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 full metal helmet scratch build WIP - main helmet done, working on electronics

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I had posted this on my kids WIP tread over on the clan page, but figured I can get more feedback here on the helmet forum.

Be prepared, this is going to be a long one.

I've decided in accordance with the rest of my kit to convert everything to aluminum. so..... I started a scratch build bucket using 5052 aluminum  14 gauge sheets (0.080" thick).

These are the tool I work with: (except for my Dremel which is not in the picture)

Current progress:

if you can't tell, the right one is my 3D printed one that I used as a template. I made it a bit bigger to allow electronics and also align my eyes with the visor.

Build log:
Traced the 3D printed helmet's visor portion on to a piece of paper, transferred that to aluminum and snip

sorry for this blurry image, this was me curling the visor to shape:

not quite there yet. I punched holes before starting the curl to make cutting out the visor easier later on.

I found the horizontal section of the visor to not play very nice with curling, so cutout the horizontal part of the T visor. This made curling and shaping much easier on the 0.08" aluminum.

with the front section done, I traced out the cheek plates and planned the way I was going to bend it. I don't weld so I had to be a little more strategic with where I want to attach each piece.

Test fit the cheek.
Unfortunately forgot to snap a photo of the cheek plates. I basically just made it once piece and hammered out the shape over the back of a chisel hammer.

Here is the cheek plate brazed on and sanded. I will probably add more brazing rods later once I have the helmet more built. These will get damaged and have to be redone anyways when I reshaped the dome later on.

Image next to my 3d printed bucket.

As for the dome, started with templates of the dome halves traces onto aluminum cutout.

I drew in a swirl as a guide for my hammer strikes while dishing, this ensures that both sides will turn out to be able to the same shape

snapped a quick pic after the perimeter pass. I started on the outside, and hammered it around the edges, working my way inward.
It took about 2.5 hours to rough out the shape for each piece, and another hour or two to planish out the domes.

test fit the two halves

For attaching the two halves. I originally planned on  just brazing them together, but the butt joint was not very strong and promptly broke when I put a bit of pressure on either end of the dome.

I cut a strip of aluminum about 1" wide, hammered it to conform to the dome shape, and punched holes for rivets to hold the halves. I re-brazed the strip and the dome halves together, then riveted it all together using countersunk solid aluminum rivets.

Next, I riveted on the front section, as well as a back piece (sorry don't have photo for it either :(  )

Once I was happy with the way the lower halve is attached and rivets securely hammered in. I cutout the T visor out.

At this point I noticed something potentially detrimental. The helmet was too tall and too long for me  :o

Here's a picture of me looking mad/disappointed

After consulting with the MMCC builder group on facebook, I went and hammered the dome down a bit, and chopped the cheek plates.

Unfortunately my hand slipped (that and i think that section of aluminum was burned from my inexperienced brazing job) and sliced/ripped off a chunk of the mandible.

I ended up rigging something that also does double duty as the bottom brace, visor holder, and thicken the exposed edge of the visor. If you notice the bottom, you will see a small patch, this section is actually a single piece of aluminum cut, folded over, then curled around the bottom.

« Last Edit: Jul 19, 2020, 04:38 PM by ishtob » Logged

Kol Varek

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  • Beanpole (Formerly Kol Var'Das)
  • Awards Award for 25 official invasions. 11+ Invasion Report Appearances Clan with the most recorded invasions in 2016/2017 Award for 10 official invasions. Celebration Orlando 2017
Re: aluminum helmet scratch build WIP
« Reply #1 on: Jun 10, 2020, 02:27 PM »
I'll be interested to see how this progresses!



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Re: aluminum helmet scratch build WIP
« Reply #2 on: Jun 18, 2020, 08:29 AM »

Made more progress. I doubled up on the plates for the earcaps. I had riveted it and plan to braze the gaps using the berzomatic AL3 aluminum brazing rods.

I've also filled the crack in the braze seam on top of the dome from me flattening the dome.

Vents cut and the bracket to be riveted on once I'm d;need cleaning up these cuts

Next I will be wasting a ton of brazing rods to fill the gap/smooth transition between the mask and the cheeks.

