Instructables
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Why make a disco ball helmet?  Because it's awesome.  Nuff said. 

I've seen disco ball helmets before, but they didn't satisfy the perfectionist in me.  No haphazardly glued plastic mirror pieces here, this is the real deal.  If you would like to make a proper disco ball helmet, read on. 

• Note: This disco ball helmet uses real glass, as it is intended as a costume piece (to be paired with a disco backpack, coming soon!).  If you want it to be functional, acrylic mirror would be safer and lighter weight (though not as shiny and reflective).
 
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Step 1: Supplies

You will need:

Mirror tiles: I used mirror tiles that come backed with fabric.  This makes the whole process MUCH faster.  You can purchase it from Kit Kraft.  I had quite a bit left over, I probably used one half to two thirds of it.  They also sell mirror tile by the row, but it's still more cost effective to buy the sheet.

Contact cement: I just barely made it through with one bottle.  I would recommend getting two.

Helmet:  I spent a lot of time choosing what kind of helmet I wanted.  I settled on this vintage Bell motorcycle style because of it's spherical shape and clean lines.  Real bell helmets of this style are quite expensive, but you can find cheap knock offs on ebay.  Search for "vintage open face motorcycle helmet" to find a helmet similar to the one used here.

Glass cutter (not pictured): For cutting the tiles to shape along the edges of the helmet.  Easy to get at a hardware store.

Metal Saw (not pictured):  Most of the vintage style helmets have snaps for a visor which need to be removed.  There may be another way to remove them, but I happened to have a jeweler's saw handy which did the trick.

Step 2: Prep Mirrors and Helmet

Cut your mirror tile fabric into strips.  I alternated between a knife and scissors to do this. 

If your helmet has snaps for a visor, you will need to remove them.  I did this with a jeweler's saw, however you might be able to pry them off, or remove some other way if you don't have a jeweler's saw lying around.  Better yet, find a helmet without snaps.

Step 3: Start Gluing Tiles

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Apply Glue: First, apply contact glue to a few of your mirror strips, then in a few inch band around the widest circumference of your helmet as shown hatched in red.  The mirror strips will take longer to dry because of the porous fabric.  Wait until both are dry to place your tiles.  Upon contact of the two surfaces, there is not much ability to reposition.  If you want to play with how your tiles will look, do so before applying glue.

Align Your First Row: They key to making your helmet look awesome is to make sure that your first row of mirror tiles are well placed.  I wanted the tiles to lay flat against the rim of the helmet in front, and used this as a guideline for the angle of the first row of tiles.  If I started with them against the front rim and continued this line straight back, it follows the largest circumference of the helmet and ends about an inch up from the back rim of the helmet. 

Glue Mirrors in Back: As the angle of the first row left an inch in back and I wanted things to be exact, I started by gluing two small rows of mirror in back to serve as a guideline for when I placed my first row. 

Place Your First Row: Now that you have the rim in front and mirrors in back as guides, carefully place the first row of tiles around the entire helmet, taking care both sides are symmetrical.  All the tiles will be based on this row, so this is the most important part!


Step 4: Continue Gluing Tiles

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Continue gluing tiles in circular rows based on your central row of tiles. 

In order to make the rows fit neatly, my technique was to lay down half a row or so, and then carefully hover another row of tiles around the other side for length, cut to size, and place.  If when measuring the second strip there is a significant gap (you can't quite fit that extra square), stretch the tiles as much as possible when placing the second strip to distribute the space evenly.  This is one of the advantages of having tiles backed in fabric, as it was relatively easy to make the rows fit without any large gaps.

Step 5: Finishing the Top

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As you continue working your way up, the strips of tiles will get harder and harder to fit.  At a certain point I needed to cut the tiles apart most of the way with an knife before placing them on the helmet. 

When I got to the very top, because it was not a perfect circle, I placed the tiles as shown. 

Step 6: Finishing the Bottom

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Finishing the bottom is the most time consuming part.  If you are not a perfectionist, you can continue adding rows like on the top, fit as many squares as possible before reaching the rim, and call it a day.  However this leaves an imperfect edge, and I wanted a clean edge. 

