Mask design for slightly better breathing and talking

September 11, 2020

I don’t know how well this actually works; it seems better to me, but since I am biased I don’t trust that.  I made a few for other people and nobody (except my neighbor’s daughter, who is perhaps being polite, but it I notice that hers hangs from the mirror in her car) has declared that it was awesome.  Nonetheless, with “normal” masks people have complained about speaking, complained about breathing (especially jogging and riding a bike) and this really does seem better to me.

First, a picture, so you can see what I put on my face:


Two straps, one an elastic (13”) behind your head, the other a shoelace cut in half and joined with a cord-lock behind the neck.  A nose wire to seal below the eyes, and darts to make it go under your chin.  This mask seals pretty tight and is not designed to be super easy to move up and down, though you can get it off your head with one hand (grab the cord lock at your neck, loosen, bring same hand around to grab your glasses, lift glasses and mask off your head, put glasses back on).

And, unlike most masks, a pointy noise that is held away from your mouth by a pair of coffee stirrers (5.5” long).  The pointy nose adds surface area and the sticks prevent it from collapsing when you inhale hard, as you might riding a bike or running, and as I am doing in this picture.

My current plan is to make most of these out of normal fabrics, nothing fancy (the one in the picture is 700 TPI cotton, and yes you can breathe okay through that until the mask gets sweaty.  It is a little more work; I later modified the mask in the picture to include a second elastic so that I didn’t lift it off my face exhaling, and then wore that mask for 6 miles riding a bike on a hot day.  But regular cotton is easier).  For personal protection, you can also make these out of Halyard H600, if you can get some (I have some).  Halyard’s not washable; one thing I’ve consider doing is just sewing a mask without the props out of Halyard and just put that on over whatever I am wearing when I go into a store, so I wear it only when I really need it protect myself.  Halyard is very good (it’s “medical wrap”).

And yes, it looks a little odd.  I don’t care, consider the situation that we find ourselves in and the fucking idiots that got us into it.  I want a mask I can wear, period, without running out of breath when I ride a loaded bike up a hill.  I think it also helps with talking, since my mouth is not directly against fabric.

So, what if you wanted to make one of these?  Here’s the pattern, at 100% and 110% (I wear 110%; I have a big head).  It is based on a design from the University of Florida Med School, but different fabric, different straps, and of course the most excellent pointy nose.

I made a bunch of pictures while I was sewing up a mask; ignore the fabrics (3 layers, different fabrics, polyester bike jersey is really a pain to work with), look at the sewing steps.  They are similar to the ones in the original UF design.

It’s possible, if you are good at sewing, to make most of the fuzzy edge be inside the mask.  I have managed to do that.  It is a little nicer that way.

And, also, if your mask gets wet enough (drenched in a rainstorm, for example) it’s just not possible to wear it.  The air can’t get through.

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