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Learn how to make a safe DIY eclipse viewer for the 2024 solar eclipse!

On Monday, August 21, 2017, the Great American Eclipse occurred. This was a total solar eclipse (within the path of totality) and a partial eclipse for the rest of North America (including me). This wasn’t the first total eclipse in my lifetime; I remember a partial eclipse as a Michigan grade schooler in 1979. My class made special pinpoint eclipse viewers out of old boxes and tin foil. But I’m much older now, and I can make something snazzier. So I designed a DIY Eclipse Viewer Tube pattern that can be lengthened for a larger image of the eclipse! At the time, I mentioned that the next total solar eclipse in North America would be in 2024, and that felt so far away in the future! Time flies when we’re having fun, because it’s time for that eclipse! I’m so excited, I made an updated DIY eclipse viewer tutorial so you can watch science in action safely!

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Get the free SVG cut file for this project

 Where Can I See the 2024 Solar Eclipse?

Find out how much of the eclipse you’ll see from your location with this calculator. I will see a 98% eclipse here in Ann Arbor, which is amazing! Whether you’re in the path of the total eclipse or will see a partial solar eclipse, it’s a historic event. The next one like this in the United States won’t be until Aug. 23, 2044!

Why Do I Need A Viewer To Watch The Solar Eclipse?

You MUST NOT look at a solar eclipse with the naked eye or through a camera without proper eye protection, and that doesn’t mean regular sunglasses. If you’ve ever looked at the Sun on a normal day, (which I also don’t recommend) your eyes will get uncomfortable and force you to look away. You might have some short-term vision issues, but they should resolve in a few minutes. But during a solar eclipse, the part of sun’s rays that causes your eyes discomfort isn’t present, so it’s possible to look at the very strong light for too long. Unfortunately, it’s possible to cause permanent vision impairment by looking at an eclipse unprotected, even blindness.

This viewer is SAFE because it is an indirect view of the solar eclipse, and this is the safest way to view it (other than watching a video inside, of course). If you make this for children, I recommend you keep its length short — it’ll be easier for little hands to hold and aim, and their young eyes can see the smaller image of a short tube easier anyway. I have details below on how to make the DIY eclipse viewer shorter or longer, depending on your needs.

How Long Should A DIY Eclipse Viewer Be?

A longer tube will give you a bigger image. But keep in mind that it will also dim the light a bit more. The shorter the tube, the brighter the image. I made the tube in this tutorial about 60″ long. But I also made another one just one-foot-long so I could compare the images. Pick the size that works for you, or make several!

What Do I Need To Make A DIY Eclipse Viewer?

My pattern uses dark, non-reflective 12″ x 12″ cardstock for most of the tube, plus some aluminum foil for the upper end and white cardstock for the projection viewing area.

You can cut your DIY eclipse viewer by hand using the PDF in the download file, but it’s a lot faster when you cut the SVG file with a cutting machine like a Cricut. I used the Cricut Maker 3  but you can also use the Cricut Maker, a Cricut Explore Series machine, or the Cricut Venture (or another machine that uses cut files). The cardstock cuts perfectly on a green StandardGrip Machine Mat, but use a blue LightGrip Machine Mat for the aluminum foil. You can also cut the foil with scissors if you prefer and use a pin to add the tiny hole in the center of the foil.

The DIY eclipse viewer takes a good amount of space to assemble depending on the length you pick, but it’s a fast project! You’ll just need clear tape, duct tape, and a cylinder to shape the tubes around. The foil tube, a vinyl roll, or a tennis ball tube works well! I have the full list of tools and supplies below, including links for where to get everything.

Eclipse Viewing Tips

Before the day of the eclipse, hold your viewer up to a light and look inside — do you see any holes? If so, cover them with extra bits of cardstock and tape.

Taping all the joints on the eclipse viewer tube

Also, hold your viewing tube up to a VERY STRONG light (sunlight on a sunny day is best), with the aluminum foil window aimed at the light, and angle it so you can see a pinpoint of light projected onto the white circle. If it works, you’re all set to use your viewing tube for the eclipse!

