Introduction: Fighter Pilot Headphones!

Picture of Fighter Pilot Headphones!

I prefer playing guitar late at night, which is when the rest of the family sleeps... Problem. I therefore needed a set of headphones but not just any old headphones would do. When I was in the Czech Republic 5 years ago I bought myself this leather headset that the salesman assured me was Russian airforce surplus. Now what could be better than listening to your guitar jams while feeling like a fighter pilot?

Excuse the mannequin, she's a nudist.

This simple instructable will show you how I made this headset compatible with my guitar amplifier. I did this because soviet millitary technology tends to use it's own non-standardised connectors which just don't go into any socket on my amp :(

Also: 'scuse any possible grammar and spelling errors, It's 2am. The eccentricity is all genuine me though.

Step 1: Gather Your Soviet Resources

Picture of Gather Your Soviet Resources

The following lists assume that you are going to make your own housing for the 1/4" jack (like I did) instead of buying one. This allowed me to keep it looking old-school with a touch of steampunk.

Materials that you will need:
1x fighter pilot headset
1x 1/4" TRS jack (the kind you will find in electric instruments and amplifiers)
1x audio cable with 1/4" TRS connectors on each end

Materials required for the jack housing:
1x copper lightbulb socket (forgot to take a pic before assembly, sorry)
1" x 1" plywood (mine is about 1/4" thick)
1x brass electrical connector block to keep the cable from pulling out (no idea what these things are officially known as but I've always referred to them as connector blocks)

Tools you will need:
soldering iron and solder
drill or drill press
bench vice
assorted files and drill bits
scroll saw or some kind of small hand saw
some other things that I can't remember now but that may become obvious later

Step 2: Make a Housing for That Jack

Picture of Make a Housing for That Jack

1. Cut a plywood disk large enough to fit snugly in the opening of the lightbulb socket. I did this in the following manner: cut an oversize disk with holesaw, put a bolt through the hole that the hole saw made and tighten this bolt in a drill press chuck, start the drill press and use files to file the disk down until it fits tightly in the bulb socket

If you don't have a drill press you can use a scroll saw, failing that you can saw and file the disk by hand, it's more work though.

2. Enlarge the hole in the centre of the disk until the jack will fit through it, now insert and tighten the jack.

3. Put the headset's cable through the brass connector block and then through the copper lightbulb socket.

4. Wire the headset's cable to the 1/4" jack and push all this into the lightbulb socket.

5. My lightbulb socket had a tube at the end through which I drilled a hole just larger than one of the screws of the brass connector block. I then put one of the connector block's screws through this hole to keep it in place. This screw, when tightened, also clamps the cable down thus preventing it from being pulled out.

6. you should now have a cute little copper nodule that's housing your 1/4" jack, the only problem is that with time the snug fitting plywood disk will become loose and everytime you try to plug an audio cable into it it will pop into this housing. I Solved this problem by drilling a tiny hole on either side of the disk (right through the copper socket) and inserting tiny screws. These screws will hold the plywood disk in place and make it easy to open up if there are any wiring problems later. If you can't find screws that are small enough you can just glue or epoxy the disk in place.

Step 3: JAM TIME!

Picture of JAM TIME!

Couldn't get my girlfriend to model it for me after it was done, she said that the copper jack housing irritated her fibreglass skin.

I am happy to report that the sound is GRATE! (sic) It has that low-fidelity, weirdly distorted sound that utilitarian military sound systems have! I love it. It's also just the right volume: doesn't hurt my ears yet perfectly loud enough for a late night session. I also tested how soundproof the headset was because obviously it's designed for silent jamming. I did this by taking the headset off and and playing the guitar and amp at full volume for a minute, I couldn't hear any sound escaping!

If you can find such a headset but would rather use it with your mp3 player that's fine, just use the smaller TRS connector that almost ALL mp3 players use! I guarantee you'll be the only fighter pilot in the bus! IF you can find the headset. Maybe my next instructable should be on how to make the headset itself....

In conclusion: I am seriously pleased with myself! It sounds really really cool and looks even better.

