Sunday, June 28, 2015

DIY Protoman Helmets





How I build Protoman Helmets


Abstract: Create Protoman Cosplay from Cheap Motorcycle Helmets
Status: Complete (This article is WIP)
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YA-5JL1a94
Surprise! 4 years in the making, I'm finally sitting down to type this out and provide video and photos all in one place. It's a work-in-progress, so please give feedback.



Part of the reason this never surfaced is because all my helmets were extreme rush jobs (because I can't figure out how time works) and I didn't take as much/many video/photographs as I really wanted in any job. I prefer to do DIY articles/videos showing you every single step so you don't have to use your imagination, but sadly this DIY guide might be a little below my ideal for that reason. However, if someone is having trouble using this guide, it will just need to be updated to fill the gaps.  Create a dialogue.  Become bros and fix things.  Etc.


Materials

  1. One cheap or old Motorcycle helmet. We used an IV2 helmet that costs -$50 on Amazon.
  2. Short-strand plastic body filler OR resin and fiberglass mat. $15 (both)
    1. Short Strand Body Filler is short pieces of fiberglass mat inside fiberglass body filler. Body filler is just body filler paste, and resin is a syrup-like compound that hardens like amber. To fix fiberglass patches, for example, you use resin and mat together to create a very hard surface by hardening fibers with a glue-like compund. Creating custom fiberglass pieces involves all three, and you may choose to buy all three for the best product.
  3. Plastic body filler (no fiberglass, no strands, just the putty) $5
  4. Plastic sink drain stop (plumbing section of wal-mart). $3
  5. Either a 3 inch PVC end cap OR 4-to-3 inch PVC pipe coupler (Home Depot) $7
  6. 3M velcro strips $4
  7. 3M Double sided foam tape OR 3M 4010 outdoor double stick tape (stronger) $7
  8. Hot glue for wiring $9
  9. JB Weld for glueing the PVC to the drains (you can substitute plastic body filler here). $5
  10. LEDs (I bought Microtivity 5mm diffused, pure green, 3 volt IL133's with resistors together) $6
  11. Wire, I prefer to use single core wire because you have to coil it into the ears. (Check Radioshack)
  12. Switch, just a regular double pole switch to function as an ON/OFF for the LEDs (Check Radioshack)
  13. Heat shrink tubing ($4 Roll in Home Depot)
  14. Electrical tape (Check Radio Shack)
  15. Rosin core solder (Check Radio Shack)
  16. Dremel cutting wheels (the fiber wheels work best) $8/pack
  17. EITHER spray on (Nite Lights) tint or windshield stick-on tint (comes in rolls) or a pre-tinted visor. The IV2 we selected comes with both a clear and tinted visor., but for any project you can always order a spare IV2 that's tinted for about $14 dollars on eBay. $10/15
  18. CosplaySupplies sells Wonderflex. That stuff is perfect for the white pieces OR use EVA foam that you glass over and make more solid. $20 at Cosplay Supplies/$14.20 on Ebay
  19. Lexan or other tough acrylic glass that is shatter resistant. Do NOT use regular glass. (Check Home Depot)
  20. OPTIONAL plasti-dip to dip the inside ends of the helmet around your face
  21. OPTIONAL suede or other cloth to glue into the helmet to cover up places we cut
  22. Spray paint—I prefer Rustoleum Safety Red enamel (Safety Red 7564) one can might do you, they're oversized. $5
  23. High build primer, duplicolor or rustoleum $5
  24. Krylon or other matte or glossy clear coat $4
  25. Krylon matte white for plastic, 1-2 cans depending on mistakes/touch ups. $4
  26. Krylon green gloss for plastic, this is to paint the lexan $4
  27. Large roll of painter's tape $6
    Total Cost of Materials will be 250-300