I wish I had a TIG wilder and real metal shop devices (like a English wheel) but hey, isn't it the Mando way to make do with what you got?


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Re: aluminum helmet scratch build WIP
« Reply #3 on: Jul 10, 2020, 09:25 AM »
Made more progress over the last couple weeks.

Now that all the pieces are riveted in place, I went ahead and brazed all the transitions and joints.

I'm still brand new to brazing, so a lot more brazing rods were used than I intended. Current count is at about 30 or so brazing rods used.

Use an angle grinder to clean up all the joints

I bought the Milwakee M12 angled grinder for this task, and it is probably one of the best tools I've purchased in years! I highly recommend it if you plan on working on metal. The sanding head and cutoff head on this saves you so much time compared to using a dremel. Think of this as a dremel on steroids. It does overheat after a period of use and need to wait for it to cool before it will powers on again, but thats the nature of all electric power tools to begin with.

Anyways, for filling, I wanted to use something that will sand and finish similar to raw aluminum so when I weather the bucket it, I will not need to avoid certain filled areas. Got this product called Lab-Metal with Lab-solvent since their shop was near where I live. It's a aluminum filled 1 part epoxy that apparently sands to a aluminun luster.

Lab-metal has the consistency a thick, sandy putty and is dark grey. As a lot of other reviews of the product says, it is pretty difficult to do a good feathering with this putty (the instruction suggested to "wet your instrument with lab-solvent to smooth putty". From what I experienced, it didn't do jack in improving the surface of the putty), so I opted for the next best thing: fill the heck out of a spot, then grind it down.

here it is, all cleaned up with the angle grinder.

I was a bit disappointed that the lab metal was a shade darker than my raw aluminum. But no matter, black washes later on should hide the difference pretty effectively. I also noticed the putty isn't very strong. It finished well, but chips and flakes off pretty easily on places where it is really thing.

After this, I hand sanded the whole thing from 80grits to 240 to 400 to 600. then onto the masking! (woohoo, more need to prime, gloss and metalic coat first)
I found a nice patio chair at a local restaurant that has some awesome natural wear to the paint, and planned my weathering around it:

For weathering, I used liquid latex on the edges, then used a mix of salt+water+dish soap to mask out portions where I want the paint to chip. I find salt mix as mask gives a less clean chip when I feel it off, just looks more natural to me than latex. I did the edges for latex as salt past doesn't do thin lines well.

After this, 2 layers of acid etching primer was applied

Let it dry for 24 hours, then the base color was applied. I am using Rustoleum satin "Summer Squash"here. Applied about 4 layers.

Gave it 48 hours to dry, went back and added more latex and salt. Didn't add that much here, as I feel I over did it on my last bucket. A Mando who knows how to paint shouldn't have much of the "primer" layer showing if he did his paint prepping right.

Applied 8 layers of Rust-Oleum professional gloss "Metal Gray".I prefer to start with gloss, and cut down the shine with matte coat or sand paper. It's a lot easier to go from gloss to matte than the other way around. Also leaving some glossy part simulates areas where the helmet is naturally worn/polished from use.

I know.thi dome here isn't perfect, but since I'm going for a Mando who was part of clan wren, I plan on working those imperfections into the weathering. Maybe this guy survived the Dutchess from TCW.

Next, I masked off the dome, cheeks, and back and did 8 layers of gloss "Dark Machine Gray"

I did chip off the salt and latex on the checks before I masked things off to make sure my paint is sticking to the aluminum correctly and the masking looks there any I want. I was pretty happy with the result.

Let it dry for 1 hour, then started pulling off the salt and latex. I usually do the mask removal closer to the "dry for handling" time on the rattle can. The paint coat is still soft the
is way, so I can easily scrape off more paint as needed. The soft paint also gets scratches from the mask removal that is realistic and matches the chips.

Got to wait another 36 hour now before I can mask off the clan wren eyes and paint it. More WIP to come!

« Last Edit: Jul 15, 2020, 11:32 PM by ishtob » Logged


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Next up, my favorite part of painting a helmet - stenciling the decals!

