During my Senior year in college I wanted a side project to work on that would give me something fun to do when I didn't have to focus on homework and studying. As a mechanical engineer, I'm really interested in Iron Man and other superhero technology and wanted to make my own Iron Man helmet to display on my desk or one of my shelves. I didn't want the project to be too expensive so I decided to start with a papercraft template and reinforce it with fiberglass and modeling clay. The idea for the project originally came from Hydromatic93 and their 1st Order Stormtrooper Helmet. I was so impressed by the results that I thought I'd give it a try and make my own version. Although the actual helmet I made is different, I generally followed the steps in their instructable (https://www.instructables.com/id/1st-Order-Stormtrooper-Helmet/).
Step 1: Materials
The base of the helmet is made from cardstock and fiberglass resin. I then built up the helmet and shaped it using some car filler and modeling clay. Finally, I painted it using spray paint and glued in some cheap sunglasses lens over some LED strips to give a slight glow around the eyes. It's harder to see out the helmet with the lights on but it looks pretty cool from the outside. The materials needed are as follows:
- Iron Man (or similar) Papercraft Template (print this out on the cardstock)
- Cardstock (I don't remember which thickness I used but general cardstock should work)
- Scotch Tape or Elmer's Glue (I found tape to be easier but the glue looked cleaner)
- Modeling Clay and sculpting tools (I got some from a local art store but a knife or something might work as well)
- Sandpaper (lots of it)
- Spray paint (to match the final design of your model, I used a bright red and shiny gold)
- Painter's tape
- Cheap sunglasses
- Small magnets (to attach the back wrap around segment to the helmet main body)
- Foam to pad the inside of the helmet
- LED strip, wire and battery (optional)
Step 2: Cutting the Template
Once the materials are gathered the first step is to print out the papercraft template onto cardstock. I printed mine in color to help with assembly, but this isn't necessary. Next cut out all the pieces being careful not to remove too much material. The tabs should have numbers on them which correspond to numbers on other parts. Match the numbers up and assemble them using either Elmer's glue or Scotch tape. I found it cleaner to use the glue but it took longer for it to settle. I chose to use the tape instead since it created a little more solid of a attachment. As you can see in the pictures I wasn't really sure how some of the pieces fit together and wanted to make sure my head would be able to still fit in the helmet. I chose to change the helmet into two separate parts: the helmet main body and the back bottom wrap around piece.
Step 3: Applying Fiberglass and Resin
The cardstock itself is good for forming the general helmet shape but it isn't very strong otherwise. The best way to strengthen the helmet is by using fiberglass and resin. The best way to do this is by coating the outside of the helmet in a layer of resin first in order to make it a little stronger. Once this dries, lay down strips of the fiberglass cloth along the inside of the helmet and brush the resin over it to strengthen the structure. I had to do several coats of the fiberglass before I ended up with something I felt would be strong enough. Make sure to perform these steps in a well ventilated area, as the resin smell is fairly strong. Also make sure to wear gloves as the resin can be quite sticky.
Step 4: Applying Car Filler
Once the resin and fiberglass is dry, the shape of the helmet itself needs to be modeled further. The instructable I was following suggested using car filler, however I found the material to be thick and hard to work with. I was able to coat the outside of the helmet, but the surface was rough and hard to work with. I ended up having to use an electric sander to smooth down the outside but I still didn't have the shape I wanted. After looking at pictures of the actual Iron Man helmet online, I drew basic contour lines on the helmet to help me create a more refined shape.
Step 5: Applying Modeling Clay
I decided to try using modeling clay to smooth out the shape of the helmet. Before applying the clay, I used a knife and some scissors to cut out some areas where the car filler was too heavily applied. I didn't like how the eyes looked, so I made the holes slightly larger. I also cut off the ear area on both sides of the helmet several times since they weren't symmetric and some sections bulged out too far. The clay worked well to refine the shape but it took time before I had something I was happy with. I also embedded small magnets in the back of the helmet main body and the wrap around segment so the two could be joined once the main body was on my head. After lots of clay and lots of sanding, I finally had something I was happy with.
Step 6: Painting
After you have your final shape the real fun starts to happen. I picked up a couple bottles of spray paint at Walmart and masked off the front area. Next I just painted the helmet according to pictures seen online. It ended up taking a few coats but I the finished project looked a lot better than before it was painted. Again, make sure this is performed in a well ventilated area.
Step 7: Final Steps
The last step is to add the finishing touches i.e. the lenses, foam and LED lights. I hooked up the LED strips in series to a 9V battery enclosure which came with a built in on/off switch. I also lined the inside with some foam strips so it was a little more comfortable incase I wanted to wear it. The helmet is still a little crooked in some locations, however I think it turned out pretty well considering it started from simple cardstock.