In order to fill in the gaps, I marked the mirror with a sharpie, and used a glass cutter and large pliers to cut the squares to shape.  Ideally one should use a proper breaker as the pliers I had sometimes shattered the glass, but it was what I had on hand. 

Cutting such small squares is difficult.  Have patience.  You will get better at it by the end of the helmet!  And be sure to reuse pieces.  Often the discarded half of one piece was a perfect fit for another empty space on the helmet. 

Step 7: Finished!

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To finish, clean off any surface glue with a razor blade and acetone.

Pair with some shiny clothing (like my awesome Betabrand hoodie), and you're ready to rock!
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PACW1 year ago
I agree with the other commentators that in hoping that you don't kill anyone. If I had put this much effort into an instructable and had provided more than one 'danger' warning and then had people who obviously didn't read the text criticizing me, I would be sorely tempted to grab the straps and swing the helmet around like a sparkly mace until I hit someone upside the head!

This is actually a perfect instructable. The pictures are clear and illustrative. The text is well written. The project itself is unusual, but not so arcane as to be of interest to only 5 people. It is appropriate for both genders and most ages. It is within the ability and budget of most readers. Even bacon could not improve this!
Natalina (author)  PACW1 year ago
Thanks PACW! Eating bacon while wearing a disco ball helmet is always encouraged :)
Natalina (author) 2 years ago
Hi all, just remember that this is a COSTUME piece. It would be dumb to use anything with glass on it for protection against concrete. And even an acrylic version would be distracting for drivers, albeit awesome. Party on people!

i've got to go to a party later in the year with two people getting married that are bikers, i might wear this to the evening dance, great design.

tmunki26 days ago

hi there,

I've made a bit of a schoolboy error with my disco ball helmet and bought quite big mirrored tiles, it doesn't look too bad up to now but there's some gaps, is there anything you would advise to use - was considering some kind of grouting?

Thanks!

Natalina (author)  tmunki25 days ago

Depends on how much work you feel like doing. For a really perfect looking finish I would suggest cutting the tiles as I did to finish the edges, at least for the largest gaps. I'm not sure about grout, depending on the size of the gaps it could look more conspicuous to use grout than doing nothing, I actually wondered about doing that with mine but noticed that real disco balls don't fill in their gaps, so I left them (my helmet is silver underneath though, so it is not very noticeable). Sorry I can't give you a more precise answer, good luck!

iceng7 months ago

LIKE, it must have taken a lot of delicate time.

KDS444411 months ago
It looks like you centered each row on the front face of the helmet and made the rows alternate by a half-tile as you placed each new row on top. Is this so? Or was there some other factor which produced this apparent symmetry?
Natalina (author)  KDS444411 months ago
Yes you are correct. I aimed to stagger them evenly in the front. Because the helmet is spherical and not a cylinder the effect isn't maintained on the sides and back, but at least it gives a nice effect in the front.
Chloe81 year ago
I love bling bling!
KDS4444 Chloe812 months ago
Have also discovered that using the contact cement is actually critical: I tried using hot glue for a few pieces at first and man, what a mess: the pieces wouldn't lay down completely flat, and though they looked smooth enough at first glance, they were actually buckled slightly and were never going to give me that "disco ball" feeling of nice, uniform, curved sparkle. Plus the glue got on the front of some of the pieces and, well, let's say that contact cement will allow the glass to set right up against your surface with a strong, thin, flexible, durable bond— all of those are really important and I had no idea. Gha! What a disaster the final thing would have been had I been foolish enough to go on with the hot glue! Contact cement is the ONLY way to do this. I should listen better.
Natalina (author)  KDS444412 months ago
Yep, although I love hot glue, it doesn't last, especially on a smooth surface. I've made other disco things using hot glue, and even with the added bond of fabric to fabric, several of the pieces have fallen off. But the disco helmet is solid to the this day. Just make sure you use lots of ventilation, contact cement is nasty stuff in that respect. Props to the hardware store that helped me pick it out as my adhesive of choice for this project.