Thanks to all for checking this out, peace brethren!
-Happy Cat-


Technoshaman (author)2012-12-26

I had the exact helmet as well, and I'd got it from a Russian Bazaar here in Istanbul Turkey, right after the USSR collapsed. So it's Russian, you can rest assured :) I had also hooked up my Walkman to it at that time (1995). I can't find it anywhere now :(

darknessfalls (author)2011-10-22

omg... i think i have that EXACT helmet!

timweaver17 (author)2011-09-26

so just a quick question: how did you know which cables to hook up to the jack? and also, pardon my lack of knowledge, but when I bought a mono 1/4 to 1/8 adapter for my stereo headphones, sound only came from one ear. would this happen if the headphones were mono? and also how would mono headphones interface with a stereo computer?

thefonk (author)2011-08-05

Hey Mr. Thompson, Great Instructable!

I just bought one off of ebay and I'm planning to do something similar. One question though -- do you know what the other cable is for -- a microphone? How do you think it can be used?

I'm imagining jamming with the helmet, listening to your guitar and singing along...

thefonk (author)thefonk2011-08-05

Also, I bought a three-conductor 1/4" stereo jack -- should I be using a two-conductor? This is kind of my first project like this, so I'm a little fuzzy on the details.

Baronrc (author)thefonk2011-08-06

Yep, the other cable (the one I didn't use in my 'ible) is for connecting the main cable (the one I used) to a throat-mic that I believe was strapped around the pilot's neck. This means that 2 of the 4 poles on the main cable are for that mic and the other 2 are for the headphones. In other words the headphones are wired up for mono. To answer your second comment a mono jack would have been fine but you can make it work with a stereo jack, you'll probably just have to solder two of the 3 poles together.

Peace dude/dudette

thefonk (author)Baronrc2011-09-10

Ok, one more question. I rigged up the headphones with alligator clips and they definitely work, but are a bit quiet. Will the sound be better once soldered, or do I need to add some kind of amplifier?

I'm also considering just replacing the headphones with new ones, which would make the process a little easier (although I'd have to teach myself how to sew...)


thefonk (author)Baronrc2011-08-07

Thanks for the detailed reply, you answered my questions exactly.

Now to get a hold of the throat mic...


Hitm_n (author)2011-08-06

pretty cool. i did the same thing to my helmet too after i went to Russia, i bought the summer version of it though. but, i didn't want to dismember my little memento lol so i ended up just cutting up the disposable airplane headphones and wiring them to the tiny posts in the soviet socket so i can just plug it into my standard jack. I'm studying biomed too, in Miami. where do you go?

Baronrc (author)Hitm_n2011-08-06

I'm at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) in Cape Town. Busy with my 4th semester out of 5 then I gotta do 6 months in-service training before I can finish the degree. How far are you and what's your university?

Baronrc (author)2011-08-01

Newslettered! YAY, thanks for the cred Randofo.

Fred82664 (author)2011-07-24

I hand made a few caps like this one. all done in leather after I sell a few more of them I will post it on here as a libe I get around $ 200 a piece for mine. I do custom fitting , meaning the pattern is made from the clients own head. They are used for Hard Hat liners and head warmers . I do them for farmers and utility workers that work outside in the harsh South Dakota winters. on some I do a air warmer so the worker is not breathing sub zero cold air. Makes easer life on the lungs . I do a head set as well I am working on a different design for the head set so you can have a slip input for incoming single ( Ipod & Cell phone ) as well as making replica pilot goggles that will pass as the real thing that was used back in the day.

Baronrc (author)Fred826642011-07-24

people like you make my day.

Fred82664 (author)Baronrc2011-07-24

hows that?

Baronrc (author)Fred826642011-07-25

you make cool things.

Fred82664 (author)Baronrc2011-07-25

Thank you! What works for me is once I get an idea in my head I picture in my head the end product and just dissect from there doing one piece at a time. like a puzzle. study pics of things If available and just build it. I like working with leather the most it is like clay but was once a live. if you mess up you can use the piece on something else with no waste just get another hunk and start over with knowledge of what did not work before ,,something new was learned. ok now I have giving away my secret tool to my money making schema.

Baronrc (author)Fred826642011-07-26

interesting... I have more of an exploded view of the item I am trying to make. Next time I get stuck I'll try your reverse-assembly technique.

