Introduction: 10 Easy Steps to a Cardboard Helmet

About: I am the father of a large, loud group of I like to attempt the stuff you can make in increments, stuff that's easily and quickly put away, and stuff that is family and kid friendly. My shop and …

Being the first Instructable I've attempted, I wanted it to adhere to build principals I've always held in high priority: *recycled/repurposed materials
*time, budget, and clean-up friendly
*big happy return for the effort invested

So, using cardboard and a few basic repair items found about the house, I decided to build and share a neat costume helmet.

Materials needed:
*Cardboard (corrugated board, to be specific)
*Sharp scissors, AND/OR a box-knife, with good blades
*Caulk (or glue, or lots of chewed gum)
*Small paint brush
*Paint--liquid or spray, no worries
*A straight edge. I used a metal ruler.
*A measuring tape. Not essential, but handy to measure around corners.

Step 1: Jump In!

So, I got this cool box with a monkey on it, and my brain immediately made some tenuous connection to a safety head harness I have in my junk box.

The harness in question is one that includes a flip up feature for a plastic face shield. The shield is absent on this particular rig, but I thought the feature would make the harness a great candidate to serve as foundation for a cool helmet.

Keep in mind that this particular component is negotiable: you can make one out of cardboard, a baseball cap, a plastic bowl...whatever fits on your cranium.

Here we go:

Measure around, edge to edge, the faceplate area.

I was going for the angles in this build, so I cut an equal number of "plates" to form the face shield. Placing the seam in the middle, and working around to the side, I cut the plates equally(ish), then traced and cut the corresponding plates to wrap around the othe side.

I then used tape to secure the plates together around the edge of the visor piece of my headgear. (If one were to make this using an apparatus without a front visor attachment, I would recommend building up the forehead area of your rig with 2-3 inches--using cardboard, or a material rigid enough to support a decent weight.)

When you're taping the plates together, do not press the tape down onto the cardboard unmercifully, as you want to leave yourself some adjustment room. You want to be able to peel it back off without taking the layer of card over the corrugated layer...taping nice seams comes in another couple of steps.

Thus ended my first day (and this step); this prep and initial cardboard placing took me about an hour. And it was a fun hour.

**Alzo at this point, notice the last picture of the impromptu "jig box". This box becomes incredibly handy when you pack away for the night...all of the materials for the project fit nicely and the notch I took out of the front held the helmet nicely when I was eyeballing and lining up work on the sides.**

Step 2: Forming Up the Faceplate

So, now you have a blast shield. When you are done knocking over stuff with your lightsaber, take it off so we can cut a visor out of it.

**i should note here that we never cut anything on the helmet while it is being worn. Thank you**

Using a scrap piece of cardboard and eyeball powers, I roughed out the (inverted) triangular area I wanted to "sink" in and hide the view slot.

I lined a triangle on the front, from the edge of where the plastic visor-piece was under the face mask terminating near where my mouth would be. Using a sharp blade on my knife, I cut out the triangle.

Now with this big empty hole, I wanted to "sink", or recess the visor area to create the effect of an empty, menacing blank area whet the face would be...if there WAS a face! Oooooo, scarrrry! Anyway, that's where I was going.

Using your magic eyeball powers again, and a bit of straightedge--because nobody's perfect--you now can jig cut in pieces to fill in the "cheeks" and nose area, leaving yourself a slit to see through.

Again, this is where a forgiving tape job is handy, because you'll more than likely have to take the pieces off a notch out some on the eye slot area until you get it where you are comfortable seeing out of. The limit on viability in the final design is concentrated more in the downward peripheral-- but that's cool, because the finished helmet looks menacing from a down tilted angle.

And, hey, don't worry about how silly it looks with your eyes peeking out, we'll solve that later.

Step 3: Capping It

Now that you can see this thing shaping up three dimensionally, you're probably eager to fill it out even more...

So, let's get to helmeting:

The first plate I did was a hexagonal polygon. This began life as a square big enough to stretch from the top band on my harness (the midpoint of the head on top, if you have no top band--you'll want something here to anchor to) to the back of the regular head band.

I used the straight-edge to press a couple of creases where I wanted to plate to bend over, forming the curve, as it were.