Sunlight through the eclipse viewing tube

During the eclipse, point the pin hole end of the tube directly at the sun. To aim your tube, move it around until you see a round spot of light on the paper at the opposite end of your tube—that light is the projected image of the sun! Trouble aiming your viewer? Find your box’s shadow on the ground, then move it until the shadow is as small as possible (it should look like a perfect circle). Be sure you do not look through the pinhole at the sun! Look only at the projected image on the white sheet of paper. Once you have it in position, rest it on your shoulder (if the angle works for that).

How to aim your eclipse viewer tube

If you want a larger projection, remove the projection screen section you wedged into the bottom of your viewing tube and place a sheet of white paper on the ground. Hold your tube up, aimed at the sun and pointing down at the paper. You will see the eclipse projected onto the paper on the ground even larger than in your tube!

Remember, never view the sun with the naked eye or with optical devices such as binoculars or telescopes. Use only an indirect viewer like my pattern or certified eclipse viewing glasses with special solar filter plastic.

Let me show you how easy it is to make a safe DIY eclipse viewer! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.

Materials to Make A DIY Eclipse Viewer

View my Amazon shopping list with the exact items we used to make this project

How to Make Your Own DIY Eclipse Viewer

DIY Eclipse Viewer

DIY Eclipse Viewer

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $1 - $5

Learn how to make a DIY eclipse viewer to watch the solar eclipse safely!

Materials

Tools

Instructions

STEP 1: GET MY FREE DIY ECLIPSE VIEWER DESIGNS


First, download my DIY Eclipse Viewer designs from my free library – look for Design #46. Alternatively, you can use the Save This Project form near the top of this post and the design link will be emailed to you.


In the download folder, there is a PDF you can print and cut by hand, and DXF or SVG files you can use with cutting machines. I’ll show you how to prepare the SVG in Cricut Design Space and cut it using a Cricut Maker 3. You can also use an original Maker, an Explore series machine, or the Cricut Venture. I don’t recommend resizing the file to fit on a Joy or Joy Xtra.


TIP: If you’re not sure how to upload, go to jennifermaker.com/svgs to learn how to unzip and upload SVG files.


STEP 2: PREPARE AND CUT YOUR DIY ECLIPSE VIEWER DESIGN

CRICUT DESIGN SPACE

  1. Open Cricut Design Space and click “New Project.”
  2. Click “Upload” and then “Upload Image.”
  3. Click “Browse.”
  4. Select the SVG file.
  5. On the Prepare to Upload screen, it will say “Cut Image” with the design preview.
  6. Click “Upload.”
  7. Find the design in Recent Uploads and add it to the Canvas. This is what the DIY Eclipse Viewer looks like on the Canvas.
    DIY Eclipse Viewer SVG uploaded on Design Space canvas.
  8. There are several pieces that make up the DIY eclipse viewer:
    The rectangle with a cutout is the viewing tube.
    The rectangle without a cutout is the extender tube and creates the length of the viewer.
    The tabbed circle without an opening is the projection screen cap.
    The red piece it’s stacked with will be a crease line, and the white circle is the projection screen.
    The tabbed circle with an opening is the sunburst window, which also has a red shape for the crease.
    The gray circle will be cut from aluminum foil. It can also be cut by hand, you’ll just need a push pin to add the pinhole.
  9. Ungroup the design.
    Click the Ungroup icon to separate the layers in the SVG file.
  10. If you have a scoring tool, select the red layer for the projection screen cap.
    NOTE: If you don’t have a scoring tool, select and delete both red layers.
  11. Use the “Operation” drop-down menu to change it to “Score.”
    Select the red circle layer and change the Operation to Score.
  12. Click the group’s layer in the Layers Panel to select both elements.
  13. Click “Attach.”
    Select the score layer and the starburst layer together and click the Attach icon.
  14. Use Steps 10-13 to change and Attach the Score layer for the sunburst window, too.
  15. Each extender tube rectangle will add about 11” to your DIY eclipse viewer, and a longer viewer will make the image larger, but dimmer. If you want to make it larger, select the rectangle without the cutout and click the “Duplicate” icon until you have the length you want, including about 11” for the viewing tube piece.
    Select the solid viewer tube piece and click the Duplicate icon.
  16. If you’d prefer to cut your aluminum foil piece by hand, find the gray piece in the Layers Panel and click the eye icon to hide it during machine cutting.
    Click to select the grey circle that will cut the aluminum foil.
  17. Make sure the correct machine is selected in the top right.
  18. Click “Make.”
  19. If prompted, click “On Mat,” choose your mat size, and click “Confirm.”
  20. On the Prepare screen, make sure the correct Material Size is selected for your materials.
    NOTE: If you’re cutting the aluminum foil with a machine, leave the Material Size at “12 in x 12 in.”
    Review the mat order of the project on the Prepare screen and change any material sizes as needed.
  21. Select the first mat again and click “Continue.”

