Introduction: Upcycled Ant Man Helmet
It's amazing what you can create with found materials and a little imagination. The world is already so full of interestingly shaped man-made objects, sometimes you only have to look in the trash to find the exact do-dads and thingamajigs you need to make something awesome. This Ant Man helmet is literally made out of stuff that was lying around my studio, strategically painted, glued and duct taped together. It's not a very hard project, and you don't need any fancy tools to make it.
Not long after seeing Ant Man over the summer, I found a video online about how to create an Ant Man helmet at home. I thought it looked like a fun challenge and I wanted to try making my own version. I've always liked taking recycled objects and trying to reimagine them into an elevated an unrecognizable form. There is something very satisfying and magical about this transformation, it makes you think about the objects around you in a new way, and it's a fun treasure hunt to find what you need.
There is no one way to make this project, and a lot of objects will work for the various parts of the helmet. I'll show you what materials I used and suggest some others that I think might be good options. No matter what, the Ant Man helmet you create will be unique to you, because all superheroes should have a hand in writing their own origin story.
Step 1: Supplies and Tools
Material Suggestions (my choices in bold)
The most fun thing about this project is finding innovative ways to re-use ordinary objects to create the shapes in the helmet. Below are some suggestions of things that I think will work well, but you can your imagination, look at the different parts of the helmet, and think of what else has a similar shape.
- the front of a respirator without the filters
- the top area and lid of a large bottle like a gallon water/milk jug, bleach container, Arizona iced tea gallon etc.
- plastic protractors
- salad tongs
Connector Piece Between Side Hinges and Mouth:
- window suction cups
- parts from a "braided" plastic headband
- concave bottom of plastic drink bottles
- rubber cups for the bottom of chair legs
- small plastic plates - for the inner ear
- round lids or bottoms of tupperware or plastic bowls or plastic containers - for the inner ear
- bottoms of red solo cups - for the outer ear
- bottoms of small tupperware or plastic bowls - for the outer ear
- headphones or shop ear protection - for the outer ear
- ashtrays or small shallow plate/bowls - these can function as both the inner and outer ear
- large zip ties
- pipe clamps
- long drywall anchors
- gallon water/milk jug
- plastic face guard
- part of a plain plastic Halloween mask
- sunglasses with a red tint
- safety glasses + red sharpie
- red film like a red tinted plastic folder
Top Head Slats:
- plastic water/milk jug + duct tape or spray paint
- cardboard + duct tape or spray paint
- large disposable aluminum serving dishes
Back of Head:
- plastic water/milk jug + spray paint
- cardboard + duct tape
Back of Head Mesh:
- plastic tubing
- cut shapes out of the plastic water bottle piece
- mesh like a fly swatter or a strawberry basket
Base of Helmet:
- cap part of a baseball cap or other hat
- small helmet
- build your own base out of cardboard or fabric
- photos of the helmet from all angles for reference
- silver duct tape
- red and black duct tape or electrical tape
- silver, and black spray paint
- glue - hot glue, and super glue are good choices
- small and large zip ties
- red leds, like floralights, or small rear bike lights
- silver colored quick set rivets
- chicago screws or small nuts and bolts
- exacto knife
- scissors that will cut through tough materials (like these Olfa shears)
- hot glue gun
- hole punch and nails
- hammer and a hard surface
- wire cutters
- red and black sharpies
- pencil and paper
- mannequin head - optional
Step 2: Create a Base
The first thing you need is a base to build the rest of the helmet on. I used a baseball cap that I cut the brim off of. This was nice because it was soft, easy to glue onto, and adjustable in the back.
On top of this cap I created a slightly raised and more rigid understructure for the rest of the helmet using a plastic headband and a strip of cardboard covered in black tape. I used hot glue to attach these to the cap at the sides and front.
I decided to use ashtrays as the ear pieces of my helmet, so I decided where to position them, and then punched holes in them with a hammer and nail where I would attach them to the cap.
Step 3: Make the Side and Top Slats
With the ear pieces taped in place for reference, I used paper to determine the general shape of the two slats that would run along the sides of the head, completing the understructure. I created these side pieces out of cardboard and black tape as well.
Then I cut 1.25" wide strips out of the top of a plastic milk jug to create the top slats. Cardboard would also work well here. I arranged these pieces on top of the head and tacked them down with tape, then, marked where I needed to trim them.
