This year I decided to brainstorm early to figure out what I wanted to be for Halloween, instead of figuring it out two days beforehand. With the new Tron Legacy movie coming out soon and my love of the first Tron movie, I decided that It would be awesome to build a costume based on the new movie. I chose to build the helmet for the character CLU simply because I found it to be the coolest looking, in my own opinion of course.
This project Is fairly cheap until you decide to buy the EL wire and since I purchased 30' (I plan on making a suit as well) of the stuff, it cost a pretty penny. As for the actual building materials, I think I came in around a good $60. The rest, as with any project, is just a whole lot of time and elbow grease.
Step 1: Gathering Supplies
The supplies list is fairly straight forward and comes from my own gathering searching through instructables and seeing the many different ways people have gone about the process of making different styles of helmets.
Thin Cardboard (I used the tops of pizza boxes, anything works as long as its thin)
Bondo body filler
Thin plastic for a visor (mine came from a pair of headphones packaging)
El wire (around a foot a the least)
Car window tint (Black)
Paint (I used auto body paint from Autozone)
Lots and Lots of Sandpaper:
Ranging from 320 grit through 2000 grit
Iron (you'll understand later)
Latex gloves or alternative
Mask of some kind
Epoxy (two part)
Super glue gel
Step 2: First Comes First
Okay, so the base layer of this mask is made our of cardboard. As previously stated, I used the tops to pizza boxes, and it took around 2.5 large box tops. The main idea here is to build around your own head. I started off with one long piece that covered my face from my chin to the middle of the back of my head.
From here you have to build side supports to hold the curve of your head and then cut pieces to fit in where the cheeks and side of your head are. The goal of this first step is not to create a huge amount of detail but to rather just make a cardboard shell that is the correct size for your head to easily fit in and out of.
The easiest way I found to make the side pieces, or any piece that has to curve for
that matter. Is to use a piece of paper and hold in into place, typically from the inside
of the helmet, so you can draw the inside edge of where you want your next piece to
The next step in this process is detail. This part is fairly easy simply because now that the helmet fits your head comfortably, you can work primarily by trial and error, measurements, and simply eyeballing it. Cut new pieces of cardboard that will fit onto the helmet to make parts such as the side head juts, and the forehead indentation.
Once the base helmet was finished, I covered the entire thing with the masking tape in hopes that this would later allow me to remove the cardboard from the inside of the helmet upon fiberglassing.
Step 3: Step Two: Fiberglassing
This step and the following steps can be detrimental to your health, I claim no responsibility for your inability to follow all safety instructions included on all hazardous materials used to make this helmet.
Now that thats out of the way, we have reached the point where the cardboard helmet shell has been completed and we are ready to solidify this project. I bought a fiberglassing kit from Autozone that came with resin, hardener, and 8 cubic ft of fiberglass matt. This kit fit the bill perfectly and I only ended up needing half of the materials, maybe I'll use the rest to create a disk, but thats for a later instructable.
This process is pretty straight forward, and I learned everything I know about it on youtube, imagine that. Essentially you need to cut your glass matting into roughly 2" by 3" strips. It is much easier to place and work with smaller strips then bigger ones. Occasionally you may even need to make very small pieces for intricate details, such as the indentation in the forehead on this particular helmet.
Follow the instructions that come with your particular fiberglass kit, but essentially you will need to mix small amount of resin as this stuff dries super fast. I used red cups and popsicle sticks to mix the resin and hardener, and then used a brush to apply a coating to small sections of the helmet. (Unfortunately I soon realized that using a brush to apply the resin works really well... only until the resin dries and the brush becomes rock hard. I continued to use the brush to shovel the resin onto the helmet and then used a popsicle stick to smooth it out and work it into the matting). Then you want to place the fiberglass matt over the coated area and follow up by covering the newly laid strip with more resin. Rinse and repeat until every square inch of the helmet is covered in a good two to three layers of fiberglass matt. This will create a strong shell that makes this feel like a real helmet.
A small side note as well, since the cardboard helmet was a perfect fit to my head and was semi-flexible, I had to place a spacer to keep the helmet opening a little wider so that when the helmet was solid my head would simply fit straight in.
Step 4: Step Three: Bondo
Here comes the more labor intensive part of the process. First you need to apply a generous amount of Bondo body filler to the entire helmet, don't worry about keeping it to flat at this point. Because here comes the fun part, you're going to want to use the 350 grit sandpaper and your sanding block to begin to flatten out the entire helmet and make everything smooth. This is where the aforementioned elbow grease comes into play, sanding this stuff is not easy, and its not quick work. But the pay off in the end is worth the effort.
