Introduction: Disco Ball Helmet
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).
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
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
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
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
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!
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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QUESTION!! Where do you find acrylic mirror tiles?? I am trying to do this but take it to a festival so I don't want to have glass in case it gets damaged!!
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find acrylic mirror tiles for sale, though they must exist somewhere. It's easy to find acrylic mirror sheets and I've made some of my own with a laser cutter, but as that requires access to a laser cutter I'd also love to include a link to acrylic tiles should you happen to find a supplier.
One word of warning, acrylic tiles don't wear that well, they scratch more than real mirror and become dull. Amazingly my helmet only has a few cracked mirrors despite years of wear and tear. Acrylic is also not significantly lighter, which is why I explored it to start.