Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pepakura Y-Wing Helmet

So, above you see a photo of a Y-wing helmet.  If this looks unfamiliar to you, don't worry.  It was seen only briefly in Return of the Jedi.  In A New Hope the Y-wing pilots have the same helmets as the X-wing pilots.

I guess since ROTJ had a much larger budget than ANH they were able to make brand new helmets that looked old and roughed up for the different fighters like A-wing pilot helmets...

...and B-wing pilot helmet (which was never on screen)...

...and of course, Y-wing pilot helmets.

Anyway, I found the pepakura file for this helmet at  The first one I built was way too small.

So I changed the scale and built one that fits.

Next I brought the helmet into the workshop and sprayed some Super 77 spray adhesive on it.

Then I began cutting some fiberglass cloth.  I cut it diagonally to prevent the edges from fraying.

When the spray had become tacky, I applied the fiberglass to the outside of the helmet.

Then I applied fiberglass resin.

When the resin hardened I used my dremel to sand the rough spots.

Then I repeated the process of adhesive, fliberglass, then resin on the inside of the helmet.

When that dried I added Bondo to the outside of the helmet.

Then came the first round of sanding.  For this I started with my random orbital sander...

For this I used 80 grit sandpaper.

This smoothed out the surfaces nicely, but all the edges and rims are still rough.

Then I moved to my mouse sander for all the edges.

While doing the edges I noticed that the areas around the neck and face openings were very weak.

So I added more fiberglass and resin to the insides of those areas.

This time around I didn't use spray adhesive to pre-attach the fiberglass cloth.  This made for a difficult (and messy) time trying to get everything to go where I wanted.   But in the end everything was stronger when dry.  Next I went back to sanding.  I resanded the surfaces with my random orbital sander and cleaned/shaped the edges with my dremel.

After a lot of sanding and shaping I cleaned the whole thing off with water and a rag.

There are a few areas on the helmet that has recesses which are not easy for me to get my sanding bits into.  For these areas it might just be easier to glue a flat piece of plastic or cardboard inside the helmet.

So I decided to cut those areas away.  I started by drilling some holes in the recessed areas.

The holes allowed me to fit my jig saw blade through and cut out those parts.

Then I used my dremel to smooth out the cuts.

After a short while all the recessed areas were cut away and cleaned up.

Next it was time for more Bondo.

Then more sanding.

I didn't have any more primer, so I sprayed on some orange spray paint until I got around to the store.  This paint is a little on the thick side, so hopefully it'll help smooth out the surface a little.

When the paint dried I cut some pieces of thin plastic...

...and began gluing them to the insides... fill in the areas I cut out.

When that was done I brought it back into my workshop.  I want to use wood filler to smooth out the areas that I just filled, so I mixed a little water with my filler to make it creamer and easier to work with.

Then I filled the sides of the areas with the plastic backs...

...and touched up a lot of other areas that needed work.

When the filler dried I began sanding.

For all the ledges and inset pieces I used a wet rag to smooth out the wood filler.

I ran the rag all over, smoothing and cleaning the helmet at the same time.

Then when it was dry I applied a new coat of freshly bought primer.

I still have several areas to work on, but its getting better.

When the paint dried I decided to try it on and see how it fit.  I didn't take pictures, but I can tell you that it was a bit big and not overly comfortable.  The discomfort came from the messy fiberglass and resin job.  So I decided to start adding some expanding foam to the insides to make it fit better and get rid of the jagged surface inside.

This took a while to do.  I first started on one side of the helmet, then let it expand/harden.  Then I applied the foam to the other side, again waiting for it to harden.  Then the back...

...and then the top.

When the foam had hardened I began to even the insides using a dove tail detail saw.  This saw is very useful because it has a flexible blade and can bend and cut the foam to match the curvatures of the helmet.

But it's tedious work getting all that foam cut the way I want it, so I stopped for a while and added some Bondo to a few spots that needed it.

Then I sanded everything once more.

...and did some more detail work with my dremel and sandpaper.

Next I went back to trimming the foam on the inside, using my oscillating multipurpose tool with a saw attachment.

This tool did a great job removing excess foam.  I then smoothed it out with the mouse sander.

Then I tried it on.  Definitely a better fit, but it could use more foam towards the back of the helmet.

But first I cleaned it up and added more of that orange spray paint - mostly to get rid of that spray paint...

...but also to give another coat to the helmet.

When the paint dried I circled all the areas that need work.

It looks like a lot, but it's not too bad.

A lot of these circles have small spots that either need to be sanded or need additional filling.

Just for fun I put the helmet on my mannequin head.

Next I tried using wood filler to fill in holes, but the smooth orange enamel is making that hard this time.  Earlier I didn't have this problem, but the helmet is a lot smoother now than it was when I first used the orange paint.

So I did some sanding instead, cleaned it and gave it a coat of dark gray primer.

Next I did a little filling using some Alex Ultra sealant and filler and I also attached some random hardware I had to fill in the small recesses.

Once that dried I added another coat of primer.

When that dried I decided it was time to start finalizing the helmet.  There are still a lot of imperfections, but those will add to the rugged look of the helmet once done.  So I took some white spray paint and I began lightly misting the helmet.

My idea was to have an uneven covering of the white paint.

And I think it turned out well.

I then let the paint dry for a few hours.

Next I used a pencil to start making markings on the helmet.

They're light and may not be easy to see, but they'll help when painting.

Now it was time to paint this thing.

I used acrylics for all the colored parts.

A lot of my lines and shape are heavily watered down, but that's intentional.

I let the paint dry for about an hour before...


The watered-down areas came off easily with a damp rag.

I also brushed on some black acrylic.

And I used some silver Rub 'n Buff to add more wear and tear.

Once all that dried I gave it some clear coat.

While that dried I found a piece of clear plastic for the visor and a wire for the mic.

The visor glued on easily enough thanks to all the foam around the opening.

Before I glue on the mic I needed to make the "leather chin guard" area, as seen in all the reference photos.  It looks leather to me, but I'm not about to go out and buy some leather strips.  So I simply glued on a piece of thin crafting foam. 

I then proceeded to paint it with a lot of streaky variations of brown to give it a similar texture.

I then glued on the wire, and added more pieces of crafting foam to make the mic.

And I'm done!!!

I'm actually very pleased with how this turned out.  Believe it or not I have been trying to make this helmet for years.  YEARS!  Although I didn't show my originals earlier in the blog, here are all the attempts I tried at making this helmet.

My first one - which was too big.

My second one, which was too small.

My third one - which I messed up and tried to turn it into a different helmet.

My fourth one - which started out good, wrapped in plaster wrap...

and received wood filler.

But when I had a vacuum former I tried to fill it with foam and make it into a mold - which ultimately failed.

My fifth one - which was made out of cardboard.

This one too received plaster wrap and foam on the inside, and like it's predecessors, it too failed.

Then I took a few years off and moved to Arizona.  As noted in the beginning of this blog entry the first one I made (#6) was too small, but then #7 finally did it.

Now the Y-Wing helmet can be displayed with my other X-Wing helmets.

Thanks for reading!

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