Fred82664 (author)Baronrc2011-07-26

Well thank you ! I am no genus however it works for me in many areas not just leather but in other things I build and create. just keep in mind the end piece is a combination of all the other parts. how many parts and how you make it fit and work is the key to the magic. reverse assembly only shows you a vague map. just like dissecting a frog or other things. If it is something that you can not relay get your hands on then it is a lot of time in deep thought on how and lots of sketching till you feel you got just what you want to be. Then do the hand work and build it. I do a lot of this in my head most of the time sketching helps me not to forget the steps when I build it up

D10D3 (author)2011-07-25

I have a helmet just like that one. Old soviet hardware is the best. I had plugged an MP3 player into it once by attaching alligator clips to the leads and an 8th" cable in the player. The sound was kind of crappy but it worked. It never occured to me to put in a jack, GREAT IDEA!

gezer2u (author)2011-07-25

If anybody is looking.

iminthebathroom (author)2011-07-23

I was looking at buying one of the fighter helmets off of ebay, reproductions from china. Surprisingly nice though

Baronrc (author)iminthebathroom2011-07-25

did you find something like this on ebay? imBobertRobert might be looking for one, maybe you can bid against each other ;)

onemoroni1 (author)2011-07-23

I did something similar back in the mid 60's with an old surplus fighter jet helmet. I patched in the mono earphone wire and jack from my transistor radio to the helmet speakers. Got lots of comments riding around the little mountain town I went to HS in listening to the AM station.

Baronrc (author)onemoroni12011-07-23

you have just given me a great idea!!!! I can use it with my mp3 player while driving! Wanna place bets on how long it takes me to get pulled over?

onemoroni1 (author)Baronrc2011-07-23

I'm sorry I wasn't clear of what I was riding. I meant to say riding around town on my 10 speed even though it wasn't illegal back then to wear headphones in a car and light years before the helmet law, let alone helmet for bikes. Please don't do this in a car, yes I know you were kidding. Though it was useful when I was doing down hill speed runs trying to peg the old cable driven Schwin spedo to 50 mph. Happy Listening!

Baronrc (author)onemoroni12011-07-24

Yeah I agree it's unsafe and wasn't planning on really doing it. Driving with headphones isn't illegal here (South Africa) as far as I'm aware. The police actually encourage it because of the high number of cellphone related accidents. I was actually thinking that I'd get pulled over just for looking funny and suspicious.

By the way: I take my hat off to your 50 mph on a bicycle, how do you control a bicycle at those speeds?

onemoroni1 (author)Baronrc2011-07-24

I see we can appreciate cultural differences. Here, one ear piece is OK no matter what the use. Back then the entry level 10 speed was made by Huffy. Just find a good long, straight, really steep hill (in the mountains, northern California), lean over the handle bars, and peddle like hell in a t-shirt, levies, and converse all stars glancing at the road and the spedo until the bouncing needle more or less is flickering at the max speed, 50 mph. Don't know if it was that accurate, but it was a thrill.

Baronrc (author)onemoroni12011-07-25

That reminds me of something my dad did as a youngster. He welded simple karts using only large bearings as wheels, a plank for a seat and feet-on-the-front-axle-rope-in-the-hands steering. No brakes and only as much traction as a steel bearing on tarmac can provide. He made them for his friends and they used to race downhill on these things. He used to proudly claim to be the number one cause of broken bones amongst his friends.

Lonnie W (author)2011-07-24

Couldn't you have used a real girl? (c;

Baronrc (author)Lonnie W2011-07-24

wish I could.... loneliness has a tight grip, sigh

imBobertRobert (author)2011-07-23

how much did the cap cost?

Baronrc (author)imBobertRobert2011-07-23

Cannot remember BobertRobert.... In the 'ible I said it was 5 years ago but now that I think about it it was actually longer, 7 years. Also the currency was different. It was from a "Russian military surplus" shop, you know the type you get in tourist areas, therefore I think it would have been tourist prices.

imBobertRobert (author)Baronrc2011-07-24

ok. well i can google it. thanks for the info!

Baronrc (author)imBobertRobert2011-07-24

No problem man. You might be able to find something similar on ebay, or chat to Fred82664 who makes these things.

mofu (author)2011-07-23

Looks more like a tank driver's cap.

Baronrc (author)mofu2011-07-23

You could be right but I don't really know. I have tried looking these things up online but there's absolutely no info on them. Based on this 'ible: their model designation is SHZ-84 but even when I google that it doesn't come up with any usefull results.

iminthebathroom (author)2011-07-22

nice, was toying with the idea of something similar, happy to see it come to fruition.

Baronrc (author)iminthebathroom2011-07-23

Thanks bathroom guy. Do you have such a headset or were you planing on making it from scratch?

About This Instructable




Bio: I am insane. I make things with my fingers. I derive quiet satisfaction from driving a good road. I love studying until I get a ... More »
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