We have developed a system to measure the directional thermal emission from a surface, and in turn, calculate its emissivity. This approach avoids inaccuracies sometimes encountered with the traditional method for calculating emissivity, which relies upon subtracting the measured total reflectivity and total transmissivity from unity. Typical total reflectivity measurements suffer from an inability to detect backscattered light, and may not be accurate for high angles of incidence. Our design allows us to vary the measurement angle (θ) from near-normal to ~80°, and can accommodate samples as small as 7 mm on a side by controlling the sample interrogation area. The sample mount is open-backed to eliminate shine-through, can be heated up to 200 °C, and is kept under vacuum to avoid oxidizing the sample. A cold shield reduces the background noise and stray signals reflected off the sample. We describe the strengths, weaknesses, trade-offs, and limitations of our system design, data analysis methods, the measurement process, and present the results of our validation of this Variable-Angle Directional Emissometer.© (2008) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.