Introduction: Recycled Power Armour Helmet

About: I enjoying building stuff out of scrap/recycled material and/or coding. I've done more and more of this with my kids as they've getting old enough to wield scissors (sometimes safely, sometimes not so safely).…

In this project I set out to build a "Fallout" style power armour helmet from only recycled materials. This is a project you can do from home with minimal tools and materials most people could easily find. The only stuff I purchased specifically for the project was some glues and paint.

The helmet itself is my own design and isn't an accurate copy of any specific helmet from any of the games, instead its inspired by the games with a lot of pragmatic design choices made based on what materials I had to hand!

The main materials I used for this:

  • Cardboard - a range of thickness (thin and more robust) is useful
  • Scrap paper - I used old newspapers, but anything you can use for Papier-mâché
  • A couple of pringles tubes
  • Some plastic bottles/pots
  • Plastic/Rubber hoses/pipes
  • Misc screws, bits of plastic etc for decorations

I used a mixture of staples, cheap paper masking tape (as cheap as you can) for forming most of the structure. Later as some of the features are added a decent universal glue like UHU or a hot glue gun or something similar is useful. For paints, I used a mixture of spray paints, and acrylic for detailing. I tend to use watered down PVA glue for Papier-mâché, but whatever mixture you prefer is fine.

Step 1: Internal Structure

To build the core of the helmet, I did the following steps:

  1. Cut out 4 cardboard rings and glued them together to form a base.
  2. Cut out a strip of cardboard and wrapped this around the rings to form a lip which can be used to fix uprights to.
  3. Next cut out strips of cardboard to form the uprights, these need to be curved over at the top to meet in the middle.
  4. Cut out a disc to form the top and fix all the up rights to it.

Staples are great for this stage. A tip here - I made the base of the helmet circular (I think I was thinking a bit about diving helmets at this point as part of the inspiration) but actually I think the final look would be better with a more oval shape for the base.

Step 2: Fill in the Helmet

In this stage, we simply cut strips of thin card and "weave" them in and out of the uprights to form a filled in structure. Masking tape is fine for tacking the parts together, staples or any basic tape are fine too.

Step 3: Start Breathing Mask

This is just a series of plastic bottles cut up, with a cardboard "pyramid" shape fixed into place with masking tape to form the beginnings of a breathing mask. You can use your imagination here, any number of combinations of shapes can work. For the central bottle I kept the lid and used that later to complete the mask, but having it unscrew-able was very useful as its a handy place to hold in some of the later stages.

Step 4: Add a Weld Seam

This is an optional step - but here I found some old wire and cut a length of it and tacked it into place with masking tape. This helps to make it look like the helmet was made in 2 pieces and welded together later when we complete the build.

Step 5: Start Papier-mâché Cover

Next you start covering with Papier-mâché. I just used news papers cut to small strips. I also added in 2 hose attachments onto the breathing mask. This is card coiled into a circle and fixed on with glue and the covered. Here you can see my first attempt at pipes - these are cable organisers from Ikea, but ultimately I did not use them as they are split along the whole length and I could not get them to sit right without creases.

Step 6: Cut Out Eye Holes

I created a couple of templates out of card and stuck them into the mask to mark where I wanted the eye holes to be. I cut them out just using a rotary tool, but any sharp knife would do just fine. I made a mistake here and didn't quite get the alignment dead right so be careful!

Step 7: Add "miners" Light

This is a Pringles tube cut diagonally and tacked into place with tape (and then covered). I added a bit more wire along the top to continue the weld seam. I was also lucky enough to find a small battery powered spot light that fit inside the tube just fine, so the light could actually operate. I kept it so could remove the lid as I wanted to work on that more later. Later in the build you'll see a cowling added to the front of the light, this is a mixture of card and paper cut to provide a hood over the front the light and help it direct light downward/forward.

Step 8: Add More Details

I rummaged around to see what I could find to make the helmet more interesting. I found an egg box with some interesting bits of cardboard on it, some spare bit of pipe, and a couple of Pringles tubes I cut the bottom off. All of these are then fixed on and covered, so the helmet starts to take on more shape.

Step 9: Start Building the Back

The pipes feeding round the side of the helmet are iconic with this style of helmet, but they do need to go somewhere, so we needed to build some sort of place for them to terminate. Here I just used a couple of toilet roll tubes and bottle cut in half to start building up a housing for the pipe to terminate into. I came back to this later in the project and made some additional piping attachments which really finished this part off.

Step 10: More Details

I decided the eyes needed a bit more prominence, so I cut some strips of card and layered them around the top of the breathing mask and under the eyes, just to add a bit of extra texture to the area.

Step 11: Priming

At this point, the main construction was completed, so its time to start priming. I used a plain spray primer, but in retrospect a primer with filler would've been a better plan. I compensated with using house hold (poly) filler, sanding and more priming. I ended up repeating this 3 or 4 times to get an OK finish - I didn't need it to be perfect as these helmets are supposed to be beaten up a bit anyway.

Step 12: Base Coats of Paint

I experimented with colours a bit here, but ended up with a silver undercoat, followed by several layers of black on top. The silver underneath allowed me to weather the helmet later and take some of the black back off with a light sanding, the silver then showed through and looked like scratches.

Step 13: Camo

To add some camo effect, I printed out some "honeycomb" patterns, cut then into different shapes and then used temporary glue to fix them to the helmet. This let me use them as templates, and layer in different colours. I made a poor paint choice here of using regular poster paints for the camo, which I then ended up wiping off some by mistake (as its washable). I should've used acrylic or something more permanent.

Step 14: Pipes!

This is my second attempt at pipes (after I gave up on the Ikea ones). These are made from some old washing machine pipes that I had in the garage. I wanted to make them more interesting, so I found an old net bag that I cut into pieces and made 2 tubes from. After painting, this gives a sort of "mesh protected" pipe effect that looks a bit more industrial and hard wearing as befits a military design.

Step 15: More Detailing

Two points to note here, firstly I stencilled "Prototype" above the eyebrow in order to give it a bit more character. Secondly, I completed the breathing mask, by gluing a small piece of grill I salvaged from an old computer case to the cap on the front (cut to size using the cap as a template).

Step 16: Complete the Piping

This was actually one of the more complicated parts as I had to completely fabricate the piping fixtures here. I cut some cardboard tube at 45 degrees and then rotated and re-glued them to make the elbows. Then I cut off some plastic bottlenecks (including the lids) and glued those onto the ends. Added some plastic clips to complete the piping on the back. To fix the rear piping to the parts that run around the helmet, I simply cut holes into the tops of the bottle lids to run the pipes into. All of this was then painted and weathered.

Step 17: Screws for Details

Added a few hex-screws here and there for added detail. Just used a regular drill to poke a hole and then fed screwed them in. (Not shown, but I had also glued some scrap pieces of packing foam inside to help pad the helmet, this also prevents the screws from poking through into your head).

Step 18: Weathering

Final touches, included adding some clear yellow plastic to the lamp lens and some discolouring to that in order to make it looked aged. Then I rubbed off some of the black paint on the edges of the mask to make it more worn.

Step 19: Finished!

Finally, I mixed up a watery brown/red paint and splashed this into all the hard to reach areas of the helmet and then wiped out with a rag to give a standard weathering/dirt effect. A few paint touches here and there to finish it up.

And thats it, project complete!

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure