Intro: Ham Helmet (The HAMLET)
Looking to combine your love of pork products and cycling? Need the MOST METAL helmet mortal man has ever donned? (Have some weird friends with weird birthday requests?)
Look no further!
This is the third iteration of a birthday request made by a friend for "a hat made of bacon." While not made of bacon this year, it is made of sliced ham and pork jerky. The upside is that you don't have to cook it so the meat remains dimensionally stable and you can use a form that isn't oven safe, greatly simplifying the build.
Protip: Once you drill holes in a helmet, it isn't going to protect you in an impact - don't do things you need a helmet for in this. Obvs.
Step 1: Ingredients
There are a lot of things you can fudge in this, but a few things that are mandatory.
Sacrificial Hemet: We're gonna drill some holes in this, and cover it in pork - don't use a nice helmet, or one that you need when you're riding your bike.
Things to look for in your helmet: A removable shell is mandatory. Helmets are foam covered by some sort of plastic shell, you have to be able to get that shell off. I used a Nutcase helmet that a friend donated to the cause, but many skate-style helmets have removable shells, generally held on by some hot melt. A lot of cheaper bike helmets have the shell taped on around the edge, but these shells tend to be thinner, and harder to work with. Nicer helmets (ones with lots o' vents) are often co-molded, which is fancy talk for "really hard to take apart."
Pork: I used 1.5lbs of deli ham sliced about 3mm thick - 10 slices. This covered an XL helmet with as little overlap as possible. To be safe I overbought by a half pound, I'd recommend that over running out halfway through. I also used one package of pork jerky for the trim.
Dental Floss: Waxed, unflavored.
Large Needle: A huge embroidery needle works well, you'll need to be able to thread it with dental floss and shove it through multiple layers of jerky.
Drill: Preferably a drill press, a corded drill works well too. If you're using a cordless, have your extra battery ready to go - helmets are rather tough, and we're drilling a lot of holes. You'll also need a 5/32nds drill bit.
A GOOD IDEA
Cling Wrap: Cling wrap is the best thing ever - you can use it to cover the vent holes in the helmet and give it a sanitary surface, cover a work surface, transport the helmet without getting pork juices everywhere or road grime on the ham...Endless possibilities.
Carpet Tape: Regular double stick tape could work as well, but carpet tape seems to be able to stick to almost any surface, every hardware store has it, and it is much bigger than those dinky scotch tape rolls.
MAKES LIFE EASIER (but you can do it the hard way)
Cloth Measuring Tape
Empty Pretzel Jar: This is to support the shell while you're drilling into it. Anything with a large opening that won't collapse or break under pressure (or getting hit with a drill bit) is fair game.
Step 2: O Hole-y Night
Now that you've assembled the goods, head down to the garage and get medieval on your helmet - pop off the outer shell, saving the foamy innards (intact, don't get too crazy on it) for later.
In my case, that leaves the foamy bits all in one chunk, and the shell and straps in another chunk.
Use the cloth tape to mark where you're going to drill. More holes makes the meat stay flatter to the helmet, but also means more sewing later. My helmet worked well with holes drilled 1/2" in from the edge, 1" apart center to center (c-c), and three bands of holes going over the top - one on the centerline, holes spaced 1" c-c, and one 3" to either side with the same spacing.
This fit the rough width of the meat, and made it so I could use strips of jerky along the holes to distribute the load. Without this there would be a higher chance of the ham being cut through by the stitching.
Once your hole pattern is marked, drill it out using a 5/32nds bit while supporting the helmet on the pretzel container. This makes it much easier to drill the perimeter holes since the shell won't flex and slip, and will help prevent you from drilling into your hand. (I've seen it done. It wasn't good.) Likewise, keep the straps out of the way - they are pretty tough and if they get bound up in the bit it will be un-fun.
Drilling all these holes will have left all sorts of burrs on the inside of the helmet - use a knife to scrape them out, otherwise they will come loose at inopportune times later.