CUTTING

  1. On the Make screen, set the Base Material for your mats. For cardstock, I used the “Medium Cardstock - 80 lb (216 gsm)” setting with “More” Pressure.
    On the Make screen, select Medium Cardstock with More pressure for the cut setting.
  2. For your cardstock mats, check that your Premium Fine-Point Blade is clean and in the clamp.
  3. Place the first color face up on a green StandardGrip Machine Mat.
  4. Use a brayer to make sure it’s evenly adhered.
  5. Press the flashing “Load/Unload” button to load the prepared mat into your Cricut.
  6. Press the flashing “Go” button to begin cutting.
  7. When it has finished cutting, unload the mat, flip it over onto your work surface, and gently roll it back to release the cardstock.
  8. If you’re cutting the foil with your machine, tear off a rough 4” square, just make sure it’s larger than the gray circle on the screen.
  9. Place it in the top left corner of a blue LightGrip machine mat. Either side facing up is OK.
    NOTE: The Cricut will make the cut right where the preview screen shows, so make sure your material is in the correct spot.
    Aluminum foil applied to the blue LightGrip machine mat.
  10. Set the mat’s material to the “Aluminum Foil” setting with “Default” Pressure.
    NOTE: Your screen may recommend using a deep-point blade, but mine worked well with the fine-point blade.
  11. Use Steps 4-7 to cut the aluminum foil.
    Flip the machine mat and gently peel it away from the aluminum foil so it doesn't tear.
  12. Repeat the steps for each additional mat.
    NOTE: When you get to the mat with the cap pieces, you can change the scoring tool if you want, then follow the prompts on the screen.
    Insert the scoring stylus in the clamp of the Maker.
    TIP: Use a spatula to carefully remove any intricate parts and a weeding tool to pop out any small pieces. If you have trouble with any of your cuts, check out my Cricut Tips & Tricks for Cleaner Cuts.
    Use a spatula tool to remove small bits of cardstock from the machine mat.



