Build Part 1

Guy helmet part 1

Earlier this summer I approached a friend and proposed we build Daft Punk Helmets for this years halloween. Since last year he built a boba fet costume, I knew he would be down for the build. Our challenge is to build both the Guy and Thomas helmets in just over 3 months time: base model, molds, casts and electronics. We started the last week of July and has been under way since. What you see is about a months worth of work, with a few trips out of town, breaks and accommodating a new job, I feel we are making great headway. I apologize most of the imagery is for the Guy helmet since it was my camera used and that is my helmet for the project. I hope to get more imagery for both of them for later updates.

First and foremost, before getting into the build process my partner and I have to give a huge thank you to Harrison Krix at Volpin Props for his extremely thorough walk through and documentation. With out your blog, our project would most definitely not be going as smoothly. Thank you for all the hard work, I only hope our helmets come out as high of quality as yours.

Shall we begin?

We started by finding existing line art and eps files for both the helmets as well as collecting imagery from as many angles as possible. We also did a mock up measurement of our head sizes and guestimated about the size we needed to print our X and Y axis cross cuts.

I used adobe illustrator to retrace the existing line art, lay it out according to the size we wanted and printed. I will do the same as everyone else so far, if you want a copy of the EPS/Ai files I will share them, but for a small donation, simply email me I have both Guy and Thomas. I have a canon 9000 mkII wide format printer which was perfect for printing these large prints. Once printed we traced them on to 1/4 plywood and cut them out with a jigsaw.

This was our first mistake. we couldn’t find MDF at 1/4 size, and in the excitement of starting this project we grabbed the first sheet we found, which was oak. I highly recommend NOT using oak unless you size down the wood and build up from it with foam. its way too hard and we spent much time carving it down and filling with bondo at many parts of the build so far. Pain the ass.

With the boards cross cut we pieced them together and filled with housing insulation foam. This stuff worked a lot better than I thought it would. It carves, cuts and sands fairly nice. You can get this at any major hardware store. Honestly a bunch of different things work, just don’t get something that pills or is compressed styrofoam. Cut down to fill the negative space of the cross cuts, we glued, weighted them and let dry over night.

Next day – We went to town carving down the foam to get the general shape of the helmet.

Coming from different experiences, I wanted to use bondo to cover and carve down to our specific designs, but my partner wanted to try a resin instead, having had it work well for Boba Fet. So we tested a few samples on the foam.

The fiber glass resin eats away and would have ruined our model. The bondo did the same but only fractionally. To protect the foam we painted a few coats of wood glue as a protective layer. This worked perfectly.

Since the resin ate the foam like acid on a hotdog, we decided to go with the bondo to cover and carve instead of the resin. Save that for later.

Sand and add more bondo…

Sand some more and add some more bondo…I think between both helmets we have used well over 2 gallons of bondo. Granted we are using it to fill and sculpt smaller features throughout the entire build so far.

If you decide to do this project and are not sure what tools to you may need may I suggest an electric sander, utility knife and a contour gage be the first on your list. all of which have gotten hours of use for this project alone have gotten their monies worth. After hours of bondo and sanding my final shape of the helmet was complete.

Since I didn’t want the helmet to keep rolling around when working on the side I made a donutty toilet seat thingy for it. This has been extremely helpful.

Next step was to work on the chin and head pieces that wrapped around the helmet. For naming purposes I just call it ribbing. I recently had an arm brace made for nerve pain and they took a plastic and heated it in a hot water bath. When applied it was maleable and shaped to my arm. I still dont know what type of plastic it was but it even melted in my car and haven’t used it since. My source of plastic is Laird Plastics here in Seattle. Their warehouse has a storefront with scraps at discounted prices and if you buy a sheet they usually just throw in the scraps you want from free! A lot of people I know, prefer to buy from Tapp Plastics. But from what I hear, Tapp gets their plastics from Laird, are a little more expensive and have less of a selection.

