Homemade Solar Projector vs. Buying One

Homemade Solar Projector vs. Buying One

Did you know that there’s a solar eclipse coming soon and you can see it with a homemade solar projector? It’s quite an amazing experience to stand outside amongst nature and under such an amazing solar system, and watch the sun go dark. However, you need to take some safety precautions to safely view an eclipse. Unless you’re in the path of totality; the part of the country where the Moon completely obstructs the Sun for a few moments, you’ll need to be wearing solar eclipse glasses or using a solar projector (or solar eclipse box).

Your first option for watching the eclipse is getting solar filter sunglasses. There are so many different models of these glasses available online. However, some manufacturers might be selling products that won’t provide proper protection for your eyes. The best way to ensure that your eyes are properly protected is by either checking the list of reputable manufacturers or by using a solar projector.

Solar projectors can be easily found and bought online but they can be costly.Why would you spend your hard-earned money when you can just make a solar projector by yourself. A homemade solar projector is a great choice for those who want to observe the solar eclipse safely without spending much money on the necessary equipment. (And if you’re looking for the related product of solar system projectors, click here!)

We’ve prepared three different types of homemade solar projectors for watching the solar eclipse, that you can DIY. These are easy to do by yourself or with children or friends. If you’re not a fan of DIY projects, then purchasing a solar projector might be a great investment for you to enjoy many eclipses to come. However, if you love spending time making crafts and projects, then feel free to try out these options:

The Simplest Homemade Solar Projector

The Simplest Homemade Solar Projector

There are so many different ways to make a solar projector. The simplest one would be a pinhole projector. In order to make it, you need only two items: something that has a pinhole in it and something you can project the image on. If you’re in a rush, you can simply take two pieces of stiff paper, such as card stock or paper plates. You can even use regular printer paper. Then, poke a pinhole in one of the papers with a pin. If you are really in a pinch, you can even ditch the paper and make the projector by curling your finger so that only a pinprick of light can go through. (Want to make a solar system model yourself? Click that link!)

How to Use The Pinhole Projector

The first thing you should keep in mind is that you should never look at the Sun directly, not even through the pinhole. With safety covered first, here is how to use your pinhole projector to observe the solar eclipse.
Take the paper with a pinhole and hold it up so that the sunlight can shine through it. Then, take the other paper and place it on the ground so you can use it as a screen. You can also project the sunlight on a wall. What you should see is the image of the obscured Sun, without doing any harm to your eyes. If this is too simple for you, then keep reading to find out how to make a slightly more advanced solar projector.

Cardboard Box Solar Projector

In order to make this projector, you’ll need a bit more time and resources than just two pieces of paper, or your hand. Here is what you’ll need to make a cardboard pinhole projector:

  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Pin/Thumbtack
  • Sheet of white paper
  • Cardboard box

The first thing you need to do is take the cardboard box (e.g. cereal box) and trace its bottom on the paper. Then, cut out the rectangle you traced on the paper and make sure to tape it to the bottom of the inside of the box. You will use this as your projection screen.

Once complete, close the top of the box and cut two holes. The holes should be along the left and right edges of the top panel. Then, take a small piece of aluminum foil to cover one of the holes and tape the foil. Then, poke a hole in the middle of the foil.

How to Use the Cardboard Box Solar Projector

Using this solar projector is very simple. Take it outside, face away from the Sun, and make sure that the sunlight shines into the pinhole. Then, take a look through the hole you didn’t cover with foil, and you should see the projection of the Sun on the paper inside the box. Keep in mind that the larger your box is, the larger the projection will be.
If you plan to look at the solar eclipse with your friends, then maybe you should skip using the cardboard box and use two pieces of paper instead. This projector is better for individual viewing and the image of the Sun will be more vivid inside your box. You can also try making a cardboard pinhole projector for all your friends, or encourage them to join you in making their own cardboard solar projectors.

Advanced Homemade Solar Projector

Advanced Homemade Solar Projector

If you love doing DIY projects and you have the time and the materials needed, then this homemade solar projector is an excellent choice for you. Not only will it provide protection for your eyes, but it will also allow several people to gather around it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Scrap plywood
  • Foam Board
  • Screws
  • Rubberbands
  • Spotting scope or camera lens

Making this solar projector is not hard if you have all the materials. The basic idea is to make a holder for the scope and place the foam board in line with it. Then, cut two square pieces of plywood and cut a circle in each one. This will hold the scope in place. In order to connect the two squares together, use a narrow strip of plywood and screw the squares into it. Then, attach another piece of plywood with screws and foam board to it as well.

You should turn the end of the scope or lens towards the sun and the section you use to look through should be projected towards the white screen. To secure the scope additionally, you can place a few screws on the plywood pieces and then use some rubber bands. Add some more cardboard on top of the plywood to block the Sun as much as possible. You can hold the solar projector on your shoulder or use a tripod. (Want to learn how to make a solar-powered clock? Click here!)

How to Use The Advanced DIY Solar Projector

If you use a spotting scope, you can focus the image on the scope and zoom in/out when necessary. If you use a camera lens instead, you may need to adjust the distance of the lens in relation to the white board. You can even use a pair of binoculars, but make sure that the distance between the binoculars and the white board is greater.

This solar projector will allow you to see a much larger image of the Sun than a pinhole projector. In addition, the image will be much better than the one you see when using solar filter sunglasses.

How Do Pinhole Solar Projectors Actually Work?

Now that you know that there are several ways to make a solar projector, it’s time for you to find out how this device actually works. Pinhole solar projectors take advantage of something called the camera obscura effect.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what this term means because we are about to explain it to you. Light travels in a straight line. When a light illuminates an object, it will bounce off of it in a straight line. The pinhole allows only a small amount of reflection through and enables an image to be formed onto the other side of the hole. Lenses work similarly to this principle.
The same thing happens during a solar eclipse. The illuminated objects are the Sun and the Moon. Your lens is a homemade solar projector, and the surface can be anything you project the image onto.


Making a solar projector can be a quick and fun project for kids but also for adults. It will allow you to observe the upcoming solar eclipse without having to spend money on solar filter glasses or manufactured solar projectors. However, if you find these DIY projects a bit troublesome or you lack some of the materials, then you can always go shopping. Just make sure that you buy certified products that will protect your eyes from the sunlight properly. (Looking for more cool solar-themed products? Click here to see the best orreries.)

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