Tools

  1. Dremel or other rotary tool (with cutting wheels)
  2.  Hot Glue gun
  3. Safety glasses or goggles, goggles work best.
  4. Respirator for painting, respirator for sanding, usually you can't get one that does both
  5. Plastic/rubber gloves
  6. Sanding block
  7. X-Acto or other utility knives, razor blades
  8. Wire strippers
  9. Heat gun or hair dryer
  10. Spreaders for plastic body filler (in the car care aisle at Walmart)
  11. A dish of water for wet sanding, I use an old food container
     

Consumables

  1. Sand paper (you will need 180/240, 400ish, 600 ish, and then 1200-2000 for wet sanding)
  2. Paper towels
  3. Newspaper to mask things off

Getting Started

Measure your head. Measure your whole goddamn head, and find a size chart for the helmet you have selected if you're ordering online. This is pretty important, and it's on you to figure it out. At worst, you can find a similarly sized helmet in a motorcycle shop and try it on. 

Once you have your helmet in-hand, take a good look at it. You will probably want a sharpie or something semi-permanent to draw on the helmet, and write on there what you need to remove or change. I circled all the vents on mine and drew X's wherever I needed to cut things. I planned out how to cut out the mouth piece and drew it directly onto the helmet.  I carefully measured out equal distance from direct center, then traced lines on the helmet.  Alternatively, tape over your helmet and draw on the tape. This will help you keep your bearings once you start working on the helmet.

Disassembly


The first real step is to disassemble the helmet. Grab your phone or a camera, and every time you remove something, take a photo. This will help you remember how it went together and the order in which you need to re-assemble the helmet. I usually take off the visor, which might require a screw driver, and the visor locking assembly, if you can at this point. After that, I remove the insides of the helmet using a flat head screwdriver and a utility knife, if needed. To remove the foam padding, sit down on the floor, hold the helmet between your legs, and work the foam out by flexing the helmet body. Try not to crack your foam, you will need to re-use this. In the past, I have also heated the outside of the helmet with a heat gun, lightly, to loosen any glue inside holding the foam. This trick will be paramount for later during re assembly, because flexing the helmet after filler and paint will damage it.

At this point, your helmet should be mostly disassembled. Likely, you will have vents and your D ring chin straps attached still. Usually, you can use a phillips and a flat head screwdriver to remove the vents, but the chin straps are often riveted in. In the video, I explain that you can use a dremel or a drill. If your rivets are extra thick, you will probably need a drill press...but I was in a pinch and dug out the dremel and made deep X-cuts into the rivet head, and used pliers to pull out the steel rivets. If you cut the helmet you can always patch it.

Cutting


Ok, your helmet should be stripped down to just a shell at this point. Look at your notes on the helmet, determine where you want to make the mouth cuts. Double check yourself in the mirror to make sure the cuts aren't too big. If you make them more shallow you can always trim them back further. To make your cuts, you can use a variety of tools. I used a air-powered reciprocating saw, but you can also use a fine toothed hacksaw or the dremel cutoff wheels. Be careful if you use the dremel, as cutting this material will cause it to melt and fling hot shit into your eyes. Also, be sure to periodically cool your disc as you cut, or it will gum up and break apart, thus flinging sharp, hot shit into your eyes. Wear goggles.

So, trace your cuts onto your helmet with a marker, then begin your cuts from the top to the bottom. After your cuts are made and your mouth piece is removed, sand down your edges and test fit again in a mirror. Repeat until you're happy with the fitment. Take some rough grit sandpaper or a dremel sanding wheel and rough sand everywhere where you will need to add filler. It needs to be scored rough for filler to stick. You are going to fill in the area where the visor locks in, any vents, and any holes.

Sanding


Grab your sandpaper. Sand your entire helmet down to the bare material. Do not use rough sand paper on the entire helmet like you did with the fill spots, use something like 400 grit. I used a disc sander and an air compressor, but I have also previously used just my hands and a sanding block for flat areas. The coatings on helmets are different, but matte coatings are a little more difficult to remove. The dust is gnarly, so use your dust mask. Helmets are coated in lots of heavy coats with thick material, so this could take a while. Be patient and try not to create flat spots on curved areas.

