The Dr Scholl’s and their “cupron” anti-fungal fibers socks just came in the mail. There is a “Nanostitch® Cuprana” that reads even better as an inner layer for like a three layer design using polylycra or other material.

    Not the “CuTEC® Copper Ion Technology” though way better price point until I find a fabric source.

    Still waiting on the “iluminage Copper Oxide” pillowcase to test next.

    1. Found there are Cupron facemasks on the market just now randomly looking again to see the fabric used in the Dr Scholl’s socks since thinking the socks need a smear of silicone above the heal to stay in place… otherwise somewhat more cost effective candidate mask material.

      Probably worth more cutting each sock for two masks I’m thinking for the price if you can sew.

      Thinking one pair is going to get a thin smear of silicone over the upper heal to see how improves keeping in place.

      Interesting reading there are more silver materials on the market that are new and even found a gold material with similar claims.

  10. It is quite cheap and easy to make a DIY Powered Air Purifying Respirator with HEPA filtration using a CPU fan, a powerbank, a 21 layer paper towel filter, tubing and a mask with a positive-pressure vent hole large enough to fit a spoon or straw through over the mouth. Air is drawn in through the filter by the fan, and piped into the mask, and then exhausted out the vent hole. This gives full HEPA filtration with no increased breathing effort for over 10 hours per charge, and allows drinking and eating safely through the vent hole, while preventing any chance of contaminated air leaking in.

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