Step 4: Cover the Slats
I used pieces of duct tape to very neatly cover each of my head slats after I had trimmed them into shape. You could also sptay paint them, but I wanted to give them a bit more thickness and body by using the tape.
After they were covered, I arranged them back on the head, gluing them down to the black understructure with hot glue.
Step 5: Create the Mouthpiece
Referencing my photo of the front of the helmet I drew a shape for the moithpiece on the top of an Iced Tea bottle. I used my xacto to cut this piece out and to also cut vent holes in the bottle cap. I cut a few more pieces of the plastic bottle and hot glued them to the sides of the mouth piece to imitate the detail on this part of the helmet. the magic of silver spray paint is that details that look janky and plastic now will look like they are actual metal when they are all a uniform silver.
Step 6: Prep Pieces for the Hinge
I decided to use a combination of parts of a headband, plastic protractors, and shower curtain suction cups to create the hinges that attach the mouthpiece to the rest of the helmet. I cut the two ends of the headband off so I could use the loops as part of the hinges. (I also tried some large zip ties because I thought they might look good, but I decided the headband pieces were better).
Step 7: Spray and Rivet
Then I took all the pieces I'd prepped so far and spray painted them in a ventilated area. I painted the mouthpiece and the pieces of the hinge silver, and the ashtrays for the ear pieces black. I also dusted the head slats black because I wanted the whole thing to have a slightly worn look. Ant man's suit is supposed to be old, so I thought it looked more authentic like this.
Step 8: Add Red to the Ear Pieces
Once the spray paint had dried, I added red to the center of the ear pieces by covering them with red duct tape. I covered some large zip ties with silver duct tape and glued them around the red center to create the silver ridge details.
Step 9: Attach Slats and Ear Pieces
The silver slats were already attached with hot glue, but to make them look even more like actual metal I punched holes in them and glued on the top half of silver rivets.
Then I attached the ear pieces with zip ties threaded all the way through the hat and the two holes I had punched in the metal.
I trimmed the ends of the duct tape slats around the ear pieces, folded them under and secured them with hot glue.
Step 10: Assemble the Hinges
I took the headband pieces I had sprayed silver and punched holes in the ends. Then I used a bolt and nut to attach them to the protractors, creating a hinged joint.
I used rivets to attach the suction cups to the mouthpiece, then looped the loops form the headband pieces over the nubs on the suction cups.
I punched two holes in the center of each red ear piece and zip tied the protractors to the ears, therfore attaching the whole mouthpieces assembly to the helmet.
Step 11: Add the Back Piece
I looked around at all my materials to see what would make the best back piece. I decided that part of the left over Arizona tea bottle that had an interesting shape would work well. I traced some vent holes in the sides and cut them out with my xaxto. I sprayed this piece with silver and a little black spray paint and then covered the back of the vents with black tape. Then I attached the whole thin to the back of the helmet with hot glue.
Step 12: Color the Glasses
There are probably better ways to do this, but I made use of what I had on hand and created my red ant eyes by coloring a pair of safety glasses with a red sharpie. The result looked pretty good from the outside, but did not provide an entirely clear view was from the inside. A better solution would be to use some red gels from theatre lights or welding eye protection.
Step 13: Create the Face Plate
Finding something that was the right shape to fit around the face and create the mask of the helmet was not that easy because the piece needs to have some curve to it. The piece I ended up using was not exactly the right shape, but I thought it actually looked quite good.
First I took basic measurements from my helmet and then sketched a patten on paper. I cut this put and tested it against my helmet making a few adjustments. Then I found part of a plastic milk jug that seemed like it was the right shape and cut out my pattern. I tested it again on my helmet and marked where it needed adjustment.
Step 14: Detail the Face Plate
I sprayed my face plate with the same silver/black combo I'd used on the other pieces, then I used black tape to edge the eye holes and glued the lenses of the safetey glasses to the inside.
I created two cardboard strips for the stripes above the eyes and covered them with red duct tape.
Step 15: Finish and Illuminate!
I attached the face plate on the sides to the ear pieces with rivets, trimming it in places so it fit properly.
I created the two little antennae out of large zip ties that I painted silver and glued on top of the protractors.
Last I glued my red floralights inside the helmet next to the eyes so they would illuminate the lenses from within. I made sure to glue them down in a way that I could still access the batteries and pull tabs.