I'd love to see your helmet when you're finished!
KDS4444 Natalina12 months ago
Oh, you will. You will see it. I promise!
KDS444412 months ago
KitKraft, mirror sheet, ½" tiles, 576 sq. inches, $63.95+shipping (for me, $0.00, I live next door), cost works out to: $0.11 per sq inch (which is not a bad deal for mirror glass tiles of this size, though you have to spend $64 to get it, usually plus shipping). eBay from a place called Blue River Mosaic in Florida somewhere, 1000 ½" tiles for $22 including shipping, works out to just under $.09 per sq. inch... Though you don't get the tiles in nice sheets. Difference is only 2 cents per sq. inch, but if you don't need the four sq. feet of tile being sold by KitKraft and don't mind having to do the assembly yourself, eBay may be a better deal for some. That's all. Have ordered mine and am going to be following this Instructable closely as I make it!
Natalina (author)  KDS444412 months ago
Yep, there are probably cheaper options out there. Thanks for the info. I found that the fabric backing was key for making neat rows, but you could totally do it tile by tile with a little more patience. Good luck - I'm sure it's going to turn out awesome!
As a daily rider I think that this is a great idea.

Been riding since 1983 and logged over 90,000 miles. 30,000 miles in the last three years.

Almost every ride, I get either turned into (by someone turning left in front of me, or pulling out in front of me) or cut off by drivers who do not "See me". Most do not even look. Some drivers are watching and seeing me.....some.

Only through defensive skills learned in training and weekly practice, do I make it safely to work and home again.

Too many times you read about a driver telling the Police "I never saw them." when standing over the wreckage.

If this helps a driver see a motorcyclist then it is fine by me.

Yes, I know there are bad motorcyclists who do stupid things....I am not one of them. Please do not lump every motorcyclist in to this one group.

I ride to live.

Ride Safe!

Been riding motorcycles since 1964. Seen almost every crazy thing on the road. Recently added 60 LED strip of lights to my brake lights. Lights up the sky! Also a totally chrome color helmet to better see me. My wife says I stand out much better. Maybe those texting , phoning, morons will take notice! Ride safe.
I don't mean this to be snarky, but why are motorcyclists so dramatic now? I spent my youth on motorcycles and we were never this dramatic.
Back in the day we didn't have as many people using phones to get distracted while driving. Take a day and watch other drivers...I guarantee you will see a few looking down in their lap. I used to be one of those people until I almost had a wreck because of it.
Lose a few friends to careless drivers.
Badical!
One word: awesome!
I want my helmet to have the glass visor so I need the snaps. Will it be a problem if I keep them in place? What can I do?
Natalina (author)  luthertoston1 year ago
You should be able to work around the snaps, just leave some space around them. I can't remember how far the snaps extruded however, so you might need to test it first to see if you can actually snap it down with the additional height added by the mirrors.
Thanks Natalina! And how big was that bottle of Weldwood Contact Cement? Was that the 1.8 oz bottle?
mbilbo2 years ago
For 15 years I've attended Burning Man as "Mirrorman" which has been an evolving suit of mirrors, especially the sheeting from Kit Kraft. But I never had a good, effective head cover, but next iteration I will thanks to your posting on how to make a disco helmet. I have a pretty effective mask, which will work perfect with the helmet. Too late for 2012 - so in 2013...

My mirror suit philosophy developed out of a desire to have portable art but be part of everyone else's art, and a myriad of lights and lasers at night and the really fun daytime effects with the sun. It really works nice and I have thus become a reflection of everyone and thing around me...

My camp there is Earth Guardians but I've often dreamt of a clan throughout the City of mirror women and men. That would be something...
PlayaSoul made it! mbilbo2 years ago
Yooooo Mirroman!!

I just finished making mine, didnt take all that much time at all ... THANK YOU so much Natalina for posting this, can't wait to rock out my disco ball helmet on the playa this year!