Filling

When sanding is done and you're at bare material, clean it thoroughly. You will need to get out your short strand glass now, or your fiberglass and mat. I suggest using the can of short-strand fiberglass filler if you're a novice, it's easier to work with and has fewer steps and requires fewer tools. Check the instructions on the can, but basically you need to pour some filler onto some cardboard or wax paper, mix in your hardener (not too much!) and use a spreader to spread it over the areas you need to fill in. We are using short strand to fill in the large holes around the visor because it's stronger, and if you're filling in large areas regular plastic body fill could crack and fall apart. Do a few rounds of the short strand until you're relatively happy with your fill job. Be careful not to get air bubbles. I usually stop short of filling them all the way in to the rim, sand the glass fibers back some, and apply a top coat of regular body filler on the top because it's smoother and will show fewer mistakes. Be sure to clean your helmet if you sand between coats, you don't want dust settled onto where you're applying the filler—it won't stick and will ruin your job. For smaller holes/divots, it's OK to just use body filler, in fact, that's what it's for.. For holes, stop the back of the hole up with tape, then just add filler to the other side.

Once all your filler is dry (which is relatively soon) you can start to sand it all back. I use a regular 3m sanding block you can get at walmart and 400-600 grit sandpaper. Start rougher and go smoother. You don't need it to be super duper smooth just yet. You're going to want to, once again, clean your helmet off very well. I usually just use water and then go over it with light alcohol or grease remover, such as DX330. To keep it super clean, wear clean gloves that do not have powder on them. Any fingerprints will damage your paint job, and if you were just using filler, you are going to leave fingerprints.

Primer

When I work in my dad's shop, he has several tools and materials I get access to that most people don't get. One of these is the expensive PPG Plastic Adhesion Promoter spray. This isn't necessary, but if you have access to a spray of that type, spray a thin coat on your helmet now. If not, just take your high-build primer, and spray a thin coat. Check the directions on the can, but I usually do 3 coats, 2 thin, one medium, and let it dry per directions. You can also find adhesion promoters in places like Advance Auto nowadays, and it works almost as good.

Once dried, your primer should have revealed imperfections and pin holes in your helmet.
Good news! You now get to sand back your primer until smooth, using 600 grit sandpaper. Find all your pinholes and poke them with a utility knife. This ensures you dont try to fill in a hole with thin walls that will just crack open later. Air bubbles will create convex holes, so you need to cut the holes out more cleanly. (Maybe make an illustration) Clean the helmet. Take your body filler and fill your small imperfections. Wait, sand, clean again. If you think it could use it, go ahead and put another medium coat of primer on the helmet and sand back down smooth. This ensures a clean, even paint job later.

Do the Head Piece

Choose either EVA foam or Wonderflex.  The most recent helmet was made with EVA foam, the other two were wonderflex.  Wonderflex is a thin sheet of foam material with cloth netting that is shaped with heat.  It doesn't take to paint all that well without lots of treatment with bondo or another compound.  EVA foam requires you to coat the entire piece in fiberglass if you want something rigid that won't crack, otherwise you're at the mercy of the quality of each piece if you try to paint over it.  I prefer EVA foam now because it's easier to assemble from multiple parts, and with a coating of fiberglass on all sides, it becomes quite rigid and thick.

If you're doing wonderflex...
Grab your wonderflex and a felt pen. Tape over your helmet, where the white head piece would go above the visor. Draw the design for the white head piece you'd like onto your helmet. Lay paper over top of that, and trace it, then cut it out. 