Trust me, you will not get your helmet perfectly flat and smooth in one coat, I believe it took me somewhere in the range of 5 to 6 coatings of bondo to fill in every last nook and cranny, and a whole bunch of sanding to make every new layer the same height as the last. The first layer will have you sanding down bondo and a little bit of the fiberglass that ends up showing through the bondo in certain places. For the forehead indentation I used once again popsicle sticks to place and smooth out the bondo as the plastic scrapper I used for the rest of the helmet was simply to big.
Once you have a good couple layers of bondo and everything seems to be pretty well flat and smooth, begin to work your way up the grit count on your sandpaper. This will eliminate deeper gouges left by the lower grit papers.
Step 5: Step Four: Primer
Priming is an essential part to paint and making sure that everything is truly perfectly smooth and flat to your liking. I went with a red primer that was sand-able, this way, when I found imperfections, I could fill them with bondo and sand it flat... again. I believe I put about three to four layers of primer on, wet-sanding with 1000-2000 grit sandpaper inbetween each coat. This step is quite simple as most of your hard work is over, now simply comes the finishing touches.
After a couple layers of primer I went in and drew a line for where I wanted the el wire to go later on and used a razor-blade to cut a v-shaped groove in the helmet. I then used a philips head screwdriver, twisting it as i went along the line to in effect drill a half circle out of the v-shaped groove. Then I sprayed one last layer of primer.
Step 6: Step Five: Paint
I chose to go with an automotive gloss black paint. I ran into a couple problems upon adding multiple coats to the helmet and ended up getting entirely frustrated as I would add a new layer and it would spiderweb and crack in certain places. I attribute this to not sanding down the previous layer enough before spraying the new one. But Honestly have no idea what was going on, in the end I eventually probably sprayed 10 coats of paint and planned on clear coating over the paint but ultimately threw that out the window as it was creating the same cracking problem. All in all, in my experience, it seems as few coats as possible are preferable and clear coating is going to be up to you. After all your spraying is down sit back and bask in the polished appearance of your Tron helmet.
Step 7: Step Six: Adding a Visor
So I got my plastic for the visor from a plastic packaging that a pair of headphones came in, truthfully any thin moldable plastic will probably do fine. I struggled to come up with a low cost and easy way to mold the plastic to my helmet as the front was not as perfectly flat as it should have been. After cutting out a shape that fit within a quarter inch of each side of the helmets front, I came up with a way of heating the plastic while on the helmet.
Here comes the Iron that I mentioned in the materials list. The method I used ended up messing up the paint slightly on the front, but this didn't matter to much since the visor would be covering it up in the end. I placed the plastic visor in the position it would end up in on the helmet and taped it down with blue painters tape. Then I covered it up with a thin washcloth and proceeded to heat the plastic with an iron, molding and pressing down the sides as I went along. This method worked out beautifully, although not as perfectly flat as I would like to to be, the visor couldn't look better without more extensive methods.
Once the visor was molded to the helmet, it came time to tint the plastic. This process couldn't be any simpler. I bought some car window tint from walmart, and made sure it was black, and let in as little light as possible, I believe 5%. I sprayed the backside of the visor with windex and sprayed the film with windex. Place the film overtop of your visor and smooth it out with a plastic or rubber squeegee. Once fully attached to the plastic use a razor to cut the film off right around the visor. The finished project should appear solid black while over the helmet and tint to about the same as a pair of sunglasses when looked through.
I used a two part epoxy that can be picked up from walmart or any multipurpose store and glued the visor the helmet. After applying glue to the visor I put it in place and used blue painters tape again to secure the edges and make sure it stayed in place while the epoxy dried. Voila your helmet now feels like a nearly finished product.
Step 8: Step Seven: Adding El Wire
Alright, for those of you who don't know what El wire is, it is electroluminescent wire that glows bright, sort of looks like thin neon lights. For this application, I chose to use a 2.2mm el wire and bought 30' of it from www.thatscoolwire.com. This can be purchased in smaller amounts, as low as 1' if you only plan on making the helmet itself.
There are multiple instructables and youtube videos on how to cut and solder el wire, which is something that those of you who buy more then a foot of wire will have to do. Visit https://www.instructables.com/id/The-Full-How-Too-Manual-For-EL-Electroluminesce/ to learn everything you need to know in order to complete this project.
The method I used to wire the el lighting was to drill holes at the end of a previously scoured groove made prior to painting. I then fed the el wire through the holes and aligned it in the groove that was made to hold it, I fixed it in place with small dabs of superglue gel in the groove. I ultimately decided to make a long enough wire to lead down to the control box in my pocket. I used two pieces of black 22 gauge wire and used cm long heat shrink tubing ever 6 inches to hold the two wires together.
In the end you have an absolutely awesome and professional looking helmet that is sure to wow tron fans and will surely get you noticed at halloween parties. Be on the look out for my instructable covering the body suit to match this helmet. And thanks for checking out my first instructable!