I then cut one corner off and used it to trace the three additional corners and ended up with the six sided shape, because why not?
See pic three for the taped piece.

Next, I cut some triangular shapes to fit the missing corners at an angle, to begin wrapping the construct around the curve of my skull.

After getting some angled coverage around the top of my dime, I worked forward to the forehead/temple area. The front of this portion travelled beneath where my visor flips over. If your base does not have a flip-up visor, at this point you can just work your skull plates forward to meet up with the back of your faceplate.

My ambition on this particular day--after the hour or so I spent on it--was to get the helmet formed up from my jaw over the top and to the back of my head, so, mission accomplished.

Now, put it on and go look in the mirror. Gettin pretty cool, innit?

Step 4: The Ear Wing Swoopie Thing

Okay, now you're set on obscuring those ears and getting this thing to the point where you can call it a helmet (or bucket, of you're some kinda hardcase), aren't you?

For the sides, I wanted to angle from the edge of the "jaw" on the faceplate, and bring it back and up in a sweep ending a little bit above the back of my head.

Look at the third picture. See where I'm going with this?

After getting the angle what looked good to me, I taped the side-wing-swoops on, then laid strips across and marked them to cut.

What I'm doing here is the same method used on the faceplate--making a finished angular "wrap". This set of plates is intended to join with the side pieces and form an enclosed case comprising the back of the helmet.

All told, I used three thin strips (handwidth) to form the top, and one about twice as wide to fill in and connect the underside of the back. The effect being a shell curve up the back, with who knows what kind of alien technology built in back there? Seriously, I'm thinking about a future mod already...but steady on the current course.

Go on, take your time in the mirror. You look very impressive, great job so far!

Step 5: Make It Solid

At this point, I was tired of looking at raggedy tape, and wanted a nice solid piece before moving on to what, at this point, will essentially be greeblies; just aesthetic add-ons to improve the silhouette and because epic.

Soooo, I gently removed the last portion added (the swoop) to which I bestowed additional tapes to make the corners nice and squar(ish) after removing it from the skull plate. I also removed the faceplate for ease of interior access. If you can't take this bit off yours, it's not a big deal. At all.

Now we gonna slap some glue on this mug.

Liberally apply caulking, or whatever glue substance you have, into the interior corners, crevices, and seams. I used a beefy little paintbrush. I like the silicone caulk, or rubber cement in a pinch because the rubbery consistency it maintains after it cures gives your final piece a little more bounce than hard joins you get with wood or white glue. I wouldn't attempt hot glue because of all of the recesses and angles to get to...and good lord it hurts.

**i should mention that interior means inside, just in case of brain spasm--we are not gluing the outside of the helmet. Unless that's your thing. I want to encourage customising.**

While your goop job is setting up, you can use the time for more cardboard cutting. I figured I wanted to add some details in the form of low, long pyramid darts to attach to the swoop, once it was remounted.

You can see I had been considering this in the horribly dim picture. I eyeballed the diamond shape to stretch from the lower "jaw" area to a couple inches beyond the swoop angle in the helmet's rear.

I quadsected(?) my diamond, did a bit of shaving the inside angle so the finished pyramid would stand up a bit (like a really big metal stud), applied tape liberally to the convex outside and then buttered the concave-inside with some more caulk.

Make two of these for now and another set in the same size to set aside for later. We'll get to them, I'm just saving you some time here.

If the tips of these pieces isn't perfect due to scissors or algebra, no worries. Just fill in the inside well--don't goop it too much in there or it won't dry--and your final tape job will help form it up.

Let it dry awhile. I set mine on the washer under my custom made Wind Tree...which is just some fans clipped together...for a couple of hours before I couldn't stand it and had to peel off the tape. I left the silver tape I used on the faceplate, but all of the paper tape had to go. You'll get your hands goopy if you start messin with this thing too soon, but you already know that, dontcha? Yeah you do.

Step 6: Add Ons for Not Batman

Okay. At this juncture your helmet goop job has cured and you are ready to put your 2/3 pieces back together and get those cool ears on.