Take that traced design and lay it over your wonderflex, then do the same. Wonderflex cuts easily with decent scissors. Do two layers of wonderflex with the same design. Lay your cut-out wonderflex design over your helmet to ensure it's right. Use a hair dryer to heat up the wonderflex and lightly press it in place. Do the same for the 2nd layer. Do not attempt to permanently seal the Wonderflex onto the helmet, just press the pieces on so they conform the helmet in the right shape. Allow to cool, and it should just peel off without incident. Sometimes it's necessary to reheat the wonderflex and press the two pieces together more firmly to make sure they seal together. This will preobably warm your pieces, but you can always press it back onto the helmet and reshape it as many times as you want. Set that aside for now.

If you're doing EVA foam...
EVA foam is a great choice if you want a strong piece that is thick and heavy. The problem with this method, as I have previously found, is that it also makes it very breakable if it falls. If you bond hard fiberglass to soft EVA foam, the outside usually cracks around the foam core if it's damaged. I HIGHLY suggest you don't do what I'm showing you here, and actually put 2 layers of fiberglass mat on both sides and the edges, using brushes and spreaders.



Let's Get Started.  This is probably confusing, so...
  1. Affix tape to the helmet where the head piece will go.
  2. Affix the head piece to the helmet with tape to hold it in place.
  3. Mix resin and bondo together, brush on two thick coats.
  4. Sand this coat, then apply EITHER fiberglass mat and resin, or just short strand fiberglass in two layers.
  5. Fill in gaps between helmet piece and helmet using short-strand fiberglass filler.
  6. Sand all of this down to the right shape.
  7. Apply bondo and sand as needed until smooth.
  8. Spray on filler primer.

In the video, I will show you that I apply a mixture of 50/50 liquid resin and bondo filler to the headpiece while it is taped in place. This will bond well and lock it in it's shape. Once that is dry, then sand it down and apply some short-strand fiberglass filler to smooth it out.





Use either short-strand glass or fiberglass mat and resin to cover the outside of the head piece and ensure it's strength. Be careful about covering the back side, you don't want to lay it on thick or unevenly because it will ruin the fitment. If you're using fiberglass mat and resin, which is the best way, brush resin onto the helmet surface, and apply mat to the surface, then wet the brush with more resin and push the resin into place with the bristles. 2 layers should do it. I applied tape to the helmet where the piece would go, then filled in the gaps on the sides with short-strand glass to conform the head piece to the helmet and eliminate any gaps. Once dry, carefully pry it off the tape and it should be pretty closely fitted to the helmet. Sand again, then apply body filler, sand AGAIN until smooth.

Apply primer, sand again, fill pin holes, clean, primer again...sigh. The best method on this part is honestly to find a small disc sander and use that. If you're doing this part by hand you will go crazy. It requires a lot of time and energy to shape fiberglass and keep it flat with regular hand tools, I know.

The Ear Pieces (This requires some pictures)

Now that your head piece is finished for now, grab your plastic drain pieces, your lexan, and your PVC end caps/3-4 inch couplers. First, I would like to say that using the 3-4 inch coupler pieces is much easier than using a PVC end cap, the but end caps are easier to find. The coupler can be cut in two places and filed down to make a perfect piece. The end caps require cutting, drilling, hole cuts, and more filing to get it right. They're a pain in the ass, I don't suggest it. I've also been working on making my own mold of this part and was considering selling it as a kit for this and Daft Punk helmets, or maybe use in DBZ cosplays or any other cosplays where this shape is needed on props. More on that later.

You're going to need a vice or something to hold your couplers, and a felt pen again. Estimate how long your ear pieces are going to be. This might change based on the size of your helmet and it's scale. I usually eyeball the first one and then measure that and copy it to the second one. I draw on the couplers with marker where to cut. Put your couplers in your vice, and slice it down with a hacksaw. Test fit the look on your helmet and repeat if necessary. Measure your cuts on your couplers and copy them to your second, then cut that one as well. Once they have been tested and look good, sand 'em down and file the inside mouth out so it's rounded, this will make it look much more like the original. You can rough it with a Dremel and use rough sand paper if you have to, or you may look for a rounded metal file.