Step 3: Prep the OR
Folks are going to eat this ham, so it makes sense to not give them food poisoning. First step is proper refrigeration, the second is proper hygiene - covering the shell with cling wrap to keep the ham away from whatever bacteria, BPA, and road grime is hanging out on the hemet. Wrap it before you... ham it?
Wash the helmet shell with soap and hot water, then dry completely.
Cut 1" lengths of carpet tape and stick them inside of the perimeter holes you drilled, making sure to not cover any holes. Carpet tape is super gummy, and if you try to stick a needle through it it will be difficult, and will get carpet tape glue all over the needle. Leave the paper backing on for now since it's easier to handle the shell when you don't have to worry about messing up the tape, or inadvertently sticking cling wrap to it.
Cover the helmet in cling wrap using the carpet tape on the inside to hold down the cling wrap. Working from front to back or one side to the other will help you keep the cling wrap tight, which makes it easier to sew through later.
Optional: Use masking tape and some cling wrap to make your coffee table into a work surface. You'll want to be sitting comfy for the sewing, I found that it took roughly two beers and a couple of hours to complete the next step.
Step 4: Let the Games Begin!
You now have a clean work surface, clean hands, a clean helmet, and are ready to get on with the show. This bit is tricky, and poorly photographed, so read the texty bits here.
Sort your jerky. The ideal pieces are long, with the grain of the meat running lengthwise, a consistent thickness, and without any tears or voids. Slice these pieces into 1/2" strips lengthwise, save any trimmings for treats later. (Resist the urge to eat the trimmings as you go - you'll end up eating way, way more jerky than anyone should in one sitting.)
Longer strips are good for the long straight lines, like front of the helmet and the centerline. Shorter strips are nice for the areas that curve more, but I would avoid using any strips shorter than 3" or so - piecing together that many strips is time consuming, and lets be honest, it's a helmet made out of ham that folks are going to eat.
Sort your ham. Ham, being a mostly natural product, has varying qualities. The ideal piece of ham has a consistent, tight grain, no tears or voids, and is symmetrical. If you're prioritizing the aesthetic qualities of the helmet, use these prime slices on the front, and put the b-grade ones on the back. I prefer to use the better slices on the sides, since they'll be fighting gravity much more than those on the top.
Sew it all together. Thread the needle with an arms span of floss, and layer on the first row of ham down the centerline. Put a strip of jerky down the centerline, and use the floss to stitch all the layers together, starting the needle from underneath. The jerky prevents the floss from pulling through the ham, and adds a sweet racing stripe.
A backstitch works nicely. If the holes are 1 2 3 4 5, the needle goes out hole 1, around the edge and then out hole 2, in hole 1, then out hole 3, then in hole 2, etc...(In is always from the top to the bottom, out is always from the bottom to the top.) This lets you follow the string from the preceding stitch back into the hole, otherwise you're fishing for the hole through layers of pork.
I worked from the front to the back down the centerline, and then filled in the sides - the goal being to make it look even down the middle and match from there. Save the perimeter jerky for last, since you can move the pieces around a bit until they are tacked down.
For the perimeter jerky it is easier to lace the thread around the edge, capturing the jerky and tying it down rather than sewing it all down. This also holds it to the edge of the helmet, making it a clean edge. You can see what it looks like pre and post above, note that if the ham overhangs the edge you'll have to trim it back to match the edge of the helmet.
Once you're done attaching the ham, pop the foam insert you took out of the hemet back in - if you're not going to wear it, you can leave it out.
Step 5: Eat It! and Other Helpful Tips.
Transporting your newly minted meat helmet: cling wrap. Wrap it up good and tight and you can drop it in your backpack no worries.
Eating: Keith is modeling the traditional method, although you can also set it out as finger food, dice it up with a knife or whatever. I mean, it's a helmet covered in meat, who's going to question how you chose to eat it?
Washing up: Remove the cling wrap and you're good!