STEP 3: ASSEMBLE YOUR DIY ECLIPSE VIEWER

  1. Gather your DIY eclipse viewer pieces.
    All cut DIY Eclipse Viewer pieces displayed and ready to assemble.
    NOTE: If you didn’t use a cutting machine to cut your aluminum foil, cut a 3” circle using scissors. Use a tape measure to cut a 3" foil circle if cutting by hand.
  2. Hold the rectangle with a cut-out window lengthwise and roll it around a cylindrical object, like the foil roll, so it can curve without creasing.
    Roll the rectangular piece to curl it in a tube shape.
  3. Tuck the tabs into their matching holes and secure them on the outside with clear tape.
    TIP: Starting near the cutout and moving from there might be easier than working on all three at once.
    Insert the first tabs to make a cylinder and tape the tabs to stay closed.
  4. Use tape to secure the tube’s edge seam well.
    Apply more tape along the seam to keep the cylinder together.
  5. Roll an extender tube around the cylinder so it overlaps about an inch on the end without a cutout.
    Wrap the extender piece around the first cylinder.
  6. Use tape to secure the extender tube's tabs.
    Insert the tabs and tape the tabs and seam of the extender cylinder.
  7. Tape the extender tube to the viewer tube.
    Apply tape around the seam where the extender cylinders overlap.
  8. Tape the extender’s seam.
  9. Use Steps 5-8 to add as many extender tubes as you want.
    TIP: Make sure they overlap the previous one by an inch and are well secured,
  10. Place the sunburst window face down.
    Starburst piece face up on work area.
  11. Fold the tabs up to make crease lines.
    Fold the tabs upward on the starburst end piece.
    NOTE: If you didn’t add score lines, wait until you’ve put the cap on the tube to bend the tabs.
  12. Center the aluminum circle on the sunburst window so the visible tab edges are even and the pinhole is in the middle and not blocked.
    NOTE: If you didn’t use a Cricut to cut the foil circle, we will add the pinhole once the foil is attached.
    Align the foil circle over the center of the sunburst piece.
  13. Use tape to secure the foil to the tabs.
    Tape the edges of the foil along the folded tabs of the starburst piece.
  14. Place the sunburst window on the end of the extender tube (not near the viewer cutout) with the tabs on the outside.
    NOTE: If your sunburst window doesn’t have score lines, gently fold each tab down around the tube so the foil is centered.
  15. Use tape to secure the tabs to the exterior of the extender tube.
    Tape the starburst piece to the end of the tube.
  16. If you cut the foil by hand, use your push pin or needle to poke a clean hole in the center of the aluminum foil.
    Use a needle to poke a pinhole in the center of the foil.
  17. Hold the viewer up to the light and look inside. If you see any holes letting light in, other than the pinhole, cover them with extra bits of cardstock and tape.
  18. Use Steps 10-13 to secure the white cardstock circle to the projection screen cap.
    Tape the white circle to the inside of the other starburst piece.
  19. Make sure the tabs are folded enough that they can fit into the extender tube’s open end by the viewing cutout.
    Adjust so the shorter tabs are near the viewing window part of the tube.
  20. Insert the projection screen cap into the extender’s open end, pushing it in enough to stay in place. Rotate it so one of the shorter tabs is under the cutout.
    Insert the tabs inside the viewing tube.
    NOTE: Don’t use adhesive to keep the cap in place, because you might want to experiment with some of my viewing tips!
  21. Lay the assembled viewer on its side and make sure it’s straight.
    Taped pieces together for extended DIY eclipse viewing tube.
  22. Use duct tape to secure each of the joints between the tubes so the viewer is sturdy enough to hold up straight.
    Apply duct tape around the seams for solid assembly that blocks all light.



STEP 4: SAFETY CHECK YOUR DIY ECLIPSE VIEWER

  1. Before the day of the eclipse, hold the viewing tube up to very strong light -- sunlight is best.
  2. With the sunburst window aimed at the light, angle the viewer so you can see a pinpoint of light projected onto the white circle.
  3. If it works, you’re all set to use your viewing tube for the eclipse!
    Take the viewer outside to check the light.
    NOTE: If it’s not working, use more tape to cover any gaps that might be letting light in.



STEP 5: SAFELY USE YOUR DIY ECLIPSE VIEWER



IMPORTANT: Do not look directly at the eclipse, even while you’re getting set up.

  1. On the day of the eclipse, keep your eye looking down and point the sunburst end of the tube with the pinhole directly at the sun.
  2. To aim your tube, move it around until you see a round spot of light on the projection paper at the opposite end of your tube. That light is the projected image of the sun!
    Check the projection on the white piece of cardstock inside the viewing window.
  3. If you have trouble aiming the viewer, find your box’s shadow on the ground, then move it until the shadow is as small as possible. It should look like a perfect circle.
  4. Be sure you do not look through the pinhole at the sun! Look only at the projected image on the white paper. Once you have it in position, rest it on your shoulder if the angle works for that.
  5. If you want a larger projection view, remove the projection screen section you wedged into the bottom of your viewing tube and place a sheet of white paper on the ground.
  6. Hold your tube up, aimed at the sun and pointing down at the paper. You will see the eclipse projected onto the paper on the ground even larger than in your tube!

