Thursday, January 5, 2012
Pepakura X-Wing Helmets
My first posting will be about my X-wing helmets, which is my first completed pepakura projects.
Just a disclaimer here: I am no way an expert at creating helmets or props. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I will help out any one to the best of my ability, but I am still a newbie at this. Also, please take every precaution when attempting to use materials or tools that I may mention in this blog.
X-Wing Helmets - Part 1
I made these helmets a few months ago, and they took me roughly two months to make. I also did not have this blog at that time, and did not think I would have a blog about my stuff, so there are not a lot of 'in-between' photos.
above are images of a partially complete pep X-wing helmet. The photos were taken up side down because they kind of collapsed when right side up.
The first step was to print out, cut, fold and assemble the X-wing Pepakura file. Since I did not create this pep file, I will be respectful to the author and not give it out. But if you email me I will tell you who and where I got it from if you wish to make your own. Above you see the first paper helmet complete. The first helmet seen here is actually the second one to be completed. So later on, this helmet will be the Red X-Wing Helmet.
The next step was to add fiberglass and resin. My initial studies found that people most often dip a piece of fiberglass cloth into resin and then line the inside of the helmet with it. This is what I did, and for the most part it worked. However, the excess resin collected in the "Mohawk" of the helmet and the excess weight made the helmet shift as seen in the image below.
The helmet on the left shows that the mohawk is leaning towards the left due to the weight of the excess resin.
My initial studies of applying fiberglass and resin also showed that people apply resin to the outside of the piece as well. I did this for the first helmet, but found that bondo and other materials stick to the paper without resin and thus did not do this with other pieces. After being disappointed with my slanted initial helmet, I began to make a second one, as seen on the right.
My second helmet (which further down this post will be the "Green" helmet) I decided not to use fiberglass and resin initially, as I was not fond of the smell or the mess that it created. Instead, I decided to make a paper mache mixture with Elmers glue and water. This unfortunately did not work so well with me, and I returned to fiberglass and resin for my future projects.
After the paper mache failure, I went back to resin and fiberglass, but this time I put the dry fiberglass cloth in the helmet first, and then applied the resin with a paint brush. This produced better results and did not severly shift the shape of the helmet. After the fiberglass and resin dried, I applied Bondo for the first time. Bondo really smells bad in my opinion - worse than the resin. But it spread pretty well, and dried rock hard. Above you can see my initial application and sanding. After sanding, I applied a coat of primer to fill in and smooth the surface.
Before I continue, I need to talk about my work space. I currently live in an upstairs apartment with my girlfriend. Down stairs lives my landlord. Because our apartment is somewhat small, I do all my work in our second bedroom which we call "The room of requirement". We use this room for storage, a closet (because our bedroom has none) and for my hobbies. I have no basement, or use of a yard. I mention this because the smell of the resin and bondo filled our small apartment and I wanted to find alternatives to using such malodorous materials. I then decided to use an old favorite of mine...
Wood Filler! I love using wood filler. It's cheap, easy to apply and sand and dries relatively quick. So after the first coat of primer, I began to add filler to fill in larger gaps, and start layering to give the helmet a more rounded shape. After a few applications of wood filler and primer, I decided to give it a coat of black paint.
I repeated the wood filler/primer a few times until I felt it was good enough to proceed with finalizing this helmet. Below are a few more shots of the helmet with primer.
As you can see, the helmet is rounding out. It still is slightly angular, but not as bad as it initially started. After the final priming and sanding, I applied a few coats of white spray paint. It was at this point that I dug out my airbrush, only to discover it was not working properly. I searched for airbrush repair shops around me, but there were none. I also went to the manufacturer's website, and they offered no help. So I decided to proceed with what I had available.
I created and printed some decals on clear acetate using adobe Illustrator. For reference, I used an excellent website www.starwarshelmets.com. I wanted this helmet to look like it was in the Rebel Alliance, but not a helmet that already existed. Using the decals, enamel paints and markers, I made a unique helmet design.
Using some sandpaper I weathered down the decals and paint. As the days progressed, I added more and more.
