Introduction: DIY Space Helmet From a Camping Mat!

About: I help people make awesome costumes that are cheap to make and don't require a bunch of specialized tools. I do lots of steampunk, but others as well.

I originally designed this space helmet pattern for my seven year old son. He had a space-themed dress-up day at school, and wanted an awesome costume. Let's just say he was "over the moon" when he saw the finished helmet! Since then, it has been made by numerous people around the world. I even saw it the other day on the Netflix series "The Crown" (Season 3 episode 7). That's pretty fun:)

My goal was to try to make a space helmet that looked relatively real, using only easy to access materials and simple construction techniques, so any parent could make it for their child and allow them to live out that childhood dream of being an astronaut.

I have also added an adult size to the space helmet pattern so everyone can join in the fun!!

In the video tutorial I use contact cement to assemble most of the space helmet, but since then I have become more aware of the health concerns of using contact cement without proper precautions, so I use hot glue instead.

Here are the tools and materials I used:

  • Pattern : I used the one that I created. You can find it on my website . It includes an adult and a child size.
  • 5-8 mm thick EVA foam: I used foam from a cheap camping mat.
  • 2 mm EVA craft foam: you will need two sheets
  • Soft Foam: A small piece of the kind of foam you would find inside a chair cushion or a foam mattress.
  • Super Glue
  • Glue: Either contact cement or hot glue.
  • Hot Glue Gun (paid link): I love my glue gun because it has adjustable temperature. I like to use it at as low a temp as possible so that the glue cools quickly.
  • Cutting Surface
  • Gluing Surface: I absolutely love using a silicone baking sheet. Nothing sticks to it.
  • Sharp Knife: If it is not really sharp you will have a terrible time when you are cutting the foam. I like to use a scalpel.
  • Blowdryer: Can be used for heating the foam so it can be shaped.
  • Pen: I used a silver gel pen and a white paint pen so that they wouldn't bleed through the white paint
  • Scissors
  • Paint: I used Plaid FX Smooth Satin "Blizzard" and Plaid FX Armour Metallic "Chainmail"
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Leather punch: Optional. I used it for the 4 rivets on the nameplate

Please note, some of the above links are affiliate links, and I do get a small commission if you buy through these links. It doesn't cost you any more and it helps me out!

Step 1: Safety First!

It's fun to get started, but you want to stay safe so that you can enjoy your amazing creation!

  • Wearing the space helmet limits your vision. Be very aware of the activities you are taking part in so that you do not get into a dangerous situation. Children should always be supervised by an adult to ensure their safety.
  • Some EVA foam contains a chemical called formamide. There are some people that say there isn't enough formamide in EVA mats to be harmful, and others that say there is. Do your research and come to your own conclusions. At the least, I would say it is a good idea to open your foam mat up and let it sit in the sun for a day or two, as most of the chemical will off-gas from the foam. Or buy foam that is labelled formamide free.
  • Do not wear your helmet until all fumes from glue and foam are gone. The helmet is a fairly enclosed environment and you only have one set of lungs.
  • Sharp knives and hot glue can cause injury. Be sure to use in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 2: Print the Pattern

You will need to print the pattern page of the PDF. Make sure the scale is set to actual size. Once printed, use a ruler to measure against the print guides to know that the scale is correct.

Some of the pattern pieces are larger than one sheet of paper. For these, line up the “+” shaped marks, and tape the sheets together.

To line up the patterns, I like to tape the sheets together on a window so that I can see through the paper easily.

Step 3: Cut and Trace the Pattern

Cut the pattern out of the paper, cutting as close to the line as you can without removing the line.

Place the pieces on the foam, and trace around them with the ballpoint pen, holding them firmly so that they don’t move while being traced. Make sure to mark the alignment marks and, once the pattern is removed, extend them to the inside of the pattern

Trace 2 of pieces 1-4, making sure with pieces 1 and 2 that you flip the pattern over when you trace the second piece. Remember to draw the lettered alignment markings on the back when you flip the pieces. Label the mirrored pieces 1b and 2b

Pieces 1, 2, 3, and 8 get traced on 8 mm foam, and pieces 4-7 get traced on 2mm craft foam.