STEP 6: SHOW IT OFF


Remember to stay safe while enjoying the historic event!

Notes

Assembled size: Full version about 40” long and short version about 20” long.

Answers to Your Questions About Making A DIY Eclipse Viewer

Q: How can you see a solar eclipse without a pair of eclipse glasses?

A: Do not look directly at the solar eclipse without protection if you can’t get solar viewing glasses. A safe way is to use an indirect viewer like my DIY tube in this tutorial!

Q: How do eclipse pinhole projector/viewers work?

A: The idea is that a small hole in the small piece of tinfoil at one end (which is aimed at the sun) allows in enough sunlight to project an inverted image of the eclipse on the other end of the tube. This is also known as a pinhole camera, or camera obscura. It works well, even if you’re using a tube like mine, a cardboard box, or a shoe box!

Q: What can you make a DIY eclipse viewer out of?

A: Most people make their pinhole projectors out of old cardboard boxes, or even cereal boxes, which limits how big the projected image of the eclipse can be. But with my design, you can make yours as long as you wish for a larger, better image. You can estimate how big your image of the eclipse will be by multiplying the length of the tube by .01 — for example, a six-foot-long tube will project an image .072 inches in diameter (roughly ¾ inch).

Get my free SVG files to create a DIY Eclipse Viewer

I love seeing what you make with my designs and how you use them! Please share a photo of your DIY eclipse viewer in our Facebook group or tag me on social media with #jennifermaker.

Enjoy the eclipse! And if you make a viewing tube, please share your photo. Email them to me at [email protected] and we’ll share them here.

Here’s me with my DIY eclipse viewer tube in 2017!

Me holding the eclipse viewing tube

This is my favorite image from Miriam Giles — her husband was impressed with the viewer! He says, “Thank you! It worked really well.”

DIY Eclipse Viewer made by a reader

Here are more photos from readers who made and used my DIY eclipse viewer with great results!

DIY Eclipse Viewer made by a reader

DIY Eclipse Viewer made by a reader

Love,

JenniferMaker.com

Want to remember this? Save this DIY Eclipse Viewer Tutorial to your favorite Pinterest Board!

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16 Comments

  1. HI! so glad you came up with this. I was worried about my son using glasses(not that we could find any) and now he can safely view the eclipse! However, when I download the file and opened it in my silhouette I only have the one piece of the tube with a circle in it instead of the rectangle. do I use the circle as the viewing hole instead of the rectangle, thanks!

  2. Thank you, Jennifer! I am in Hastings, MI, so not too far from you. We will get 85% eclipse. I’m just hoping it’s not too cloudy. I am going to try making a tube.

  3. In the post it says for Cricut users to use the SVG download, but im not seeing it anywhere….am i blind lol

  4. Just made my viewing tube, following your excellent directions. Was pleasantly surprised to find you’re in Ann Arbor, as I attended the U of M 1956-1961 and have returned on numerous occasions to be a member of the audience in Lydia Mendelssohn for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s various productions. The Society was my main focus all five years of my U of M experience. My name is Terrell (Terry) Elbel Rodefer. If you’ll look up the name of the composer of “The Victors,” you’ll find it credited to Louis Elbel…my grandfather’s brother, i.e., my great-uncle. Uncle Louie was my piano teacher growing up in South Bend, the home of the Elbel family. Though a Hoosier, my family insisted on my going to the U of M because of Uncle Louie’s affiliation with the school. :>)

    1. Glad to hear you made your viewing tube! So good to hear you have strong ties to Ann Arbor and U of M — I love both. Ann Arbor is my home and I couldn’t be happier here. Go Blue!

  5. Thank you so much for this file and tutorial. I just put mine together this morning and held it up to the window and sun, it worked perfectly!

  6. My husband was very impressed with the tube. He says thank you!
    It worked really well. I wish I could attach a picture 🙂

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