The green enamel paint did not stick too well, but that was ok, since I wanted the helmet to look old, worn and somewhat battered. I put some black paint onto a cloth and weathered the edges. I also took black and silver markers to give it scratches and dings here and there. I then added a few coats of semi-gloss clear enamel to seal up and protect the helmet. For the interior of the helmet, I bought some black rubber foam sheets at Michaels, cut them and hot glued it to the interior, giving the helmet a softer, foamy feel.
Making the Green helmet was so much fun that I decided to go back to my initial, slanted helmet and try to fix it up. Unfortunately, I do not have many photos of the "unslanting" process, so here is a quick description of what I did. I used my dremmel to cut away once side of the mohawk, and using glue, wood filler, a bit more fiberglass and resin and a few other tricks, I repaired the slanted mohawk. At this point, I was running out of wood filler (you can see in the image below, I used a good amount of wood filler on a different project). I then decided to try a different material - Spackle.
Spackle is good and bad. The good part is that it fills very nicely and thickly and is easy to use and sand. The bad part is that it is a bit more fragile and if you drop it or hit it hard, a big chunk could break off. It also takes more time to dry than bondo and wood filler. But, I try to be as careful as possible and won't be banging my helmeted head against things, so....
The spackle worked nicely and I was able to round the helmet faster and easier than with bondo or wood filler. I applied multiple layers of primer, as spackle is quite porous. I then bought more wood filler and used that to fill up a lot of spots that needed work.
Finally after several spackle/ primer/ wood filler/ primer/ sanding/ primer steps, I applied the white spray paint. Once this dried, I made some more decals and began the process of making the helmet look nifty and worn.
Added some red spray paint and lightly dusted certain areas with black spray paint.
Used some more markers and enamel paints to give it some final touches. Lastly I sprayed on the semi-gloss clear coat of enamel, and boom....2 semi-completed X-wing helmets!
The 2 helmets more-or-less stayed this way for about a year when I finally decided to repaint them and give them visors. At the time I made them, I wound up coloring them with markers I had lying around, instead of some actual paint. It was a dumb move on my part, but I have finally decided to fix them up and paint them proper The decals I made for them are still more-or-less intact. Some edges are coming up, but I can easily fix that with a dab of krazy glue.
Looking at the photo below of the "green" helmet, you can see that the black marker was streaky, and the color faded. It looks purplish now.
The sides of the helmet also had a dark gray marker application which ended up streaky and very light gray. I repainted these areas with black paint.
Next I went to the "Red" helmet and the same thing happened with the streaky black marker.
The image below also shows the poor gray marker, and also some streaky red marker stripes on the side.
I painted over the gray with black and gave the red stripes a proper paint job.
And the black streaky marker was replaced with proper black paint.
I put the helmets aside to dry.
I had made the visors from the pepakura files a long time ago, but never vacuum formed them.
So next step is to, well, vacuum form them!
It's been a while since I used the vacuum former. I had to do some repair to it before moving forward.
Once everything was working well, I placed the visors on the former...
...and formed some visors.
And they came out pretty well.
I had to make certain cuts in the plastic so that the visor would bend the correct way to fit the curve of the helmet.
Next, I gave the 2 helmets a few coats of clear enamel.
For the visors I prayed a light layer of black Nite-Shades.
When they dried, I glued them onto the helmets.
And at long last these helmets are finally complete!
Above is an image of a third X-Wing helmet I started a few months ago. Instead of cardstock, I made it out of cardboard and instead of Fiberglass and Resin I used Plaster wrap. It's a pretty tough helmet, but I haven't gotten too far with it. Hopefully soon I'll come back to it.
I'm so glad that I finally finished these helmets. They have been on display in my work room for so long, and almost every day I told myself that I needed to finish them.
Now I will look at them and tell myself how awesome they are!
Thanks for reading!
UPDATE: A lot of people have been asking me for the pepakura file for this helmet. Since I am not the original creator, please visit Fierfek's Star Wars files at therpf.com by clicking here.