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How To Use a Shoebox To Make a Solar Eclipse Viewer

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Two Scouts using their viewers to indirectly watch the solar eclipse

Looking directly at the sun can injure your eyes, but if you want to watch the eclipse, you can safely view it indirectly with this shoebox solar viewer.

Don’t have a shoebox on hand? Make this cereal box eclipse viewer instead!

This type of viewer is also known as a pinhole projection because the image of the eclipse is projected through the pinhole onto the viewing surface. You will be looking at a projection of the eclipse instead of looking directly at the sun.


  • Small box with a lid (A shoebox is perfect.)
  • Small piece of aluminum foil
  • Small sheet of white paper
  • Utility knife or hobby knife
  • Tape
  • Needle or sharpened pencil


Join us at noon Central time April 8 for an eclipse party! We’ll have solar eclipse-themed crafts, special guests and astronomical fun as we watch this historic event sweep the nation.

Watch the show on the Scout Life Facebook page and YouTube channel.


Utility knife cutting hole in shoebox

Step 1: Cut a 1-inch square hole in the lower right corner of your shoebox.

Taping foil over the hole in the shoebox

Step 2: Tape the foil over the square.

Using a pencil to poke a hole in the foil

Step 3: Poke a pinhole in the center of the foil. The pinhole is where the sun will shine through.

Taping a piece of white paper inside the box to use as a projection screen

Step 4: Tape a small piece of white paper inside of the box directly across from the foil-covered square. This is the projection screen where the image will appear.

Cutting a second hole in the shoebox to use as a viewing hole

Step 5: On the same side as the foil-covered square, cut another 1-inch square in the opposite corner. This is the viewing hole. You will be able to see the white paper through this hole.

Completed shoebox eclipse viewer

Step 6: With the lid closed, stand with your back to the sun and look through the viewing hole. Focus the sunlight through the pinhole and onto the white paper.

Decorated solar eclipse viewer

Step 7: Personalize your solar eclipse viewer using wrapping paper, markers, paint and more before using it.


Looking directly at the sun is like using a magnifying glass to burn a piece of paper. The sunlight is focused onto the back of your eye. The film in the back of your eye is called the retina, and it can easily be damaged without your knowledge. The retina of your eye does not have pain receptors, so you won’t even feel the damage being done. You might not know that you have damaged your vision until much later.


Check out these photos of the completed project sent to us by Scout Life readers. If you have a photos of a SL Workshop project, please use the form below to send them to us.

Submit a Photo of Your Project

Important Note: Please only upload photos of your project. Because of privacy rules, we can't post any photos that show people's faces. Always ask for your parent's permission before uploading anything to a website.

32 Comments on How To Use a Shoebox To Make a Solar Eclipse Viewer

  1. The video doesn’t match the instructions. The video shows the viewing hole on a different side of the box than the instructions.

  2. The step-by-step instructions are correct, and show the proper way to make the viewer.
    The Video is INCORRECT – both holes should be on the same end of the box!!

  3. rainbow hobo // August 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm // Reply

    I missed the eclipse.Wish I could have seen it.It’s kind of a once in a lifetime thing.:(

  4. We made two boxes and they both worked great!! –Thanks

  5. The viewing hole needs to be on the same side as the foil covered opening or you can”t see the paper/eclipse!

  6. ROB – no, #5 says to stand with your back to the sun. Although you are looking thru the side hole, you are not spinning the box around or your back. Try putting your back to the sun, resting the box on your shoulder with pin hole also facing the sun. and the viewing hole will be close to the side of your face so you can glance into the viewing hole. There’s a video link too, it shows back to the sun.

  7. It was very easy to make I hope it works

  8. No Nick Name // August 20, 2017 at 8:13 pm // Reply

    Thanks for sharing this easy to make at home project to safely
    Be able to view the eclipse without having the glasses which may or may not be the correct glasses to use. It is hard to believe that prople would manufacture unfit glasses to view the eclipse knowingly ruining thousands of peoples eyes, young and old. This project is easy and we know it will not be harming anyone’s eyes. Thank you for your post.

  9. Thanks. Glasses were sold out last week. I’ll make this instead.

  10. Unfortunately Scouts here in Indiana will be locked down in school with the shades drawn, and will not be able to earn an Eclipse reward. They say its for their ” safety ” .

  11. Mr.V Troop 62 // August 20, 2017 at 9:52 am // Reply

    I don’t understand this: if my back is to the sun and I’m looking into the side of the box, then wouldn’t the pinhole be orthogonal to the sun? Also, if I’m looking into the side of the box, then I’d see the inside of the other side of the box, which is not where the projected image of the sun is supposed to be.

  12. It was very easy to make! Hope it works!

  13. George from Riga // August 19, 2017 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    Instead of cutting a hole in the side of the box, I wonder if one uses tracing paper in liu of the white paper and cut a hole where the white paper was to go. This should create a rear screen image of the sun from the pin hole in the foil.

  14. Box already has a hole :) // August 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm // Reply

    Does it matter if it’s the lower right or lower left for the square with the foil as long as I put the white paper on the opposite side and viewing square on the same side?

  15. Is it safe to take the lid off the shoe top and look through there? I remember being young when there was a partial eclipse and we made viewers like this in school. And I thought we removed the lid.

    • If you remove the lid, then you will flood the box with outside light. You will be unable to see the Solar Eclipse if you remove the lid. I recommend not removing the lid. Have a nice weekend, and I hope this helps.

    • TROTTER – It does not matter which side… i am putting all holes and papers on the left instead of right because my box already has a 1 inch hole on the lower left of box. It’s just a pinhole and image.

  16. Thank you!! I was not able to find the glasses.

    • It’s okay to do so. You may have a better image with lid on less outside light inerference. Only look at the projection sheet of course.

    • its safe however the light coming in from the top of the box will make it harder to see the image of the sun

  17. Shoeboxes cause cancer.

  18. Texas Math Teacher // August 17, 2017 at 7:32 pm // Reply

    Thanks for the instructions. We will be taking our high school students or on the first day of school to see the partial e eclipse and now I can actually view it.

  19. Rebelrose67 // August 17, 2017 at 7:24 pm // Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait ’til the 21st to try it out!

  20. Just made two. Checked it with lamp. Very easy. Thanks for the info

  21. Thank you– getting ton’s of people wanting to use the “glasses”– still not sure I’d trust my kid’s vision to them. Glad to have this low-tech answer

  22. According to these instructions it seems you need to stand with the sun at your side not at your back. Hmmmm….

  23. I am unable to go see the eclipse, so I appreciate the instructions on the eclipse viewer. Much nicer than the “pinhole in the paper” from years ago!😀 my grandson is in troop 945😉 thank you!

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