Check it out -
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Natalina (author)  PlayaSoul2 years ago
Awesome! I'll be out there too - I'll look for you two on the playa! So glad you enjoyed the Instructable!
Looks good. So now, if you get a pair of clear lens goggles (ski, motorcycle, ATV) - you can glue the round mirrors you get at Hobby Lobby or Michaels, or use any left over Kit Kraft squares, onto the lens. You can see perfectly well through the interspaces between the mirrors. Snorkling googles and a paintball mask work well too and you can completely glue all over the mask. Use the same glue as the helmet and you won't lose any as MOOP. The weight on the mask can be overcome by rigging a band over the top of your head like on a Petzl headlamp. --Mirrorman
toomim2 years ago
This is beautiful! I am very excited with the technique youve found. I am trying to choose between acrylic and glass tiles. How much heavier are the glass ones? Well, how much weight did the glass ones add to your helmet?
Natalina (author)  toomim2 years ago
Hi toomim,

The glass added a good 2 - 3 pounds, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it's pretty heavy! I can wear it for an hour or two, but I'm sure plastic would be a lot more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
monnsqueak2 years ago
As far as safety issues go, I stress that that designer/creator is doing the right thing by stressing this is a costume piece - something I was told at my learner motorcycle course is that glues, paints and certain stickers can compromise the integrity of the helmet shell, so do your research before you make a non costume piece.

Awesome work on this one, it's utterly delightful. I'm looking at it and thinking how much fun it'd be to adapt to a bicycle helmet ;) hehe!

Cannot wait to the see the matching back pack x
EVERY BODY DANCE NOW
It looks pretty, BUT will it still protect the wearer? Painting a polyurethane helmet renders it useless because any crack in the paint propogates through the helmet itself.If the cement used here does the same then it is best forgotten. Sorry to be a party pooper.
Even if it dosen't change the physical structure of the helmet (It does) make it so that glass is right by your eyeballs ready to fly off and make more cuts when you crash (It most certianly does) and also make the entire thing have little sharp edges where you can get your hand cut just by rubbing up against it (maybe, maybe not) it does one thing for sure:

Distract the HECK out of other drivers with little perfect flashes of sunlight.

I'd be willing to bet it was illegal based on that fact alone.

(great work on the writeup/project.)
Meh. Chrome helmets are DOT approved. Giant chrome pick-up bumpers are DOT approved. All kinds of things reflect sunlight. Get over it.

And "distraction" would be a good thing with most of the car and truck drivers I see on road these days...distract them from their conversations. Distract them from their texting. Distract them from their eating and drinking whilst driving. Maybe, with enough "distractions" they MIGHT actually pay attention.

Yeah, I know...I kill me.
Well why not mirrored windows on cars then? Oh right, because they are at EYE LEVEL and reflect the light back into the eyes of the drivers. Just as this helmet would do.

And I have seen plenty of cyclists (both motor and human powered) do some crazy stuff on the roads. Cutting in and out of lanes, changing lanes way too close to cars, riding the line when traffic starts to back up (not when it is stopped--that is okay with me) and jumping curbs to turn right on red, wheelies, not holding the handlebars and changing the radio on their console, flipping off drivers they pass...

Bad drivers come on all number of wheels--two and four. Is the kid who is blasting his stereo with 4 friends in the car worse than the old biker who think he owns the road with his straight pipes making it so nobody can hear anything for a half mile in front and behind him? I think they are one in the same. I don't think that loud pipes save lives and no study that I have ever seen has shown a statistical significance that loud pipes save more lives than not. I think better drivers would save more, and more difficult tests to even get your license would do more good than some loud pipes ever will.

You can do whatever you want, of course. I'm just providing a counterpoint to yours. I'm not even mad.
Mirrored windows are illegal in most places because to mirror a window, you need quite an extreme level of tint, which is illegal.
You are SO right!! ANYTHING to make cagers see us is positive! My car is totally covered with mirrors, daily driver for 4 years. They see me! Now I just need a helmet to go with my non-art motorcycle. ;)
Where did you find that information? I've seen helmet instructions that reccomend polyurethane paint.
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