Take your drain pieces and cut them to fit into the ear pieces you just made, but don't cut away the entire outer edges, you need those. Slice out a hole in the center about the same diameter as the outside ear hole. Take note of the inside diameter of the drains, and trace this onto paper. To cut the inner hole, you can use a hole saw or just careful Dremel work. There are guides online as to how to make great circle cuts with this tool.

Lay the tracing on the lexan, and cut this out with a dremel. DO NOT REMOVE THE PLASTIC CLING. I would also suggest you use tape over your glass while you cut to help reduce the risk of wayward scratches. Sand that to round it down, I like to use rough sandpaper on a sanding block, but obviously an electric or pnuematic sander works a lot better. Test-fit it into the drain pieces. These will be glued down, but not until one side has been painted in a thin coat of green, so don't assemble anything yet. In order for this to work, you have to paint all our pieces before you glue them together.

Okay, so you have your outer pieces, your inner pieces, and your glass. Take your outer pieces back out. Tape up the sides of the helmet. The idea is to prevent the filler from bonding to the helmet just yet. Watch the video. There, I take short strand and use it to form the ear pieces onto the contour of the helmet. You will have to fill it in, sand it down, and etc. to get the curvature right. This is pretty time consuming, and it's just like the head piece.

Once that is all done, you are now finally free to prime and paint your inner and outer ear pieces. It's best to paint them individually, then sand and glue, then do touch-up work, than to assemble and then paint it all as one piece, which will not work. Use the same high-build primer you've been using, and expect to do several coats and pin-hole fills with filler. In order to paint the plastic, you may want to use Plastic Adhesion promoter, or the cheapo method, which is sanding it down, painting it in Krylon Plastic, then sanding it again before primer coat. In fact, if you have very clean cuts on your plastic drain pieces, you may not need to use the high-build primer here. If it looks clean and there's nothing you need to hide, you may go ahead and use your Krylon. While you are painting that, grab your two pieces of lexan you cut into discs, and paint ONE side of each, one thin coat, as even as possible, leaving the plastic film on the unpainted sides. When you assemble these, the clear glass will be on the outside, and the paint on the inside. This will give it a great look.

After all pieces are painted, assemble your three ear pieces together as drawn. I like to use JB weld because it's easy and it sticks to stuff. It also holds tight, but is just slightly flexible. You can use your plastic body filler if you like. I try to get good solid welds without showing the material, so I put some on the back of the outer sides of the glass discs, then put the discs into the drains, let dry. Fix any mistakes you may make here. Once that is dry, go ahead and weld your two inner pieces to the main outer piece. This will probably require the use of tape on the outer piece to keep off excess glue/filler. Be mindful of where your material will go, and try hard to keep it out of sight. Don't be afraid to do multiple layers. Make sure it's tough. And if you're afraid to use colored, sticky, two-part compound to glue in glass, you can always try getting there with a good bead of hot glue.

MK III helmet with complete ear

Back to the Helmet

OK, so your ear pieces are more or less done. Your head piece is unfinished, but contoured and cut. Now, I suggest you look at paint. By now, your helmet should be in primer, sanded smooth, and clean. You have two options at this point. You can either take an extra can of white Krylon and put 2-3 coats of that directly on the helmet to assist in luster, or directly paint on the red. I have done this several different ways, but I believe using the paint we've selected above is good enough. In previous builds, I've layered white, red-orange, and red coats to get a particular look. This will be up to your eyes. If you're committed to getting the best paint job, you will just have to experiment. I suggest two coats of white, sanded very lightly then cleaned. Then 3-4 light coats of your red paint. Yes, at least 3 coats. Honestly, the more coats the better, just don't go so crazy with thick coats that the helmet never dries. I really don't think doing thick coats in cold climates is a good idea, either.

If your paint looks good, good news! You get to wet sand!
Wet sanding is a step EVERYONE skips, and I Guarantee that's why most internet project paint jobs look like shit. You should wet sand. But be forewarned, if you fuck up your paint job, then wet sand it, then paint the same enamel paint over it, IT WILL EAT THE LOWER LAYER OF PAINT AND SNAKESKIN THAT SHIT ALL OVER YOUR BODY FUCK SHIT.

