Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Helmet!

      Alllllllllllrighty then, onwards, to the pièce de résistance!! The Rocketeer's iconic helmet!

      I spent quite a bit of time brainstorming on this one. I had never constructed anything even remotely close to this level of prop making before. One of the first ideas I thought of was paper mache but decided against it for various reasons. Next idea I came across was to buy a motorcycle or paintball helmet, spray paint it gold and glue a cardboard fin on. I discounted this one because most of those helmets don't have the proper shape and I wanted to try and get something a little more accurate. Then I came across something called Pepakura (I believe I first found it through Youtube). Pepakura is a program dealing with paper craft. There's Pepakura Viewer and Pepakura Designer,  they basically allow you to take a 3D object, break it up into 2D puzzle pieces that you can print off on some card stock, and then cut and paste together to re-create that original 3D object. AMAZING (and usually pretty accurate)!!

      Now, since I have no idea how to make a 3D model I had to find the file for it online. For the life of me I cannot remember the site I found it on (I spent a loooot of time Googling that one), however credit to roadwarrior for doing the 3D model and nintendude for unfolding it!! After finally discovering and downloading it I excitedly printed it off, spent a few hours cutting it all out and a few more hours gluing it all together again....and that's where I ran into my first problem. The helmet was huuuuuuuuggggeeee! No human head would ever fill that helmet. So, a little discouraged, I went to Youtube searching for some videos on how to scale things in Pepakura.

     Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a magical equation to solve all our scaling problems. The best advice I had (for scaling helmets anyways) is to make it fit the widest part of your head, so the width from ear to ear. After measuring (to the best of my ability) I put that measurement into Pepakura and printed it off again. This time it fit a heck of a lot better, I probably could have even gone a bit smaller but I didn't want to have to print it off and start it all over again for "a bit."

      After the Pepakura process it's time to resin and fiber glass it (another process I was completely unfamiliar with). Since I have never worked with either material before I spent a lot of time on Youtube and in forums looking up how to work with them and any safety precautions related to it....whhhiiiiiiich led me to buy a respirator. It may be about $50 but really, invest in a good respirator if you plan on working with these things!!! Your lungs will thank you.

     SO! After picking up some polyester resin (stiiiinky stuff) and cloth fiberglass from my local hardware store I set to work. The resin comes in two parts: the resin and a catalyst that hardens the resin as it dries. Only make small batches at a time because it goes quick. Following the directions, you mix about a 1/4 cup of resin with a few drops of hardener, give it a quick stir, and take a cheap brush (cuz you won't be getting it back!) and slosh it all over the outside of the card stock. After it had dried I hot glued a piece of foam board on for the fin of the helmet because it was the proper thickness. It ended up making it sturdy enough that i didn't really need to resin it....but I put a thin coat on it anyways. After it all dried I flipped it over, placed cut up squares of the fiberglass cloth on the inside and "glued" it on with more resin. When all that dries it becomes hard as a rock.

     Before moving onto the next process you need to cut off any excess resined fiber glass. It's good to have some overhang with your fiberglass as it helps keep your build strong.  I borrowed my boyfriends dremel tool and used it to cut off the excess fiberglass around the eye holes, the mouth piece, and the bottom sections and smooth out some of the inside of the helmet. Fiberglass can poke and pierce you if ya just leave it - and no one wants that!

     Next up is Bondo-ing it.You can pick it up at any hardware store or auto body shop. Again, it comes in two parts like the resin.  A tub of liquidy clay looking stuff and a small tube of hardener. Before applying, its a good idea to lightly sand the resin on the outside a bit so the Bondo has a better surface to adhere to.  After it's mixed up use a piece of cardboard or plastic to spread as thin a coat as you can over the surface of the helmet. This is A LOT harder to do than it looks!! My respect to those who work with this stuff for a living! Once its dry you sand...and there was lots and lots and lots of sanding. Then I did another layer and some more sanding. I would have liked to have put another layer of Bondo on, but was running out of time quickly so decided to do a patch job on the parts that just needed to be evened out most.

     After all the sanding I still needed to do some detailing that the Pep file had left out (the lines on the sides and the little bolts around the eye holes). I used an epoxy putty/clay that when activated hardens in a few minutes and while it feels like a rock when dry you can actually sand it down. You can buy this stuff in tubs but the one that was most readily available to me (again, by this point I was running low on time) I got from Canadian Tire called Mighty Putty (as seen on TV!). I rolled it out thin and placed it all around the helmet. For the bolts I just rolled little balls of clay and stuck 'em on - fairly simple.

     Finishing touches! I started with a black primer spray paint as an undercoat and then finished it off with an antique gold. For the lenses I originally thought I was going to use those big clown glasses from the dollar store and just glue them in. But of course, when I need something I can never find it.  So I ended up buying those cheesey over sized Elvis glasses (also from the dollar store) and then placed window tint film over top of it.  They didn't fit perfectly but it was pretty good for a first try. After that I used a piece of leather from the purse I used for my rocket pack straps to make a chin strap (just hot glue it in).

     And that was that. I popped it on and went to the con. Had some great reactions from those who knew the character. Lots of fun and a great learning experience. Can't wait for my next project!

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