I used my 3D printed helmet as the template/guide, and modified some of the dimensions to match the larger metal helmet

going with the clan wren decal again, as that plays to the back story of my custom mando.

I used Tamiya Acrylic TS-48 for the base layer, then went over the edges of all the outline with 3mm craft masking tape. These are the 3M low adhesion tape. I like the feathered/jagged edge they tend to gent as well as it allows me to do multiple layers within a few hour. These will not pull up 1 hr old acrylic spray paint.

I dont have pictures of my next two steps.
1 - The medium grey I use is a gloss paint, so I top coated it with somes flat clear spray.
2 - I took the yellow i used for base coat and sprayed some into a disposable jar (spare empty jam jar), thinned the paint with somes mineral spirit, then traced all the outlines of the decal to get that TCW clan wren yellow accents on the decal.

Here's the result:

Now had to wait 48 hour before weathering with paint.


48 hours later

I scrapped off all the latex mask and salt, then took a metal needle and made a bunch of rough scratches on the dome (simulates paint damage from running into or going through things). These light scratches will allow some paint to get in it and make somes nice, realistic details to the weathering.

Next, I took a 800 grit sand paper and removes as much shine as I can from the helmet, (leaving any low spots that would not see normal ware). The goal here is to visualize damages that you would incur on the helmet from daily use. Where would you run into things, where do you touch the helmet with dirty hands, etc.

Next step, I just got some cheap acrylic paint in primary colors that I got  in the basemens (I'm the son of an artist, so just got these supplies sitting around). I mixed the paint to a rough dark grey, dark brown, and black with a tiny bit of white. Added a few drops of dish soap to some water (this cuts down the surface tension and allow the paint to spread across a surface nicer) and diluted the paint down.
Roughly went over all the places dirt would get into on a real helmet and let the paint dry a little before wipind it off with a wet paper towel.

rinse and repeat until you get the result you want.

And here is the result:

Once the paint drys, acrylic doesnt really come off. Some people likes to clear coat at this point, but since this is a metal helmet, I am leaving the top coat out, I can always go back and re-weather any real damage inccured during troops.

I followed the welding geek's mando helmet built and used a tac suspension system for the interior to secure the helmet to my head. There are 2 metal plates and brazed on a bolt to secure the back tabs. All secured to the interior with velcro.


Next up: electronics :D stay tuned!


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Just got approval for OM! Time for an update now that I have most of the other parts of my kit settled.

This is what the helmet looks like as it stands:

I've added a "data port" to cut an openning for the mic to pickup external sounds for hearing booster


Here's the build log for how I got to this point

Round 1 - Battery and Fans:

- 1x 5015 fans - making sure it is rated for 5V as I am running this off a USB pack, and ball bearings to limit the noise within the helmet ( I ended up replacing one of these with a 4010 fan next to the temple, this was so loud being right next to my ear I could hardly hear myself think let along the external sound booster from the headphones.)
- 1x 18650 USB-C Charger/Battery Pack - I disassembled this and broke out the LED display with wires so I can route it to the front of the helmet where I can see it. Also note I chose this charger because it can operate on both 1 or 2 18650 cells
- 1x double 18650 battery holder - I swapped 2 of the terminals so both battery are placed in the same direction (personal preference as well as)
- 1x WayinTop 3pcs PWM Low Voltage Motor Speed Controller - this did not work well for the 5015 5v fans, but perfect for the 4010 fans. So I only ended up with 1, hardwiring the other to the usb pack. This allows some control over fan speed, and there for airflow and noise.

Round 2 - voice changer and external booster:

- 1x MEMS microphone breakout

- 2x Bone conductor - CANNED feedback galore  >:(
- 1x cheap headphones - took off the ear loop then duck tape to foam :P
- 1x teensy 3.2 - running Vox Imperium
- 2x class AB amplifier one for voice amp, 1 for hearing boost
- 1x electret microphone with auto-gain - I may replace this as the auto-gain keeps pumping up the volume when no one is speaking until it feeds back, then lowers it's sensitivy again
- 1x 19mm surface transducer - I love this thing! low profile, and plenty loud. It gets muffled a bit due to the surface being aluminium, but it just adds to the effect.


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