Introduction: Cardboard Knight Helmet

About: I'm an out-sourced engineer, former professional brewer, retired photographer, and above all a life long tinkerer who loves to make stuff. My latest gig was being the Resident Maker at the Perot Museum of Natu…

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Calling all ye Knights of the Realm. Prepare thy selves for a master class in helmet making!

Need a great project for restless kids or just a way to recycle all those Amazon boxes that are stacking up? This is a perfect rainy day project and can easily be customized for a unique build. Before we get started, I think a little background info is needed. I am the Resident Maker at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science. I develop and make projects for camps and other public programs. We were having a medieval camp and I was asked to come up with a few fun projects for the campers. I figured swords were out of the question, so what's the next best thing a plethora of young spunky campers would most enjoy...helmets!

I needed to create a wearable helmet for kids of multiple ages that they could put together easily and didn't cost too much. And oh yeah, they wanted 100 of them! Well after some serious engineering and research I developed a great looking helmet made from my favorite cheap building material, cardboard. I'm lucky enough to have a laser cutter at work so it was pretty easy to laser all the helmets I needed for camp.

For this Instructable though, I wanted to redesign/modify my design so anyone could make these great helmets, even if you don't have a laser cutter. The main requirements are the same I just needed to adjust the process of making the parts. I've redrawn the design to print on a standard home printer. I also will include the original drawing files if someone wants to modify them or if you have access to a laser cutter.


Let's look at what you'll need to make a helmet. Here is a list of supplies to make the basic helmet:

- Cardboard (1-8.5"x11", 2-10"x16" pieces) Regular corrugated cardboard, or cereal box type chip board.

- Sharp Utility or Craft Knife

- Cutting Pad or Work Surface ( * Please don't cut out cardboard on your mom's kitchen table! * )

- Hot Glue Gun & Glue

- Computer Printer (to print pattern)

- Scissors & Tape (to cut out pattern)

- Pen or Marker (to trace pattern onto cardboard)

Optional: Brass Paper Brads and markers for decoration

Step 1: Create the Pattern & Prep the Parts

Print out the Helmet pattern files. There are 3 files: Helmet Top, Helmet Back, and Helmet Front. The back and front files are just half of the pattern. Print 2 each of these or just flip the one over when tracing to form both sides of the piece. Cut out the patterns and match them to your cardboard. If you don't have large enough pieces laying around the house, you can use a cardboard 3-section display board or a large storage box you can buy from an office supply or home improvement store. Large cereal boxes can also work. Cereal boxes are easier to cut but will not be as sturdy when you finish.

Once you've fitted your pattern to the cardboard, trace the pattern and cut out the pieces. If possible, try and layout the pattern with the corrugated lines running from top to bottom on the Front and Back pieces. This will allow you to curve the helmet better in the next step.

Curve the Front and Back pieces by laying them along the edge of a sharp edged table and gently creasing the cardboard from top to bottom with the flat of your hand. Work your way from one side to the next staying perpendicular to the rounded bottom of the piece until you have a gentle curve in each piece. You don't want a hard crease or angle, you just want to bend or "break the flat" of the cardboard. For the Helmet Top, bend a hard crease into the tabs where they meet the curved top. Bend them all towards the inside of the top.

If using chip board, you shouldn't have to bend the sides at all. When you glue the pieces up they should naturally bend into place. You will still need to bend the tabs of the Top piece inward.

*** Pro Tip: If you want to mock up the helmet before you cut it out in cardboard, use the paper pattern and assemble the pieces into a helmet. This is a good idea if you want to see what the final size of the helmet will be. You can always scale the pattern up or down from here if needed. This pattern should fit most elementary aged kids.

On my helmet I added round breathing holes which I cut on a laser cutter. These might be hard to cut out with a craft knife. You can change them to vertical slits which are period appropriate and will be much easier to cut out with a knife.

Step 2: Putting It All Together

With all 3 pieces prepped it's time to assemble your helmet. Start by attaching the Front to Back on one side. Using hot glue, attach the Front Helmet piece on top of the Back Helmet piece. It's easiest to lay the Back flat and overlap the Front by about 1 inch. (In the picture above, I've laid the pieces oppositely, sorry...) After you've attached one side, bend the pieces round until they come together. Hot glue this side together remembering the Front should overlap the Back piece by about 1 inch. If you've punched out the side holes from the pattern, they should line up.

Now, with the front of the helmet facing you and placed it top side down, slide the Helmet Top inside the helmet until it is fitted flat against the work surface. On the Top Helmet piece, you will notice it is not perfectly oval. There is a slightly pointy end. This is the front and should be lined up with the front of the helmet body when you slide it down inside. Adjust the top until it is straight and begin hot gluing the tabs of the Top to the helmet sides. Be sure and keep the helmet flat against the work surface to get a nice straight seam where the top meets the sides.

There you go! The basic helmet is complete.

Step 3: Taking It to the Next Level

To make your helmet more authentic, you'll want to add brass brads to the side seams. Rivets were a common method of construction in medieval helmets, so adding brads will really dress up your helmet.

To add brads, poke a small hole in the sides of your helmet in the middle of the 1 inch overlap you made when gluing the Front and Back sides together. Push the brads through from the front, then spread the tabs out on the inside. You will want to put a piece of tape over the brad tabs on the inside so they don't scratch you or catch your hair.

That's it, you're finished! If you want you can use markers or paint to decorate your helmet. Maybe add a family crest or flag, or even include some battle damage. The possibilities are endless...

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