If you are wondering how much foam you will need, the first picture shows all the pieces laid out on a 50cm wide sheet of foam, and the long paper strip at the top is 75 cm.

** I normally use a regular ballpoint pen to trace my pattern pieces, but because you will be painting this helmet white, there is a possibility of the pen bleeding through the paint and being a nightmare. In this case, it is a good idea to use a white paint pen, or as I used, a silver gel pen**

Step 4: Time to Cut Some Foam!

Okay, before you cut anything, I need to emphasize the importance of having a really, really sharp knife! If your knife isn't sharp, the foam is going to tear and cause you to pull out your hair in frustration!! If you are using foam that isn't very dense (like my camping mat) this will be even more of a problem. I recommend buying a surgical scalpel handle and a box of blades so that you can change blades whenever the blade loses it's ultra-sharp edge.

Cut the foam pieces out, cutting right on top of the pen line. Try to keep the knife blade perpendicular to the foam.

Piece 6 needs to be 30cm long. This is longer than the length of a standard sheet of paper, so if your craft foam is only U.S. letter sized, you will need to cut the piece diagonally to get the 30 cm length.

** Be aware of where your hands are at all times. You don't want to cut your fingers with your super sharp knife!

Step 5: Cut the Bottom Rim

This is a slightly tricky step, and it is not really that important if you just want a quick build, but it does give the bottom strip a little extra interest.

Mark a strip of foam from the camping mat that is 75 cm (30") long and 2 cm (3/4") wide. Next mark two lines in the centre of that strip spaced approximately 4 mm apart. Cut the strip off the camping mat at the 2 cm (3/4") mark that you made, then cut along the other two lines, but cut only halfway through the foam. Then cut that centre strip out by flexing the foam and carefully cutting it out as flat as you can.

Step 6: Gluing Basics

In the video tutorial I use contact cement to assemble the helmet pieces, but in this tutorial I will show the process using hot glue. Contact cement tends to give a cleaner result, however, it is not a good idea to use contact cement in an enclosed space without ventilation, which is why I have transitioned over to using mainly hot glue. You only have one set of lungs, so make sure to treat them with care!!

If you are using contact cement:

Spread the cement on both edges that you are planning to glue together. Wait until the glue is no longer tacky, and then press the edges together. They should stick instantly and permanently together.

If you are using hot glue:

If you use hot glue, just glue a small section at a time and hold it together while also pressing the seam down onto your gluing surface. Hold it until the glue cools. Then move on to the next section. This is a lot faster if you use a glue gun with adjustable temperature control because you can set the gun to a low temperature so you don't have to hold the pieces together as long, not to mention you will get fewer burnt fingers!

As you get used to your glue gun, you can also try wiping the glue off the seam just as it gets cool, giving you a nice clean seam. Just be careful not to burn yourself on glue that is still hot!

Another tip for clean hot glue seams is to rub vigorously over top of the seam after the glue has completely cooled with some scrap foam to clean it up. (this only works well with medium to high density EVA foam) I have a little video about getting nice hot glue seams that you can watch here.

I have changed my technique over time and find it easiest to glue with the finished side up rather than down against the silicone mat. This means that I will basically make the helmet inside out until near the end, at which point I will turn it right side out.

If you use hot glue, be careful not to leave it in a hot car because the glue will melt, leaving you with a hot mess!

Step 7: Glue the V Cuts

Glue all the "V" cuts together. These darts are going to help create 3-dimensional shapes from the flat foam sheets.

Step 8: Form Some Foam

Take piece 2 and 2b and stretch them over your knee.

You want to just stretch the center section of each piece, to help give them a domed form.

Step 9: Assemble Pieces 1 and 2

Now you can apply glue down the centre line of both of the number 1 pieces. Glue them together, starting by lining up the front and working your way back. Be conscious of lining up the alignment marks as well as the marks from gluing the Vs.