Wet Sanding

Soak your 1200-2000 grit wet sanding paper in water. Rinse your helmet with a mist of water, and start lightly sanding in a circular motion. Do NOT go through the paint, your aim is to smooth the paint out. It's hard to describe wet sanding via text, it's sort of an art in itself, so if you're having trouble you may want to check out other youtube videos about wet sanding paint. I believe the guy from MNPCTech has a good video on how he does it, and you'll be amazed at how beautiful a paintjob that guy gets with just rattlecans.

When your paint looks good and flat, wash it very well, then wait until absolutely dry. Do one medium coat of clear coat. Wait to dry, then to 2-3 more coats. On this helmet, I had snakeskinned the fuck out of it, so any heavy initial coats would ruin it. So, I dry-sanded it flat, then painted several light coats of clear, until I put on one final, heavier coat, then very lightly wet sanded it again and used a shitload of car polish.

OK, next you basically use the same methods on all your pieces.

Once everything has sat for a few days and is fully cured, and you have polished whatever you need to polish, we can assemble everything.

Re-Assembly

Interior
After I let everything dry for several days, I started re-assembly. Firstly, the interior foam may be able to just be shoved back inside, but on my last build, the fiberglass filler didn't like the stick to the helmet very much, and when it flexed, the filler actually cracked. Be careful. As a solution, after fixing this, I actually cut the inside foam pieces in two, then very carefully worked it back into place. I have only had this problem once, but you will need to be careful yourself.

You may need to get a hairdryer or heat gun and re-assemble your innards. If you want to apply more cloth to the inside where your face goes, do that right now. I have a video below on how I reduced the size of the foam of one of the helmet to make it fit back in more easily.

Exterior
OK, I have done each of these differently, but the method I used this past time is the most modular: I used 3M Velcro. I made a stencil for where to apply the velcro with tape, mocking it all up like so. Then, I cut the velcro into strips and applied it to the helmet anywhere where the parts touch. Then, simply apply the other sides to the parts, then mate the two together. This way, if the helmet ever falls, it's likely the part will break off instead of absorbing the impact, and on top of that, it's easy to replace the parts now because they are not permanently affixed and it will not ruin your paint job you've spent so much time on. Be careful to keep the velcro away from the edges of the parts, or it will be seen.





Ok, so your basic helmet guide is now complete. 
Here are some pictures of the MK III helmet I completed in 2015... 












I need to create the sub-thread for people who want to wire in LEDs.
WITHOUT the inner foam pieces inserted...
  1. Create a battery compartment in the back of the helmet. If you're using 9v batteries, fuck you, they will generate heat even when they're turned off and you might start your hair on fire. ALWAYS disconnect the battery when it's off.
  2. LEDs in the ear pieces is a fucking travesty. You need to drill a hole on each side to route your wires through. Your LEDs will be fitted into the recesses inside your completed ear piece parts via solid-core wiring. You wire green LEDs in series, with a resistor for each bulb. Wiring diagram will be provided. Always wire your resister on the positive end of the LED, the longer end. If you are using green 5v LEDs, I suggest a 5v regulator off of the battery and 47k ohm resistors (I've also used 82 ohms), ¼ watts, 2-5% tolerance. Or, buy these http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0059H5YUK?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage
  3. Solder and shape your wiring together in such a way that it would fit into the inside of the ear pieces, out of the way, then feed the open positive and negative ends through the holes you drilled, then solder them together.
  4. Simply hot-glue everything in place.
  5. Cut out your space for your batter pack in your foam, insert the foam piece, then solder everything together in this space.



That's all for now.  I will continue to edit and re-evaluate this particular post, and update it with video and illustrations if needed.

EDIT
Video is finally done!
LINK! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YA-5JL1a94

-KL

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