Making the Easiest Foam Helmet Possible (Part 2 – Forming the Band)

Welcome back to this series on making a foam helmet from a very simple pattern. Part 1 of this series, Getting Started, can be found right here.

Now that the two pieces of the band have been joined together with Barge contact cement, it is time to shape the band. Because I am using rather thin foam, it could just be bent into shape and the edges glued together, but I would rather put the shape in the band itself. Therefore, I heated the band with a heat gun.

When the foam is warmed, it softens and can be easily formed. When it cools again, it will retain its new shape. When you are forming your helmet band, be sure to remember that your head is not round. Heads are oval shaped. Hold the foam in the shape you want it to be as it cools.

I want a nice smooth curve around the entire piece. That means paying close attention to the ends of the foam strip. It is easy to curve the middle of a long strip, but not put the same curve into the very ends. If that happens the helmet will not look right when it is sitting on your head.

To help with this, I decided to go ahead and attach the ends of the band together. You can do this because it is foam and so will bend. I want to make it look like the attachment is made with a small sheet of metal riveted on. For that plate, I used another piece of foam cut from the 2mm thick foam sheet.

Creating the attachment like this is also great if you need to slightly readjust the size of the helmet after you have made the band. If you need to make it a little larger, the attachment piece will cover any gap and no one will ever know. I made the attachment piece a little shorter than the band is tall because there is still the top of the helmet to be attached.

A helpful hint to follow when you are cutting from a pattern is to cut the line off the material. Otherwise what you cut out will be larger than the pattern. I use a rather thick black Sharpie marker to draw my lines. I don’t want to add the thickness of the marker line to the shapes I am cutting out – especially if they had been precisely measured.

I attached the band with its back plate using Barge cement. I use the same technique of applying the cement to both sides of what is to be attached, allowing it to dry until tacky, applying a second layer if necessary, and then pressing the pieces together firmly.

Then I use the cement to glue the plate to the back. I also realized that I can make the joint on the side stronger by reinforcing it with another piece very similar to the backplate, but this time putting it on the inside of the helmet. No one will notice that it is there.

Once you are at this stage you can pick up the helmet and look at it to see where the band needs additional shaping. In my case, it was certainly near the joint. If the band is not too hot, you can let it cool on your head to get the perfect shape.

If your heat gun has a “cool” setting as mine does, then you can speed the cooling of the helmet by hitting it with cool air while it is on your head.

See you for Part 3.

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Making the Easiest Foam Helmet Possible (Part 1 – Getting Started)

Theophany will need to have a number of costumes created. They will be used for photography, videography, and even shooting reference photography for illustrations. A variety of materials will be used in their production, but here, I am going to practice making costume armor with closed cell foam. For this experiment, I decided to try making “the simplest foam helmet possible”.

This particular style of helmet will not appear in Theophany. I am just using it as a pilot project for many things to come. My goal is to create a “munitions grade” look to the helmet. I want it to look like it could be something that could head to the battlefield.

This project is heavily inspired by what the knights wear under their coifs in the 1950s Ivanhoe movie. I watched that all the time as a child.

Foam Material

Creating a foam helmet is very inexpensive. I’m using foam that you can easily get at the craft store for only two or three dollars.

Foam comes in a variety of thicknesses. Foam flooring for gyms is very popular material for costuming, but it is very thick. I think it makes great sci-fi composite-looking armor, but is too thick for the sheet metal look I want.

I’m using the “Silly Winks” brand foam. It comes in sheets from the craft store. Silly Winks foam is sold in a variety of thicknesses, including 5mm, 3mm and 2mm. I like to have a variety of thicknesses on hand for different applications.

I want this helmet to look like it is made out of a sheet of metal, but at the same time, I want it to be reasonably durable. If the foam used is too thin, the helmet will deform when it is being worn in a way that metal would not. Then it will not look right. Therefore, I am going to try using the 5mm thick foam.

The foam also comes in a variety of different colors. I’m using black, but it does not matter what color you use because we are going to paint it.

Forming the Band

The helmet’s basic form is only two main pieces, the band and the top. But the size of the foam sheets will not allow me to cut one solid piece that will go around my head. My head is 23 inches around, and these sheets only come in a maximum length of 18 inches. If you are planning on wearing anything under the helmet, like a padded or maille coif, remember the take your measurements with all of that on.

To determine how tall the band needs to be, just measure from your brow up to just beyond the top of your head. When I was doing this, I completely mismeasured the distance and created a helmet that was way too tall. I cut it down later, but don’t follow my example here. Get a more accurate measurement than I did.

You can cut the thinner styrofoam with scissors, but I am using a knife. A knife is essential for the thick foam. The foam dulls knife blades very quickly, so you will need extra blades or a knife sharpener. If you are using a dull blade then it will make a very ragged cut as it tears the foam. That is not what we want. If you are using scissors, you need to be prepared to sharpen them as well. I use a metal ruler or combination square to help me cut straight lines in the foam.

I was able to cut one 18 inch strip of foam for the band, and so had to cut another 5-inch strip. One characteristic of the foam is that you can make it stretch and expand when you heat it. If you find you have made something a little bit too small, you can often stretch it a bit.

I would prefer for my helmet to appear as though the band has been made out of one piece of metal that has been riveted together in the back, so I am going to try to disguise the seam on the side. I want to try that because it is probably a valuable technique to learn for future projects. But, you could also cut two pieces of equal length and make it look like the pieces are riveted together in the front and back.

To attach the foam I used Barge contact cement. The cement is applied to both edges of the foam and allowed to get tacky before pressing the edges together. I let one layer of the cement get pretty dry on both sides and then applied a second layer of cement because I wanted to be sure this seem was strong. The foam can sometimes soak up so much cement that the second layer is necessary.

Then I just press the pieces together until they stay.

See you for Part 2!

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Hail and well met!

Welcome to the world of Theophany. This project has been in development for a long time, but because it is now open to the public, I thought I should type up a quick post to welcome everyone and explain what is going on. This site is “home base” for my world-building effort in a variety of media. This will include the webcomic, which is currently scheduled to be posted Monday through Friday. A collection of short stories is in development. Much more on that later. There are also plans for photography, videography, and longer works of prose. Everything will be chronicled here with lots of looks behind the scenes. So, enjoy the story and follow along with all the other projects as they develop.

So, once again, welcome traveler, and don’t be a stranger.

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