Sunday, February 1, 2015

Making Foam Helmets Practice 2

In my previous blog entry (Making Foam Helmets Practice 1)  I made 2 foam helmets using some techniques on youtube from a guy named Evil Ted.  You can see one of his videos below.

In tha last entry  I learned how to use Contact Cement.  The purpose of this entry is to try out Evil Ted's methods of making a template and also to do a comparison using hot glue and contact cement.

First, I ordered a head mannequin to help make templates.

My recent helmets seem to fit on this mannequin.

So I proceeded to make my own templates using the methods in Evil Ted's videos.  I'll give you a summation of what I did, but watch Evil Ted's videos for a better explanation of the process.  The first step was to cover the form with aluminum foil.

Followed by duct tape.

Using a marker I drew in lines for where the pieces will be cut.

Using an X-acto knife, I carefully cut and removed the pieces.

Next I traced them onto cardboard.

Then I cut out the templates.

I traced them onto foam floor mats.

...and I cut them out.

Using my heat gun, I began shaping the foam.

Then I used contact cement on the seams, allowing the cement to get tacky before adhering.

The whole thing went together fairly well.

However, this helmet is quite small on my head.

The head mannequin's head is clearly smaller than my own - either that or I messed up my templates. 

Even though it doesn't fit my head well, I will still work on it, but later.  It fits my girlfriend's head, so I will work on it after I correct my templates.  I've dubbed this helmet as "helmet 1".

Placing my templates against my most recent helmet builds I see that the sizes are off about half an inch on all sides.

So I scanned my templates...

...and I retraced them to be larger using Adobe Illustrator.

I printed out my new templates and cut them out.

I tacked them to foam and started the process of building "helmet 2".

Like helmet 1, this helmet will also be assembled using contact cement.

The same steps took place for helmet 2.

After a little while, the helmet was together.

And it definitely fits better!

Next I started making paper templates for elements for this helmet.  The first piece was a crest for the front of the helmet.

I attached it with contact cement.

I did have a little trouble getting the new piece to fully stick on.

Also, the seams were splitting slightly, but the helmet was still intact.

I added a little more contact cement here and there to make the pieces fit better.

Next I made some 'ear' pieces.

These were attached with contact cement and I more-or-less had the same issues as with the crest.  They adhered fine, but the edges were a little bothersome.

Lastly I cut a strip of thinner foam... 

...and attached it to the center with contact cement.

Next I drilled some bolts with the dremel.

and I'm liking it!

So at the end of the day I was able to make 2 helmets using my new templates and contact cement.

Next I added plasti-dip and let it dry.

So, when it comes to using contact cement I have to say that it works pretty well.  I still have more practice to do with it before I get it perfect - the gaps and spaces don't work perfectly, but I'll figure it out eventually.

Now it's time to make the same exact helmet again, this time using hot glue.  I used the same template as before.

And the same methods of cutting...

...and shaping.

I started assembling from the center using hot glue.  Already I am having problems.

All the pieces don't want to stick together while bending the foam to fit.  

I spent much more time assembling this helmet with hot glue than I did with the contact cement.  None of the seams are perfectly flush, and overall it's a big mess.

I reinforced the seams as best I could with more hot glue, and then added the other elements of the helmet.

Surprisingly, the crest and ears attached to the helmet better than the contact cement did.

I added bolts again.

And I dubbed this "helmet 3".  Below helmets 2 & 3 sit side by side.

The seams are much cleaner on helmet 2 - which used contact cement.

Next I added plasti-dip to helmet 3.

Now that I know what works best for me in regards to contact cement vs hot glue, I can go back to Helmet 1 and finish it.  Using my templates I created the ears and crest again.

The helmet itself was constructed using contact cement, but the elements were added on with hot glue.

The center strip is smaller than the other 2 helmets, as I ran out of material.

Next it received plasti-dip.

Below are all 3 helmets ( Helmets 1, 2 & 3 from left to right).

Not too bad!  I'm going to have fun painting these guys!

But before I do paint them, I would like to find a way to fill in spots that need filling.  When I searched online I found some answers.  Below is a video of a guy who tested several different products on foam to see which would be the best sealer/filler.