Now glue piece 2 to piece 1 and 2b to 1b in the same way, again trying to line up the alignment marks. You may have noticed in the video that some alignment marks didn’t match perfectly - this was an error in the pattern that I have since corrected. Always start gluing from the front, and then, if for some reason it doesn’t all line up, you can just trim any extra off the back.

Step 10: Turn It Inside Out

I find that when I am gluing the foam together, especially with a hot glue gun, the inside seams end up looking better than the outside seams, so at this point I would suggest turning the helmet inside out, to get the best seams on the outside.

Glue the short flaps together at the front.

Step 11: Bottom Rim

Glue the bottom rim to the helmet, starting at center back. When you get around to where you started, cut off any excess.

Step 12: Visor Discs

Glue piece 4 in the centre of piece 3. Repeat for other side. Add more detail by pressing the end of a pen relatively firmly into the 8 mm foam, twisting a bit as well. This leaves a nice little dome in the foam with a recess all around it.

Now glue the completed visor discs onto each side of the helmet. The idea with these is that in a real helmet, this is the piece where the visor would attach and rotate up and down.

Step 13: Make a Nameplate

As much as possible, I like to try to disguise the obvious glue seams on my projects, so glue piece 7 on the chin guard right over top of the centre seam. If you have a hole punch or leather punch, adding a couple of “rivets” is a nice touch.

This helmet is for my daughter Isobel, but that would be a lot of cutting....

Step 14: Racing Stripe

Glue piece 5 over the back centre seam, starting at the bottom, butting up to the bottom rim. If all goes well, this piece should end right at the V cut on piece 2. Now continue that strip with piece 6, all the way to the front of the helmet. I like to take that piece all the way around and underneath the visor a bit.

Then, glue piece 11 over top of that join as well as the V cut, hiding them both.

Step 15: Add Some Soft Foam Spacers for Comfor and Fit

In order to look like a real space helmet, it needs to be quite a bit larger than the wearer's head. Therefore, you need to add some foam spacers to take up some of that extra space. The size and thickness of the spacers will depend a bit on the size of the head it is going on. The measurements I use here should be a good starting point. These worked well on a 51.5 cm head (20 1/4").

Trace two copies of piece 9 and one of piece 10 onto the soft foam, and then use the electric carving knife to cut them out, making them 2 cm (3/4") thick.

Hot glue the two number 9 pieces with their inside edge approx 3 cm from the centre line of the helmet, and glue the bottom edge of piece 10 approx 3 cm up from the bottom edge of the helmet.

Take the six number 8 pieces and hot glue them together in two stacks of three. Then glue these inside the helmet on either side of the chin. I glued mine with the edge 6 cm (2 3/8 inches) from the centre front line.

Step 16: And Some Chin Things

Take the six number 8 pieces and hot glue them together in two stacks of three. Then glue these inside the helmet on either side of the chin. I glued mine with the edge 6 cm (2 3/8 inches) from the centre front line.

Step 17: Paint!

Alright, you are almost done. Paint the whole thing white. Depending on how porous your foam is, and how thick your paint is, you will definitely need at least 3 coats of paint and quite possibly more.

The paint I used for the helmet was Plaid FX. It's a flexible paint that helps reduce cracking if the foam flexes. Although using a flexible paint is great, it isn't completely necessary. I often use just a reasonably priced artist's acrylic paint, as that still has some flex in it.

Paint the visor discs and the bottom rim silver for a bit of contrast.

Give it a clear coat to give it a nice shine! I used Pledge Floor Gloss.

Step 18: Special Notes for the Adult Sized Helmet

The same basic steps apply for the adult size. However, I have left the length of the helmet below the face
opening a bit longer so that you have the option to trim it down to the length that looks best for you.

Depending how much you cut off the bottom edge will determine how large you will want to make the front panel piece 7.

The length of the rim around the bottom edge should be around 77 cm.

You may need more than a stack of three pieces of foam for the chin guard depending on fit.

Step 19: Go Play

Yay! You’re done. Now get in that rocket and go on an amazing adventure!!

Thanks for hanging out with me!

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