How to make your own camera lens from sand and rocks

Originally published at:


Tune in next week when we make a coffee mug out of compressed layers of toilet paper.


If the procedure involves 30 hours of grinding I’d say it’s from lots of scratch.


“My first orbiting space station was made entirely from old socks and vaseline.”


May I interest you in this patent?

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Yeah, but did he do it in a cave?


Isn’t the point of “I made this cool thing” the opportunity to say “tremble before my l33t skillz”? Not “this was really hard and I performed poorly, but ta-da!” Especially since it’s not that long ago that these things were being made this way with 1% of his available resources (rounding up.) Although that seems uncharitable. You did a hard thing, kudos!


It’s projects like this that really help(though probably not enough to grasp anything like the full extent of it) you appreciate the amount of sophistication involved in the bulk production of relatively ‘low tech’ materials to high standards:

There are some things that one probably also can’t appreciate without some subject matter knowledge; but which are visibly “this is serious business”. Like microchips.

Something like glass(especially ‘basic’ soda-lime rather than some erbium-doped fiber amplifier stuff) or structural steel, or sulfuric acid, though, has a recipe that’s fairly simple to summarize and pretty old; but society as we know it depends on being able to order it in highly repeatable quality by the ton; then when you actually try to make the recipe this happens.


I dunno. It can be quite dispiriting when all the videos/blog posts are “tremble before my leet skillz”.

It’s kinda nice to have someone doing something that doesn’t turn out absolutely perfect. Gives hope to those of us not equipped with leet skillz.


You’re right.

And it strikes me that for someone for whom “sneery” is the default mode I find it very difficult to detect in others. Oh well.

From a box of scraps?

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bit disingenuous to use that still since it’s just a video thru the ground glass, not an image of the actual photos it takes thru the lens

“Disingenuous”? Doesn’t seem at all insincere to me. The caption on that still in the linked story is “A still frame from video shot through the lens”, which is to say… an actual photo it takes thru the lens.

Just please don’t upcycle used toilet paper in this way.

Next up: he makes his own film from scratch (I don’t expect him to make a digital camera from scratch.)

This is a second hand story so take it with as many grains of NACL as you wish,

In the 90s I worked with a guy who said he served in the Marines and did his tour with noted Paleontologist Jack Horner. He claimed that Mr Horner was making his own telescope and spent hours grinding by hand his lenses.

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at the end of the video he does say he plans to do just that :slight_smile:

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no that’s the image you see if you look at the viewfinder of the camera with your eyes. it isn’t an accurate reflection of the lens quality at all and makes it look even harder than it really is to make a lens. Maybe disingenuous is a bit strong tho.