His conclusion was that Dap brand Kwik seal plus does the trick.  So I went out and bought myself some.  But before I apply it to the nice helmets I've just made, I think I'll try it on something else first.  My helmets are great, but I had Evil Ted's tutorials - which I more-or-less copied.  Next I'm going to try and make something without the assistance of those videos.  I think I want to make something that looks like Batman's cowl, and I'm sure I will need a bunch of filler for this one.

So, repeating the earlier steps I tried to make a pattern....

...which I cut out onto cardboard...

...drew onto foam...

...and cut out.

I shaped the pieces with the heat gun....

...and began assembly.

Hmmm....not quite there.

...but it does look funny.

I assembled the bottom part of the cowl, and realized I glued the wrong parts together.

The top part isn't too bad.

with the bottom on it looks a bit silly.

The nose definitely isn't right.

It's obvious this won't resemble anything close to Batman's cowl, so I cut parts away, added trim to the sides, and gave it new life as a different helmet.

Using the material I cut away, I started reshaping it to form additions.

The first few layers were for a new crest in the front.

Then I added sides.

The sides were giving me trouble, so I temporarily screwed them in place until the contact cement fully adhered.

Then I glued on some ears...

...and one more strip down the center.

It's looking better now...

...but it could stand to be longer on the sides.

So I added a little more left over foam.

I covered up the drill holes with 'bolts' using my dremel.  This was a perfect way to cover it up!

Then I gave the whole thing some plasti-dip.

I purposely left a lot of areas that need filler, so I went out to get Kwik Seal.  They didn't have it at the store, but told me that "DAP Alex Ultra 230" works the same way, so I bought that instead.

I tested it on this helmet and it seemed to work well.  I let the filler dry before trying to sand it.  But I used a wet sponge after applying the stuff to help smooth it out, so I doubt I'll need to do much sanding.

While that helmet dried, I went back to my others and began filling.

Then I let them dry overnight.

The next morning I prepped the helmets for more plasti-dip.

I applied one coat to the filled areas.

It's a little hard to see from the photo below, but this filler doesn't completely take the plasti-dip.  Another coat and hopefully it should be covered.

Next I added silver spray paint to the helmet that was supposed to be a batman cowl.

The filler did a good job on the seams.  It also takes the paint very well after 2 coats of plasti-dip.  

For the other helmets I painted on white.

One thing I have learned is that not all foam mats are the same.  If you look at the image below, you'll see that the center strip of foam did not take the paint as well as the foam surrounding it.  The center strip is 1/2 inch foam flooring mat, whereas the surrounding foam is 3/4 inch interlocking foam floor mat.  The 3/4 inch interlocking foam mat is far more dense, and thus the plasti-dip filled it easily.  The 1/2 inch flooring mat is more porous, and thus it needed more plasti-dip than I gave it.

Helmets 2 & 3 received white paint - then I ran out.

So helmet 1 received hammered copper paint - which did not stick as well as I would have liked.

After a short while all the helmets had a base coat.

Then the helmets sat around in my workshop for a few weeks until I decided to use them as Christmas gifts for my nephews, so it was time to make them nicer.  I added some more Alex Ultra to fill in some gaps.

Since the 2 helmets above are white you can't really see the Alex Ultra, but you can easily see it on the helmet below.

Once the flex dried and was sanded I decided that I didn't care for either white or copper helmets.  So I sprayed on some dark gray primer.

Next I sprayed on some metallic silver.

For some reason Helmet 1's paint 'cracked'.  This is fine though - it will make for an interesting look.

When the silver paint dried I began painting in acrylics.  Helmet 2 received some red...

...with blue highlights.

Helmet 3 received green...

...with yellow highlights.

Helmet 1 received a dull brown...

...with purple highlights.

When all the acrylic dried I broke out my air brush and started adding some wear and tear.  I started with the brown/purple helmet.  This one will be my guinea pig.

Then I used a silver marker to add some scuffs and scratches.

Looks good, so I began air brushing the other 2 helmets.  First up was the red/blue helmet (#2).

Then the green/yellow helmet (#3)

Once they were done I decided to use a different method for adding some scars.

The purple helmet used a silver marker.  This works well, but I decided to use a method I used on some recent builds.

That method is to 'dry brush' some silver spray paint.

Again I used the brown/purple (#1) helmet as a tester.

It came out well, but might be a little hard to see since I used silver marker already.

But it really comes out nicely on the other helmets.

