How to Make a Lens from Scratch (Like, Literally Rocks and Sand)
This is the DIY film gear project of the year...and it'll probably take you all year to do it.
Just a heads up, guys...you are most certainly not going to do this DIY project. I wouldn't even advise it unless you had the expertise and the incredible resolve of Andy George, a YouTuber whose channel, How to Make Everything, is literally dedicated to making everything from scratch, including plastic, drums, and even toothbrushes.
In this video, Andy uses his experience making a pinhole camera and clear glass out of raw materials to build his very own zoom lens.
Another heads up, guys...this video is brutal. Definitely fascinating, but brutal.
As you saw in the video, the end result of all of Andy's labor is a rough but amazing zoom lens. Unfortunately, it took a tumble before he could show it to us, so this big ol' crack obscures the otherwise impressive but also kind of appropriate appearance of this DIY lens.
It's absolutely incredible to watch someone mine, extract, and melt down copper, and then use borax, sand, and soda ash, all of which Andy collected himself, to make glass, but damn...knowing that it took months of grueling work, dozens of attempts, and over 30 hours of just...glass grinding to produce this lens is...I don't know how to put it into words. I feel like I just worked a full day watching this video.
And here is the final image.
On the surface, the image quality is...I mean...you know. But think about it! This guy went out and collected all of these raw materials and did all of these very complicated manufacturing and production processes by himself. Granted, he had a little help from an optical science student, a 3D printer, and a metal CNC machine, but the last two only came into play after several very frustrating failed attempts.
If you want to see how Andy made the other elements of this build, check out these videos, including how he built a wooden pinhole camera and clear glass.
So, kudos to Andy! May we never take for granted the incredible study, advancement, and work that goes into creating the pieces of filmmaking equipment we use every day.