I have done something similar with Styrene in the past by heating with a heat gun. Since I dont have one here, the oven was the next best bet. The Styrene was just too hard to work with. An inconsistant heating system and a hard to hit temperature range made this attempt fail miserably.

There were a number of things I was aiming for; consistency of size and shape for the entire helmet, easy application, and easy to work with after applied. What I ended up getting was a type of polypropylene, or PETG or something, sorry I dont remember, at around 1/4 thickness. Even at this thickness I was able to cut it with scissors to the shape of the ribbing, that was nice. I ended screwing it directly into the body of the helmet. This worked perfectly.

I did this in four pieces. basically split into quarters I connected and cut them down to fit down the center line of the helmet. I was even able to countersink the holes so the heads of the screws didn’t pop above the plastic.

Once in place, I sanded it down to a nice rough surface and went back to town with the bondo. Sand and fill, sand and fill…

Following the same steps and procedures I did for the main helmet body; layer after layer after layer. This filled in the gaps along the bottom, in between the joints and along the top around the screws.

Along the back top of the helmet along where the wires go gets a little tricky and this where my helmet will become unique and recognizably different from the original and other replicas.

I copied the miter and the cut line through the ribbing from the tron helmet, but left out the parting line along the edge. I will try to include a photo of this to compair. I guess you can say mine is a combination of the old and the new.

I simplified the miter to follow along the edge of the ribbing using bondo and a utility knife to carve it down while soft. This was particularly a pain in the ass getting it to a consistant shape considering I didn’t use any measurements or guides; I got lazy. So lots of layers and lots of corrections.

Once I finally got the body finished it was time for the ear pieces. This part felt difficult and set me back a bit on trial and error getting it down the way I felt most comfortable. I made a few prototypes pieces and finally got the general shape and feel I wanted. I ended up using pine for the main body of the ear, a 3/16ths sheet of poplar for the inner line art and MDF for the inner circular section. I would have done the main ear part from MDF but did not get the materials until it was all pieced together.

I first started with the pine. After a few versions I got the angle desired and cut it out with a jigsaw, as well as cutting out the center section.

To get the design as accurate as possible i took the line art to create space here in seattle called Metrix. This place rocks! they have all sorts of equipment for projects such as this for a great price, including a laser cutter tuned to perfection. I etched two renditions from the line art and had a final cut out that was perfect.

Love the smell of laser cut wood in the morning…

Now thatI have the inner ear pieces, I was able to stick them into place inside the main ear piece. I used my dremel with a routing bit to cut down a section in the back to apply a styrene backstop for the inner ear pieces.

I used bondo to hold these in place, this helps fill some of the empty gaps inside. Since I needed to raise the inner ear pieces out, I also used scrap cut outs of styrene and stacked these up with bondo in between until I had a desired height. When placing the laser cut piece in, I filled the inner section with bondo to close up any gaps. This also give me a nice clean miter I can sand down and make fluid between the main ear and the inner ear.

For the circular segment I was somewhat dissatisfied with the circular bit I used from the drill, so I went up a size and cut out a piece slightly larger than desired. This is where I get a little creative with my drill, by turning it into a pseudo lathe.

For this purpose it worked great! I got the exact results I wanted, without having to outsource or buy a lathe. I pieced these last bits together and got a finalized ear piece.

My original helmet design needed to be cut down to accommodate these ear pieces; as much as I was trying to avoid cutting out the sides I ended up having to do it anyways. Cut it, flattened it, filled with bondo and finally covered with a styrene cut out.

Just like the laser cut piece I placed the finished ear segment onto the body, filling the back with bondo and carving down the gaps in between.

Since this completes the major parts of the helmet. I spent the rest of the week filling in smaller gaps, knicks, holes, and scrapes, and balanced out the edges around the ears.

At this point its time to primer, sand and touch up any point that isn’t smooth, succinct or otherwise.

more to come…

also look for my friends post regarding the build of the Thomas helmet. We didnt get as much photography for that build but will get what we have posted as soon as we can.

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