How to Make Night Vision Binoculars
Night vision gadgets can be quite expensive. There are also plenty of affordable options, but the cheaper they are the less productive they are. That’s not to say that such devices aren’t capable of rendering decent detail up close or from a few dozen yards away.
If you understand how night vision works, you may be tempted to make your own version of a night vision optical device. The question is, should you do it? It can be a fun DIY project to help you better understand how infrared light works. From that standpoint, it’s not a bad idea.
However, if you want to make your own device just for the purpose of saving money, you’re not on the right track. Unless you have high-end tools and high-end components at your disposal, as well as a good grasp of optics and night vision technology, the chances of making your own effective night vision gadget are slim.
Is It Hard to Make Your Own Night Vision Binoculars?
Binoculars pose a particular difficulty because even advanced versions of Gen 3 or Gen 3+ night vision models don’t react the way you would expect. Even the best night vision binoculars don’t have half the range of some classic binoculars. The technology just isn’t there yet to allow you to see in infrared at a high resolution, say for objects that are 1,000 yards away.
That doesn’t mean you can’t retrofit your regular binoculars with night vision features. It just means that you shouldn’t expect them to dazzle you with their performance. Here are the components needed.
DIY Night Vision Binoculars Parts and Tools
Let’s start out with the obvious – a pair of binoculars. Because you’ll be making a very basic night vision gadget, you don’t need the most expensive binoculars in the world. Any decent pair will do for the purpose of this experiment.
What makes the night vision concept work? It starts with infrared lighting. You need a source of infrared light, such as infrared LEDs found in remote controls. But before you start taking apart your own remote controller, try taking a trip to a local hardware or electrical parts store. While there, also get a 9V battery, wire cutters, and a wire with a battery clip attachment.
This will allow you to make a small-scale infrared torch. The light will be invisible to the naked eye, but because of the special gel coatings which you’ll apply to the lenses of your binoculars, you’ll be able to see the objects that reflect the flight.
Now, this requires a power source. You’ll need more than a few LEDs and perhaps even more batteries if you want to see further away.
You will also need blue and red theatrical gels. They’re easy to find and order online. They are used to create the filters which allow you to see infrared light. Cut pieces of gel to match the contour of the lenses. Make sure the binoculars can be taken apart or look up the info on how to take them apart.
Glue the red gel on the exterior and the blue gel on the interior of the objective lens. Use the outside edge to do this and make sure to align the gels properly in order to filter all the light and not have any blank spots on the rendered image.
Once that’s done, simply put the lenses back into the binoculars.
How to Position the IR Torch
Moving back to the IR torch. Assuming that your circuitry is working and all the LEDs are in place, it’s time to think about positioning. If you were making goggles you’d have an easier time. For a pair of DIY night vision goggles, all you have to do is glue the LEDs on the exterior edges of the frames and position them to point outwards.
That way the LEDs can shine their light on everything around you. However, binoculars are intended for long range. So you do you fix this? One way would be to intensify the IR light; that’s the concept behind commercial and military night vision devices.
For a rudimentary home project, you’re left with one option – increase the number of LEDs and encase them in a small opaque tube. That way you’re able to concentrate the IR beam on a smaller area and enhance the range. You may also want to position the IR torch in between the front eyepieces if possible.
A Final Thought
While this is by no means a pair of very effective night vision binoculars, they will work for small distances. The image will be grainy but you should achieve the desired green image and sufficient detail provided that your LEDs are numerous and powerful enough and you’ve applied the gel coatings correctly.