You can use a bit of caulk/glue on the seams when reattaching the swoop piece to the back, or not. I didn't want to wait for a cure, so I went right ahead and applied the nice straight tape-job I intend to use on all of the edges very shortly.

Once the pieces are securely re-helmeted together, you can place the "ears", using your preferred method we've covered, to attach them.

When you place them in what looks like the correct position, you will clearly understand the title of this step. You're a Bat-fan? Well, congrats, you now have a techno-bat helmet! Coool!

I wasn't going for the Dark Knight, so we'll keep on adding details right here.

Having vigorously attached to ears, I decided to just build on them. Using another series of mini-pyramid building based on angles I surmised with mighty eyeball power, I brought the horns...up and in.

Looking purty baws, but now it's hinting at Frank the Rabbit Bot, so let's move on shall we?

Step 7: More Backside, to the Point

Having decided we neither want the bat nor the bunny, we are evolving onward.

The profile needing serious beefing up on the backside is no sweat. We have a few angles to build on now. Connecting these corners and lines where possible--and aesthetically sound--will reinforce the structure while adding depth to the overall look.

Using the back point of the new "horns", which needed reinforcement anyway, I decided to form a new set of pyramids on top of the swoop curve. Once the backs are applied to the pyramid "horn-base"s a concavity is formed on the top back of the helmet, which looks awesome, and another layer of height is added.

Step 8: Final Points

After securing the horns with the back "struts", I added the second set of pyramid studs that I mentioned in Step Five, then bridged those across the back, and then added yet another set of little pyramids to create the middle horn-spike seen in profile.

You really want to spin this around and look at it from all angles, see what looks right to you. You can easily use your box knife to remove add-ons of you change your mind.

So, all points added, open areas closed in, and taped up straight and nice?

Right on! You're ready to paint!

Step 9: Proof It.

This step will:
*waterproof (or at least water resist) the helmet
*provide quite a bit of the structural integrity
*give you a base coat for any detailing you want to do

Now, get the paint out and slop it on.

For the refreshing blue color, I used some old dried out water-based house paint--I avoid oil based liquid paints when possible because of the double headache of clean-up and fumes. I mixed in some water and brought it back to life.

I brushed it in thick down in all the recessed angles and then fanned and smoothed that out until it was covered completely.

If you'd like to do the same to the inside, more power to ya...I didn't want paint stuck all over the headband, so I skipped it for the most part.

After a drying session under the Wind Tree, I gave it a coat of the yellow-orange. Ran out of the blue, and again, why not?

Then a spray combo of hammered metal bronze and flat black, using short bursts held about a foot from the surface and following the lines.

**In a well ventilated area, that last part especially. If in doubt: the outdoors is very well ventilated in most cases.**

Finally, I used my smaller brush (which was cleaned very well after the caulk step, yes) to paint a silver/black acrylic paint mix on the raised angles.

Let the helmet dry overnight, and then you're ready for the finishing touch.

Step 10: The Windows to the Soul

Now that thou be finished with thy pigments, the time for obscuring your meager human identity has arrived.

Get yourself a piece of sheer black fabric. Think old blouse, tool from a cheap Halloween costume, anything:

*You can see through- hold it over your eyes and walk around. If you didn't shin-bark the furniture or step on the dog, you can see through it.

*Is big enough to cover the recessed eye area.

You could use a tinted plastic scrap, but for my purposes I wanted something non-reflective so the eye-hole would look like a void.

Using some of your abundant scraps (I kept mine in the box as I worked, and I have plenty left to fashion pulp huts for orphan squirrels), cut a wide V to fit flush with the opening.

Paint it flat black

Wrap your black scrap nice and smooth on the V piece, cutting the corners to allow it not to bunch or wrinkle.

Cut and tape the excess on the back side as neatly and flatly as possible. This is the side you will tape or glue down into the recess in the front.

If you have any forehead decoration on the front of your headband, and yours is a flip up apparatus, you may have to add a strip of cardboard at the top (interior) of the eye slit to keep the top of the material from hanging. This has been the only design fix I have made as of yet.


And there you have it, a respectable and formidable helmet.

I will follow up with add-ons (including lights and a voice changer) soon.

Thanks for making it through with me, and I sincerely hope you enjoy this build.