After a short while all 3 helmets had sufficient wearing.

The last step is to apply some clear coat, but before I do that I need to personalize it a little bit.  So using some paint markers I added the letter "J" to one side of helmet #2.  "J" stands for my nephew Josh.

I also added the number 2, as all along this helmet was the second one I built.

Next I worked on the helmet for my other nephew Nate, which received the letter "N"...

...and the number 3.

Lastly for the brown/purple helmet I added a script letter "J" for my girlfriend Jessica...

...and the number 1.

Now it's time for some clear coat.....but I did forget about the helmet that was supposed to be a batman cowl (let's call it Helmet 4).

I decided to finish this one up and give it to my brother, so he can wear it when playing with his sons.

One thing I had to fix was some large gaps I left in he back.

I filled these with pieces of crafting foam which I cut to fit.

Instead of using hot glue for such small pieces I opted to use some Kray glue (gel).

I also needed to fix the huge gap under the crest in the front.

I fixed this too by using crafting foam and Kray glue.

Then I added some more Alex Ultra to fill in smaller gaps.

When the Alex Ultra dried I applied some more Plasti-Dip.

Then it received another coat of silver.

While helmet #4 dried I applied the clear coat to helmets #1,2 & 3.

Next I took helmet 4 inside and began painting on some acrylics...

...followed by some airbrushing.

After that I dry brushed some silver.

Like the other helmets, I added the first initial of the owner's name to the side:  "D" for Dan (or Dad for my nephews).

I also added the number "4" since this is the 4th helmet.

Lastly I sprayed on some clear coat.

Finally all 4 helmets are complete!

These will make awesome Christmas gifts!  I hope my brother and nephews like them!

I made these helmets to compare using contact cement and hot glue, and here's what I've found out so far:  Contact cement works well, and is much better when connecting larger pieces that need to bend in order to fit.  However, I liked using hot glue better for the elements of the helmet, like the crest and ears.  Contact Cement is better for gluing a larger areas, since it takes some time to dry.  Hot glue is good only in small doses since the glue cools quickly.  I can't rightly say that one is better than the other - they both have pros and cons.

 However, there are a few points to contact cement that I do not like:  It smells and it's not super easy to get off of your hands or clothing.  It also requires some pressure to fuse the 2 pieces you're working with - which isn't always easy to do.  But unlike hot glue, you won't burn yourself on it, and if you make a mistake, hot glue sometimes rips the foam when trying to remove it.  Contact cement is thinner, and doesn't create a mess when joining 2 pieces like hot glue can sometimes do.

Love it or hate it, I like using contact cement and I will keep it handy for my future projects!

Another reason for making these helmets was to test out Evil Ted's methods for making helmet templates.  This too is an area I need to work harder at.  Following his tutorial I was able to make 3 helmets more-or-less like his.  However my Batman cowl helmet did not turn out to be anything close to what it should have been.  But his method for making templates does work.

A year later I decided to make one more of these helmets.  I used the same templates as the others.

I assembled this helmet using contact cement.

And this time I used my dremel to sand all the edges of this helmet.

I used plasti-dip to seal the helmet...

...and then primer to make it easier to paint.

Then I added a base color of silver.

Next I painted on acrylics.  First came black...

...then red.

Next came the weathering.  This time I didn't use a paint brush with silver, or an airbrush.  I simply used a rag to wipe off the paint.  The effect was much better than I had hoped.

Like the other helmets I added an initial to one side.  On this helmet I put my signature TG logo.

On the other side I put the number 5, as this was the 5th helmet I built (in this "series").

And it fits pretty well.

The last step was some clear coat.

And here is my finished helmet next to my girlfriend's helmet.

It was a lot of fun revisitig this build.  The more of these I build, the easier they become.

Thanks for reading! 


  1. hey can you share the templates you made in illustrator
    i wanna get started in making helmets and that looks like a good base. thx in advance

    1. No problem. Send me your email address and I'll send you the templates when I return (I am currently away on a business trip).

    2. i would also love those templates!

  2. Can you send me the templates?
    If I'm making a helmet for a child can I just print at a lower percentage?

  3. I can definitely send you the files. I'm not sure if scaling the print out down will work, but you can certainly try. Or if you'd like, I can send you my first template - which was a bit small for my head, but fit my nephews heads' quite well.